Tag Archives: Liverpool

Football: The New Kremlinology

Following football these days feels more like Kremlinology — trying to read into the minds of managers, players defecting like scientists and ‘agents’ cutting deals in exotic locales via dead letter boxes. As usual, in such games, information is power, which is why I liked this throwaway line from a Guardian report about this weekend’s Chelsea v Bolton game: Chelsea needed a win to realistically stay in the title race and hoped for rivals Manchester United to be held to a draw at Everton. Things looked good with Chelsea in the lead at one point and Everton’s two goal lead against ManU prominently displayed on the Chelsea scoreboard. But as Chelsea lapsed and ManU fought back at Everton the scoreboard seemed to get stuck, those operating it presumably hoping that players and supporters alike would perform better if kept in the dark. ManU scored four, eventually, though only those in the ground with radios, phones or TVs would have known:

Incidentally, the Chelsea thought police declined to update the running scoreline from Goodison Park when United went in front. At Everton 2 Manchester United 2, it mysteriously disappeared.

Europe’s Top-heavy Leagues

Lg-spain Spanish Primera Liga (48%)
Lg-bundesliga German Bundesliga (54%)
Lg-epl2 English Premier League (47%)
Lg-france French Ligue 1 (47%)
Lg-greece Greek Ethniki Katigoria (6%)
Lg-holland Dutch Eredivisie (25%)
Lg-italy Italy Serie A (24%)

Lg-champ English Championship (29%)
Lg-scot Scottish Premier League (29%

This doesn’t have a lot to do with technology, but it’s an excuse to play around with sparklines, Edward Tufte’s approach to feeding data into text in the form of small data-rich graphics. And they might tell us a bit about soccer, competitiveness and which country is the powerhouse of Europe. (These ones are done with Bissantz’ excellent Office plugin.)

What started me off here was the comment on the BBC website that English soccer, while strong at the top (Man U, Chelsea, Liverpool, Arsenal), drops alarmingly in quality. Is there really no competition in the English Premier League? The absence of English clubs in the final 4 of the UEFA Cup would seem to indicate it’s true.

But I thought another way of exploring it would be to grab the points gathered by each team in each of the main European leagues, and then plot them as a simple sparkline, each bar indicating the points one by each club in the table. The steepness and evenness of the sparkline gradient should give a pretty clear impression of which leagues are split between great clubs and the mediocre rest.

Visually, Spain is clearly the most competitive league (with the exception of England’s second league, the Championship, which has an impressively smooth gradient.) The German Bundesliga comes second, with the English Premier League third. All the others, frankly, look too top heavy to be regarded as having any depth (Italy doesn’t really count as it’s in such a mess at the moment.)

The figures in brackets show how many points the bottom club has as a percentage of the top club, a figure that’s not particularly useful as, for example in Greece, the bottom club Ionikos doesn’t seem to has won only two games in 26.

The Blog-Browsing Worker

Is blogging kept alive by office-bound shirkers?

Some blogs get huge amounts of comments, which always makes me wonder: When do people actually find the time to write these things? I can understand folk adding a comment if it’s something work related, but if it’s a blog about soccer, this can hardly be considered vital to the office’s wellbeing. I was gobsmacked (UK English for ‘knocked back in my seat’ or ‘you could have knocked me over with a feather’), for example, to see nearly 250 comments on one blog posting over at The Guardian’s sportblog on whether or not Liverpool’s manager Rafa Benítez is “making a dog’s dinner” of his team. Vital stuff, as you may imagine, but 250 comments?

The good thing about The Guardian’s blog system is that each comment shows the time when the comment was posted and where the author is located. (This latter bit of information could be faked, of course, but let’s assume for the sake of argument it’s not.) So when do these people post their comments — on their own time, or their bosses’? (Perhaps this question has been better addressed in surveys elsewhere; if so, I’d love to hear about them, and will just regard the following experiment as a midly diverting pastime. I’ve seen less focused surveys by AOL, Advertising Age, CNET, Websense and The Guardian, but nothing that specifically mentions blogging or commenting.)

Allowing for time zones, and based on precisely one blog entry, I’d say the latter. Commenters generally seem to be doing it from work. Assuming a work day from around 8 am to 12 pm, a lunchbreak of around two hours (yeah I know that’s laughable, but we have to assume that someone reading and commenting on a blog between 12 pm and 2 pm may be on their break), then working from 2-6 pm, that’s where most of the action is, whatever timezone you’re in (this blog entry also has comments from as far afield as Canada and New Zealand.) Then for the hell of it I divided the rest of the day between 6 to 10 pm, as a sort of recreational period, and then 10-12 pm as a sort of post-pub haze, when we used to watch crazy kats on Open University but now surf the web. Then there’s the midnight to 8 am period, a twilight zone for commenters.

This is what it looks like, starting at midnight:

0-8       6.6%
8-12    20.3%
12-2    16.2%
2-6      39.0%
6-10      7.5%
10-12   10.4%

Or as a Sparkline:

Based on this very limited example (where comments — as usual — deteriorate into a slanging match between a few individuals) it’s clear that most commenting is done on work time, with the Post-Prandial Surf the most popular period. Despite the generous two-hour lunch window offered in the survey, fewer people made comments during that period than during the pre-lunch morning period, suggesting lunch time is too important to waste on reading blogs. And even if you only take the 8-12 and 2-6 periods as worktime, that still accounts for nearly two thirds of the comments. I’d say, based on this, the workplace seems to be the preferred blog-reading/commenting locale.