Building a Tableau dataviz of Tesla Model 3 reservation data

Twice as many Americans as Germans want self-driving cars.

That’s one of the first things I learned from asking the next set of questions.

About 400,000 people have put down $1000 each to reserve Tesla’s upcoming Model 3 – the all-electric, potentially self-driving automobile. Some of them even stood in lines that stretched for blocks to put down $1000 on a car they hadn’t even seen pictures of yet. (I’m one of them.)

Teslas can all be custom-ordered. Tesla has a great configuration site where you can pick out every detail – if you’re ordering a Model S or X. But so far, we Model 3 reservation holders don’t even have the opportunity to tell Tesla what color we want.

At least, not through Tesla’s site. to the rescue! This crowd-sourced data lets anyone self-report the options they want to choose for their Model 3. Just register and fill out a survey based off previous official statements, and maybe some rumors and tea-leaf reading, too.

Now, Teslanomics’ Ben Sullins – formerly the Chief Data officer at Pluralsight – has uncracked that dataset with a Tableau Public viz:

We interrupt this blog post to try out different ways around the problem of embedding Tableau Public vizzes on WordPress. Seeing a couple different suggestions using Tableau’s new support search.

Tried using the “logical line breaks” method John Barr described on the Tableau forums.. It did not work, even when I copy/pasted from John’s example. Though clearly it works on his blog.

Ugh. The regular embed code works just fine on WordPress in general – it looks like it’s a problem with specific WordPress themes. Bleah. Ok, for now I’m just going to cheat, strip out most of the embed, and use only the static image. Click through to Tableau Public to interact. There are other approaches I can use, I’ll come back to those…

Alright, back to Tesla datavizzing!

Pretty cool, huh? Seeing this dataviz made me want to ask some more questions, though. What about the rest of the world’s orders? Do we all want the same thing? Let’s see:

Model 3 Options v2

I plan to come back to this blog post and update it with a few details about how I made this viz, and keep updating it. Already I’ve tried out a few techniques and features I haven’t previously, and learned a thing or two.

Sharpening the saw: program manager reading list


One thing that works very well for me is reading, especially lessons learned and case studies from practitioners.9780596517717-228x300

A book I frequently turn back to is Making Things Happen by Scott Berkun (he was a Microsoft program manager who shipped things like Visual Basic for Excel, and Internet Explorer 4 – the first really good version of IE). It has been a few years since I last read it, I should do a re-read soon. Scott’s blog is also excellent.

Over break, I read a book recommended by a coworker: The Membership Economy. This is one of those business books tha510x2zsjzkl-_sx329_bo1204203200_t has a few excellent insights which then get spun out to fill a book. Worth checking out from the library and flipping through for an hour or two. Or find a good summary online. It may help crystallize things by providing a shared vocabulary for discussions with my colleagues, but I don’t think it is as insightful (or as data-driven!) as Effortless Experience.

I’m currently reading Kathy Sierra’s Badass: Making Users Awesome. I love it so far; it has the 5199hst-ofl-_sx332_bo1204203200_great design of Kathy’s Head First books, and I love the message and mindset. Highly recommended.

For this year, the topic I’m thinking a lot about is how to work effectively in teams. The book I’m reading now is Beautiful Teams from O’Reilly, with dozens of chapters contributed by a wide range of thinkers and practitioners, from programming gucatrus Grady Booch and Scott Ambler to sci-fi writer Cory Doctorow.

Another book in my queue is from Bob Lewis, longtime Infoworld columnist (and IT consultant). He has some great, short books like Bare Bones Project Management: What you can’t NOT do. (And a followup on Bare Bones Change Management that is also very helpful for 51veo882b2bl-_sx331_bo1204203200_1anyone making changes.) The book I’m going to read next is his latest: The Cognitive Enterprise. I haven’t read it yet, so I can’t tell you if I recommend it or not! But now that I’ve told you about it, it’ll motivate me to actually follow through and pick it up off my to-be-read pile – aka tsundoku.


Tsundoku illustrated by the daughter of redditor Wemedge

Tableau Easter Egg: The simplest, fastest way to get Tableau Desktop’s version, build number, and architecture

Of course, you can SEE the version and build number of Tableau Desktop from the Help menu, with Help > About.

About Tableau

But usually you want to give this information to someone else – for example, pasting it into an email or support case form.

You could use your eyeballs and fingers, and transcribe the sixteen digits the old-fashioned way.

But I just learned there’s an even easier way to do it.

When the “About” dialog is open, just Copy!

There’s no need to select anything. Just hit Ctrl-C, or right-click > Copy – and you’ll get the version and build right on your clipboard for easy pasting, like so:

9.0.0 (9000.15.0325.1651) 64-bit


Googling Tableau’s Release Notes

Tableau releases maintenance updates on a regular basis – about monthly. Since Tableau connects to dozens of kinds of datasources, which are themselves constantly updated, it’s always a good idea to stay on the latest maintenance release for your Tableau version. (E.g. if your company is running Tableau Server 8.2, you should upgrade to the most recent 8.2.x – 8.2.8 as of today.)

But in environments with intensive change control requirements, it can be very useful to be able to find specific, relevant reasons for upgrading.

Two frequently asked questions in this regard are:

1. How can I find a listing of issues fixed between whatever release I’m currently using vs. the latest maintenance release?

2. How can I find which release had a fix for a specific issue?

The Tableau support website enables both these scenarios.

The release notes for maintenance releases are available here:

Every version’s release notes are available using this URL scheme:

Let’s say you’re running 8.2.1, and the current 8.2 release is 8.2.8. To find all the fixes between, say, version 8.2.1 and 8.2.8, you can look at:

and so on. They’re now all linked on the releases page, so you can just open them in new tabs manually, or you can write a script to download them.

But, what if you don’t know when an issue was fixed, and you don’t want to have to search a whole bunch of individual release note pages? Then, you can use Google’s site search feature, and specify the following site base:

For example, if you wanted to search for release notes related to HP’s Vertica, you could do:

Screen Shot 2015-02-26 at 12.35.06 PM

Or if you wanted to scope it to only show Vertica release notes from version 8.2.x releases, add /8.2 to the end of the site parameter:

Screen Shot 2015-02-26 at 12.37.00 PM

Here, let me Google that for you.

Enjoy! Leave a comment to let me know if you find this tip helpful, or have other use cases for Tableau’s release notes.

TabPal: Custom Tableau Color Palette Generator

Color is tremendously powerful in creating data visualizations.

Tableau allows you to create custom color palettes. And usually people do this by:

  1. Find an image with the colors you want to use
  2. Use an eyedropper color picker tool; select each color in the image.
  3. Get the color code.
  4. Open your preferences.tps file and write a line of XML by hand that includes the color code.
  5. Repeat for each color.

But that’s old-school. One of my colleagues created a web app that automatically creates custom Tableau color palettes from any image.

  1. Find the URL of an image with the colors you want to use
  2. Paste it into

Tabpal identifies the dominant colors and spits out custom palette information ready to add to your Tableau prefs. Done!

For example, say I wanted to make a viz about the history of Apple, using the color scheme of Apple’s old rainbow apple logo.

Apple’s original rainbow logo, from

I fed it to TabPal. Here’s what I get:

tabpal output

TabPal grabs the top five colors in the image, identifies them, and creates the color-palette XML I need.

But, we’re not quite done yet. The Apple rainbow has six colors, so I used a web color picker (I like Colorzilla) to identify the blue color’s hex code — it’s #118ECE — and added it to the list TabPal generated, then added it to my Tableau preferences file.

color palette prefs

Now I can make my Apple viz in six colors. Moof!

apple color palette

Interested in learning more? Check out this webinar on Best Practices for Using Color in Data Visualization by Tableau Research Scientist Maureen Stone. She’s wicked smart!

Best Music of 2014 meta post

I like to listen to music while I’m working.

In fact, I like to listen to music all the time.

Especially good music.

Here’s some:

For anyone interested, I put together a 6+ hours Spotify (yeah yeah) playlist of my favorite tracks from 2014 (and still working on it).
posted by Lutoslawski at 1:06 PM on December 12 [4 favorites]


NPR Music has put together a massive playlist of their best of 2014, Songs We Love.

That link above launches the groovy in-browser app, which lets you listen on shuffle, choose a genre, and gives you artist info, as well as other functionality. You can view the entire list here if you are more eye-curious than ear-curious.

In a somewhat complete Spotify playlist


Open With Multiple Versions of Tableau Desktop on Mac OS X

Do you have multiple versions of Tableau Desktop installed on your Mac?

You might be beta testing the new version, but still need to work with a current version for production work. Wish you could just right-click on a .twbx and choose on the fly which version to open it in?

Well, thanks to Mac OS X, it’s easy. No registry hacking required. (Note that this isn’t supported by Tableau — it’s a Mac OS X feature, so talk to your favorite Apple Genius if you need help.)

  1. Install multiple versions of Tableau Desktop on your Mac. Go to the Applications folder and rename each one with its version so you can keep them straight.
  2. Launch each version at least once. (During first run, Mac apps do things like register with the OS.)
  3. Right-click a .twbx and select Open With > Other…
  4. Check Always Open With and select the version you want to add, then click Open. (The checkbox seems to be necessary to make the option “stick” in the Open With menu. You can change the default version at any time by repeating this step.)
  5. Now, you can right-click and have your choice of Tableau version available at your fingertips.

Enjoy! Post a comment if you have any questions and I’ll do my best to answer when I get a chance.

(If your question is, “how can I beta test the new version of Tableau?” the answer is, contact your Tableau account manager and they’ll be happy to sign you up!)

Unpackage Tableau .twbx Workbooks on the Mac


Tableau Desktop’s .twbx packaged workbook files are archives which contain both a .twb workbook file and the data.

On Windows, Tableau Desktop installs an “Unpackage Workbook” command which is available by right-clicking any .twbx file.

And Tableau Desktop is coming to the Mac! But the unpackage workbook feature is not included in the initial release. As a workaround, you can rename a .twbx file to .zip, then double-click the .zip file to decompress it.

But if you want to be able to right-click (or control-click) a .twbx file and choose “Unpackage Tableau Workbook” on your Mac, here’s what to do.

Warning: this is an unsupported utility!

Download this Automator workflow file, unzip it, and double-click Unpackage Tableau Workbook.workflow. When prompted, click Install, then click Done.

service installerservice installer complete

To use, just right-click or control-click a Tableau packaged workbook and select Unpackage Tableau Workbook.



1. The file does not require a .twbx extension, as long as the file type is Tableau Packaged Workbook.

2. If the service is run on a file other than a Tableau Packaged Workbook, the service will take no action.

3. Files are unpackaged to slightly different destinations on the Mac vs PC. On PC, the .twb goes in the same directory as the .twbx; data goes inside a new folder:

Result on Windows

Result on Windows

On the Mac, both the .twb and the data directory go inside a new folder.

Result on Mac

Result on Mac


Go to ~/Library/Services
Delete the file Unpackage Tableau Workbook
Log out and log back in

Known issue

If you unpackage a workbook that has already been unpackaged in the same location, Automator will throw an unclear error. This is because the shell script doesn’t handle the scenario when a duplicate file already exists. (Repro: unpackage the same workbook twice in a row. To resolve, delete or rename the folder of unpackaged files.)

This is not a very helpful error message

This is not a very helpful error message

What is this thing?

It’s a simple Apple Automator workflow which calls a shell script. Sometime soon, I’ll write another blog post soon explaining the details. I also hope to post the code to github, in case you want to contribute improvements to the community.

If this was helpful to you, please leave a comment and let me know!

If it’s not working for you, feel free to leave a comment, but I make no promises that I’ll respond or be able to help – your best bet is to just follow the uninstall information above.