Reflecting on New Charts – TC18

The Tableau Conference is that, perhaps, one time a year where you have the opportunity to meet and be inspired by hundreds of people. In fact, it becomes more than just “meeting” people with a “Hello!” and a hand shake. If like me, you likely encountered a few brisk exchanges, but many more deep encounters with some fundamentally kind, inspiring, and genuinely fantastic individuals.

This being my third Tableau Conference, my goal for attending was to spend time with people that I had only otherwise interacted with on Twitter and Tableau Public. I wanted to set up relationships for the year following TC and had a desire to not just learn about their “tips and tricks” but exchange ideas about their core beliefs about Tableau, their design process, their feelings and relationships with Tableau and the Community.

During the conference I met up with Josh Smith, who I had spoken with in the virtual space for some time and knew that we both shared a love of poetry. He kindly gave me a poetry book that he finished reading and suggested I read it on the plane home, which I did.

As with inspiration, you don’t always know when it will hit you or how. I haven’t written a poem in years, so when I decided to read some poems on the plane I suddenly had the desire to pull out my computer and see what I could come up with. Let me be honest. I wrote the first line then stared at it for a good 20 minutes unable to think about where I was going with the poem. The guy next to me was deeply reading his new Makeover Monday book and I kept glancing over at him thinking maybe I should just scrap this poem idea.

Again, with any type of inspiration, you just don’t know when the flood gates will open. After patiently waiting and tapping my computer keys, it all came out, and quickly so. I don’t think it was intentional that many words in the poem are data-related, but after I closed up my laptop, and long after my plane landed, I thought – “This could be a viz. Could I make a viz of my poem?”

Inspiration is funny. Sometimes the ideas come from so many places, both in time and space. I had attended Ken Flerlage’s and Matt Chamber’s TC18 talk about custom charts and I was reminded that Ken said, almost anything can be visualized by using X and Y coordinates. Well there you have it. I was going to plot out my poem using coordinates.

Despite that fact that my husband looked at my sideways most of Sunday afternoon as I recreated my poem in Tableau, for me it was a necessary finale to my unbelievable week at the Tableau Conference. Here I was able to creatively convey my emotions and experiences in an abstract art form, while also bringing that art back into the software that has transformed how I think about data and the world around me.

You can interact with the Tableau Public version of the poem here, where I add some definitions of key data-related words and link some vizzes for examples. Or just read it below. 🙂



Screen Shot 2018-10-26 at 9.35.52 PM


Text version below because WordPress won’t let me use a damn tab space!

Reflecting on New Charts

The sun pushed me in like the gentle shuffling of a line—
breaking at the point of contact
with the ground.

Emotions floating around as doodles would
on pages of scattered legal paper,

reaching all the right places. Places where
letters and symbols—& me & you & me & you—
collide (*truth*)
into a summation of points along
a path of friendship. Spirits tell stories here,

interrupting slowly each step
we take.
We take many

It’s all in the details—the data—which fills
me with inspiration
bursting as a bubble would at the innocent tip
of a child’s finger.


The miles of time are spread wide like the 472 pages
separating covers and I read pills over—
the incantation of texts,

the rhythm of areas
filled between us. The jazz chords
of a smile.

New charts are drawn as the sun shuffles
me home. Connecting the scattered doodles
like networks of thread
in the nest of my mind.

Lindsay Betzendahl
Tableau Conference 2018

One comment

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s