Workout Wednesday - How can it help you and tips on solving THAT tricky calculation

by Tom Pilgrem

A tough day in DS

Yesterday was Workout Wednesday day in the Data School – we spent the whole day doing workouts and judging by my swears to completed workout ratio, it was a tough day!

If you’re not familiar with Workout Wednesday, it’s essentially a harder version of Makeover Monday. Feeling like a sick and twisted version at some points! Every Wednesday a tableau viz gets posted, with your goal being to emulate it. There’s a few directions and rough guidelines, however much of it is up to you to figure out.

Why take part?

It really makes you think! Whilst some of the cases may not have the most useful business cases, they do expose you to different styles of visualising data. As well as making you try things you’d otherwise have not even known about. In my case – I was trying to recreate Emma Whyte’s drillable treemap where by clicking on a state it filters within that same sheet to show the data at a city level for that state. I still haven’t fully understood how this works, but through taking part in this workout I’ve learnt a new chart type. Something which I can hopefully transfer into other use cases.

Tips on tackling THAT tricky calculation

This is Workout Wednesday unrelated – but certainly something that could come up if you go away and try one! On Monday – I was having some problems trying to write a particular level of detail calculation. So if you find yourself in a deep, dark whole when trying to write out a tricky calculation – here’s my top tips:

  • Write it out on paper – This really helps. Think about what you really want to get out of the calculation. What fields do you need? What functions do you need? Do you need to fix at a certain level of detail? Write these things down and suddenly the whole process will make more sense to you.
  • Break it apart – There’s no need to write out the whole calculation in one window! Not initially at least. This links in to the above point. Quite often you’ll have multiple components of a calculation. It’s easy to think of the end point and jump to that. Think about this as building a car. You don’t build it in one step. First we need to build the engine, then the wheels, then we can fit it all around the bodywork. Building a long calculation is so much easier to see and understand when the component parts have been built separately – with relevant names – rather than calcs within calcs.
  • Take a break – When you get stuck in a rut – go away. Take a break from the computer, go and take a walk outside and the answer will come to you. Quite often all you need is a fresh perspective to your thinking.

I hope these tips help you and this inspires you to go and try a Workout Wednesday yourself – enjoy!

Any feedback or comments – reach out to me on twitter or linkedin.

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