Corresponding to connect a self-organising group

I have just received a letter. It is the third Friday letter from Abbotstown. I like to think of Abbotstown as a place in a James Joyce novel but it is a real place too, in Dublin.

The letter is written by Denise Martin and to my delight she has posted it on Rob Carroll’s website. Link.

In her letter, Denise discusses meeting a coach for the first time as an analyst.

The aim of the Friday letters from Abbotstown is to connect a self-organising group of performance analysts in Ireland. It is an idea I suggested at #abbotsthon17 and is inspired by three drivers.

The first is the joy of receiving a letter that is addressed to you personally. I am old enough to remember waiting on my doorstep for important letters in the mail. In my small town, the postmen and women knew when you were expecting an important letter or card. They delivered it to you personally and often left their normal route to make sure you had it before school. This was in the 1950s and I think everyone in the town was trying to recover from those dreadful moments in the Second World War when a telegram arrived with the worst news about a member of your family you could ever receive.

The second comes from a section of Neil Postman and Charles Weingartner’s Teaching as a Subversive Activity. It is from a section written by Frank Miceli about a teacher he met and whose classroom he observed for five months. He wrote of his observations:

The instructor began a ‘writing’ phase of the program by asking the students to write him a letter dealing with any questions or problems or things they felt strongly about. He told them he would write a letter back to them.
The students did not know how to react to the teacher. One girl raised her hand and asked if the teacher would read the letters aloud in class. He said he would not, that the letters would be personal communications between them, and that he would respond not with short notes, but with detailed replies.
‘Would you tell us in your letter about things that bother you)’ asked one student. The teacher said he would: ‘However, I’ll only write what bothers me if you promise not to correct my spelling.’ The students laughed. ‘Besides, if I write and ask you something, if I have a question for you, will you respond with a letter to me?’ The class laughed again, even louder. They thought he was kidding. Students always think ‘real stuff’ is not serious.

Frank noted that in the letters exchanged between the teacher and each pupil there was a remarkable flourishing of all pupils’ compositions.

The third driver is a project at Stanford University called The Republic of Letters. I was fascinated by the way the project mapped correspondence between leading thinkers of the Enlightenment and was intrigued by Voltaire’s prolific letter writing. The project notes:

Before email, faculty meetings, international colloquia, and professional associations, the world of scholarship relied on its own networks: networks of correspondence that stretched across countries and continents; the social networks created by scientific academies; and the physical networks brought about by travel. These networks were the lifelines of learning, from the age of Erasmus to the age of Franklin. They facilitated the dissemination and the criticism of ideas, the spread of political news, as well as the circulation of people and objects.

These drivers give me the optimism to believe that in an electronic age, correspondence has an enormous role to play in connecting a self-organising community of practice.

I am looking forward to receiving the fourth Abbotstown letter.

Microcontent: Georgy, diagrams and sport

A picture of Geory VoronoiEach day, I try to update some aspect of the #OERu course Sport Informatics and Analytics.

This week, much of my time has been spent developing some microcontent for theme 4 of the course, Audiences and Messages.

I have been researching Voronoi diagrams and their application in sport. The journey took me back to a French paper written by Georgy Voronoi in 1908 and on to the present day.

I have produced this resource to share my discoveries and create microcontent to support the visualisation component of the Audiences and Messages theme.

This is an ongoing project. My task is to ensure I have a comprehensive list of exemplars of the diagrams in sport contexts. I would welcome any advice you may have to offer about the content.

Photo credit

Georgy Voronoy (Public domain image, 1908)

Netball, shoals of fish and visualising performance

Last Friday, I was in Dublin at #HPX17.

I had just heard Joe Schmidt open the conference. I was about to present an hour later so I edited my presentation after reflecting on some of Joe’s points.

I thought I would check my email feeds to see if anything else might need considering. An ABC article about Australian netball by Joel Werner and Jonathan Webb led me to tweet this:

I am instantly attracted to whatever Lisa Alexander (coach) and Mitch Mooney (analysts) do in netball but I did need to resist the temptation to delve with just 45 minutes before my presentation. I did add a link to the ABC article in one of my concluding slides and mentioned evolutionary algorithms as a one-liner for the audience’s consideration.

The title of my talk in Dublin was Performance Analysis and Data Analytics: Are We There Yet?

Almost a week later, I am back at the article. The day after Australia has taken a 3v0 lead against New Zealand in the Constellation Cup netball series.

The ABC article discusses Mitch’s interest in collective behaviour. I have had a long term interest in ethology and my posts have included discussions about starlings, sticklebacks, wildebeest, zebrasĀ and rhesus macaques.

Mitch’s use of a Voronoi visualisation caught my attention. (It appears as a gif in the ABC article.)

I am delighted Mitch and Lisa shared their thinking so openly. I am hopeful that this article might trigger lots of conversations about:

  • Ethological insights into performance
  • Coach analyst relationship
  • Visualising and sharing data

These issues are embedded in my single slide in Dublin. Now I have lots of time to unpack them.

Yesterday I was writing about the visualisation of boxing data. Today it is netball.

I am hopeful that both Matthew Sankey and Gregory Voronoi have a place in our sharing of stories.

Photo Credit

Coaches watch at the AIS (Teresa Tan, ABC)