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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.

Data? Entertainment? You need Datatainment

17 August, 2011 13 comments

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

 

[In which I justify the creation of a horrible new term that describes where data and entertainment meet – in this case, through football and it’s fans.]

Datatainment is a new thing. Linguistically it’s a bastard son of Data and Entertainment, with it’s irritating cousins Gamification, Informercial and Advertainment. But I think it’s more than just a stupid word dreamt up to try to kick-start a dull meeting. Could it be a new genre? How does it differ from data journalism? And what does it have to do with football?

Though the journalist in me wants to write a fully thought-out report – the blogger will throw up some thoughts and see if you’ve got anything to say.

Way back

Many years ago I did some work that pioneered online data journalism. I only realised this the other day because, at the time, we didn’t call it that. I was just working on the ‘specials’ team for BBC News Online and 3 of us were dedicated to the Kosovo Conflict special report. One of my jobs was to get the overnight press release from the allied command which detailed the locations and targets of overnight bombing raids. Then I’d make sense of the data, and go to work with Max Gadney, then one of the designers, to turn it into a map which represented the data, but also registered the nature of the target. You may remember, this was the conflict where many claims were made about laser-sighted accuracy – and some of those claims were later found to be overblown. Schools and hospitals got hit – and the data showed it over a month of intense bombing raids.

Little did I know that, many years later, data journalism would become a ‘thing’. A thing many others have studied, researched, honed and blogged about. Something that you can do a course on or can feed with a well-focussed FOI request.

Data Journalism – it’s not Entertainment. It’s not Datatainment.

In my role as Head of Digital for Manchester City FC, I was meeting with a major global hardware and entertainment brand yesterday. When asked what was my next move in innovation – my answer was clear – to make the most of the data. We will lay down a data architecture, and we will invent data products to sit on top. We will use it to entertain and engage. We will use it to involve a wider audience. We get 40,000 people in our stadium, but we get at least 4 times that on our online Match Day Centre (MDC), but the big difference is that the capacity of our stadium is limited. Of course, the capacity online is not.

I’ve whinged about the use of ‘gamification’ as much as the next man. It’s fitting that my spellcheck on this machine has just corrected that word to ‘ramification’. The inimitable Margaret Robertson (@ranarama) has written, among others, just how mis-placed the awarding of points misses the point of how games and game theory can be employed to the benefit of a project. And that’s to say nothing of the badgification (!) that we’ve seen with foursquare and, seemingly, every other venture in the last year. But at least it’s not ‘greenification’ that I heard used at the Power to the Pixel conference keynote last year.

So, what the hell and I doing creating another of these sodding hybrid words.

Datatainment. it’s better than ‘datafication’.

Let me tell you a story. At the drinks after last year’s Story conference I met the chief creative at an award-winning Brighton agency who’d done lots of work with the BBC, Channel 4 and others. I thought to myself ‘excellent, I bet there’s some great stuff he could do for me at Manchester City… I wonder if he’d like to come and have a look at what we’ve got and talk about some opportunities.’

But when I told him that I worked for a football club, the disappointment was palpable. The light in his eyes died and I could see him thinking of a way to get out of there. But I am persistent, if nothing else. I gave him some facts: We have roughly 40000 people who turn up every week to the same place. More and more they turn up for a full day out – and the MCFC experience is one that really moves things beyond turning up a five minutes to 3pm, watching the game and going straight home. Our 40,000 season card holders are passionate and engaged with our brand (forgive me football fans, but you know what I mean). They’re representative of the population in terms of smartphone penetration or computer usage. AND, the vast majority of them carry the seasoncard around with them – a seasoncard that uses an oyster-card-like RFID chip to identify them and store some basic information. Oh, and because I thought it might come in handy, these 40000 peoples’ cards now also have personalised QR codes on them and, just because I could, they have augmented reality markers on the back too. Is that enough to do something cool and interesting with? No? then I told him some more…

In the last couple of months we’ve launched a tiered system of membership to the Club – and for the first time that includes a beginner-level membership – Blue. One of the main audiences that will be most interested in what this has to offer is the overseas audience – the audience who could never get to the ground but still want to be involved. And these Blue membership cards *also* have the RFID, QR and AR elements built in. So where we say 40,000 people have cards today… by the time the ex-pat and overseas audience gets involved, we’ll be talking many more. So, suddenly you’ve got a massive, engaged, excited audience focussing on the same series of events and all with personalised, data-driven, tech-useful clever cards.

Now, if you can’t do something exciting and creative with that lot… Can you imagine the amount of data coming off those cards? location, activity, frequency… and that’s without even adding any other levels of gaming on top. but I didn’t need to labour it. By this time he got the point and could see that maybe football was worth taking a closer look at.

What’s interesting is that this kind of data is just the beginning.

In terms of football data, what we get is phenomenal.
– opta stats – public and professional level telling you everything from a player’s possession rate to his average sprinting speed. and there are also the prozone and venatrack systems available. All this match, and training, performance tracking feeds into the Performance Analysis team – and some of it also goes live into our web-based user-facing Match Day Centre.
Of course there’s also the data we generate from tracking site usage – english and arabic – and on our social and media presences, twitter, Facebook, youtube and flickr.

Then there are things like Fanvision – which has a major impact on user experience in the US market where getting stats on a game, during a game, creates a remarkable added-entertainment layer to American Football and other sports.

Statos have always been present in sport… celebrated in some, shunned in others, but always present. F1 – motorsport in general – massively data dominated. Cricket has the home of sport data – Wisden. Golf is basically a data-driven sport.

And then there’s our partnership with EA SPORTS for FIFA12. Do EA have any data we could work with, do you think? 3m people bought the console game in the UK last year, 10m worldwide. Over a 100m people have purchased it. And another 8m play the online version of the game every year. And do EA have stats to play with … data you could use as prediction engines… data you could use to entertain? It’s already gearing up to be a fun partnership.

That’s Datatainment

So I’ve gone from data journalism to data entertainment – datatainment.
Is this anything new? perhaps not.
If you define data as pieces of information – then you could argue that quiz shows have been examples of datatainment for years. But you’d be wrong.

I can’t remember who said it – and I’m probably misquoting – but there’s a difference between data, information, knowledge and wisdom. At which point it’s beholden on me to also quote the saying “Knowledge is knowing that a tomato is a fruit. Wisdom is knowing not to put it in a fruit salad.”

Data is less than the information that’s shared or tested in a quiz show. Data is the raw, unadulterated fact. Moulding those facts into stories – like @mattsheret does so well for last.fm in his role as Data Griot (data storyteller) – is data storytelling. Using facts, like the data from the bombing raids over Kosovo in 1998, and plotting them on a map to expose the detail of whether those laser guided missiles actually *were* as consistently accurate as claimed… or the homicide map of New York… or David McCandless’s work through @infobeautiful and the Guardian …  or using spreadsheets and databases to bring up anomalies in MPs expenses… or the other work showcased at Design of Understanding… these are some of the many excellent examples of data journalism. But when it’s not journalism – when it’s used to inform but, primarily, to delight or inspire or to bring someone closer to a subject they love and give them that warm glow of passion and fun… I submit that this is something else. It’s data entertainment. And that’s what I want to bring to football with @MCFC.

Are there other examples? I’m sure of it. And I’d welcome your thoughts on the nuances I’m missing or the examples that prove or disprove the case.

I may not be allowed to return to London – at least not uninjured – after @matlock @jaggeree and @ammonite promised to do me harm if I kept using the datatainment. But I’ve compounded that now so I will just have to bear with the ‘deadarmtainment’ or the ‘chineseburntainment’ that have been promised. I suffer for my art. Actually, speaking of art – the rather lovely @artfinder app for ipad is, well, art and entertainment, isn’t it? what do you think? Arttainment?

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John Kearney’s comment below prompted an attempt to clarify my thinking: Defining Data Journalism, Data Visualisation and Data Entertainment.

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