Archive for the 'Match Day' Category

A new season, a new match day centre!

Hello! My name is Lee Cook (@leethomascook) and I am the Head of Development at Aqueduct, the lead digital agency for Manchester City FC. Russell has kindly allowed me to post some more techie things on this blog. First up, I would like to talk about the new match day centre.

I have been working on City’s digital estate for over 4 years, so had the pleasure of being involved in the original match day centre. While the original was great and quite ahead of it’s time, 4 years is a long time in the digital world. It was time for a new version, built with  modern tools and one which worked cross platform.

 Form a technical point of view, our aims for the new version were simple:

  • It must be responsive and work cross platform (desktop, mobile and tablet)
  • It should be the fastest match centre out there (faster than Sky and BBC)
  • Look forward and support best of breed technologies

So, without further ado, here are the new designs:

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Technical Architecture:

Behind the scenes the application is written in ASP.NET MVC 4. @OptaJoe continues to provide the real time statistics.  We process their data and store it in RavenDB, a NoSQL implementation for .net.

In essence though, the new MDC is a HTLM5 JS application, which utilizes various REST based endpoints for getting data when it first loads. We needed to have the app to be as fast and responsive as possible. So we decided to follow an AMD javascript pattern and load separate modules as and when they are requested by the app. This allows for quicker start up time as no unnecessary javascript is parsed on page load. To achieve this and as an excuse to play with some new tech, we decided to wrap the javascript delivery up in a node.js modular pattern with the Browserify framework. This allowed us to write all the modules for the different areas of the app and have them bundled and minified into one file. All css was created using stylus and is bundled and minified into one request too.

 In order to achieve speed and scalability, we are using PubNub for delivering real time updates to your browser, which takes considerable load off of our servers.  Whenever we have an update, we send it to PubNub and they distribute it to all connected clients for us.  In effect, PubNub functions as a messaging CDN for the MCFC Match Day Centre.

pubnub-galaxy

A note about live audio commentary:

Obviously the live audio commentary was a key part of our offering before, but it was very limited as it was created using Flash, so did not work on mobile and tablet. We wanted to bring this cross platform and we have achieved this. It should now work on iOS, Android (4.1+) and desktop.

We would love to support all android versions, but unfortunately it is just not technically feasible. The sheer numbers of different android devices and versions are staggering. The open signal report on android fragmentation is very interesting reading and it suggests there are currently nearly 12,000 different android devices.

devicefragementation

 We looked at stats of visitors to the mcfc.co.uk site and it suggested that nearly 60% of android users were using version 4.1+. Based on this data we made the decision that we would only support version 4.1+, as people generally upgrade within 12 months and we wanted to keep things simple.

However, it is currently incredibly tricky to support the multitude of devices out there.  In order to do so, we have had to create two different audio streams. One RTMP stream for the desktop flash version and one for http live streaming (HLS) on mobile. It is worth noting that HLS only really works on Android 4.1+.

We have various android devices in the office and it seems to work on a lot of them, but we have obviously not tested every single android device. If it does not work on your version, please leave a note in the comments and we will investigate.

One unfortunate problem we have noticed in testing is that there is currently a bug in the HLS implementation in Chrome on the latest Android 4.3  You can see the bug report here. I believe it has been fixed by the chromium devs and should be in the next chrome update.

It’s Live!

The new MDC will be live tonight for the Newcastle game. I hope you find it an improvement. This will be a continuously evolving product and there are more features coming over the next few weeks. You can get a sneak peak at some of the latest design features that are being implemented this week below :

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Thanks,

Lee

Match Day Centre – quick survey

We are running a small survey to enhance our digital offering on the Match Day Centre feature on mcfc.co.uk.  We would greatly appreciate if you can spare a minute to send us your feedback on:

http://www.surveymonkey.com/s/32HXH9R.

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New Fixtures, ideas for mobile apps…and more.

Well we’re slightly embarrassed that it’s over a year since our last post on here! However, with tons of exciting developments in the pipeline we thought it would be a great time to dust off the blog and let you know what’s coming up over the summer and beyond.

It’s certainly going to be a busy period for our mobile apps and services…more of that later…but first up the new Premier League fixtures are being released next week (19th June). We’ve taken the opportunity to freshen up this section of the site, aiming to enhance both the pre-match build up and the post match analysis with our new ‘Pitch Side’ concept.

Firstly, we’ve improved the Fixtures landing page. We listened to your feedback and have now included clear indication of time zone of the fixture – it’s a small change but was a bugbear of many and we hope this will help those travelling to games in Europe and beyond. The main update on this page though is the addition of a fixture ‘quick view’ option that lets you expand on an upcoming match to get the key details such as ticket availability and broadcasters without leaving the landing page.

Fixtures & Results Landing Page

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Next we’ve created a new template that lets fans view either an upcoming fixture or a past result in more detail. This is accessible from the Fixtures landing page and the template enables us to tailor different content and features based around the opposition pre-match and the match story after the game has finished.

So for the upcoming fixture, focus is on key match details such as opposition, competition, form, head-to-head, plus broadcasting and betting information. There is a tabbed section for latest ticketing information giving fans the most up-to-date news around availability. As with anything we do on the site, onward journeys are crucial so we also provide related articles, playlists and tweets to further enhance your experience.

Upcoming Fixture Page

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As well as the match report and highlights which you currently get on the site straight after the game, we’ve added an extra step which gives you some post-match analysis to always look back on. This includes the story of the game, key match data (which comes to life as you load the page) and the latest league table which updates automatically straight after the game. There’s more related articles, playlists and tweets too to keep your interest.

Post-Match Result Page

mcfc_pitch_side_postgame_01

We hope you like the new approach to fixtures and results – as always, we welcome your thoughts on here or Twitter. Please note that the images above are sneak previews of the page designs so please don’t take the content too literally – we’ve used dummy content in all places (i.e. there may be the odd Mancini photo and we’d of course beat Arsenal!)

The pages will go live with the announcement of the Premier League matches next week, also featuring details of our pre-season friendlies.

The Players section is next for a revamp – including new player profile pages. Watch this space!

Our next blog post will be about our mobile apps and services. We’re aware that our apps need updating (iPad version, Android and iPhone5 support etc) and we’re really keen to get your views on what are the key changes, features you’d like to see. I’ll be asking for your feedback very soon on this.

Thanks for your support,

Jamie

The Match Day Experience: a Social Media trial goes live

Twitter on a City Square big screen

#blueview tweets on a City Square big screen

If, at first,  you don’t succeed… then trial trial trial again. Or, learn from your mistakes, try again with a different approach and have a lot of fun with the second go. That’s what the phrase should be.

Ten days ago I wrote about the experiment we ran with getting tweets live onto screens at the Etihad stadium on a match day. An experiment in using social media, twitter in particular, to engage football fans in the run-up to a Premier League match – integrated into our pre- and post-match entertainment schedule. It was a good experiment in that it showed up lots of the challenges.

Last weekend, when MCFC played Norwich City, we gave it another go. 

This time, rather than showing a conversation between two selected fans, we implemented a filtered twitter-stream based around the hashtag #blueview.

We had Mass Relevance’s Tweetriver auto-filtering the ‘fire-hose’ of twitter, and we set it to reject RTs, tweets containing links and profanity. All tweets were held for moderation. With some things it’s better to be safe than sorry – especially if you’re just getting it off the ground.

Tweets stacked on screenTweets were displayed in a ticker-tape when there was live video going out – and in a stack when there was no action on-stage in the pre-match entertainment. We specifically focused on 1pm – 2.30 pm and 5pm – 6pm in order to avoid connectivity issues – but, of course, that means we missed the bulk of the audience.

Where were the fans?

  • on their way to the stadium
  • across the world
  • in City Square
  • inside the Stadium

How did they use it?

  • Opinion
  • Well wishes
  • Jokes
  • Birthdays
  • Banter
  • Interaction with presenters
  • Abuse (non fans)

Fan feedback was excellent. Lots of people were delighted to get involved and have a voice. User Generated Content, eh? It doesn’t always have to be citizen journalism.

Numbers

      • Tweets using #blueview: about 2,000
      • Percentage published: 21%
      • Percentage rejected: 43%
      • Remaining awaiting moderation: 36%

This 43% of rejections was largely made up of RTs and mentions. Those awaiting moderation are partly made up of duplicate messages where people repeated themselves or others, but also shows us that if we want to get more through the system, we need to speed up/add some resource to the moderation process.

The split of pre/post match tweet volume was 2/1.

Users: we identified just under 1,000 individual twitter authors.

Fans' tweets on the big screen behind the City Square stage

To put this into context, the stadium capacity is 47,700 seats.  An estimated 25,000 pass through the Square on a match day (although many will be immediately prior to kick-off) and the City Square capacity is around 5,000. The number of people who would have been in City Square more than an hour before the game would be in the region of a few hundred at any one time. So, it is reasonable to assume that although the factor of people tweeting to see themselves come up on the screen will have played a part, with 1,000 twitter authors, factoring in the penetration of smartphones (c31% in general population) overlayed with the usage profile of twitter… it shows that there’s some desire from people who aren’t at the stadium to take part in the atmosphere of the day.

So, will we do it again?

Yes. In fact, we just did at the Bayern Munich game. Will we do it consistently from now on? It seems like a good idea – the use of social media, smartphones and twitter is likely to rise, but the key factor is whether the fans want it.

What’s next? More experiments, more failures, more learning, more trials, more successes.

Any thoughts or comments are always welcome – either in the comments below or via @mcfcgeeks or mcfcgeeks @ mcfc.co.uk

The Match Day Experience: a Social Media experiment

MCFC City Square fans outside the Summerbee bar

City fans outside the Summerbee bar in City Square

Pies, beer, football – that’s all you need for the perfect day out. At least, that’s the view of some people who think that media and technology are a distraction – both in terms of the organisation of a football club and also the fans’ experience on the day.

Last week I was speaking at the inaugural How-Do Sports Business and Marketing conference and I listened to Robert Elstone, Everton’s CEO, speak about the importance of the match-day experience for fans. He was very clear about doing everything he can to ensure that when you turn up at Goodison, you have as good a time as possible.

Where he and I differ is that I believe that digital media has an increasingly important role to play. Robert said he wasn’t convinced and felt that there were more important things to focus on for now – and as he’s infinitely more experience in football than I am, I’m sure he’s right – for Everton. Digital media can be an addition to the excitement, not an alternative.

I know some diehards feel that nothing should distract from the action on the pitch, but my bet would be that it won’t be long before some fans are using handheld devices during the match to add something to the game.

image copyright engadget.

Football isn’t like many US sports where there are long breaks mid-play that give you time to check up on the last play or the stats or watch a replay (like with FanVision)… but I think it would be foolish to bet against services being used by a large enough audience in the near future. In fact, if you include the use of SMS, then you could argue that handheld devices and their communication capability has already changed a match-day. How many people do you know who are in touch with mates at other grounds during the game?

Now, putting aside the fact that all stadia act like Faraday cages and so getting a signal (never mind 3G) can be nigh-on impossible, and assuming that this will change, then it’s interesting to consider how social media might affect the fans on a match day.

[as an aside, thanks to all the @mcfcgeeks twitter followers who continue to ask about our progress with boosting signal or installing wifi in the Etihad stadium - we're working on it and it's a high priority for me so it's good to hear your needs]

I wanted to experiment with social media on a match day. So we decided to run a test using twitter, discussion between two blogger/supporters over twitter, and integrating that into the pre-match media that we run in City Square.

As an experiment, it was a great success.

As an enhancement of the match-day experience it was, well… rubbish.

If you follow me on twitter, or @vickistansfield or @mcfcgeeks then you will know how much we try to be open and straight-talking with fans about what we’re trying to achieve as well as sharing with the digital community about our plans and progress. So, in that spirit, I wanted to share with you the case-study that we put together to debrief this experiment.

You can view or download the Manchester City FC Matchday Tweets Case Study_MCFC vs NUFC 19.11.11.

Our project manager, John Kearney, comes to some clear conclusions about what didn’t work and why: the conversation was out of context, it wasn’t live enough, you couldn’t interact with it … to name a few. But he also comes up with a series of recommendations which gives me hope for trying this again and making it work better next time.

Our American geek friends are particularly fond of a phrase that sums up our approach here – and it’s one we’ve taken to heart in the @mcfcgeeks team: Fail Better. Working with new technologies, new forms of social interaction, and integrating them into such a well-developed experience as the warm-up to a Premier League football match is never going to be easy, but we’re experimenting, learning and innovating…. and that leads to success.

When I wrapped up my talk about engaging a fanbase online at the How-Do conference, there was one thing I should have added: The reason why we feel like this kind of thing is important isn’t just to do with being innovative for the sake of it; it’s not because we like spending time and money on the latest digital fad; it’s not because we want to find a way to make money out of fans. The reason why we do this is because our fans deserve it.

City fans use mobiles and facebook and twitter and foursquare and and youtube every day, just like everyone else, and if we can give them more access to the club they love via those platforms, we will.


About this blog

This is the official blog of the digital and media team at MCFC.

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