It’s done!!! Until recently I wasn’t sure I’d be able to submit my first Iron Viz entry, I went away at the start of the month and have been busy, which meant not as much time as I’d like to create something I’d be proud of. But in the end things worked out and here it is.

For those new to it Iron Viz is a contest held by Tableau at their annual conference. The premise is simple:

  • 3 contestants (selected throughout the year in feeder challenges)
  • 1 data set
  • Cheerleaders and crews allowed
  • 20 minutes to create their best viz in the limited time

I wasn’t familiar with it until November last year when I saw Shine win in Vegas with this brilliant dashboard. Although it’s bound to be one of the most stressful 20 minutes you can put yourself through, in front of so many people (did I mention it gets streamed) I was keen to get in the action and test my abilities.

 1st feeder challenge: Food

Each feeder challenge has a theme and for the 1st one of this year the theme is Food and my initial reaction was to think about the food we waste. I struggle to understand how in a planet with so many resources we still have people going hungry and it’s not a case of only the populations of undeveloped countries going hungry. Your neighbour, your colleague at work everyone can be affected. Still we produce humongous amounts of food only to throw a large portion of it away.

For such an issue I thought finding the data would be much easier, but it isn’t. FAO has some statistics but often we are left reading reports rather than being allowed to use the data post research. I hope that with so many people wanting to visualise open data, charities and non-profits organizations start pushing for data to be freely available.

The viz:

I don’t get to play much with colours at work, fixed palettes and standards mean that I often use Makeover Monday to push my skills and try new fonts colours etc… I knew my Iron Viz entry wouldn’t be different. I’d come across the font Agency FB and I thought it could work well combined with strong bold colours. That’s how I decided on the Orange theme. I also wanted to do something where I could tell a story and that’s how I got started.

I’ve used 9.3 bit but not much in terms of mapping and I’d heard good things about the integration of mapbox and tableau and it was so easy to start changing the different layers. I’m familiar with  layering concepts from my experience with image editing software so it was pretty simple to create a map for my viz. I’ll be using this in the future for sure.

I’ve also used the navigation technique which I’d used in a previous dashboard. When working with different size dashboards showing sheets will change the size and make them all similar. In this case I had to use URL’s in order to hide the sheets but leave the navigation working by clicking the arrows at the bottom of each dashboard.

Unfortunately for my entry I wanted to create a way to animate and show the shapes one by one but I couldn’t make it work in time, I’ll see if it’s possible to do it anyway.

Here it is:

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Things I’ve learned:

  • We produce so much food across the globe, the quantity is immense
  • We waste a large portion of that food produced
  • The likelihood of someone we know going hungry due to job loss or changes in circumstances is very high.
  • The problem doesn’t affect only undeveloped countries.

Supermarkets and restaurants will change if our habits change, ugly fruit and veg are good food just like the any other and “best before” are guidelines only, food will be good to eat well paste those dates.

Working with a subject that you’re not familiar with, during the research phase, you get to learn so much about the subject. That’s certainly one of the good things about getting involved in these contests and initiatives.

Thanks for reading and if you like it don’t forget to vote on twitter.

David