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, zebras 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)

#Abbotsthon17: visualising patterns – Alan, boxing and Sankey

Introduction

During last Thursday’s #Abbotsthon17 conversations, we were discussing pattern recognition. Alan Swanton suggested sharing some of his boxing data to exemplify some of the ideas we were exploring.

I suggested we defer the sharing given the flow of conversation that was occurring. With Alan’s permission, I am sharing two of his slides here that I think make a very important contribution to the wider discussion of how we share data stories with audiences.

The first is a matrix of data:

The second is why I suggested we did not share at the time Alan proposed it.

I think this second visualisation, a Sankey diagram, could have taken us on a fascinating journey that might otherwise have been constrained towards the end of a long day of concentration. It is one I am keen to explore now.

Transforming Data

Alan has been working with the Irish boxing program for some time. He has been very assiduous in his collection of performance data and has been keen to share these data in ways that provide coaches with actionable insights.

I think his Sankey diagram transforms the descriptive data shared in his matrix. I am intrigued by Alan’s choice of this visualisation.

A Sankey diagram is a flow diagram in which the width of the arrows used is shown proportionally to the flow quantity. Perhaps because it is such a powerful way to visualise energy, it is a ‘natural’ way to present energy flows in a combat sport.

I wonder what you think as you compare the two images (repeated again here):

I do not have access to Alan’s original diagram. My attention in visualisation 2 (Sankey) is triggered by the Jab route in successful attack phases. I imagine this has led to very powerful conversations with coaches and athletes.

This embodies for me the role of the analyst in an informatics age: data rich actionable insights shared in an elegant way.

Henri Poincaré wrote of this kind of elegance:

What is it that gives us the feeling of elegance in a solution or a demonstration? It is the harmony of the different parts, their symmetry, and their happy adjustment; it is, in a word, all that introduces order, all that gives them unity, that enables us to obtain a clear comprehension of the whole as well as of the parts. But that is also precisely what causes it to give a large return; and in fact the more we see this whole clearly and at a single glance, the better we shall perceive the analogies with other neighboring objects, and consequently the better chance we shall have of guessing the possible generalizations. Elegance may result from the feeling of surprise caused by the unlooked-for occurrence together of objects not habitually associated. In this, again, it is fruitful, since it thus discloses relations till then unrecognized. It is also fruitful even when it only results from the contrast between the simplicity of the means and the complexity of the problem presented, for it then causes us to reflect on the reason for this contrast, and generally shows us that this reason is not chance, but is to be found in some unsuspected law. Briefly stated, the sentiment of mathematical elegance is nothing but the satisfaction due to some conformity between the solution we wish to discover and the necessities of our mind, and it is on account of this very conformity that the solution can be an instrument for us.

I do hope Alan has forgiven me for not pursuing his data analysis on Thursday. I am delighted that he has now shared his analysis with all thirty attendees at the hackathon.

I do see this as the start of a whole new conversation … that will take us from Irish boxing back to Charles Minard‘s Map of Napoleon’s Russian Campaign of 1812.

Charles Minard's Map

It is a conversation about narratives and how we transform their content into powerful messages.

Photo Credits

Olympic Women’s Boxing (Ian Glover, CC BY-NC 2.0)

Minard’s classic diagram of Napoleon‘s invasion of Russia, using the feature now named after Sankey. (No known copyright restrictions.)

Australian Paralympic History Project Update: September 2017

Photograph of Australian Paralympic team member Katy Parish in the long jump at the 2012 Summer Paralympic Games in London

I have had an update from Tony Naar, the Facilitator of the Australian Paralympic History Project, about the progress of the project.

The Australian Paralympic Committee uses the hashtag #APCOnThisDay to post items on its social media channels (Twitter, Instagram and Facebook) to celebrate the history of the movement by recognising prominent birthdays and anniversaries.

An example from earlier this year:

The tweets are usually linked to the Wikipedia article about the athlete or event. Tony notes that these posts are among the most popular that the APC does. This is a great way to bring the history project to life and to wider public attention.

The e-history project at the University of Queensland (with Murray Phillips and Gary Osmond) is reaching an exciting phase. The website to host the e-history has been completed and a workshop is scheduled for Brisbane on 22 September 2017 to start to populate the site. There will be a second workshop, in conjunction with a Wikipedia workshop, in Sydney in November 2017.

The e-history site will bring together all the threads of the project that have been assembled since 2010, including the Wikipedia articles, the photographs, the oral history interviews, film footage such as the Don Worley collection and the APC’s own video collection.

The e-history is scheduled for public launch early in 2018.

The Winter Games in PyeongChang, Korea, are approaching. Greg Blood has created a Wikipedia article about Australia’s involvement at the Games, and there will be lots of work to be done on individual athlete articles in coming months as the Australian athletes are nominated and announced.

The APC is contacted regularly by past team members to loan us scrapbooks and photos for scanning, or to donate a range of items, from clothing to ephemera to equipment. This will need to be managed, recorded and stored appropriately. At present, much of this work is undertaken by Pat Ollerenshaw.

Tony shared news of a new generation of APC history volunteers. Currently three interns from the University of Western Sydney are working with the APC on the project.Two of the interns are working on implementing a strategy to recruit archivists and librarians to assist in managing and cataloguing our extensive collections. One is working on updating the contact lists of past athletes. All three have been updating Wikipedia articles.

Tony is also working with students from the intern program at Macquarie University. A group of 12 students from that program has just started working on implementing a strategy to recruit young volunteer Wikipedia editors through volunteer communities at universities and in the wider community.

One suggestion that has emerged is the creation of a Facebook page for the APC History group. The interns feel that this may encourage easier participation from younger volunteers and also be an effective communications tool to complement this email list.

It was great to receive Tony’s update. The project is in its seventh year and has been an exemplary way to share news of the Paralympic movement. I am particularly excited that the volunteer community is now starting to engage with young people and the energy they will bring to the sharing of history.

Members of the Australian Paralympic Team, led by Team official Kevin Betts, march in the Opening Ceremony of the 1960 Rome Paralympic Games

Photo Credits

Photograph of Australian Paralympic team member Katy Parrish at the 2012 Summer Paralympic Games in London. By Australian Paralympic Committee, CC BY-SA 3.0, https://commons.wikimedia.org/w/index.php?curid=48612437

Members of the Australian Paralympic Team, led by Team official Kevin Betts, march in the Opening Ceremony of the 1960 Rome Paralympic Games. By Australian Paralympic Committee, CC BY-SA 3.0, https://commons.wikimedia.org/w/index.php?curid=44615747.