Week 3 with The Data School

This week was another big week as we learnt about some of the more advanced features in Alteryx Designer. For example, spatial analytics, APIs, and macros. And while we were only introduced to Alteryx for the first time in Week 1, it was good to know that I retained most of what we learnt and was able to apply it.

This week’s blog touches on the main topics covered this week and the end of week challenge. I have also included a link to my updated dashboard incorporating more details from my presentation.

Summary of main topics covered in week 3
  1. Alteryx spatial

Alteryx has a range of spatial (geographical) tools that allows users to create Points, Lines and Polygons. This data can then be used to calculate and display various data on a geometric plane. For example, we can import two points and we can draw a line between the two points and calculate the distance. Another example is that we can create a trade area (circumference around a point) and calculate if that area overlaps with another point or area as defined.

For more information, Jethro Chen’s blog provides a good overview on Spatial Analysis in Alteryx.

  1. APIs

Application Programming Interface (APIs for short) is a software intermediary that allows two applications or programs to talk to each other and in our case, we can use this to access data. When connecting to an API, we are asking for access to the websites data as specified in a query. Each with varying security, the API website will outline exactly how you can access the data..

  1. Macros

A macro saves functionality that can be used in other workflows that requires the exact same process to be completed. For example, a user finds they are using the same steps to solve a problem, a macro can be created. This would save time and can be imported and used when faced with the same problem in the future.


How I overcame the Week 3 Challenge and my struggles.

This week’s challenge was to locate and use an API to design a tableau dashboard. Bonus points if we included a spatial element, macro, or web scraping.

For the challenge, I chose The Whale Hotline API which catalogues public sightings of marine mammals and I wanted to focus on Orcas. My original idea for the dashboard without looking at the data was to use spatial data to connect public sightings to highlight the areas where they were sighted – something like a migration path. Upon downloading and parsing the data I found that the data captured focused on sightings in the Salish Sea only and not all oceans. With the data not what I expected, I decided to find another API.

Identifying a second API – Open aq, I wanted to utilise the air quality data from across the world and put the spotlight on air quality in NSW. Realising that the data I have downloaded only contains a single day’s data I attempt to increase the range. To no luck I’m unable to download any additional data with the examples on the API website not working.

At this point I’m a bit lost. Relooking at the Orca data I start to think about other ways I can use the data. That’s when I had the idea to focus my dashboard on where someone could go to see an Orca based on previous sightings data.

Having a clearer idea, I start working with the spatial tools in Alteryx to identify where the public would be able to spot an orca. Importing the refined data in Tableau I create the below dashboard.

Week 3 Challenge Dashboard:

Presenting to the Data School, I outlined our challenge and went through my dashboard and highlighted the steps I took to achieve it. Proceeding my presentation, I opened it up for the audience for feedback/questions which were positive. I also received a suggestion which was to go into more detail as to where you are more likely to see an Orca.

Following my Friday presentation and without time constraints, I was able to incorporate the suggestion and add more detail to my dashboard. My updated Dashboard, Where might I spot an Orca? can be located on Tableau Public.

That concludes my third week with The Data School. If you have any feedback or questions about my blog, please don’t hesitate to email me at Scott.johnston@thedataschool.com.au.


Scott Johnston
Author: Scott Johnston