Happy New Year!

I hope everyone had a refreshing break over the holiday period. The conclusion of 2020 marked the end of the second year of #IronQuest. I’m incredibly proud of the #IronQuest community and the #datafam for sticking with and supporting the project throughout last year, despite the challenging circumstances.

174 participated in #IronQuest last year and we received a total of 295 entries!

Read more about #IronQuest in 2020 in this recap post.


To kick 2021 off the right way, we have a fun topic for you this month!

Over the last few weeks, I’ve been collecting feedback from #IronQuest participants (you can still submit your feedback here). In the feedback survey, I ask participants if there are any topics they would like to see incorporated into an #IronQuest topic in the future. There are some common topics, such as sports, which feature again and again in the responses, but there are some more niche topics too. This isn’t surprising since everyone shares different interests and hobbies. It’s what makes us unique after all! But for an #IronQuest topic to work, it needs to appeal to the majority of people and be easy enough to interpret. It also needs to be a topic that participants can shape and make their own, or play into a curiosity or an area of interest.

It’s far more enjoyable working on viz which covers a topic you are genuinely interested in, or a cause you are passionate about. For instance, I am unlikely to build a viz on Cobra Kai (a show on Netflix) anytime soon as I’ve never watched it and I know very little about it. I’m sure Cobra Kai is awesome, but it would be a struggle for me to confidently visualise data relating to characters in Cobra Kai without doing some research on the show beforehand. As I’m not particularly passionate about the topic, I wouldn’t necessarily enjoy spending hours diligently undertaking the research this exercise would require. However, some of my friends love Cobra Kai and would jump at the chance to visualise it. There’s absolutely nothing wrong with that!

The point I’m trying to make is, it’s far easier to put the work in, undertake research, collect data and build a compelling visualisation when it’s focused on a topic you are passionate about. You may have heard the phrase, “viz what you love”. Zach Bowders summarises it perfectly in this post. This is precisely what I am referring to. In his post, Zach references some of the more unorthodox vizzes he has published over the years.

He says:

“With each of these projects I learned something new about what did (or didn’t) work, and in many cases tried new techniques I wouldn’t have had the opportunity to try at work.

Had I not been as invested and curious about the subjects as I am, I know (I have the vizzes to prove it) I wouldn’t have created something as interesting.”

— Zach Bowders

Given it’s January and the start of a new year, many people will have made commitments to themselves to ‘viz more’. That’s great but I can tell you from experience, it can be difficult to come up with topics to visualise. Community projects are a fantastic way to keep you engaged and accountable but they might not always cover topics which you are interested in. That’s why for this round of #IronQuest I would like you to focus on something you are passionate about. It could be your favourite sports team, musician, place to visit, hobby, author or actor. Perhaps there is a specific question or curiosity you have which you would like to attempt to answer with data. It could even be a cause or non-profit which you support and would like to promote. The main thing is you make it your own and enjoy the process.

I’m hopeful this project will allow you an opportunity to put your data sourcing and data visualisation skills into practice, whilst having fun and helping you to learn more about a topic that interests you along the way.


The #IronQuest Challenge

Remember, #IronQuest is modelled upon the #IronViz feeder competitions which are judged on design, storytelling and analysis. With this in mind, we are looking for visualisations which tell a compelling story, supported by thorough analysis and complementary design techniques.

If you are looking to improve your data storytelling skills, I highly recommend joining the Storytelling with Data Community and checking out the extensive list of free resources on the site.

#IronQuest requires you to source your own data. If you are struggling to find an appropriate data source, refer to this helpful post by Jacob Olsufka for some data source inspiration. Here are some further sources of data which you may find useful:


How do I enter?

The process is simple:

  • Source your data and build a viz that somehow touches upon the chosen theme for the month.
  • Upload your viz to Tableau Public or somewhere where it can be openly viewed online.
  • Fill in the submissions forms (embedded at the bottom of this post) so we can keep track of who is participating. This step is essential if you want feedback or would like to be credited in the wrap-up blog post.
  • If you opted in for feedback in step 3, the guest judge and I will provide some constructive feedback on your viz after the submission period closes.

Top Tips

  • You can use any data set which fits the theme (assuming you have permission to share it publicly).
  • Always remember to credit your data source/s on your viz.
  • Refrain from using any images or logos on your viz unless you have permission to do so.
  • Remember the Iron Viz judging criteria and try to focus on all three; Design, Storytelling and Analysis.
  • Think outside the box!

Who is my guest judge?

I’m very excited to announce that I’ll be teaming up with Lorna Brown this month!

Lorna is a Tableau and Alteryx Consultant with The Information Lab in the UK. Lorna is also a Tableau Public Ambassador and most recently a Tableau Zen Master. She started her journey using Tableau and Alteryx at the Information Lab’s Data School, where she had four months of intense training followed by 3 x 6 months placements in various industries. Once leaving the data school she went on to further her knowledge into different sectors and is now back with The Information Lab.

Lorna co-leads the #WorkoutWednesday community project, as well as #TableauTipTuesday where she shares Tableau tips each week alongside Andy Kriebel. Lorna regularly participates in ‘speed tipping’ battles with other community members and once shared over 100 Tableau tips alongside Ann Jackson at Tableau Conference! You can watch their famous speed tipping session here.

Fun Fact: Lorna is an ITF TaeKwon-Do Second Degree Black Belt and was once a world champion!

Lorna has an impressive Tableau Public portfolio featuring over 200 visualisations! Lorna is famous for her simplistic, practical designs for #WorkoutWednesday but don’t be fooled! Her vizzes are often packed with Tableau hacks and more advanced techniques.

For Iron Viz 2020, Lorna looked at songs on the Spotify Wellness Hub and compared their musical attributes:

Lorna is also a big rugby league fan and often visualises data related to the sport:


When is the submission deadline?

The deadline for submissions is midnight PST on Sunday 31st January. Please use the submissions form below to submit your entry.

Feedback will be provided (to those who request it) via a conversation recorded and posted to YouTube between Lorna and I, shortly after the deadline date. On the submissions form you can specify if you require feedback focused on the Iron Viz scoring criteria (design, storytelling and analysis) or more general data viz feedback.

Please note, if we receive a large number of feedback requests (more than we can cover in two hours), we’ll initially prioritise those from Tableau beginners or those entering #IronQuest for the first time. Any remaining feedback will be shared with the authors directly via email.


Continue the conversation and connect with other participants by following the #IronQuest hashtag on Twitter and LinkedIn.

Thanks for reading and we look forward to seeing your entry!

Cover photo by Hanny Naibaho on Unsplash

Submissions Form