Tableau Public - Say Yes!

Cropped Tableau
I am listening to Tina Fey narrate her best-selling book “Bossypantsand find her story to be hilarious and inspiring. I especially like quotes she uses, with one of my favorites being:

“Say yes, and you’ll figure it out afterwards”

This quote hits home with me because it describes my approach to many things in life, including how I am learning Tableau. In February (5 months ago), I said yes to Tableau and now wish I had tried it years ago. Tableau Public is a FREE data visualization tool for creating stunning visualizations (dashboards and stories). Here is the South Central Library System (SCLS) Tableau Public site!/ that I am using to develop and test dashboard ideas.

In this post, I will share how to get started with Tableau Public and how I am "figuring it out". Hopefully, this will encourage you to say yes and start your own Tableau journey! Tina Fey also says; "The fun is always on the other side of a yes", so HAVE FUN!

Getting Started

  1. Download Tableau Public Desktop: Did I mention this is FREE!
  1. Locate a Dataset. For starters, use a report in Excel, CSV, or Google Sheets. Tableau lets you combine datasets, but I’ll save that is for a later post.
  1. Create a Tableau Public Profile: This is where you will save and share your work. When I first started, I didn’t want anyone to see my hacking so I didn’t save anything. I later found out that Tableau Public has the ability to hide workbooks until you are ready to share. (Phew!)

Figuring it Out

You’re off! If you are a bit anxious about "figuring it out", here is another Tina Fey quote; “THERE ARE NO MISTAKES, only opportunities.”  To help you navigate these opportunities, here are a few of my favorite Tableau Tips and Resources:

Learn from the Experts

In Tableau Public you can follow authors, download (and save) their workbooks, and use them to re-engineer something similar. Deconstructing other author's workbooks has been the best way for me to learn! The South Central Library System (SCLS) profile currently follows some: 

 Tableau Training Materials

 2016 Tableau Conference Videos:

After signing up for free access, here are beginner videos I recommend:

YouTube Channels and Blog Posts (There are many more out there.)

Books I’ve Bought (I’ve checked out many more!)

  1. Few, S. (2013). Information dashboard design: Displaying data for at-a-glance monitoring. Burlingame, CA: Analytics Press.
  2. Sleeper, Ryan. (2017). Practical Tableau: 100 Tips, Tutorials, and Strategies from a Tableau Zen Master. Oreilly & Associates Inc.
  3. Tufte, E. R. (2015). The visual display of quantitative information. Graphic Press: Cheshire, Connecticut.
  4. Wexler, S., Shaffer, J., & Cotgreave, A. (2017). The big book of dashboards: Visualizing your data using real-world business scenarios.
  5. Wong, D. M. (2014). The Wall Street journal guide to information graphics. New York [u.a.: Norton.

Voice to text - where the technology is (or isn't)

SCLS offers an after hours, on call phone number for urgent problems related to network down-time and serious response time issues.  All calls that go to voice mail are automatically converted to text.   As a recent example, one of the texts read as: V2t

"So when you say router it's not about the Spa. so it's United Now I know you want me to pick up. I thought you said this. chocolate sauce to turn in alright."

How would you fix this problem?


Windows 10 Feature Updates

SCLS schedules Windows updates so that they run in the middle of the night when the computers are not in use.  For that reason, you probably don't even notice updates are being installed.  Microsoft has introduced a new classification of updates, called "Feature Updates" for Windows 10.  These feature updates are different than simple security patches.  The feature updates have the potential of making changes you will notice.  The latest feature update is called the 1703 Creator Update and we are in the process of deploying it to Windows 10 computers.  SCLS supports approximately 1,400 PCs and a little more than 100 of those have Windows 10 installed.  That number will increase as older PCs are replaced.

This Creator Update does result in a few changes.  We use centralized Group Policy and deploy scripts that make most of these changes invisible to users.  The one change you may see is that the Creator Update pins a Mail app shortcut to the taskbar.  The shortcut can stay there, but just keep in mind that SCLS is not recommending or supporting its use.  Office 365 web access is still our supported email solution.  If you would like to remove the Mail app shortcut, just right-click it and select "Unpin from taskbar."


Windows 10 Start Menu - Right Click Options

A few months ago Andrew wrote about the Windows 10 Start Menu.  Another feature of the Windows 10 Start Menu is that you can right click it to get this menu:


Most of this stuff is geared towards changing computer settings but I have found a few useful options

  • Shut down or sign out - Quickly logoff the computer
  • File Explorer - Launch the "My Computer" view
  • Desktop - Minimize all open windows to show the desktop

Right click the Windows 10 Start Menu to see if any of these options fit into your workflow!

Virtual Reality vs Augmented Reality

Oculus rift at SCLSI wanted to clear up (I hope) some confusion about virtual reality (VR) and augmented reality (AR). Most of you have probably heard both of these terms by now and may be wondering what they mean. Do they mean the same thing? The answer is no, not really, although sometime in the future the technologies are more than likely going to merge into a new reality called mixed reality (MR).

Virtual reality is currently a visual stereoscopic 3D image that you look at using a lens. If you have a smartphone you can use Google Cardboard to experience this on the cheap. Oculus Rift and HTC Vive make more high end products that use headsets that provide both audio and visual elements for a more realistic experience. While wearing a VR headset, if you move your head upwards you look up in your virtual world, same goes for looking down, left to right and behind you.

Augmented reality is a visual overlay onto a surface, like your smartphone again. If you’ve used Snapchat filters that put little bunny ears and whiskers on your face or played Pokémon Go then you’ve experienced a form of AR. Some online stores have apps that allow you use augmented reality to try their products before you buy it, Converse, LEGO and IKEA to name a few. Some of you may remember Google Glass, this was also a form of AR.

Since I’m on the subject, the next step is to merge VR and AR into MR, were both technologies meld into one. Microsoft is working on this already with Hololens.

Non-secure HTTP

In recent months, you may have noticed browser icons and messages like these...


What's going on?

Earlier this year, certain browsers began to warn users when they visit a login page that doesn't use https. Https is a secure version of the http protocol used to pass information between websites and browsers and is commonly used by websites passing usernames/passwords, credit card information, and other sensitive information.

There is a big push to implement https on all websites to help keep users' browsing and personal data secure. Not all websites currently use https, and it will take time to convert them. You may have already noticed some websites managed by SCLS have not yet made the jump, but some like LINKcat and the ecommerce payment website DO provide secure connections. In upcoming months, we will be working on converting more of the SCLS-managed sites.

In the meantime, remember: never (NEVER!) enter your credit card, social security number, bank information, or other super-sensitive information on a website that is NOT https.  ALL banking, tax, financial, and retail sites should provide https for security.

Want to know a little more about https and secure websites? Take a look at this short but informative 3-minute CommonCraft video!

Additional reading
A short tutorial on your browser's security features:
Mozilla's and Google's blog posts about https:

Wireless Laptop Labs

I’m sure everyone knows SCLS has wireless laptop kits for libraries to borrow for in library training and programs.  We currently have 3 kits available and you can reserve up to 2 at a time.  For those that need a refresher here is everything the kits come with:


7 Laptops

A wireless access point Laptop, Projector, Surge protector, and access point included in Labs.

Multimedia projector with RGB cable

A surge protector

Extension cords

Documentation Binder


As of June 2017, all the laptops have been updated with the latest versions of software and browsers! All laptops now have Microsoft Office 2013 instead of 2010 too.  It keeps getting better because Lab 3 has brand new laptops with Windows 10!  Labs 1 and 2 have Windows 7.  Note: Labs 2 and 3 do not have CD/DVD drives

These kits are great for staff or patron training and programs and includes different software and browsers.  Each laptop comes in a carrying case and includes the power adapter and a wired mouse. 

If your library has Enterprise Wireless the laptops will automatically connect to the signal.  If you don’t have Enterprise Wireless, it comes with a wireless access point that is super simple to setup and laptops will connect automatically. 

These kits can book up fast for programs and you can reserve them for 2 weeks.  To check the availability for Lab 1, Lab 2, and Lab 3 click the appropriate lab to check the calendar.  Or to reserve the lab use this handy form here

Create strong passwords with a roll of the dice

From the American Libraries Magazine; 5/1/2017.
Meredith Powers, young adult librarian at Brooklyn (N.Y.) Public Library (BPL) teaches workshops on digital literacy and data privacy as part of the Data Privacy Project, which is funded by the Institute of Museum and Library Services and the Knight Foundation’s Prototype Fund. Password security is always a hot topic.
She says that Diceware is an easy way to teach patrons how to create better passwords for their library, service, and email accounts. By rolling an ordinary die, users create a five-digit number that dicecorresponds to a word in a Diceware word list. The Electronic Frontier Foundation (EFF) maintains multiple Diceware word lists.
“Even though the list of words is publicly available, the security of a Diceware password comes from the number of words selected and the number of available words on a Diceware list,” Powers says. “By rolling dice to create several words in a sequence, you can create a strong, memorable passphrase. The creator of Diceware, Arnold Reinhold, currently recommends a six-word sequence to protect against a brute-force hack attempt.”

The Many Faces of USB

First, let me start with a little explanation of USB. USB or Universal Serial Bus is an industry standard that was developed in the mid-1990s that helped standardize the connection of computer peripherals to computers. It allowed the two devices to communicate and also gave the peripheral power. Since its development it has changed and evolved over the years and that is what I'd like to tell you about in this post.

In the beginning there was USB 1.x and the cable had a Type-A connector on one end. This connector type is used on most keyboards and mice, PCs usually have multiple ports of this type, and many other devices and power adapters use this type of port for data transfers and/or charging.

Then came USB 2.0 and the cable had many different connectors on one end. The end that plugged into the PC still used a Type-A connector, but the end that connected to the peripheral is one of the following types of connectors:

  • Mini - This is the standard connector type for mobile device and is still used in some cameras that have non-standard connectors.
  • Micro - This is the current standard for all mobile and portable devices, except Apple devices.
  • Type-B - This is an almost square connector that is used mostly for printers and other powered devices that connect to a computer. They’re much less common than type-A.

Next came USB 3.0 and the cable was just like USB 2.0 except that it was much faster and used a SuperSpeed mode. This type was signified on PCs by an "SS" next to the USB port and sometimes the center of the port was blue, but not always. The speed for USB 3.0 was improved to give us USB 3.1 Gen 1. That wasn't fast enough for some so they improved the speed even more to give use USB 3.1 Gen 2.

Finally there is USB-C and the cable is nothing like any of the past USB connectors. It is smaller, reversible, fast and it can both receive and provide a lot more power than previous versions of USB. Apple shocked the world last year when they unveiled a new MacBook with a single USB-C port and nothing else. Take a look at Craig's previous TechBits post entitled "What is USB type C?" for more information on USB-C.

One quick side note: Do you ever have a problem plugging a USB cable in? I know I have. Well I found the answer in an article from David Pogue at Yahoo that's entitled "How to Tell if the USB Plug Is Right-Side Up".  He says: "Only one side of the metal USB connector itself has a seam, a line, going down the middle. That’s the bottom." Take a look at Craig's previous TechBits post entitled "The proper way to plug in a USB cable" for another way to tell.

Here's one picture of the different USB connector types.  If you want to see more then do an image search in Google and you'll finds loads of pictures.



Can you delete old events off your library's website? Yes, probably!

Deleting old events can be good customer service.

Have you received inquiries from patrons wanting to attend an event that happened last summer because they stumbled across its page on your website and didn't notice it was dated 2016? It's annoying to click an event link in Google search results and see a "page not found" error when that event has been deleted, but is that worse than a patron mistakenly planning to attend a long-past event?

Deleting old events can be good website maintenance.

Are events from previous years stacking up by the hundreds in the content admin screens of your website? They weren't hurting anyone 1 year after your website migrated to Drupal... but now their vast numbers make it hard to find and maintain permanent pages.


Deleting old events may have no consequences whatsoever.

Are there lots of links to the event on the library's site other than the calendar? That sounds labor intensive and unlikely, right?

Are there lots of links to the event from other sites? (My go-to tool for finding these backlinks is the Moz Open Site Explorer.) It's more likely that other sites link to the library's homepage or calendar than individual event pages.

Did you share website links to events on Facebook a long time ago? My highly un-scientific survey says: no one looks at stuff shared on Facebook from a year ago.

Does Google Analytics show any traffic to the events in the past 6 months? It's worth checking to get a sense of how it compares to overall traffic.

Will there be lots of "Page not found" errors in the website log and Google Search Console? Yes, there will be, until search engines stop re-indexing those pages. Luckily, these errors don't really hurt the library's website.

Any cases where deleting old events may not be a good choice?

Events with repeating dates. You may have some long-running events that were created over a year ago and are still ongoing with upcoming dates. Don't delete those... yet.

Bottom line:

You can keep past events on the library's website. Maybe there's no time for this kind of cleanup. But if those old events cause problems for patrons and make maintenance difficult—just like weeding a book collection—don't sweat getting rid of them!