A Crossroads: Exploration With Tableau Desktop

By: Greg Herzing | December 14th, 2023
Think of all the progress that we’ve made since the beginning of this journey.

We gathered, sorted, and packed our gear and data using Tableau Prep Builder. We used data and Tableau Desktop to understand the level of effort our journey would take. And we built a custom map complete with powerful tool tips to guide our way!

Now you’ve managed to hike, without any bodily harm(!), past Tufte’s View and to the river where we’ll simply take the rickety, rope bound, Indiana Jones looking raft across and… wait. The Data Scout guide and map says the raft should be right here, but all we see is this frayed, broken rope and a visage of despair as you gaze upon your reflection in the still pool at your feet.

You need a solution, and you need it fast. Wait. What was that? No. Just my imagination getting the best of me. Those are just legends. Stories told by mean older kids with flashlights under their faces. But wait… there it was again. It sounded like a snort, and a growl, and some strange sort of yowl! It can’t be. IT IS!


Tableau Desktop

Run. Think on your feet. Did you pack anything that can help you in this situation? What would Al Gore do? As amazing as it is, I’m not sure Tableau Desktop can help us here. With its exceptional data visualization capabilities and nearly endless ability to customize user experience, even Tableau couldn’t save the day, could it? Nah.

But that man flinging sized sling shot on the hill over there just might do it if we can just figure out how to operate it!

This is dangerous! So much for no bodily harm! How can we use this apparatus to vault the river, maintain 100% bone integrity, stay on track for our arrival at Data Base Camp, and avoid the super cereal clutches of Manbearpig?! Would it be possible to use Tableau? Could Tableau help us with some sort of “What if?” analysis where we can vary parametric inputs to project (pun TOTALLY intended) the outcome of said human slingshot?! Pssshh… of course we can.

Hike on up to that contraption and let’s see what we’re working with. Hmmm… a tree that grew into a perfect “Y”, giant rubber band tied to what looks like a hammock, a pulley attached to a tree and a rope to pull on, an impressively large pirate looking spyglass, and well, that’s pretty much it.

“What if?” Analysis: The Problem

If we want to make it safely across the river, we’re going to have to come up with a set of variables that will allow to make it across the water and land softly. What’s on the other side? Let’s peer through our spyglass. Looks like a small natural looking beach made of pebbles and sand surrounded by jagged, life ending rocks littered with broken Coleman gear and populated by ravenous birds. I guess we know where not to land. The distance appears to be about 50 feet give or take 5.

The Variables

What are our inputs? In our case we should consider things like our weight, how fast we launch out of that hammock, and at what angle to release. Tableau is great at “what if?” type analysis though the list would probably look more like price, supply and demand, budgets, inventory levels, and resource availability. We know our resources though… ramshackle contraptions and hope. We don’t have time to find a nice clean data set. We’re going to have to use our understanding of physics and some swift Tableau maneuvering to create our flight function and get across this river. If I were going to make this abomination avoiding apparatus, I’d probably do something like this!

The Data Set

1. Quickly, create an Excel sheet with the column header “X” and values 1 through 100 below it.
2. Now, highlight and copy that column including the “X”.

Tableau Desktop

3. Open Tableau Desktop and in the Data menu, click “Paste”. QUICK! This is some accelerated ad hoc-ing we’re doing!

Tableau Desktop


How sick is that?!? Did you know that you could copy and paste data straight from Excel into Tableau for ad hoc analysis? If you had taken part in one of my widely renowned and positively reviewed Tableau Tips and Tricks sessions (available to any client who asks!) you would. There’s more than this tip in there though, so don’t think you’ve gotten out of it.

The Forecast

We’re going to have to define some serious equations for this analysis, and we’ve got to make changing inputs fast and simple for users, namely us at this point. We know one thing and that’s distance, and we know what the other inputs are. And we don’t want to end up on the beach but bludgeoned, so we need to know our impact force, but what are the equations? Good thing I really paid attention in high school physics. Here’s lookin’ at you, Mr. Schilingo!

The Parameters

Launch Angle, Velocity, and Weight (mine… or yours, should you ever be in this completely common crisis scenario). Here’s a quick sample. Be sure to define a range of possible values and a realistic increment so you’re able to later customize the parameter values and make them slider bars! We may be in a hurry, but user experience matters!

Tableau Desktop

We’ll define Y (maximum height of the launch) in terms of X (distance we plan to fly!) and Launch Angle. Impact can be defined in terms of Weight, Launch Angle and Distance flown. Look how robust these formulas can get in Tableau! You can do so much!

Tableau Desktop

Tableau Desktop

Manbearpig is snorting and snuffling its way toward you! Pick up the pace! Define your outputs in a table. Visualize your inputs using variables that repeat the parameter values… that way you can see boldly and brightly the chosen parameters before you pull the lever and launch yourself toward the beach.
How will you know if you’ve met the proper conditions though? Well… I guess a nested IF statement could do the trick!

Tableau Desktop

But you can feel the pounding of Manbearpig’s feet charging your way. There’s no time. We’re doomed! Should we just improvise? No! Wait! Someone has already solved this problem! A control panel has been embedded in this punkin’ chunkin’ slingshot from Heaven!

The Embedded Solution

The benefits of embedded analytics are numerous and varied. Businesses love embedded analytics because their provision improves customer satisfaction and retention, provides them with a competitive advantage, and contributes to revenue growth. Customers love embedded analytics to inform critical decision-making, to reduce the time it takes to make those decisions, and for the personal, customizable touch they can enable themselves with.

We love embedded analytics because we didn’t have to build our life saving, launch projecting dashboard! It was embedded right in this tree! (not that we couldn’t have done it, because, well, Tableau!)

Oh, the intuitive layout! Oh, the user-friendly adjustable parameters! Oh, the easily interpreted output (who would want to be a splashed or smashed pumpkin?)! Quickly, change the parameters. Get yourself safely to the other side of the river before Manbearpig sinks his terrible teeth into your quivering hide!

That’s it! Climb into the hammock. The launch sequence is about to begin.


NO! Manbearpig, don’t break our sling shot! (Grunt, growl, YOOOWWWLLL!!!)


If you knock it over, you’ll shoot us straight into…


The cllloooooouuuuuuuudd!!!

Hey. Hey you. Wake up. Wipe the moisture off your face. Where are we?

It looks like Tableau Server.

It acts like Tableau Server.

But it’s somehow different. It has more features and seems quantifiably less burdensome than Tableau Server. Where are we?

This must be the legendary Tableau Cloud! We’ll explore it more next time!

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