Narrative Science can now describe your Tableau charts for you

Tableau Software‘s shares soared 13 percent on Tuesday following the news that it has appointed a new CEO and the announcement that the data analytics provider has partnered with Narrative Science, a Chicago-based company that develops natural language generation (NLG) tools. The result of the partnership is Narratives for Tableau, a free Chrome extension that automatically creates written explanations for Tableau graphics.

Let’s say, for example, that you have a chart — made with Tableau — of sales and profits of your business for a certain amount of time. The extension, which works with Tableau Server 10.0 or the free Tableau Public service, will generate a narrative description of the data by writing sentences such as “Sales and profit ratio moved in opposite directions from January 2011 to December 2014,” as shown in this example.

“This extension was built from an extremely close collaboration between Tableau and Narrative Science,” Stuart Frankel, CEO of Narrative Science, wrote in an email to TechCrunch. “While sitting outside the platform, the UI and experience feel similar to the Tableau experience.”

Narrative Science is best known for Quill, a platform that can take data — say, sports scores — and turn them into stories. Narratives for Tableau is one example of applying Quill’s capabilities, Frankel pointed out.

In an email to TechCrunch, Francois Ajenstat, chief product officer of Tableau, said the company did not provide funding for this project. “We’re planning to release similar extensions with other leaders in the market down the road,” Ajenstat added.


Once Narratives for Tableau has generated the text, users can customize it by choosing a paragraph- or bullet point-style for the description, among other things. If users are not satisfied with the results, they can also make changes to the text.

“Within the settings modal, users can add context about the data and turn on and off analytic packages to change narratives,” Frankel wrote. “In addition, users can copy and paste outputs from visualizations and narratives into external documents and make changes to the text.” Then, users can embed both narratives and interactive visualizations in a web page.

The Chrome extension is a public preview that serves as a first step toward more deeply integrating advanced NLG into Tableau. Currently, Narratives for Tableau only works in Chrome. “That said, we are working with Tableau to determine the next steps for the development of the product including other methods of deployment,” Frankel wrote.

The partnership between Tableau and Narrative Science was made public around 24 hours after the announcement that Tableau had appointed Adam Selipsky as president and CEO, effective September 16. Christian Chabot, Tableau’s co-founder and current CEO, will continue to serve as chairman of the board of directors.

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At the beginning of August, Tableau’s 2Q earnings fell short of estimates because of higher than expected expenses for the quarter. In New York Stock Exchange trading today, Tableau closed up $7.35, or 13.4 percent, at $62.22.

Narratives for Tableau is available here from the Chrome Web Store. A getting started guide is also available here.