Announcing the Next Chapter in My Data-Driven Story

Announcing Ryan Sleeper LLC FeatureWith respect for my former employers and appreciation for the lessons they taught me along the way, I’m excited to announce my move into independent data visualization consulting.

The mission of the new business is simple: Be the best-possible partner resource for translating data into valuable information. We’ve reached a critical step in the evolution of data analysis. It’s no longer enough to recognize the need for data or to have the ability to collect and store data. Data are useless without the ability to translate data points into insights and communicate those insights in a way that cause positive impacts. My Tableau credentials and experience working with dozens of the world’s best-known brands make me uniquely qualified to provide your company with a competitive advantage.

The name of the new business is simple: Ryan Sleeper, LLC. Not only does this serve several practical purposes, I’ve always believed in “putting my name on it,” and being accountable for my work. Further, all of the projects I partner on will be very personal experiences.

Working with me is simple. I sell four things: discovery analytics, Tableau dashboard development, Tableau training, and “coffee with Ryan” (one-hour ad-hoc sessions). I respond quickly. I write concise scopes of work. I do what I say I’m going to do. I’ve built hundreds of data visualizations; I know how long they take to create and can provide you a fair estimate.

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The Best Data Visualization Tip I Learned in Seventh Grade

Best Data Visualization Lesson Seventh Grade FeatureEven as a kid, I could type fast. I mean really fast. In fourth grade, I remember the entire class literally huddling around my computer to watch me play a typing game. In the game, if you could type enough words in a minute, an elephant would climb a ladder, then dive into a swimming pool. This was obviously the coolest thing many of us had seen at the time, and being the only person in the class capable of creating that kind of magic, my fame had peaked.

In fourth grade, I was pushing 70 words per minute. Since babies now come with iPhones, I’m not sure if that’s impressive any more. But this was circa 1992, when in my school district, each classroom had exactly two computers. While it was tempting to rest on my grand achievement of making a digital elephant dive into a swimming pool, I kept practicing and getting even faster.

On the first day of a mandatory introduction to typing class in seventh grade, the teacher gave us all an exercise to gauge our skill levels. During the exercise, we watched a monitor and could try to type the words on one of three lines, all with varying speeds. With humility, I chose to type the second fastest of the three lines, but did not make a single mistake. The teacher asked to talk to me after the first class, and while I thought I was in trouble, she was instead informing me that I would be doing my own exercises the rest of the school year. I was already typing over 100 words per minute.

Being treated differently than the whole class all year because of my typing ability, there was no question for anyone in the class who would win the typing contest at the end of the year.

That’s when I learned one of my best data visualization tips.

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Why I Hitched My Wagon to Tableau

Why I Hitched My Wagon to Tableau FeatureDisclaimer: About five years ago I bet my career on Tableau. Further, I use a portion of the money I make using Tableau to buy Bar-B-Q; I like this arrangement and am biased towards Tableau.

Earlier this month, the Gartner Magic Quadrant for Business Intelligence and Analytics was released. This is one of the most cited and reputable sources for gauging the competitive landscape of the BI space, and as such, its release is always eagerly anticipated and highly publicized. For the fifth consecutive year, Tableau was named as a ‘Leader’ in the Magic Quadrant for their combination of ‘Completeness of Vision’ and ‘Ability to Execute’.

Being my visual analytics tool of choice, I would be lying if I said I don’t look forward to some objective, third-party love for Tableau. However, I had a realization that this type of validation is only valuable because it helps the perception of Tableau from outsiders. It helps me to cite Gartner when trying to spread the word about Tableau, but for me personally, the report only confirms relatively tiny aspects of what I already know. The real reason I champion Tableau is below.

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The Best Data Visualization Tip I Learned in Sixth Grade

Data Visualization Lessons FeatureThis is the first in a series of data visualization tips I learned before I was a teenager. If you would like to receive future updates, subscribe for free.

As I think back on my career as a data visualization consultant, I realize many of the best lessons I apply in my work were learned as a student in grade school. Long before Tableau was invented or I had heard of data visualization, I was a kid with a bad part in in his hair (yes, I had hair) at John Diemer Elementary in Overland Park, Kansas (Go Eagles!).

One day in sixth grade, a teacher called me over for a reading test. ‘A reading test?’ I thought excitedly. I was going to crush this thing. I’ve been reading since Kindergarten… I totally had this. Did this lady even know how many free pizzas I had earned in the BOOK IT! program? She was in for a real treat.

As I masterfully read each and every word on the page laid before me, my confidence only continued to build. These words were for amateurs; she should have at least known her audience and tried something a little more challenging. I couldn’t wait to share the news of my great triumph with my friends and family once this was over with.

That’s when I learned one of my best data visualization tips.

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Data Visualization: The Stolen Art

Data Visualization The Stolen Art FeatureMake no mistake about it, data visualization is an art form. I always enjoy sharing the anecdote that I have created literally hundreds of data visualizations, and to this day, not a single one of them has been perfect to everyone that saw it. There is always feedback, criticisms, and ideas about how to do it better.

That’s perfectly okay with me. It tells me the audience is engaged and that my work has the opportunity to start a conversation around data. When the feedback is constructive, sometimes I get a better idea about how to do something; other times there were explicit reasons for my choices and I politely deflect. I don’t take any of it personally because art is in the eye of the beholder, and data visualization is an art.

I imagine that’s what makes so many of us passionate about honing our craft. After all, not every job or practice makes you willingly want to practice on weekends and share your work with the world. For many of us, data visualization is our calling because it is the perfect balance between the left and right sides of our brain. With the proliferation of tools that are making the work of data visualization practitioners public, combined with those practitioners pushing to evolve their work, there is one trend I’ve seen that we need to collectively consider…

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