Why I Choose to Amplify & Wendy Shijia Has Our Viz of The week

Adam Mico
6 min readJun 21, 2020

A Tableau-centric weekly blog about the data viz-making process, #datafam member interviews, Viz of the Week & entertainment for introverts (consisting of a music morsel & a binge bite).

This week, I share my thoughts on #Amplify & Wendy Shijia (@ShijiaWendy) takes us behind the viz curtain for her Viz of the Week.

Why I Choose to Amplify

-Adam Mico

As many of you know, I came out as autistic to this community very early on. People thought it was courageous and impactful when I did. I did not think it was a more than a slight risk because, at that point, I knew that people already accepted me and had to share that to verify this community was right for me.

In my life, I felt left out and never really fit in anywhere socially, but maybe because the color of my skin and gender I was afforded a 1st and multiple chances that women and/or people of color don’t have because of their appearance and [mis]perceptions. Since I was diagnosed with autism in my mid-30s, I had the opportunity to research and add more tools to my arsenal to prepare myself to handle people and social responsibilities. Women and/or people of color can’t prepare themselves, within reason, to break free from those 1st glance stereotypes.

They take real risks when trying to apply data science and analytics in their careers. I can’t speak so much about women or people of color throughout the world, but I have seen and heard examples of severe racism in America toward Black Americans every day.

They are reminded frequently white men and women (although may not be the exact same people) are significantly represented in positions that hold power. They are also aware that because I am not like the person who may hire me that the dissimilarity will likely be held against me in some manner because people tend to get along with people like them.

By the time black women and men have joined our community, they had to struggle past these issues. They are either in college or have careers in data analytics. They see the most popular people on our platform are primarily white men and women. Moving past that realizing you may be leading down the road of everything you experienced in your life takes REAL courage. I cannot imagine how that looks to people coming in … especially when faced with so much of this in your daily life.

I understand that our community welcomes all people, but how can they see it when lurking? I look for people who reach out and want to be part of something. I want them to experience the acceptance and love I get on a daily basis. I want them to feel enabled to create and express freely whether it be in the context of data visualization or what is truly on their mind. Being autistic, I cannot understand all of the underlying emotions involved, but I know we need to continuously strive to show they are welcome and have our complete support.

We cannot thrive as a community and truly grow if we don’t actively #amplify. If we do not amplify, we are passively excluding a portion of our community that can have the most positive impact, on the whole, going forward.

But ‘Mico’, can this be ‘seen’ as patronizing?

It can, but I don’t care. Although our community is slowly elevating people of color, how can a new person see that when so many of the voices that people think matter look like me (I mean me as a male white guy)? I cannot help my appearance, but I can show I care. Our community means so much to me and striving to help promote people that been through the ringer and back provides legit meaning to the little platform I have. Besides that, the people I have amplified have proven many times over they are worthy of amplification on merit alone and generally had to in order to get to this point.

To help #amplify, please check out this growing list of people to follow on Twitter (compiled by Sarah Bartlett).

As far as my continued voice is considered on this matter, you will see it via my amplifications — I cannot be a black voice but can show my support.

Viz of the Week

Credit: Wendy Shijia (select the image for the interactive viz)

Stories behind Inside the Noah’s Ark for Plants

When I first saw a photo of Svalbard Global Seed Vault (SGSV), I thought it was a tourist attraction of Northern Lights viewing. It seems mysterious and futuristic with turquoise lighting. However, the photo says it is a seed vault. I’ve never heard about something like that. With thousands of questions in mind, the journey started.

Everything about SGSV is intriguing. It is a secure seed bank in the farthest north location that a person can fly to. It was created as a backup system to protect agricultural diversity against catastrophe. I think the concept is provident, the building is mysterious, thus I need to make a viz to spread the word.

Fortunately, their data portal stores all the records since its opening in 2008. I was thrilled with the downloadable 1 million records!! A great thing about such an amount of data is there would be various angles to tell the story. However, on the other side, lots of decisions need to be made.

After a few ‘Show Me’ quick drafts in Tableau, I had two ideas — a Sankey diagram to demonstrate seeds and their source, or a combination of map and bar chart to show a country’s deposit each year.

For the Sankey diagram, I found some helpful tutorials by Flerlagetwins and Data Plus Science. After reading the blog posts, I realized the Sankey diagram might not be perfect in this case because there are too many countries. I have to reduce the granularity from country to continent level or exclude some countries to shorten the list. However, I really want to show ALL countries because they are equally important. What if I link the Sankey diagram with the map? Thus in this one chart, people could see the source countries, the number of seeds, the genera, and preferably a pattern of agriculture in the world.

The amazing IronViz Winner Viz — Diverse Diners by Hesham Eissa immediately rang the bell. The connection between the charts with curves is elegant and smooth. Then I started with this tutorial on Sigmoid curves by Kris Rhodes. With a few tweaks, I managed to draw curves similar to those in Divers Diners. However, I need them on a map! Is there a formula to convert Cartesian coordinates to longitude and latitude, or the other way round? To my surprise, I accidentally found that there was no need to use a formula. Points that have x and y within the range of longitude (-180,180) and latitude (-90,90) appear on the map if the x and y have a Geographic role. (I’m going to write about the technical part in another blog post soon.)

I feel lucky to have the key part done exactly as I wish. The bottom part focuses on the building itself. As a huge fan of South China Morning Post, I got lots of inspiration from their chart + illustration visualizations. With some researches on the construction of the building, I made an illustration to show both of the outside and the inside of this facility.

This viz is a combination of data, knowledge, illustrations, colors, techniques, and most importantly an interesting topic. I’m glad that it has aroused people’s interest in the topic. Mission Complete!

Binge Bite

“LA 92" is a full documentary on YouTube (and Netflix). It’s filled with strong language and sensitive issues that shed insight and problems that continue to persist. If you do not understand the #BlackLivesMatter movement, but want to learn why it exists, this documentary should help.

Music Morsel

#DataVizThoughts Editing Team

Adam Mico

Twitter | LinkedIn | Tableau Public

Priya Padham

Twitter | LinkedIn | Tableau Public



Adam Mico

Data Visualization and Enablement Leader | Data Leadership Collaborative Advisory Board Member | Tableau Visionary + Ambassador | Views are my own