Clyde Street

Learning, Teaching, Performing


Making Sense of Data

grabffTwo blog posts by Jason Lear and Darrell Cobner sent me off thinking yesterday.

Jason asked Performance Analysis, is it drowning in raw useless data? Jason believes “significant issues exist with information management in sport, even to go as far as to suggest the world of elite sport is starting to go off course in so much as the management of performance data may not be appreciated in the context of establishing a target audience.”

In a thoughtful and thought-provoking post Jason observes:

those that develop a balanced information management system that identifies the value of specific performance data and filter such data to the correct targeted audience will be the ones that gain the most competitive advantage from performance analysis as it continues to evolve.

I liked Jason’s focus on ‘balance’ and ‘filter’ particularly in the context of grass roots sport.

Darrell responded with his post Is Performance Analysis drowning in raw useless data? In it he advocates a clear strategy for data management, balance and extraction of value.

Darrel and Jason’s posts sent me off to think about how such a strategy might be developed in advance of the pursuit of pervasive data. Fortunately two serendipitous opportunities yesterday gave me a focus.

The first was David Frame and Dáithí Stone’s paper in Nature Climate Change. In it they assess the first consensus statement on climate change:

In 1990, climate scientists from around the world wrote the First Assessment Report of the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change. It contained a prediction of the global mean temperature trend over the 1990–2030 period that, halfway through that period, seems accurate. This is all the more remarkable in hindsight, considering that a number of important external forcings were not included. So how did this success arise? In the end, the greenhouse-gas-induced warming is largely overwhelming the other forcings, which are only of secondary importance on the 20-year timescale.

The second was a BBC program shown on Australian Television, Fake or Fortune? In it Fiona Bruce, Philip Mould and Bendor Grosvenor examined the authenticity of three ‘discredited’ Turner paintings. I was very impressed by Philip Mould’s desire to clarify the provenance of the paintings. I thought Bendor Grosvenor’s forensic insights were exemplary. The program drew on the expertise of two curators too to provide detailed analysis of the composition of the discredited paintings. Fiona Bruce was the presenter of the story behind the story.

The upshot? Jason, Darrell, David, Dáithí,  Bendor, Philip and Fiona together offer us an excellent insight into how to collect and analyse data.

I am thinking that performance analysts have a great deal to learn about how to share an everyday story and how to break news of exceptional events. The assessment of the 1990 consensus statement predictions underscores how spending time at the start of a project has significant returns on the investment made in developing a strategy for data creation, curation and discovery.

Photo Credit

Frame grab Fake or Fortune.

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Reflecting on the Art of Truth and Performance Narratives

NonfictioNow 2012 took place in Melbourne last week

It brought together writers, teachers, readers and students of nonfiction from around the world. There were three days of panels, readings and events that focused on the practice, thinking, communication and writing of nonfiction in all its forms.

I caught a conversation from the conference about The Art of Truth on Radio National’s Book and Arts Daily.  Helen Garner, David Shields, Jose Dalisay and Margo Jefferson talked with Michael Cathcart about re-presenting the truth in non-fiction writing. The trail for the program was:

If you’re a journalist or a historian, you are supposed to write truth. You may have a complex concept of the truth, you may acknowledge that in any one moment there are many truths however, the point is that they are all truths. You can’t make things up. But if you’re a fiction writer, you’re supposed to make stuff up; the more imaginative the better. But these simple distinctions don’t really help us make sense of the way in which we try to get at the truth through social media, reality TV, and film. Plus there are the works which are hybrid, such as historical novels like Wolf Hall and Bring Up the Bodies by Hillary Mantel. These books are novels, but they do, implicitly, claim to be truthful.

During the conversation David Shields read out a paragraph written by Philip Roth. I picked up on a separate quote after listening to that reading.

Philip Roth said:

As you well know, the intriguing biographical issue—and critical issue, for that matter—isn’t that a writer will write about some of what has happened to him, but how he writes about it, which, when understood properly, takes us a long way to understanding why he writes about it. A more intriguing question is why and how he writes about what hasn’t happened—how he feeds what’s hypothetical or imagined into what’s inspired and controlled by recollection

I went away thinking about how sport scientists might judge their work as fiction. We tend to talk about validity and reliability in research. Perhaps we could talk about truth too. I like the idea that we should account for what has not happened and how we re-present our experience to others who were not there at the time decisions were made about what data to include and exclude.

In my own case this post was readied by my viewing of a picture of Einstein’s office at Princeton and by the availability of a car journey that allowed me to listen to the entire hour of the Radio National program. Philip Roth was the pivot for my thinking about narrative as was revisiting this 1998 presentation that included ideas about narrative from David Polkinghorne and Elliot Eisner.

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A 1950s Office in Princeton

I happened to be looking at Twitter when a tweet from Larry Ferlazzo appeared linking to a LIFE photograph of an office in Princeton.

It was a photograph taken by Ralph Morse of Albert Einstein’s office. (There are other photographs taken on the day.)

The article with the photograph observed:

The empty chair by the formula-filled blackboard looked as if the scholar who usually sat in it had merely stepped away, perhaps to gaze reflectively at the meadow which rolls past the Princeton Institute for Advanced Study. But the chair would not again be filled. Last week the entire world went into mourning for the greatest scientific thinker of his age … For 50 years the world had been heaping honors on him, but Einstein remained indifferent to worldly glory. Dressing in baggy old clothes, he shut himself away in lonely contemplation of the massive intellectual problems he alone could solve. But he emerged to champion the ideals he cherished: justice, freedom, peace. 

I have not reproduced the photograph here but I hope if you find it you too will ponder if the person from the office “had merely stepped away, perhaps to gaze reflectively at the meadow”  whilst in “lonely contemplation“.


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Week 1 at #OAPS101

We have had a delightfully busy week in the small open online course, Observing and Analysing Performance in Sport (#OAPS101).

At present we have 356 participants enrolled in the course.

This first week has given me an opportunity to explore the functionality of the OpenLearning platform.

You can find some of the week’s announcements here.

We have some Open Badges on offer and there is an interesting discussion developing about the merit of these badges.

Given the global nature of this course we have had four people on call each day. Mark Upton and myself in Australia. Darrell Cobner and Adam Cullinane in Cardiff.

I have been delighted with the first week and have always viewed OAPS101 as exploratory, fallible, messy … and exciting.

I am hopeful that the open and non-linear nature of the course has something for everyone. I do like the idea that participants are exploring different topics. Augmented Reality is causing quite a stir.

Photo Credit

Managing to Know (Giulia Forsythe, CC BY-NC-SA 2.0)

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In Cardiff

Yesterday I wrote about the Paralympics and the HOPAU Project.

Overnight, the APC announced Greg Smith as the flagbearer for the Opening Ceremony for the London Games.

Greg has a page in Wikipedia.

Within hours of the ceremony in Cardiff Castle, Tony Naar had uploaded these three pictures to the Wikimedia Commons.

Team Members Entering the Castle

Greg Smith

The Australian Team


Thinking about a SOOC

Yesterday I wrote to a number of colleagues to enquire about their willingness to be involved in a Small Open Online Course (SOOC).

The SOOC I have in mind is an introduction to the Observation and Analysis of Performance in Sport.

I am clear that it is a SOOC rather than a MOOC.

A lead from Stephen Downes in today’s OLDaily has helped me think more about the essence of the SOOC I am proposing. Stephen linked to Jim Shimabukuro’s post A Sign of How MOOCs Will Impact Colleges (11 August).

Jim concludes his post with a consideration of the transformational potential of MOOCs:

The promise of MOOCs is their inclusion in the creative design of individual programs of study for degrees and certificates, and the force that will drive it is the most intimate, natural, and informal sort of dialogue that transpires between teacher and student. In this scenario, the teacher becomes guide, advisor, and facilitator; and the student, an active participant in the planning. Together, they will explore all the learning resources in the world to generate an individualized plan that meets the student’s goals and the college’s standards.

I am hopeful that the SOOC I am proposing will articulate with a formal qualification framework. I am very keen to learn more about open badges and how they can be integrated in the process (I think Erin Knight provides an excellent insight into these opportunities and David Wiley a great example of how it does work).

Jim’s post led me to a delightful post by Laura Pasquini (28 July) Online Learning: More Than Just a MOOC. I am sorry I missed its posting late last month. In her post Laura shares and points to some great resources. I liked her observation that:

I enjoy engaging in PD to improve my skills and add to my knowledge repertoire. Across various personal and professional spheres, I have learned a great deal at formal conferences, workshops and education sessions; however, I am also proud to say I learn a great deal from my informal training and development environments that are primarily cultivated online. I think that MOOCs provide a set time period for professionals to learn about a specific topic and engage with others in a similar informal fashion. What is neat about this classroom is, that although the course might end, your network and learning artifacts continue to thrive outside the specific learning environment. (My emphasis)

Laura was a participant in CCK09 and she had the opportunity to meet many of the people I had met on CCK08. I have had the same experience of thriving outside a specific learning environment and empathise completely with Laura’s sentiments.

This morning’s visits to Stephen, Jim and Laura have helped me think more carefully about the SOOC that might connect a community of practice. I am thinking that the connections we can have through a SOOC can be strong if they are built on an intrinsic interest in learning.

Photo Credit



Charles Reep and Brentford

In February 2011 I wrote about Charles Reep.

Two days ago the subject of Charles Reep appeared on the Griffin Park Grapevine, a Forum for Brentford FC supporters.

Garybaldbee posted this thread:

This is one for the hard core anoraks only. I’m currently reading Jonathan Wilson’s ‘The Anatomy of England’, in which he claims that Charles Reep, the prototype football analyst who, as the main tactical proponent of the long ball game, was deeply controversial in the ’70’s and ”80’s and for a long time one of the most influential figures in the English game, once worked for Brentford at some point prior to the mid ’50’s. Frustratingly he doesn’t say exactly when, but does say that it was a successful spell. I’ve never been aware of a connection before, but it makes me wonder; was the arch hate figure of technical sophisticates everywhere behind our glory years in the 1930’s? Does anybody have any more information on this?

Brentford 4 Life linked to my post on Charles Reep and as a result I edited my original post about Charles Reep and Brentford. It now reads:

The following season 1950-51 saw Charles’ first involvement with a football league team. Brentford were having a difficult time and were fourth from bottom of the Second Division (corrected 21 June 2012). Charles was introduced to the club by a friend in the RAF and provided analysis of games as well as suggesting how to play attacking football. He recalls that Brentford subsequently won thirteen of their last fourteen matches. Their only defeat was when the manager decided to rely on defence against Tom Finney’s Preston North End team. Brentford lost 3-0 and this proved an informative lesson for Charles about attacking systems. By having a ‘deviant case’ he was able to check his data against this case. (Note: the record of Brentford’s season can be found here which indicates that Brentford lost 2-4 to Preston, Brentford lost three games in their last sixteen games of the season. For a discussion about Brentford see this Forum Thread.)

In editing the post I started thinking about the games Charles was involved in at Brentford.

On 11 November 1950, Brentford lost 2-7 to Grimsby and were third from bottom of the League. What made matters worse was that Grimbsy was second from bottom.

Stockport County knocked Brentford out of the FA Cup on 6 January 1951.

I am not sure of the exact date that Charles started analysing Brentford games, but from 13 January to 5 May the team lost 4 games out of 17 played. Two of these were losses to teams above them in the League (Preston and Sheffield United) and two to lower ranked teams (Swansea and Southampton).

The results of the 17 games were posted by Wanderer Paul:

Swansea 2 – 1 Brentford
Brentford 2 – 1 Hull
QPR 1 – 1 Brentford
Doncaster 0 – 3 Brentford
Brentford 4 – 0 Bury
Brentford 2 – 4 Preston
Coventry 3 – 3 Brentford
Brentford 2 – 0 Man City
Brentford 4 – 0 Cardiff
Brentford 3 – 1 Sheff Utd
Notts Co 2 – 3 Brentford
Sheff Utd 5 – 1 Brentford
Brentford 5 – 1 Grimsby
Leicester 1 – 2 Brentford
Brentford 4 – 0 Chesterfield
Birmingham 1 – 1 Brentford
Southampton 2 – 1 Brentford

It is interesting that Brentford scored in every game. In the sequence of games Brentford reversed the earlier Grimbsy result with a 5-1 victory.

I am grateful to the contributors to the Griffin Park Grapevine for prompting this reflection. I think it raises an interesting historical issue about how we research performance change.

I have written about Neil Lanham‘s work on this blog too. I wonder if Neil has some data about performance change from his analysis of performance at Wimbledon and Watford.

Photo Credits

Wales versus Ireland football international at Wrexham

Griffin Park