Interactive content valuable but not well-showcased

By Mary Kate Brogan

Creating Interactive Online Infographics at Rock’n’Roll Speed with Alex V. Cook (LSU) was not what I expected. I thought I was in for a tutorial on Google Fusion Tables and a refresher of Tableau Public. Not quite so.

This June, I went to Patch Media’s DJNF multimedia training and learned how to use Tableau Public. While few groups actually used the software in our final websites, we all learned the software in less than two hours, and I think we all still have a pretty basic working knowledge of it today. With that in mind, I expected this to be a brief review for me. It turned out to be much briefer than I think anyone intended.

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Tableau Public is a useful tool for data visualization that is hosted by an outside source. Image courtesy of Tableau Software.

Due to Wi-Fi issues, the presentation ran into some bumps because Tableau is relatively Web-based (and Google Fusion Tables is entirely Web-based). After 10 minutes of waiting for attendees to fill in personal information on an Excel spreadsheet and 15 minutes of lecturing on the importance of using interactive infographics, the presentation finally got into the actual software mumbo-jumbo. And then the Internet cut out for 10 minutes. When everything started working, there were just 15 minutes left.

Despite the technical difficulties, I learned some valuable lessons from Professor Cook on how to implement Tableau (i.e. use a splash page that’s easy for people to locate for a big story, like LSU’s salary report) and how to use widgets from Twitter, but the selling points of the session for me as listed in the program weren’t all there. I didn’t mind too much. I got some valuable (and at the very least, entertaining) advice from Professor Cook:

“I want you to throw out brilliant content to the world… You’re not old and tired and jaded like the rest of us.”

“I learned more at YouTube than I learned anywhere else on that trip [to Silicon Valley]… Older people don’t matter [to YouTube].”

“The good news is The New York Times doesn’t have [interactive infographics] all figured out. The bad news is nobody has it figured out. It’s up to your generation to figure it out.”

Overall, he brought home a message I hope anybody venturing into interactive infographics takes to heart: “Give people the tools to dig into this” because it will help people understand the importance of the things they don’t want to sift through themselves.

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