Happy New Year!

The conclusion of 2020 marks the end of the second year of #IronQuest. We don’t need to tell you that 2020 was a difficult year for pretty much everyone. However, we’re incredibly proud of the #IronQuest community and the #Datafam for sticking with and supporting the project throughout the year, despite the challenging circumstances.

The #IronQuest project had an incredibly successful year and grew bigger than we ever could have anticipated! Thank you to each and every one of you that participated in 2020, or even those who simply enjoyed the project from the sidelines. The vizzes submitted for each round were exceptional and showed so much creativity and talent. You all took the topics presented to you and vizzed them in ways we could never have imagined. We hope you enjoyed the experience, learnt something new and will continue to participate in 2021 (or take the plunge and participate for the first time).

To help improve #IronQuest in 2021, we would be grateful if you could help us by completing this short feedback survey. This will also provide you with an opportunity to suggest topics for future rounds.

2020 Insights

In 2019 we ran six projects and received a total of 162 entries. In 2020 we ran the same number of projects but received a whopping 295 entries; an 82% increase year-on-year!

The six projects were:

  • Healthcare in Prisons – a #ProjectHealthViz collaboration
  • Maps
  • Quantified Self
  • Myths, Mystery and Magic
  • Mobile First
  • Black and White

We kicked off 2020 with a collaboration with the #ProjectHealthViz project, run by Lindsay Betzendahl. For this round, we provided a dataset on women’s mental health in prisons. However, participants had the option of vizzing any datasets relating to the ‘healthcare in prisons’ topic. While the majority of entries focused on mental health or general healthcare prospects for prison or jail inmates, we also saw vizzes on overcrowding, women (including pregnant women or the impact on children when a parent is incarcerated) and well as the treatment of minority groups.

The next round focused specifically on maps. This was slightly different from previous #IronQuest rounds in the sense that we focused on a chart type, rather than a specific topic. We chose the map theme to allow participants to experiment with some of the newer mapping features in Tableau such as buffer calculations, or even experiment with map styles in Mapbox. Many users don’t have the opportunity to use the spatial features in Tableau as much as they would like so we thought this would give participants an excuse to practice. We received a total of 39 submissions for this round making it (at that point) the most popular round in #IronQuest history.

The maps round ran from February 23rd to March 31st; around the same time as the first wave of Coronavirus hit. As people’s lives were turned upside-down, we took a break and paused in April. By May, many people had been subject to Coronavirus-related restrictions for at least a month and during this time, many had started to record data relating to changes in their daily habits. Zoom-fatigue was starting to kick-in and parents were juggling work and childcare duties at home. Meanwhile, people were exercising more or picking up new hobbies whilst subject to lockdown or ‘shelter-in-place’ restrictions.

Given the circumstances, we thought it would be an ideal time to run a ‘quantified-self’ round; the idea being participants could track data about their daily lives and visualise it to find insights and share their lockdown stories. The ‘quantified-self’ round ran from May 3rd to June 5th. It is the most popular round to date with a total of 65 entries! Participants really made the topic their own by visualising data on everything from health and fitness to personal finances.

Despite the on-going challenges related to the pandemic, participation rates remained high for the remainder of the year. We paused after the quantified self round for the Tableau #IronViz feeder competition (a single feeder in 2020) and resumed in August with ‘myths, mystery and magic’, as chosen by the #datafam. Given everything that was going on in the world at the time, ‘myths, mystery and magic’ felt like the perfect way to escape the drama and focus on fun, fantasy datasets and topics. This month we enjoyed vizzes on everything from UFO’s to witches!

The final two rounds of the year focused on features, rather than specific topics, namely mobile dashboard and designing in black and white. These feature-based rounds were inspired by a conversation I had with Andy Cotgreave following the #IronViz feeder. We saw a few mobile-first entries in this years’ feeder competition but in general, mobile dashboards are a frequently overlooked area (on Tableau Public at least). Despite so many of us consuming Tableau visualisations on our mobile devices, we had noticed that relatively few people take the time to make their vizzes mobile-friendly. The goal of the ‘mobile-first’ round was to provide participants with an opportunity to practice and improve their mobile-design skills whilst encouraging others to consider the mobile experience when designing in Tableau in the future. Many people who entered the ‘mobile-first’ round built their very first mobile-first (or mobile-friendly) visualisation. It was a learning curve for all of us!

We concluded the year with the ‘black and white’ round. The challenge this month was to create a compelling visualisation using only black, white or greyscale colour schemes. We received a total of 57 submissions for the ‘black and white’ round making it the second-most popular round in #IronQuest history. Since the theme this month was design-focused rather than topic-focused, the entries covered a wide range of subject matter. Some people opted to use the power of contrast and composition to capture an audience’s attention and bring their data to life. Others used shading to emphasise key points and tell a compelling story. Regardless of their approach, participants adopted different techniques to help create memorable, impactful visualisations.

Regional Trends

We added 12 new countries to our participant map this year, including our first participants from Western Africa and Latin America!

We also witnessed growth in participation rates across all of our most active countries, except for Singapore where participation fell by a single viz in 2020 (compared to 2019):

The biggest growth in participation rates was seen in India, where the number of entries was up by 28 vizzes in 2020. Strong growth was also witnessed in our most active countries; the USA and the UK, while participation rates almost doubled in many other countries.

#IronViz Participant Rates vs. #IronQuest

It can be quite daunting for people entering an Iron Viz feeder for the first time. Not only are participants under pressure to build impressive visualizations but they also need to source & prep their own data which can be challenging. When we founded #IronQuest, we hoped that participants would become more comfortable with sourcing data and visualizing a specific theme through participation in this project, hopefully increasing the chances of them going on to enter the main Iron Viz competition.

We witnessed a marked increase in the proportion of participants who stated that they had entered an #IronViz feeder competition following the #IronViz competition this year. Before the 2020 #IronViz feeder contest, only 32% of #IronQuest entrants (on average) had entered an #IronViz feeder in the past. That figure rose to 54% post #IronViz!

I don’t have the data to confirm it but I would like to think that #IronQuest gave participants the confidence and skills they needed to enter #IronViz.

Participant Spotlight

We would like to take this opportunity to thank everyone who participated in #IronQuest in 2020. If it wasn’t for all of you, this project wouldn’t exist. By taking part you have challenged yourself and no doubt acquired some new skills and confidence along the way. Not only that but your vizzes have inspired and educated many people across the #datafam and beyond.

In 2020, three people went the extra mile and completed all 6 challenges, making it into the 100% club:

  • Frederic Fery
  • Katelyn Schaub
  • Michelle Frayman

It’s worth noting that Katelyn has also participated in every single #IronQuest round since the project began!

There were 134 newcomers to the project in 2020. From this group, four people completed four out of the six challenges:

  • Fred Najjar
  • Lisa Rapp
  • Mateusz Karmalski
  • Thi Ho

Viz of the Day (VOTD) Gallery

In 2020, Tableau featured a total of 17(!!) #IronQuest submissions as the ‘Viz of the Day’! *

We would like to give a special shout-out to Kimly Scott who was recognised with two #IronQuest VOTD’s in 2020!

View all of the 2020 #IronQuest VOTD’s below.

Gary Collins – Flytipping in London

Lisa Rapp – Housing in New York

Katelyn Schaub – Manhattan Building Ages

Soha Elghany – Rohingya Refugees

Frederic Fery – My 1000 Runs

Kimly Scott – The Stamps in my Passport

Kimly Scott – Are We Alone?

Eve Thomas – Bigfoot Sightings

Satoshi Ganeko – Constellation

Takafumi Shukuya – Harry Potter Spells

Pradeep Kumar – Marvel Comic Characters

Matesuz Karmalski – Supernatural: The Kills So Far

Soha Elghany and Fred Najjar – The Day Lebanon Changed

Sarah Bartlett – The Myths and Legends Haunting Britain

Wendy Shijia – Giant Pandas Overseas

Anjulika Sahgal – New York Times Bestsellers 1932-2020

What to expect in 2021

Iron Quest will continue in a similar format in 2021. we’ll be looking to organise more collaborations with other community projects in the coming year, particularly those new or lesser-known projects. Many of these projects focus on a specific subject area and run on a monthly basis, making them a perfect fit for #IronQuest. We’re hopeful that these collaborations will not only introduce these projects to a wider audience but they will also help to support the causes which these projects seek to recognise.

Following the popularity of the ‘mobile-first’ and ‘black and white’ rounds in 2020, we’ll be planning further Tableau-feature or skill (rather than topic) focused and design-focused rounds in the coming year. These rounds will allow participants to practice specific features or master specific data viz skills with the freedom of selecting a dataset of their choice. We’re passionate about supporting participants in learning new skills whilst participating in #IronQuest, therefore such rounds will be accompanied by blog posts, tutorials or other related learning materials

Finally, based on feedback received to date, #IronQuest viz feedback will centre more on the Iron Viz scoring criteria going forward (design, storytelling and analysis). We’ll seek to provide participants with tips on how they can better meet these criteria in their vizzes; for example, if this viz were to be entered into an Iron Viz feeder competition, how might it perform and what areas might need to be improved to increase the overall score? We haven’t done this before because we recognise that some participants enter #IronQuest for the topic alone. They may have no desire to attempt to meet the Iron Viz scoring criteria with their visualisation, nor enter an Iron Viz competition. That is perfectly acceptable and we’ll continue to welcome entries from such participants. However, to ensure we structure our feedback in the most helpful manner we’ll ask participants when submitting their viz if they require Iron Viz-focused feedback so we can tailor it accordingly.

Thank You!

We have been truly overwhelmed by the support received for #IronQuest this year. Thank you to everyone who has participated in the project to date. We wouldn’t be here without you all! Your dedication to the project has been outstanding. It’s not easy to source data and build a detailed viz from scratch. We truly appreciate all of the time and effort that has gone into the vizzes submitted as part of this project. Thank you!

Thank you to Tableau Public for supporting the project from the beginning and for featuring so many #IronQuest submissions as VOTD.

Thank you to Tableau and all of the User Group leaders who allowed us the opportunity to speak about #IronQuest at events last year.

Finally, thank you to all of the 2020 co-hosts; Lindsay Betzendahl, Jonni Walker, Ivett Kovács, Sam Parsons, Zach Bowders and Chantilly Jaggernauth. We truly appreciate all of your support and for taking the time to help grow the project.


Details of the next #IronQuest round will be announced on January 4th, 2021 on SarahLovesData.co.uk.

You can find the full recap posts of each Iron Quest round to date on the blog here.

Thanks for reading.


* Viz of the Day – Every weekday, the Tableau Public team selects one data visualization to be featured as Viz of the Day (VOTD). In particular, the Tableau Public team look for vizzes that spark meaningful data conversations, showcase what’s possible in Tableau, and highlight the outstanding work of the community. You can view the complete VOTD gallery here.