What to do when stuck in Tableau

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No matter how good you are with Tableau, at some point you’ll come across a problem where you need help. Whether it’s issues with Desktop, with Server, with Prep, with the API, or something else, I don’t think anyone is an expert in 100% of everything Tableau (but some do come close!).

So, when you hit a problem, what do you do? Well, you can pay for a Tableau consultant to help. Or, if you have some time and want to save money, there is a very strong community, where it’s likely someone out there will be able to assist free of charge.

Man scratching head in front of whiteboard
How do I do this?

Below I list some of the places where you can turn for help when stuck with Tableau.

Where to find help with Tableau

There are a number of free avenues to ask for help. I mention those I know and participate in, but perhaps there are more and I just don’t yet know about them! Mention in the comments if some are missing and I’ll add them.

The Official Tableau Community Forum

The official Tableau forums have been around for a long time. This was a place where you were almost guaranteed an answer to your tough questions.

The user base is large, with some highly knowledgeable and very experienced people answering the questions, including Zen Masters, Tableau trainers, leaders in their organisations, etc.

Those answering questions on the Tableau forum are generally very helpful and answer questions in great detail. In some cases they do your job for you!

The forum has areas specialised towards different parts of the Tableau product suite and it’s simple to tag your question so it ends up in the right bucket.

Tableau topics on the Tableau forum
Suggested Tableau topics – but there are more!

You’re able to provide a lot of detail in your question, attach files and screenshots, which helps you get a better answer!

Tableau were smart and “gamified” their forum, therefore, you answer questions and the recipients (should) give you credit for your answer. (I say should because in the old forum perhaps as high as 50% didn’t bother – which makes the points totals of the forum grinders even more impressive!)

Some forum grinders may be rewarded with a Tableau Ambassador title. The criteria for this award is opaque, but if you spend hours a day for many months answering questions on the forum, in a polite tone, you may achieve this accolade. I think some multi-year mega-grinders have even been awarded Zen Master status for their forum contributions.

The above paragraphs are partially in the past tense. I’m not sure if the usage of the forum is as high as it used to be – the forum switched to the Salesforce platform in 2020 (I think), and it isn’t quite as easy to use as it used to be. Just a gut-feeling (I shouldn’t do that on a blog about data…but I don’t have any data on the forum usage!), and I could be very wrong, but questions don’t appear to be answered as promptly as in the past. However, I still think it will be the most highly used of all the places to ask questions about Tableau.

Reddit – the Tableau sub-reddit

The Tableau sub-reddit on Reddit is another active community. You can’t provide as much detail in question than on the Tableau forum, but you’re still able to ask the question, upload images and link to any workbooks you have on Tableau Public. You’re not able to upload TWBX files on Reddit.

Relatively basic questions (i.e. calculation issues) seem to be answered promptly (within a few hours) on this forum.

The style of answer is different to that of the Tableau Forum. Redditors are far more direct with their answers and will downvote your question if it’s not asked well! But don’t let that put you off, there are some very strong Tableau people actively using that forum, so you stand a strong chance of getting a good answer. But Redditors won’t do your work for you, like may happen on the Tableau forum!

Reddit is also gamified – you can upvote/downvote answers and give awards. But these credits can be earned on many different sub-reddits and don’t lead to much; they’re more an indicator of Reddit involvement than your contribution to helping with Tableau.

Stackoverflow

One of the very first IT forums, stackoverflow also has a dedicated section for Tableau. Called Tableau-API, it actually covers anything to do with Tableau.

This forum is also quite active, plus there are some good and helpful people answering Tableau questions.

It does receive fewer questions than both the Tableau forum and the Reddit Tableau forum.

The questions vary from simple desktop calculation issues to more complex things around the API.

Similar to Reddit & Tableau, Stackoverflow is also gamified, both questions and answers can be up and downvoted. As points are awarded, based on upvotes and correct answers, this opens up different areas of the forum, so it’s possible to edit questions, etc.

Twitter for Tableau questions

Not a forum, but another place to turn to. Better for short questions, as there’s a character limit to a tweet! It’s possible to add images to a tweet and also link out to Tableau Public.

Tag your tweet with #datafam and #tableau and there’s a good chance someone will notice it.

A benefit of Twitter, it’s possible to tag Tableau and Tableau Public directly, meaning you may get a response directly from Tableau Software!

Personally, I would try the forums for technical questions before Twitter, but this is another option for you.

LinkedIn for Tableau questions

Another Social Media option, LinkedIn has a number of groups that are Tableau related, such as Tableau Enthusiasts and the Tableau Developers Group. There’s a limit to how much you can post, meaning it’s difficult to provide long descriptions in a question and an answer.

It’s possible to add an image to a post and to also add a link to Tableau Public, or a 3rd party image hosted, such as Imgur.

Posting a question within a Tableau Group pushes the question into the news feed of many Tableau users.

The questions I have seen posed on LI always seem to get a response.

Which forum should I use?

There’s no need to be loyal to one forum – you want an answer to your question, so don’t be afraid to post on all of the forums. Many do that; for example, I’ve seen posts on Stackoverflow linking to their duplicate question on the Tableau Forum. The important thing is to get the best answer in the quickest time.

Better questions get better answers

One thing consistent with them all: the quality of the answers relates closely with the quality of the question. Questions that leave the respondent guessing / making assumptions about the data, lead to answers that may not resolve the problem. If the respondent is guesstimating the data structure, for example, the answer may not fit the actual data structure.

Therefore, make sure you ask a good question! Try and clearly spell out the challenge, what you’re trying to do and why, and mention the structure of your data. Screenshots and dummy workbooks in help a lot! Workbooks should always either be:

  1. Published to Tableau Public so any respondent is able to download and see the data
  2. Attached as a TWBX, a packaged workbook, so they data is included. It’s not possible to open a TWB file and see what’s happening as the data connections will be lost!

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