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LiveRugby app – second screen or settling an argument?

5 February, 2012 3 comments

This post and all other business-focused posts are now being held on the Seven League blog.

 

An iPhone app that has live rugby union data for the 6 Nations and that promises to fulfil my second-screen needs. I had high hopes of you, LiveRugby app, and lovely though the data detail is, you don’t overcome the challenge of entertaining me with data. Or even engaging me. Datatainment delight is still a way off.

Let me go back a step.

I’ve always been more of a rugby follower than a football follower, so I was excited to see that there was a new app, using Opta’s incredible wealth of live data, which would be delivering an experience on the iPhone for the 6 Nations competition.

It’s nice enough. The interface feels all ‘chalk-boardy’ and it’s pretty straightforward to use. I think the interesting stats, the Opta stuff, is too far down the IA. I didn’t download this as a ‘general information about the 6N app’… I downloaded it specifically for in-game data updates so a) make it easier for me to get to them b) set a default auto-refresh that i can change the frequency on, or can turn off – having to hit the refresh button is another user-friction feature.

Oh, and “Don’t have a tv? Never mind watching the game. Use our LIVE commentary!” says the promo copy. Really? You mean I  should read less-than-twitter-length updates? In the Ireland v Wales game that has just finished I counted 71 updates across the course of the match. Bearing in mind it was a fantastic game and so much was happening every 60 seconds, there’s no way you’d want to stick with the app updates. Even if you couldn’t get near to a tv or radio, if you’ve got a smartphone you can still get to the BBC mobile site (there they go, impacting the market again!) for an experience that’s more like the excellent TMS coverage.

I think there’s a fundamental problem with the concept.

Is it trying to be a second-screen app? or a data-resource app?

Use case 1: I’m in the pub and I want to reference back to a match from last weekend and prove an argument about the distribution of rucks, the success of kicks, etc etc. In this case, the app will be great. It still makes the information more difficult to find than I want, but it’s all there.

Use case 2: I’m watching the game / listening to the game and I want to use the app as a second screen to add to my experience of the match. This is where the app stumbles.

There is a problem with the presentation of data. It’s passive. I don’t like passive data. Passive data is difficult to work with. If you can turn it into information, that’s better – but to do that you will need to make some kind of comparison. This app does that – some of the key information, like the fact that Scotland made 68 tackles (all successful) against England’s 153 (of which 14 unsuccessful) is, indeed, presented. But again, it’s done in a rather passive way.

Data – Information – Engagement – Editorial – Entertainment

So you’ve got the data, you’re informing me… but I still have to work hard. You’re a long long way from entertaining me. It’s the editorial layer that’s missing. England were forced to defend by Scotland’s attacking efforts – but a combination of what Gavin Hasings called ‘schoolboy errors’ combined with some resolute English defence meant that Scotland couldn’t convert their opportunities into points. That’s the story here – that’s what the app should be pulling out – that’s what editorial intervention would add.

But if this app is trying to offer passive data, or to inform the pub argument after the event – then it succeeds.

If it’s trying to enhance my in-game experience, then it fails.

There is, of course, the fundamental point that bringing the appreciation of data into live games is difficult. Jonathan Davies on the BBC Sport coverage has a man beside him trying to put together interesting insight into the performance but there’s very little time to do so. Little production time and then little air-time – so his insights have to be very simple and ‘top level’. Of course Davies and the BBC experts could go into great detail, but there just isn’t the time.

Second Screen vs Speed

The same is true for users of second-screen apps. Football and rugby are both fast-moving games and there isn’t time to be digging 4 clicks down into an app and then hitting refresh to get passive information. Sunset and Vine may have done it in cricket, and many US sports have much more time within the flow of the game.

But if the second screen is going to work in football and rugby, then data and editorial will have to work much more actively together to be able to enhance the in-game experience and engage, and even, dare I say it, entertain the audience.

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