Japanese wheelchair basketball player Mari Amimoto leads in scoring at world championships

Yesterday’s Wikinews challenge was to take basically a one source piece of information I wanted to write about and make it into an actual more detailed article.  This was highly problematic, because well, two English Wikinews reviewers basically said only reporting from the official table of the leading scorers for a tournament is a little problem. (un problema pocita)

At the end the day, Japanese wheelchair basketball player Mari Amimoto leads in scoring at world championships was published.  It is a nice little story about the Women’s Wheelchair World Championships currently being played in Toronto, Canada.    The reviewers did a good job at dealing with the small little problems.  In any case, the article is from a perspective I don’t think that the other news outlets would take. (Though to be fair, I wouldn’t put it past the Paralympic Press people.  They can often be really good at doing those sort of stories, precisely because they are often writing for an international audience as opposed to a purely domestic one.)

That issue of trying to do a new take on something can be a big challenge when trying to write from limited, non-news sources.  Very hard to do.  Beyond that, as a journalist writing for Wikinews, I want to name drop.  As many athletes as I can mention, I like to do because I think the little bit of attention can be very good.

Because I’ve decided to try to write more about Wikinews, and because I want to go to the Rio Games, I feel like I need to start preparing now by more consistently writing about Paralympic sport.    Lost that thought.  Ah yeah.  I’ve decided to follow a number more accounts on Facebook to see if I can keep up with the “latest” news so I can write about it more.

If you have a Paralympic story idea that I can write about for Wikinews, please get in touch.  I would be pretty much open to anything.

Sochi Return on Investment Analysis

Return on investment analyses is really easy: ROI = (Net Profit / Cost of Investment) x 100. The problem with doing this for the Sochi Paralympics is I did not make money. I knew going in I was going to lose money. This is more about understanding the relative performance metrics of what I did when trying to assess the value of doing other reporting on my own dime (or with grant money on some one else’s dime) and the potential outcomes.

Based on my previous blog post exploring Sochi costs, the total was €551.05 / US$766.18.

The actual ROI becomes complicated as it is a question of what my expected return is. This is actually a difficult question, especially when it comes to measuring media impact because it isn’t just page views that matter: there are a large variety of factors that play into the effectiveness of media story telling and measuring ROI.

For the moment, let’s assume pure costs against pure page views is all I care about: 10 articles producing 14,078 views from March 1 to March 23 puts the cost per view at €0.039 a view.

Let’s make this a little more complex. In order to get to Sochi, I did a fair amount of reporting. There were 18 other articles mentioning the Winter Paralympics, including 11 from Copper Mountain, 2 right before I left for Sochi, 2 from La Molina, 3 internet based articles a few months before the Games. Let’s weight these a bit assuming the Sochi costs are born out for these articles based on the Sochi period (because they probably got page views they would not have had otherwise). The Sochi articles account for about 75% of all 2014 Winter Paralympics news coverage during that march period, and the other articles account for about 25% of all traffic. In this instance, total views Sochi value goes down to €0.029 a view and the non-Sochi value is €0.069. The bump while much smaller pays off more by having large volumes of news stories in the archives. On an average views per article, it goes from average total views per article for non-weighted for Sochi at €2.554 to €3.406 for weighted, versus non-in person Sochi €0.457 to €0.811. The €0.039 number views seems the most rationale in this case.

Let’s assume that pure production is the number that is cared about. Total cost per article is €55.105 an article for each article published while I was in Sochi.

While in Sochi, I wrote one blog post the day I left, seven while there and so far two after that excluding this one. I’ve written effectively 19 blog articles about preparing for, going and the follow up to the Sochi Paralympics. For me, this was an important part of my reporting and it complimented my reporting. It talked more about the process and the experience in a way that my pure sport reporting in a journalistic style did not. These ten articles had 8,496 views, syndicated and to my blog, between March 1 to March 23. The value of each individual view is €0.084. While I had the same number of blog entries, I had a lot fewer views.

From a pure money aspect, if only counting blog entries, it cost me €78.72 per blog post. Expensive. Let’s assume for a moment equal weighting of blogs and news articles. I produced 17 pieces of long form content. Each piece cost me €32.414 to write. If I combine the page views across both my blog and the published Wikinews articles, the average cost per total view is €0.024. Cheaper and cheaper per view. Combined views, this is not bad.

These numbers feel fine, but they are rather non-compelling. Yawn yawn.

There are other metrics to assess ROI in this case. The official English Wikinews account on Facebook linked to every article published from Sochi. These posts for the Sochi reporting combined were views 7,636 times. Seems pretty good. Of the ten articles, there were 25 times where they were linked to on Twitter. Twitter reach for these links exceeds 100,000 twitter accounts. The links were seen by a lot of people, the views were decent both to the blog and the news articles.

ROI might have been stronger had there been more Wikipedia work and Commons. Wikipedia allows no original reporting, and is thus useless in an original reporting context. (Journalists should not be going places as Wikipedians reporting for Wikipedia.) Commons was also off limits, because of two factors: The agreement as a member of the press is none of your photos can be uploaded commercially. This meant no event pictures could be uploaded to Commons. Second, Russia has no freedom of panorama. I tried to upload a photo anyway, and it got nominated for deletion. In this particular context, Commons content creation is not a factor in ROI.

So using pure page views, the answer is each view costs less than €0.10 each. The articles averaged €32.414 to write. I’m not actually sure how much more this ROI analysis adds. There really needs to be a formula to better figure this out.

Actual Sochi Paralympic budget

Armenian team at the Opening Ceremonies.

Armenian team at the Opening Ceremonies.

Before going to Sochi, I tried to budget and discussed this more in depth than people probably cared to know.  Budgeting is very important when you’re doing citizen journalism and you want to possibly get money to support your efforts.

Transportation involved two trips on the Russian metro at 40 rubles each, airport express train at 640 rubles, and a round trip train ticket from Moscow to Sochi at AU$125.  I got zapped with 116 RUBs for the train twice for sheets. Plane tickets were bought using frequent flier miles.  Retail price is showing me US$331. Do some converting: €0.78 + €12.59 + €81.12  + €4.564 + €238.06 = €337.11.  Not bad. About €100 if you subtract the plane ticket part out.

Hotel expense was €33 a night for five nights.  That equals €165.  Food was… That’s a bit harder to calculate.  I took with me €200 that I converted to rubles with no commission at €1 to 40 RUB.  la la la la.  Let’s go with €160 on for food and postage, with about €25 of that at the airport on the last day, including a breakfast that was 760 RuB / €14.87 from Burger King that included lots of stuff I did not want including a disgusting breakfast roll thing with a tomato in it.  Sbarros for lunch was much cheaper at 220 RUB / €4.328 which included two slices of pizza and a very large drink. Two bottles of Pepsi each ran 70 RUB / €1.377.

IMG_5223I screwed up and converted USD to RUB and did not convert it before I left Russia.  Ooops.  Add US$75.

All told, assuming actual cost of airline tickets, going to Sochi cost me €551.05 / US$766.18.  That isn’t that much.  Going to the London Paralympics, the cost was around AUD$7,500.  Costs were lower because I did not fly to Sochi, because I did not attend the whole games, because I missed meals, because I bought fewer souvenirs.   (It was AUD$15,000 for two people. This included everything from airfare to food to internet.)

What did this get me? Page views for all 2014 Winter Paralympics articles from 1 March to 14 March 2014 on English Wikinews total 14,685 views.  To be fair, I produced only 10 articles while in Sochi.

In London, myself and my fellow report produced around 50 to 60 total articles. That’s a huge volume.  My reporting partners in Sochi were Ukrainians, who were primarily writing in Ukrainian and doing their own work.  It wasn’t so much a partnership of working together to support each other’s English Wikinews reporting.  The page views for London original reporting around the Paralympic period total 78,943 views.  That’s about 5 times as many views.  The costs for London were 17 times higher: €9734.25 / €551.05 = 17.  I think reporting wise, I got my money’s worth here.

I think, when I do a better metric analysis, some of the breakdowns will be interesting.  Where this reporting project fell down was background research and background writing for English Wikipedia… but I think the Ukrainian project will demonstrate why that matters and how useful that particular aspect can be.  I know that they had zero articles about the Paralympics before 1 March 2014 on Ukrainian Wikipedia.  They now have 53 pages with 23,803 total views from 1 March to 14 March, the fifth most visited Wikipedia for articles about the 2014 Winter Paralympics found in that category.  But that’s another analysis to look at Return of Investment for another time.


Thoughts before leaving Sochi Paralympics: Reporting issues and Paralympic news

Look! I'm media! So cool!

Look! I’m media! So cool!

I leave the Sochi Paralympics today. As a reporter, I met my publishing goals that I set before I left. I need to remember that: 1 article a day is a lot on many levels, and anything else was just bonus. Also, I’m not getting paid to be here, I’m a citizen journalist writing articles for a Wikimedia project. I do not have to answer to an editor “back home” or justify the expense of going to Sochi.

But at the same time, I would have liked to have done more. One of the inherent problems with not being able to dedicate yourself to the craft of journalism is there is a lack of contacts, sometimes a lack of knowledge, and a lack of practice. Reporting relies on contacts. Reporting also relies on boldness. Be bold. Ask the questions. Go where things are. I do not have the contacts, and I can get only 2/3rds of the way there on boldness. (I might have gotten more had I done more research.)

A selfie from the cross country on Sunday

A selfie from the cross country on Sunday

This is why at times I am frustrated by my reporting here: For a few things I wrote, I feel like 70% of what I wrote came from information sheets journalist are given, 25% from pictures I took on a journalist (not photography) accreditation. The color feels hard to come through when my knowledge of things like curling fails me. Plus, I feel like I should write about all four curling sheets, all four matches… not just one. One well placed rock in one end that does not appear like it had a result on the outcome. How do you write that well?

In the afternoon match of wheelchair curling, the United States threw some really bad rocks, weren’t playing aggressively to win initially against the Russians. They went to an 8th end down by three rocks. My understanding is after the 7th end, if you do not think you can win, no 8th end required. The United States wheelchair curlers played the final end much more aggressively. They were assisted in the 8th end by some bad Russian stones which shot the gap between US stones and left the scoring area. This could only be banked on so much, and the Russians did not always misplace rocks. Despite much better playing and having three stones in the scoring area with 2 rocks to go, Russia managed to place a stone the USA could not get out. The United States ended up short, scoring only two of the three points they needed in the 8th end. Unlike the game Canada was playing against Norway on the sheet next to them, there was no forcing an extra end.

Having done so much writing for Wikipedia at times, I struggle with how to write neutrally. I second guess and end up neuturing things. That felt like the case here.

When I get back somewhere (Spain or the USA), I will write more on some of

The United States enters during the Opening Ceremony

The United States enters during the Opening Ceremony

the issues involved with Sochi, better planning thoughts, how to be more successful at this sort of thing, and the metrics at the end of the day.

Let’s move on to other news agencies coverage of the Paralympics. In London during the Paralympics, the Associated Press was not to be found. I read the news often, and I rarely if ever any coverage of the Paralympics. I did not see any reporters on the ground. Here in Sochi, it is a different case. There are USA journalists, several of whom are based up in the mountains. There is media coverage. There is television coverage. (Though I have been told NBC has few people here, with most of the NBC people using OBS feeds and as a consequence being based in the USA.)

I’m not entirely certain I am happy with other United States coverage that I have seen. It appears to take three forms: 1) Ukraine. 2) Oscar Pistorious. 3) Crashes.

I feel tremendous sympathy for the Ukraine. That situation has to a degree impacted my ability to do my reporting here. It is horrible what is going on in the Ukraine, and I cannot imagine the additional stress on the Ukrainian athletes and officials. But some of the reporting appears to hugely political. Craig Spence and Philip Craven were right about things being about sport. So when journalists appear to use the Paralympics as a throwaway line to make a political point about Putin while ignoring the broader issues of inclusion and the elite sport going on, it gets annoying. This is especially annoying when the Paralympics are not contextualized and most USAians have no idea what the Paralympics are about. Many of these sportspeople here get little news coverage outside the Paralympic period, so taking away their moment in the sun by making their participation part of some political disalogue gets annoying. Did I mention annoying? Perhaps I would find this news coverage about the Ukraine aspect less annoying if for every mention of the Ukraine in a Paralympic context, there was a sports articles about the performance of sportspeople… you know, like the Olympics.

The other thing that is annoying is the Oscar Pistorious thing. I don’t know whether I should be blaming the IPC here or the media. Everything is fundamentally political on some level in decision making. The IPC embracing of Vladmir Putin was political. The IPC embracing Oscar Pistorious and chosing to highlight his accomplishments on the big screen was a political decision of sorts. The IPC is chosing to align itself with a man who killed a woman (murdered is to be determined, killed is not disputed), who allegedly cheated on another woman and who liked to play with guns. The IPC chose to align with some one who, after winning silver in the London Paralympics, protested that the person who won gold had an unfair competitive advantage because of his blade. This was a guy who went to the Court of Arbitration for Sport to say his own blades did not give a competitive advantage. Hypocrisy, thy name is…

Anyway, back to Oscar and the media. The Associated Press was asking sportspeople about that. You’re a Ukrainian Paralympian. Your race ends. You have won a medal. A United States journalist asks you about… OSCAR PISTRIOUS! You are an American Paralympic medalist and your race ends and a United States journalist asks you about OSCAR PISTORIOUS! ZOMG. So awesome. Where was this during the Olympics? During the Olympics, I did not see a single Associated Press article where, following a person winning their medal in Sochi, the winner was asked, “Are you following the Oscar Pistrious situation? How does his actions impact your Olympic experience? How do you feel as an Olympian being connected to Oscar?” This feels like lazy journalism. Bold to be sure, but lazy. Maybe I have been too inside the movement, but I think the key to Paralympic success and disability access being improve is to focus on the sports. These are elite athletes. They train really hard. They give up a lot to be where they are. When their moment in the sun comes, when they become the best in their field, they get asked about Oscar. Their own accomplishments are ignored.

The last thing I have seen involves crashes and hospitalizations. That make news. I have a harder time faulting this one, though I would like to see more emphasis on success. Great Bitain can do that. Why can’t the USA media?

Ukrainian civil unrest and Sochi reporting

Burning barricade in front of the main entrance of the internal military forces in Lviv on street. Stryyska . The night of the 18 February. Creative Commons Attribution 3.0 Unported. Photograoher: Aeou.

Since September, I have been preparing to go to the Sochi Paralympic Games with a Wikimedia crew composed of Ukrainians. I met one of them at the Wikimedia Central European Conference.  My personal experiences with the chapter have been pretty good, and I cannot say enough nice things about the person in their chapter coordinating things.

Last week, media accreditation for Sochi arrived and I needed to send it to Kiev for my Ukrainian Wikinews/Wikimedia counterparts.  Because the Games are so soon, I paid a lot extra to get them delivered quickly. €48 to get them delivered by today at the latest.  The Spanish postal worker who handled the mailing at the counter cautioned that they might be slightly delayed because of the civil unrest but should not ultimately interfere with their delivery because these things rarely impact mail delivery.  (And given Spanish history, I was very willing to take his word about this.)

Guess which post office got seized by protesters today?  Yep.  That would be Kiev.  I’ve looked at my tracking number for my delivery all day. It didn’t get delivered. 😦  I’m hoping that my mail did not need to go through that post office.

I’ve got tremendous sympathy for my Ukrainian acquaintances and friends in Wikimedia Ukraine.  The country is becoming more politically unstable, and the people involved are managing to deal with their obligations in the movement, manage to get to work, and some are volunteering to help in other areas of their society in response to the civil unrest.  The situation is sad, especially given the deaths that have taken place.  I hope my friends and acquaintance stay safe.

To learn more about the situation, February 2014 Euromaidan riots (English) and Протистояння в Україні з 18 лютого 2014 (Ukrainian).

Wikimedia CEE presentation on Metrics

Last weekend, I had the pleasure of attending the Wikimedia CEE conference where I was scheduled to speak about the Paralympics.  I had spent a fair amount of time before the start of the conference talking to people about metrics, so five minutes before the start of the presentation, I informed the conference organizer I was going to do a presentation about metrics.  Original session notes from the presentation are available here.  I’ll discuss the same themes a bit here.

What is the value of a single edit to Wikipedia? What is the value of a single file upload to Commons?  This is the metric we are often asked to use in the movement to assess the strength of our programming.  Give me a dollar amount.  How much is too much to spend dollar wise for a single edit?  I asked the audience this, and no one knew.  We know that 100 edits is good.  We know editor retention as defined by making multiple single edits over a period of time is desirable.  But what does that mean?

The answer to the question of what is the value of a single edit is nothing.  In and of itself, edit counts are not a valuable form of assessing the effectiveness of programming.  In order to effectively your programming, you need a basket of metrics to understand exactly what is going on.  The basket of metrics need to be understood against the backdrop of your clearly defined objectives as they relate to your programming.  Inside the movement, there is a tendency to use edit counts because they are an easy measure to do.  Really easy data to get.  Proper data analysis takes work. It takes contextualization.  It actually starts before you even do your programming by understanding your goals and objectives.

I didn’t go into this much, but let’s do a radical rethink here. We don’t sit there after the fact and measure.  We start out by writing objectives.  (Objectives and goals are different.  Objectives are clearly definable.  Goals are broad general things.  A goal is to learn to edit Wikipedia.  An objective is to have a contributor make 50 total edits, where they add 100 KBs of content, four references and 3 pictures.)  What are your objectives? Are they reasonable?  How do your objectives compare to similar projects?  What were the outcomes for similar projects?  What can you change to improve your outcomes related to shared objectives?

Back to metrics.   The example I used at the conference was asking the WMF to give Wikimedia Serbia US$500,000 to sent printed copies of Serbian and Macedonian Wikipedia into space.  For this blog post, let’s go simpler.

Lots of Wikimedia work is local, and there are a lot of volunteers doing things that are not always in a chapter context.  Much of my own work currently falls into this category, and I really like self-assessment.  The European Wheelchair Basketball Championships are coming up next year in the Czech Republic.  I’m in Spain.  It is feasible for me to go.  8 days of wheelchair basketball with media accreditation.  €40 a night for 9 nights is €360.  €180 for airfare.  Figure another €200 for food and transport.   That’s €740 which is kind of eek.  As a volunteer, I might be willing to spend that because ZOMG! WHEELCHAIR BASKETBALL IS AWESOME!  As some one who likes to understand what they are doing, I need to define my objectives before going.  I can tell you the budget does align with some what closely with the IPC Alpine World Championships, would be much less than the IPC NorAm Cup and the London Paralympics. It is probably about twice the cost of the Rollers and Gliders World Championships.  These costs are important to know because they provide a budget template, an outcomes template, and can lay the ground work for objectives.  They can assist me with goals.

Goals are broadly defined goals.  A lot of these are simple, and can easily align with the strategic priorities.  I want to improve content about a group under represented content and participation wise.  I want to increase visibility of Wikimedia in these groups and more broadly speaking.  I want to strengthen partnerships with strategic partners. I want to increase collaboration between sister projects and languages on the same project. A lot of this can be done cheaply, on the internet and at little cost to myself, which is why defining objectives is important.  (I can write articles, look for pictures on Flickr, send an e-mail and comment on a water cooler.)

Objectives here would include creating and improving content about wheelchair basketball players in advance of the Rio Paralympic Games, take pictures of wheelchair basketball players to illustrate articles in multiple language Wikipedias, and publish news stories about the championships on multiple languages.  I want to increase the visibility of wheelchair basketball content on Wikimedia projects by reaching a non-Wikipedia audience. I want to strengthen my relationship with the Spanish Paralympic Committee, and develop a relationship with the International Wheelchair Basketball Federation.  I want to encourage people with disabilities to edit Wikipedia.  I want to increase participation of the Wikimedia community in editing content about wheelchair basketball.

These all align with previous successful work.  They are all aligned with past work.  (In this case, my own.  It doesn’t need to be.  If some one else is doing something similar, ask them for their own metrics, what their outcomes are, what their goals are, what their objectives were and if they thought they aligned.  This sort of talk in the community needs to happen more.  Get relevant information from the source.  These relationships can and do come in handy.  Related objective to asking people: Improving your own performance when it comes to program delivery.  Setting up your contact network to facilitate a move to another country, or getting a job in another chapter by creating your successes using what you learned.  If you’re doing WLM in a country that hasn’t done so before, it only makes sense to model that work.  Why re-invent the wheel?  Discuss.  Ask. Forget about what others think of your work.  Think about your own definitions of success, or as this example suggests, spending €740 out of pocket for a benefit that makes you happy.)

So we have our objectives.  These need to be more measurable.  About $350 spent resulted in 8 Wikinews articles in one language and about 250 pictures uploaded to Commons.  This was for a three day event.  London had about 60 articles written in about 10 days at a cost of AU$14000.  Insane, two people.  Not a reasonable outcome.  This is me comparing outcomes.  With one reporter, I’d probably shoot for around 20 articles.  This aligns most closely with the IPC Alpine World Championships.  Why did I look at this objective first? Because it is the one that is the most important for me.  English Wikinews articles frequently outperform comparable English Wikipedia articles, especially for articles about non-English speaking subjects.  This goes to audience reach.  I want to connect with that audience.  Output here for English Wikinews articles? It actually builds in a fair amount of reach because all Wikinews content is linked on Facebook and on Twitter.  Twitter links are often retweeted by one to three different accounts.  Facebook material is often shared by one or more people from the official Wikinews account page.  Facebook has a reach of about 30,000 people.  Twitter has a potential reach of about 100,000 people.  Thus, I know I need to be tracking all links on Facebook and Twitter for all 20 of the stories I want to write.  How many of these were retweeted/reposted?  Who did the retweeting?  Was it IWBF?  If so, this assists in building a strategic partnership and building awareness, which I have established as objectives.  Who did that content resharing is just as important as how many people.   When I am spend €740, I am not looking at total edits.  (Which for Wikinews can be two edits or forty edits.  Talk about useless metric when the outcome that matters is  published articles.)  I am looking at creating Wikinews content, engaging with people I want to partner with, building awareness with the general public and influencers in the space.  These are all easy enough to measure, but they take time.  The data is public.  It is a basket of data to give context for success.  If my content isn’t tweeted or Facebooked, it becomes a problem.  I will not be as successful.  It isn’t just content itself.  (If on the other hand I had data to suggest Facebook and Twitter were not useful, I would pass on this and on objectives related to them.  It is well worth the time to look at the effectiveness of your Wikimedia project’s effectiveness of driving traffic to content.  Some accounts are better drivers of traffic than others.  Some accounts are not about generating traffic, but about saving staff time by sharing messages in the same place so as to avoid having to answer the same time consuming e-mails on a topic.  There, the ROI for social media is volunteer and staff time saving.  This is where metrics get messy.  What exactly are you measuring and why?)

Pictures matter.  They tell a story and convey ideas.  I want to take pictures of wheelchair basketball players beyond what I have for the Wikinews articles.  I know from having done the Australian Paralympic material that sometimes uploading a less than great picture of a person results in a better image being donated by some one connected to the person. I also know articles with pictures appear to get more page views than those without pictures.  (I have the data around some place.) Often articles with pictures appear to be of higher quality.  Thus, taking pictures builds into multiple measurable objectives.  First, it creates an incentive for people with disabilities or an interest in disabilities to upload similar content on Commons.  It also incentives them to edit Commons.  It incentives them to edit Wikipedia.  Sometimes, it incentives them to edit Wikipedia in different languages.  I could probably build in an objective at this point to create 8 DYKs about wheelchair basketball players as a way of personally measuring the quality of content improvement being done, increasing awareness of the content type, and the flow on effect of getting more contributors from Wikimedia projects to edit this content.  Here, I can measure the number of editors to the Wikipedia content, and it makes sense because the context is improving content.  I think I can safely define changing an image as generally improving an article, typo fixing as improving an article.  I’d like more but realistically, previous cases say no.  Still, it can be measured.  Another thing that can be measured is how many times those pictures are used.  What’s the value of 100 pictures on Commons if none of them are getting used?  Using them on articles adds value and that should be recorded.  Also, I’d want to be looking again at page views because back to that objective about reach, which includes Wikimedia page views.

So if looking at the metrics to assess personal value based on my objectives, I am generally speaking going to look at the volume of content of content created, traffic volume, content linking and content inclusion, the social media audience, and editor participation.  These begin to give a true measure of impact.  They are based on realistic objectives.  They do not assume one ultimate goal.  They have the general underlying knowledge that a single metric is not feasible in terms of understanding what is going on. If I  measured based on edit count alone, I probably would not spend the €740 or only spend it with the knowledge that I’m a true sport fan going for the love of the Game.  A well rounded approach, with clearly defined objectives that you know how to measure and collect, balanced against a historical overview can tell you the value of your programming, be it personal or be it chapter run.