Get Blogging Comrades

Melk Abbey Library, Austria (Source: Wikimedia Commons)

Our MACT cohort has done a lot of exceptional work. Both as individuals and as a group, we’ve completed all sorts of research papers and case studies to better understand communication and technology and apply our findings to our professional fields. To me the purpose of what we’ve done as students is not to just summarize our findings for a grade, but to extend the information available to us. As graduate students we have to continue building on the theories and artifacts to build new knowledge.

As a cohort, we have an opportunity to play a major role in the knowledge surrounding communication and technology. We have all sorts of tools available to us that weren’t around for the theorists we’ve learned from. We have to capitalize on the very tools and environment we’ve studied to share what we know.

I hope every student, regardless of cohort or faculty, is able to publish their work and knowledge in some form. Whether it’s through social media, conferences, poster sessions or other outlets, letting the next group of students know what we’ve done will only help develop our field. Knowledge is meant to be shared and extended.

I’ve personally found blogging to be a quick and easy way to share information and connect with others. No need to publish every day. Even a quick blurb about some of your work or anything related to it. Be sure to use tags, provide links and search for related blogs.

Related article: MACT Experience

Hockey Prosumer vs Hockey Produser

Source: Wikimedia Commons

Since my research is looking at how hockey fans are produsers (Bruns, 2008), I think it’s important to compare produsage to prosumerism. Both sound similar, but are very different.

The vast majority of research that examines professional sports depict fans as consumers or prosumers. Consumers are those that consume. Prosumers, coined by Alvin Toffler in 1980,  are consumers that become active in designing and improving the products in the marketplace. Current research looks at consumption patterns of sports fans, but also how these fans are having an input on the products they consume.

Produsage, on the other hand, is “the collaborative and continuous building and extending of existing content in pursuit of further improvement” (Produsage, 2007, para.2). Produsers build on existing content to create new content. In this case, fans become unique producers unaffiliated with the main sources such as professional sports leagues and broadcast networks. Information is the content that my research examines, with blogs serving as the specific tool fans use to produse.

The availability of hockey games and related information is the result of hockey prosumers. Fans demand content be available on mobile phones and applications and the league responds.  In this case, fans don’t create anything new. They simply assist in enhancing the product.

Fans who blog on their own or in collaboration with other fans, serve as one example of produsers. They create their own content using what’s available to them, which in this case is the game of hockey. They create, maintain and share their information online and are unaffiliated with official producers. Sports fan produsage lacks research right now, and could provide insight into changing role of the hockey fan.

Bruns, A. (2009). Blogs, Wikipedia, Second Life and Beyond. New York: Peter Lang Publishing.

Produsage. (2007, December 31). Produsage: A working definition. Retrieved from http://produsage.org/node/9

Produsage. (2009, April 5). Beyond Toffler, beyond the prosumer. Retrieved from http://produsage.org/node/58

Prosumer. (2011, August 5). In Wikipedia, The Free Encyclopedia. Retrieved 05:10, August 28, 2011, from http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Prosumer

Toffler, A. (1980). The Third Wave. USA: Bantam.

Toffler, A. (1990). Powershift: Knowledge, Wealth, and Violence at the Edge of the 21st Century . USA: Bantam.

Categorizing Sports Blogs

From what I’ve seen, sports blogs can be seperated into different categories.

1. The fan blog – Exactly what it sounds like, but with no affiliation with any major sports networks or sites.

2. The MSM blog – Blogs hosted by mainstream media networks such as TSN, Sportsnet, The Score or Edmonton Journal etc. Blog writers are employees of the major network.

3. Network Blogs – This is when fan blogs join a network of other blogs. This would include SB Nation, The Nation Network. Blogs that started small and grew to join a network of other blogs.

Creativity

Henry Jenkins interviewed David Gauntlett, author of Making is Connecting: The Social Meaning of Creativity, from DIY and knitting to YouTube and Web 2.0. Full interview can be found here.

Regarding the importance of the internet to creativity:

Having easy access to people who share their passions means that individuals can be inspired by each other’s work and ideas – which can lead to a positive spiral of people doing better and better things and inspiring more and more activity by others. This could happen before the internet, in clubs and societies, but it would tend to be slower, and the inspiring inputs would most likely be fewer, and less diverse.

NHL Needs to Provide More Data

It would be in the best interest of the NHL to begin generating and providing more advanced data for fans to work with.

The amount of hockey statistics has come a long way. Along with goals, assists, points and penalties, the league now provides even greater details, breaking down results by period, by division, arena, etc.

Fans have demonstrated a high demand of statistics which are used in debates with other fans, their own blogs/commentary, fantasy leagues and gambling. Some have even used statistics to create visual representation of the game. For example, TimeOnIce (ex. game number 30311) shows which players were playing with and against  to give fans an idea of who the coaches tried to match up.

To really stay relevant and remain a valuable source for information, the NHL needs to join the community of fans who use stats regularly for their own purposes. Two things need to be done:

1. Expand the amount of data being captured. For example, tracking player mistakes, similar to what the Cult of Hockey does, could be done. For an example of advanced hockey analytics, see BehindTheNet.

2. Make the data easy to work with and share. Provide the statistics, but also tutorials on what it is and how to use and share it. Anyone with basic computer skills should be able to learn some export and embedding functions to use the information on their blogs.

The object of these statistics should be to encourage fans to do something with it. Hockey fans are more than just consumers. Blogs and fan videos demonstrate the creativity of a community passionate about their sport. Sport fantasy social clubs show us that fans are involved and committed. Some even bet on sports! Look at this, CompareTheBets’ List of Promo Codes. From that, we can all deduce that lots of people do it!  It’s also imperative to reach out to new fans and teach them about the game. The best way learn is to be active and engaged with the material available.

If the NHL doesn’t provide the content fans need to create their own material, it won’t matter. Fans will find a way to get things done. The league can either be a part of the community’s movement towards active fandom or a spectator of creative content.

Social Networks & Information Gatekeepers

A real tension exists between hockey bloggers and mainstream media (MSM). Both groups have their strenghts and weaknesses, but far too often it has become a childish argument of who produces better quality and which is a better source of knowledge and information.

Placing everyone tied to the game of hockey in a giant network diagram, you can start to see why this tension exists. Include in this giant web the fans, team owners, players, sports journalists and anyone else with some relationship to the game. Strictly based on communication patterns, these individuals are tied to one another with short linkages representing close ties. Information would be shared much easier and more often across closer ties. Based on relationships and goals, individuals would group together and maintain ties.

Communication being the exchange of information, is of high value to fans. They are active individuals who demand this information for their personal interest, knowledge and engagement with the game. Over different mediums, fans connect with sources of information and share what they know and understand with others.

The network they’re a part of is a fluid and dynamic stucture. The size of the network changes, links are formed and broken, and groups gather and disband. But within this network are numerous gatekeepers who decide what information will enter the network. In this case, these gatekeepers are the team, their employers as well as mainstream media outlets.

Professional sports teams are major businesses, so the information they have is closely guarded. Hockey clubs are competing with one another and must do whats best for their own operations. The information teams share must adhere to the goals of their organization, with sponsors and investors in mind. Media outlets that cover the team must follow the direction of teams if they want to continue having access to players and managers. Withholding information from a social network, as well as releasing half-truth material, will cause tension between bloggers and MSM. But it’s their actions, and inactions, within a social network that maintains it.

Gatekeepers are active in the social network as consumers of information, but fail to reciprocate. Bloggers and readers can get together and discuss a topic out in the open for everyone, including gatekeepers to read. Yet these gatekeepers will not share what they know as honestly and openly as the rest of the social network.

Second, gatekeepers attempt to control what members and groups of network know, understand and experience about the game. If a team loses badly, their official website may report on the positives instead of particular reasons why they lost. This would be an attempt to divert negative reaction, maintain a positive outlook on the team and keep fans coming back. The problem with trying to control what people know is that in a social network filled with links for information exchange, knowledge is being created, developed and shared.

The social network that these gatekeepers are trying to influence will generate knowledge with or without them. If what a team releases goes against the knowledge of that network, they’ll feel an instant backlash. Web technology and communication tools have made this network highly advanced in terms of knowledge development about the game. As a result, gatekeepers are seen with some suspicion and resentment for their contributions to the network.

University of Twente. (2010, September 7). Gatekeeping. Retrieved from
http://www.utwente.nl/cw/theorieenoverzicht/Theory%20clusters/Media%2C%20Culture%20and%20Society/gatekeeping.doc

Online Communities – Participation Inequality

Nielsen (2006)

A study from 2006 outlines participation statistics for online communities. Dr. Jakob Nielsen (2006) found that:

“In most online communities, 90% of users are lurkers who never contribute, 9% of users contribute a little, and 1% of users account for almost all the action”.

Would this be the case for online hockey fan communities?

From my experience, there are a small handful of hockey blogs that publish regular posts. Across these blogs, there are numerous comments left by readers and other bloggers to contribute to the ideas of the original posting.

Nielsen (2006) found that blog sites have even worse participation inequality and that the rule is closer to 95-5-0.1.

It would help to know statistics from hockey blog sites compare to Dr. Nielsen’s findings. Some data could provide further insight into the knowledge fans acquire and if in fact it is influenced by such a small number of people in the online community. The challenge would be to find the number of unique hits/reads a post gets that are from legitimate readers. Some blogs do require users to have an account before posting comments, while others rely on email addresses. So far, I haven’t been able to find other research papers that cover a similar issue.

Nielsen, J. (2006, October 9). Participation Inequality: Encouraging More Users to Contribute. Alertbox. Retrieved from www.useit.com/alertbox/participation_inequality.html

NHL Trade Deadline: Speculation, Rumors and Information Overload

With the NHL trade deadline coming up, a lot of rumors and speculation has taken over sports websites, blogs and twitter feeds. Trade activity typically picks up around this time with teams deciding if they’ll make a run for the playoffs or start unloading players in the hopes of re-building for next season.

I find this to be incredibly frustrating for a few reasons.

1. Teams shouldn’t have to wait until the deadline to tweak their rosters. In my opinion, you have months in advance to plan things out, make your trades and give a team a chance to mesh together.

2. The rumors that are out there are typically baseless. It makes for great chatter, but really it amounts to nothing. Recently, a bunch of trades went down well before the deadline, which is a rare occurrence. I personally did not hear any rumors or speculation about the players who were traded, which makes me question how good the insiders at TSN and Sportsnet really are. Copper & Blue have a piece on this as well.

3. You can’t trust anybody. NHL teams are known to release names of available players and potential trades through different media to entice other teams and see what the value of their players is. Managers make very calculated moves to get ahead.

Major sports networks such as TSN and Sportsnet will have extended trade deadline coverage all day on their television broadcasts. Their websites will have real-time updates with analysis after every trade. Twitter is being used heavily to share information such as which team has a scout at a game and what trades may or may not go down.

Why so much speculation of potential trades and signings in the NHL?

For one, the trade deadline does have a lot of action. Last year alone, 31 trades went down on the deadline. (Wikipedia)

Second, the way contracts are set up, speculation will always exist. The free agency process, teams re-building and draft classes all contribute to the speculation.

Third, hockey is a game that relies on more than one superstar. To really build a successful team, the right group has to be assembled. From first line scorers, to third line pluggers and second pair defenceman, every position is vital. Speculation is not reserved for top players only. Every position is open to speculation, including minor league teams and junior prospects.

Even when a team gets a new player or loses one, it doesn’t guarantee anything. Picking up a player looks good on paper, but a lot of pairings just don’t work. You can blame this on “chemistry” or perhaps a bad fit in a coaches system. Regardless, this spurs on even more speculation.

Speculation and gossip will always exist in the game because of its business structure as well as the game itself. But being buried with more and more speculation is causing some major information overload. A lot of bad information is on the web and it’s up to fans to build the filters necessary to cut through it all.

The Hockey News: 100 People of Power and Influence

Source: The Hockey News

Latest post about The Hockey News’ annual list is here.

The latest issue of The Hockey News compiles the top 100 most influential people in hockey today.

The game itself has so many facets that it’s impossible to really measure influence. There’s the business side of it, so sponsors, owners, league executives and agents have influence. Then there’s the game play, so coaches, players and managers who determine how their teams prepare and perform have influence. Broadcast networks and mainstream media of course influence the game since they decide what’s presented, and how much.

I was surprised to see only one blogger make the list. Greg Wyshynski of Puck Daddy ranks at #92 this year, up seven spots from last year. He’s the only blogger to have ever made the list.

Fans themselves have a lot of influence on the game and use blog sites regularly to get the latest information and interact with others. Online activity of NHL hockey fans has increased significantly over the past few years with more subscribing to digital services (Financial Post). But the modern fan is more than just a consumer of the game. They also act as sponges learning the game and developing their own ideas and thoughts. They take the information out there and centralize it to construct knowledge on blog sites.

Having only one blogger on the list seems bizarre to me especially considering the amount of traffic and comments they get daily. In the past year alone, some major stories have been broken by bloggers. None bigger than blogger Tyler Dellow uncovering some dirt on Colin Campbell, a senior VP and the NHL’s head of discipline. Reaction from TSN, Globe and Mail and Puck Daddy.

It could also be that the list The Hockey News has compiled just ignores online activity as an influencer.

Phoenix Coyotes player Paul Bissonnette landed at #100 on the list. He has a total of 6 points in 80 career games (as of this post) and is known more for his fighting on the ice. But online, Bissonnette has become one of the most popular hockey types on Twitter (@BizNasty2point0). With over 34,000 followers, he ranks near the top of all hockey related accounts, even ahead of The Hockey News (@TheHockeyNews). Bissonnettes entertaining tweets are pretty refreshing for a league that has very robotic-like players when a broadcast medium is placed in front of them. He’s also a supporter of causes that help the homeless and has some unique fundraising methods.

His online activity and the nature of his tweets has the attention of a demographic that the NHL caters to and should get him a higher spot. Bissonnette updates regularly to give followers a behind-the-scene look at life in the NHL and promotes the game in a market desperate for fans.

The Hockey News needs to start examining online activity as an influence on professional hockey. I can understand how owners, players and media influence the game. But with more and more people online and the web being what it is, more attention needs to be placed on bloggers and online communities.

Campbell, K. (2011). 100 People of Power and Influence. The Hockey News, 64 (14), p. 14-23.

Hartley, M. (2011, January 25). NHL mobile apps top one million downloads as hockey fans go digital. Financial Post. Retrived from http://business.financialpost.com/2011/01/25/nhl-mobile-apps-top-one-million-downloads-as-hockey-fans-go-digital/.