Tableau: Helping Me See and Understand Myself
Over the past few weeks I’ve been getting my hands dirty with the new Web Data Connector (WDC) feature of Tableau 9.1 (currently in beta release 3 as I type). You can find some general information about the WDCs here. This blog post isn’t about the WDC specifically but about what I’ve managed to get from this new feature having created connectors for mostly ‘quantified self’ type web services, namely Strava, Fitbit and Moves.
Making my data useful
I love getting information back from these services. While I’m running, Strava is connected to my Pebble watch telling me how far & fast I’m going, Fitbit gives me a little reminder at the end of the day of whether I’ve reached my 10,000 step goal or not and Moves helps me track each day of my life in case I should happen to need to know the real time to get from point A to point B. Individually these services are great, but I agree with Andy Cotgreave’s recent article in Computer World that each service has a dashboard which, while providing you with useful generic information, doesn’t give you quick and easy access to the questions you have every day.
For me these questions range from fitness, and how well I’m progressing with my recent interest in running, to how long its been since I last visited my parents or when I next need to go to the dentist. Now I know the various services I use have the data I need to answer these questions, the problem has always been bringing the data into one place (ideally Tableau) and keeping it fresh, let’s say on a fifteen minute to one hour interval. No prizes for guessing where this is going. With the WDC and a 9.1 beta Tableau Server I am finally able to create a dashboard about myself. I’ve simply titled it ‘My Life’ and here it is:
Each section is, I believe, an improvement on what’s offered natively by the various services. For instance My Steps from Fitbit shows not just daily spikes and troughs but a 7 day moving average. Now it’s easy to improve your activity for just one day, quite a different challenge to improve week by week. Sometimes I’m stuck in the office all day and can’t get out, that’s fine. But surely over a week I could have done a run or two right?
Unless you spend every minute of the day watching stock prices you probably only care about long term trends. Getting a daily gain/loss figure doesn’t really do much to help you make good decisions on your savings. Knowing what a stock is doing on a quarterly or monthly basis and how long it could take to recover from its current slump does. I have Emily Chen of The Data School to thank for the inspiration in creating this chart.
I’m the kind of guy who focusses on daily activities and finds that longer term goals and tasks can get lost. Moves has been tracking my life for a couple of years now and by simply filtering the data to various locations and calculating the number of days between the max date recorded and today I get a heads up when something’s started to lapse (and yes I do live the rock & roll data lifestyle with important concerns such as haircuts, parental visits & dentistry).
My Past Five Days
Finally I’ve always loved the timeline from the Moves app, but have always wished it was easier to both compare days and see a map of the whole day or days. Now I’ve got no excuse when answering the question “When did we go to…?”
Numerous is a Good Start
So what I didn’t realise when I started this project was I was creating a Tableau version of the android app Numerous. Having installed the app and played with it it’s great, brings all the numbers of my life together into one dashboard. Awesome!
Now I’ve only used it 24 hours and I can already see that although it’s a good improvement on the native apps (as in it connects to many all at one time in one place), it only does what the native apps do…give you one number at a time. You are also limited in the questions you can ask from your data based on how the app has been designed. For me then I’ll be sticking with my Tableau ‘My Life’ dashboard, building it up and asking more and more questions as I go.