Presentation at the 2018 Rundle Summit

8af67c_dd2bb23b679b418db1981b3b5abdd416_mv2A big thank you to the the organizers of the Rundle Summit for inviting me to provide the opening keynote address this weekend. It was a pleasure to present my research findings and share my experiences as a blogger in Edmonton. We had a great discussion following the presentation – really appreciated the questions and feedback.

Below is a description of the session.

Communication technology is a critical tool for hockey fans to acquire information and to stay engaged with the game. The development of web technology, mobile phones and social media applications, in conjunction with the traditional mediums (i.e., television, radio, newspapers) have made information more abundant and travelling at an even faster rate. With the evolution of communication technology, there has been a significant shift in fan behavior and the impact fans have on the information that surrounds the game. By leveraging this technology and becoming creators, developers and distributors of information, fans have  become more than consumers of information and have instead taken on a more active role.

 Mr. Agnihotri will share his motivations for undertaking his research, his own experiences as a hockey blogger and the impact fans are having on the direction of the game. (Source)

For those interested, below are the slides that I presented. These have been published without my speaking notes, so please let me know if any of the content requires clarification.

For a re-cap of the event and the other presentations, you can check out the Rundle Summit’s twitter account (@RundleSummit). Attendees also used the #RundleSummit2018 hashtag on Twitter to compile and discuss the presentations.

https://twitter.com/polysemonica/status/967188962140872705

Related:

Speaking at the Rundle Summit – The SuperFan (2017, December 4)

Getting ready for the Rundle Summit – The SuperFan (2018, February 20)

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Getting ready for the Rundle Summit

icefields-parkway-road-conditions-in-winterJust putting together my presentation for the Rundle Summit, which takes place in Banff, Alberta this coming weekend. Details for the event can be found on the Rundle Summit web site.

Lots to check out at the event co-hosted by the University of Alberta and the University of Calgary, with things kicking off on Friday afternoon. I’ll be providing the keynote address on Friday evening with panel sessions scheduled for Saturday. Full program details are here.

It’s been a lot of fun putting my thoughts together as I’ve tried to weave the research I completed in grad school with my experiences from blogging. I’ve had to dig deep to uncover how/why I went down the path I did, uncovering some old stuff along the way.

Couple notable items:

Plenty more to share on Friday, the focus being on hockey fans and how their active participation in the coverage of the game has forced the league and the media to adapt.

Looking forward to the conference. 😉

Related: Speaking at the Rundle Summit – The SuperFan (2017, December 4)

Discussing online hockey fans and research from grad school at the McLuhan House

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Happy to announce that I’ll be speaking at Telly Talk, a New Media Seminar hosted by the Arts Habitat in Edmonton.

  • Wednesday January 3rd, 2018
  • 6:00-8:00 PM
  • McLuhan House Centre for Arts and Ideas – 11342-64 Street NW, Edmonton, Alberta

Details of the event can be found at the Arts Habitat Edmonton. And you can register for the event at Eventbrite.

I’ll be sharing my experiences as a hockey blogger and the research I did in grad school. Below is the abstract for my presentation:

“SuperFans”

Oiler fans are known for their commitment to the team through the good times and bad. And using the tools available to them, they’ve been able to do more than just sit in the stands and cheer. Today fans are providing endless amounts of opinions and analysis, and play a larger role in the information that surrounds the game.

Sunil Agnihotri will discuss the research he completed in the Master of Arts in Communications and Technology program at the University of Alberta, and his experience as a fan and blogger. This is where my house is fixed by eavestroughinstallers.ca. His research focused on online communities, information management and communication technology. His final project used sociocultural theories and concepts to examine the blogging activity of hockey fans.

Related links:

Speaking at the Rundle Summit

8af67c_dd2bb23b679b418db1981b3b5abdd416_mv2Happy to announce that I’ll be speaking in Banff at the Rundle Summit in February. It’s a communications conference co-hosted by the University of Alberta’s Communications and Technology Program and the University of Calgary, Communication, Media and Film Program. Full details of the conference can be found here.

I’ll be discussing the research I did as a graduate student at the U of A, which was around online hockey fans and how they use blogs to develop and share new information.

You can access my final research paper here: SuperFan 2.0 : Exploring the produsage qualities of hockey fans

This was done between 2009 and 2012, so there’s a lot that’s happened since then.

Personally, I was able to apply what I learned from the program to my own day job, but also used a lot of the concepts to start my own hockey blog. I’ve been a life-long fan  and like using stats to dig into things, so it’s been fun providing commentary and learning about the different ways to evaluate teams and players. I’ve been very fortunate getting opportunities to write for other web sites, and being on TV and radio. It’s been a fun side-gig, as I’ve been able to do something I really care about and  meet some very good people along the way.

Older post worth reading: Finding the SuperFan – (2014, July 23)

I’ve also got a pretty good perspective on how the media’s role has changed because of the new communication tools available to fans, and will share some of my experiences. The most interesting aspect for me has been the development and growth of hockey analytics and how it’s played out in the public sphere. It’s been largely fan-driven, and it’s impacted how the league and major media networks provide coverage.

I’ll post a few updates as I put my presentation together, and will publish my final work here as well.

 

 

NHL to Provide Advanced Stats

The NHL recently announced that they’ll be adding some of the “advanced” stats to their website for fans to access. These stats have really been developed by online hockey fans since about 2005 thanks in large part to people like Gabe Desjardins and Vic Ferrari, whose websites developed the core principles of hockey analytics. Over the past few years, the field of hockey analytics has grown to the point where many of those who pushed the discussion on analytics are being hired by NHL teams. The field is still in its infancy as the data collection tools and application of the analysis to game situations is still developing.

The NHL involvement with collecting data and publishing it on their website has been long overdue. While they continued expanding their traditional stats, fans developed their own websites and blogs that collected game-data (using NHL.com) and aggregated advanced stats. Fans worked outside the traditional model of information consumption and became sources and distributors of information themselves. Blogs especially played a critical role as fans discussed the stats, collaborated and developed strong information networks.

What the growth of hockey analytics has confirmed:

  1. Compared to any other type of fan (i.e., comic book, movies, celebrities, etc), sports fans spend the most time and energy on their fandom. They are connected before, during and after games by reading articles, playing fantasy league, consuming content (TV, radio, web). They’re a big reason why mobile technology is the beast that it is today.
  2. The web is a magical place that allows human beings to develop social networks to break down the barriers to information. If people want information, they will get it. The web is just designed that way.
  3. When an online community is connected to one another by something that they are truly passionate about, they’re extremely generous with their time and energy. Hockey bloggers are intrinsically motivated to not only produce content, but also share their support to others.

Knowing what we know about online hockey fans, it would be a huge mistake for the NHL to charge fans any sort of fee to access hockey data. The league has already taken steps to restrict fans from scraping the data from NHL.com and using it for their own websites. Becoming the sole source of data is likely their ideal vision, but they have to find a balance to ensure they play a role in the field of hockey analytics. Analytics is an excellent tool for fan engagement, so it would be in their best interest to keep the data open, easy to access and easy to use.

Professional sports leagues should really want their fans to be informed and to develop knowledge to whatever level they want. The league is much better served if they have a fanbase that’s free to interact with data, push any sort of hockey discussion and share their thoughts across their networks. That’s what fan engagement is at its very core.

Keep the Data Open

To put up any sort of barrier, whether it be a fee for data or technological restrictions, would be detrimental to the overall interaction between the game and its fans.

Knowledge and information will always be free. The barriers and the traditional models to keep data and information from the general public have been dropping in every aspect of our social world as the creativity of human beings will always get what it wants. Think of the illegal downloads of music and films; the open data projects of Governments and the death of encyclopedia books.

If the NHL does try to restrict access to data, you can be sure that fans will work together to collect the data themselves. The tools are available, the network is already established and the motivation for people to participate will be high. There are also companies collecting data of other sports that can quite easily adapt for hockey and begin collecting data at a  much larger scale.

Really, the NHL doesn’t stand a chance if they put a barrier to their data.

If you’re interested in learning more about collaborative online communities mixed with information/knowledge management topics, I highly recommend the following:

  • Benkler, Y. (2011). The Penguin and the Leviathan: The Triumph of Co-operation over Self-Interest. New York: Crown Business
  • Lessig, L. (2008). Remix: Making Art and Commerce Thrive in the Hybrid Economy. New York: Penguin Press.
  • Shirky, C. (2010). Cognitive Surplus. New York: Penguin Press.

Checking in on the Oilogosphere

One thing I’ve enjoyed writing about on this blog is the link between hockey fans and communication technology. It was the basis for my research project in school, and it’s been a while since I really paid attention to the current Oilogosphere landscape. So reading Wanye’s latest post on OilersNation conjured up a lot of ideas. Here goes:

  • While it’s true that many blogs have gone by the wayside, the majority of the content that these websites published is still available. Ever wondered how bad it was in 2008? There’s some great articles that summed up the team, the management and of course the general consensus of fans (man, we were an optimistic bunch back then). Even though these blogs aren’t active, there’s some excellent archived material that the current crop of bloggers could potentially build off of.
  • Fans have definitely embraced Twitter. It’s a fantastic tool to connect the Oilers fan community and the hockey world at large. It’s a great people connector. Blogs on the other hand, are more of an idea connector that facilitates a tighter, and more fluid discussion. Done right, blogs can still serve as a fantastic tool for information sharing and knowledge development.
  • There’s also a lot more people commenting on blogs than there were in years past. The comment section isn’t everyone’s cup of tea, but there are a lot of people who commit a lot of time and energy, the same amount they would have committed on their own blog, to contribute to the overall discussion. Commenting rather than blogging just works better for some.
  • There’s a very clear meritocracy at work in the Oilogosphere. Bloggers are differentiated by the quality of their work rather than their job titles or financial backing. This is a good thing when a community is growing and developing. But eventually the gap between the content produced by top bloggers and the rest increases. This has happened gradually over the past 9-10 years within the Oilogosphere. It can be awfully intimidating now for new bloggers when the Oilers fan community already has a lot of heavy hitters. Many just simply comment or focus their attention elsewhere. I will say that the Oilers fan community in general is very receptive to new or emerging bloggers, so if you have new content or want to build off older stuff, do it now. There’s always something to create or build off of.
  • If you’re interested in making money from blogging, treat it like an actual business venture. It’ll become pretty apparent that the financial rewards are very low. Blogging is about developing new information and sharing ideas. And many of the bloggers that have gone on to do big things were not focused on the money when they started out. They were instead very intrinsically motivated, focused on the quality of their work rather than the potential ad revenue.
  • The value of a press pass has decreased significantly over the past ten years. You can get live press conferences, post game scrums and every single quote in real time and on your phone these days. Giving a blogger a press pass would be nice so they can ask questions directly and possibly enhance their work. But the reason why bloggers have done so well is because they work outside of traditional media rules and standards. Instead they’ve focused less on what player’s say and instead pushed the discussion on things like analytics to focus on what players actually do. The lack of direct information from players has pushed bloggers to analyze the game more creatively, relying on a more collaborative approach to information and knowledge development. They’ve carved out a nice niche in the overall coverage of the Oilers, while those that do have access to players are somewhat floundering in their positions.

Again, if you haven’t read Wanye’s post, it’s here and well worth a read: Oilogosphere Down

Potential Jobs in the field of Hockey Analytics

The recent NHL hirings are a good indication that there will be more jobs out there for hockey bloggers, especially those who have a good understanding of analytics. Analytics really is a continuous discussion, so following the flow of information that comes from the process can shed some light on what areas of the game will likely hire more individuals.

So far we’ve seen a few bloggers get hired to work on the analytic departments of NHL clubs. My assumption here is that they’d sift through all the of the available data and provide recommendations on things like player personnel and possibly game tactics.

But as we’ve seen the Leafs do, recently hiring Darryl Metcalf, there’s also a need to collect data and then publish it in an easy-to-use, dashboard format for management and coaches to access. As we’ve seen online, there are a lot of fans who have developed tracking software and reporting tools, like Super Shot Search, Player Usage Charts and Shift Chart, that might be of interest to NHL clubs

Taking it one step further, teams will likely need some in-game analysts who can gather and share information to fans and the media. Teams typically provide some sort of game file with an assortment of stats and other information. These types of communication pieces will now likely include some high level stats that could be of interest to the public.

Teams may also look for people with coaching experience, who might have experience applying the analytics to coaching tactics. For instance if a club is finding that their defenceman is struggling and the opposition has been found to be strategically attacking his side of the ice, how does a team respond?

Teams may also want simple data trackers, and could rely on external companies, such as the one in Europe that specializes tracking soccer games

And of course, like in any professional sport, there are many, many people outside of the league who want to dissect the play of a team and players, including journalists, broadcasters and of course fans.

There will definitely be a huge demand for writers, specializing in data journalism, as major sports websites will want people who understand the full spectrum of analytics and its application to the game. But tv and radio broadcasters (in-game color commentators, talking heads, etc) will also have job openings, as there will likely be more discussion pertaining to the new questions from viewers about what impact the analytics will have on team success.

Following the flow of information, there will be a very high demand for hockey analytic expertise outside of the game. This would include groups involved in fan engagement such as video game developers, fantasy league service providers and even gambling sites. These external groups have always relied on hockey information to supplement the fan experience, and will likely look to expand their operations to include additional advanced stats (if they haven’t already).

And keep in mind, others that you may not expect to care about analytics just might be looking for some help to understand teams and players. Maybe there’s an advertising company out there that wants to align itself with a team that will  have a talented young core (that gets lots of ice time), for branding purposes. It’s a stretch, I know, but analytics really is a continuous discussion that can lead down many different paths.

Any job that is related to hockey analytics will require an individual to possess more than an understanding of analytics. Taking a step back and following the flow of information that can come from analytics, there will be a growing need for individuals with various backgrounds and experience. Organizations will likely search for people with information technology, broadcasting, or communication skills, among others, to really solidify their approach to analytics. The good news is, anyone who is interested in working in this field can begin honing their skills online using blogs and other publicly available applications.