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Tableau Public APIs Plus a VOTD Data Set

I recently shared details on my new Tableau Public Stats Service, which allows you to sign up to receive a personalized Google Sheet containing your Tableau Public stats, updated daily. The service leverages the Tableau Public API and Python to collect and distribute these stats. After unveiling the service, I had some great conversations with Will Sutton and learned that he’s been working on documenting all of the Tableau Public APIs that are available for us to use. I was really intrigued and asked if he’d be willing to write about it in a guest blog. So, I’m really excited to have Will join us today for a blog on the topic.

 

Will Sutton is a Senior Data Analyst at the BBC where he is responsible for producing and maintaining Tableau dashboards to help the BBC improve its understanding of UK audiences across TV, radio and online services. Will actively participates in many Tableau community projects such as #DiversityinData, #PreppinData, #RWFD and #IronQuest. In addition to his amazing Tableau Public profile, Will is also a skilled programmer as you can see by his website, https://wjsutton.github.io and his Github profile.

 

Tableau Public Viz of the Day Dataset

Inspired by Ken's Tableau Public Stats Service, I wanted to share my Viz of the Day (VOTD) data set with the community. Since its inception, Tableau Public has selected over 2,000 “Vizzes of the Day.” The very first VOTD was a viz on Education Marginalization Worldwide by Ross Perez way back in 2010 and they’ve been picking VOTDs on a regular basis ever since (though not quite every day).

 

Using the Tableau Public APIs (more about these later), I’ve compiled all of these into a single data set (see link above). This data set is publicly-available and updates daily so that you always have the latest viz of the day. The data includes the vizzes, views, favorites, thumbnails, full screenshots, descriptions, tags, attributed authors, and much more.

 

So, please check it out and be sure to share what you’ve created. Perhaps your viz will be added to the list!!

 

Tableau Public APIs

Now that I’ve shared my VOTD data set, let’s talk a bit about the APIs I used to build it. The Tableau Public website uses many APIs to show and display data on authors and the Tableau vizzes they create. These APIs are publically accessible data sources, meaning you use the data for your projects be it visualizations or for learning coding skills like R or Python. Here are a few community examples we’ll look at in this post:

 

  Extract data to use in your Tableau vizzes (as Ken shared above)

  Build a personalised portfolio page (like Annabelle Rincon has done)

  Use it to enhance other projects (like my 2020 Iron viz Submission from Twitter Gallery)

 

I’ve been documenting Tableau Public API calls as I find them on Github and wanted to share back what I’ve learned and ways you can use these APIs for your projects.

 

Jargon Buster

Before we jump into the discussion, let’s first introduce some of the jargon I’ll be using:

 

  API - Stands for “Application Programming Interface” and is just a fancy way of sending or receiving data.

 

  JSON - Stands for “JavaScript Object Notation” and is a type of data structure that is formatted into a hierarchy/nodes commonly used in websites. Many APIs will return data to you in a JSON structure.

 

  Parameter - a value you can alter in an API call to change the call output (similar to a parameter Tableau Desktop/Public).

 

Where to Find Them

Let’s take a look at an example where we’ll find an API from the Tableau Public website, extract the JSON data and convert it to a CSV file. I like maps so I’ll be searching for “maps” Tableau Public’s newly improved search page.

 

Step 1 - Open Google Developer Tools

In a Google Chrome browser, navigate to a Tableau Public page that has some data and open Google Developer Tools: 3 dots > More tools > Developer tools (Ctrl + Shift + I)

 

 

Step 2 - Open Network > Click XHR > Reload the page

In the Google Developer Tools menu switch over to the Network tab on the top row and then filter for “XHR” on the third row. Refresh the page or press Ctrl + R and you should see parts of the web page being loaded.

 

 

Step 3 - Type query into the search box > Click on the Name to see the API call

When you reload the page you should see the individual sections of the webpage load. You can view each individually, but for our case, typing “api” into the search box will narrow the results to just the API calls. Clicking on the name will show the URL for the API call. We’ve now found the URL of the API that is being used in the site!!

 

 

Step 4 - Verify the API call in a new browser tab

Copy the URL found in Step 3 and paste this into a new browser tab. You should see data returned in a JSON format.

 

 

Step 5 - Change some of the parameters to see how the API works (optional but fun!)

The full API URL from above is https://public.tableau.com/api/search/query?count=20&language=en-us&query=maps&start=0&type=vizzes, but if we take a closer look at it, this has a bunch of different pieces. We can split these up as follows:

 

  Header - https://public.tableau.com/api/

  Type of Call - search/query?

  Parameters - count=20&language=en-us&query=maps&start=0&type=vizzes

 

The parameters can be further split up into each individual parameter:

 

  Count - Number of results returned (limited to 100 as shown in the screenshot below).

  Language - Language of content.

  Query - Your entered search query.

  Start - Which page to pull results from; useful if you want more than 100 results.

  Type - Filter for the type of search (in this example, we’re searching for “vizzes”, but you can also look for authors too).

 

 

Now that you know all of the different parameters, you can try different values and then test the call in the API in the browser. This type of experimentation is how I discovered that the max count is 100.

 

Convert the JSON to a CSV

Now that we’ve identified the API, we need to put it into a structured format that can be easily handled by Tableau. One straightforward option is to convert the data to a comma-separated values file (CSV). This is straightforward since there are services online for performing this conversion. Just search for “convert json to csv” and you’ll find a number of free services. For example, I’ve taken the JSON output of the API and copied it into https://konklone.io/json/. I’ve then chosen a comma-separated output, which can be easily downloaded into a file.

 

 

Tableau also handles JSON data natively, so you can consider just keeping the JSON format and connect it straight to Tableau. Mark Reid’s blog post, Tableau Public API, walks through this method.

 

In addition, scripting languages like Python or R can be used to call the API and convert the JSON to CSV. Below is an example using Python:

 

 

The code can be found on my Github: https://github.com/wjsutton/tableau_public_api/blob/main/Python/search_example.py

 

And, because we’re now using code, you can do many other things with the data. You could insert it into a database, write it to a spreadsheet, or just about anything you wish. For more examples, see https://github.com/wjsutton/tableau_public_api

 

API Call Examples

In this section, I’ll walk you through some of the APIs and potential use cases or examples from the community. As mentioned above, there is more documentation on Github: https://github.com/wjsutton/tableau_public_api

 

Workbook Stats

The most common use for Tableau Public APIs is looking at a user’s workbooks, which uses this API call to return the first 300 workbooks from a profile.

 

https://public.tableau.com/profile/api/wjsutton/workbooks?count=300&index=0

 

To use this yourself, first replace “wjsutton” with your Tableau Public username. The API is limited to a maximum of 300 workbooks, so if you have more, you’ll need to call the API multiple times. You just need to set the index parameter to the numeric ID of the workbook you’re starting with. So, after calling the above API, you’d then call it again, changing index to 300.

 

The Tableau Community has some great examples that use this API:

 

  Josh Tapley’s Cerebro Project

  Andre de Vries’ Web data connector

  Ken Flerlage’s Tableau Public Stats Service

 

Workbook Image

Now that you have data on all of your workbooks, you can also pull images related to the workbooks. There are two types of images

 

1) Thumbnails - The cropped images you see on profile pages.

2) Full Images - The image you receive when you download a dashboard image.

 

As an example, let’s use For Alice McKnight’s Viz2Educate project submission, Black American Representation in Congress. The URL for the viz is

 

https://public.tableau.com/profile/alice.mcknight#!/vizhome/BlackAmericanRepresentationinCongress/BlackAmericanRepresentation

 

We can produce the thumbnail using the following API:

 

https://public.tableau.com/thumb/views/BlackAmericanRepresentationinCongress/BlackAmericanRepresentation

 

or...

 

https://public.tableau.com/static/images/Bl/BlackAmericanRepresentationinCongress/BlackAmericanRepresentation/4_3.png

 

And we can get the full-size static image using:

 

https://public.tableau.com/static/images/Bl/BlackAmericanRepresentationinCongress/BlackAmericanRepresentation/1.png

 

 

Community Examples:

 

  Annabelle Rincon built a custom Tableau Public Landing Page using the thumbnail API.

  I built a gallery of Iron Viz submissions from Twitter using the full-size static image API.

 

Profile Information

You can use the profile call to get basic information about a Tableau Public profile, including profile metadata, number of vizzes, followers, following, and favorites, plus your latest 20 workbooks and your featured workbook.

 

https://public.tableau.com/profile/api/wjsutton

 

Again, just replace “wjsutton” with your username.

 

There are also individual APIs for vizzes, followers, following and favorites. These will give you more detailed information on each of these features.

 

  Vizzes (workbooks), which we looked at earlier: https://public.tableau.com/profile/api/wjsutton/workbooks?count=300&index=0

 

  Followers: https://public.tableau.com/profile/api/followers/wjsutton?count=300&index=0

 

  Following: https://public.tableau.com/profile/api/following/wjsutton?count=300&index=0

 

  Favorites: https://public.tableau.com/profile/api/favorite/wjsutton/workbook

 

With some Python or R code, you can chain these requests together and produce a variety of results. For example, you could create a list of profiles that your followers follow but you don’t or the top favorited workbooks from your followers.

 

Viz of the Day

Tableau Public’s Viz of the Day (VOTD) has been running for over 9 years and has over 2,000 vizzes that can be pulled in one go using the following API call:

 

https://public.tableau.com/api/gallery?page=0&count=10000&galleryType=viz-of-the-day&language=any

 

Note: Data on views & favorites from this API appear to be based on when the viz was selected as VOTD and are not updated subsequently. Thus, to find the latest views and favorites, you would need to call the workbook API (shared earlier) for each viz. For more details, see https://github.com/wjsutton/tableau_public_api

 

I have developed a daily process that automatically writes the VOTD data to Google Sheets, with updated views and favorites, which is publicly available for your use here: VOTD Data

 

Community Examples:

 

  You can subscribe the receive a VOTD email but Curtis Harris built a slack bot for Viz of the Day

 

  Luisa Bez’s VOTD Color Analysis Dashboard

 

  Jeremy Johnson’s 2020 VOTD Analysis Dashboard

My VOTD viz

 

Featured Authors

Tableau Public regularly updates their list of featured authors, and, not surprisingly, there is an API to get information about these authors:

 

https://public.tableau.com/s/authors/list/feed?

 

This call takes no parameters but returns a list of Tableau Public profile names and the descriptive content on the featured authors page. If desired, you can call the author API to get more information about each featured author.

 

Community Examples:

 

  Nir Smilga’s Tableau Public Explorer highlights featured authors.

 

Search Results

Finally, you can also use an API to retrieve search results. For example, the following will return the top 100 search results for Mark Bradbourne’s Real World Fake Data project (RWFD):

 

https://public.tableau.com/api/search/query?count=100&language=en-us&query=rwfd&start=0&type=vizzes

 

So, in theory, you could make a custom search page that is sortable by views or favorites, filters for users you follow or don’t follow, etc. Or you could use the search results to analyse all the vizzes on a topic or project of your choice.

 

Wrap-Up

Tableau Public’s API opens up endless opportunities to build new projects and learn new skills along the way. We’ve seen many great examples from the community but more projects could be built from these APIs. As noted previously, I’ve been collating examples on my Github page to guide and inspire new projects. If you’ve discovered anything regarding the Tableau Public APIs or have used the APIs in your own projects, then I’d welcome contributions to the Github repository!

 

Thanks for reading!

 

Will Sutton, April 26, 2021

Twitter | LinkedIn | GitHub | Tableau Public



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