index: up-to-the-minute football power ranking


At a time when sports have evolved from singular events to an almost ubiquitous integration into their fans’ lives via extensive betting schemes and addictive fantasy games, the official team rankings are still only determined by only a handful of events. Match results are obviously the only thing that matters to the teams, but there are other indicators out there that can be used to arrange the teams in alternative `power rankings`. The form table is one example of such a ranking, which, although based on an even smaller number of events, fluctuates a lot more than the league table itself. But now, the index introduces a truly dynamic, stock market-like ranking, starting with football but essentially applicable to any sport.


How does the index work you ask? While it integrates a number of different factors, its most important feature is that it sidesteps the pitfall of 3-1-0 win-draw-loss points accumulation system. Instead, it looks at the predicted probabilities of each outcome for any given match and adjusts the index of the participating teams accordingly. This approach allows the system to integrate a much larger set of factors into the ranking, from such general ones as the (defensive/offensive) form of a team and its history against a specific opponent to the more recent developments like suspensions, injuries and even training ground bust-ups!


At the end of the day, only one team can win a match, but the index can tell you who is actually on top! Check out the English Premier League version of the new index and see how your team’s stock fares in comparison to its actual position in the league.


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Storyflow widget open sourced

As some of you might have heard, Storyflow came in as runners up at the Irish Times Digital Challenge last Summer, an eight-week incubator organized by Johnny Ryan inside the Irish Times building in Dublin. The programme’s primary advertised goal was to help media-oriented startups set foot inside a large news organization, which can admittedly be quite conservative when it comes to adopting new technologies. However, the Irish Times made it no secret that they too wanted to learn from the startups, in particular about the potential of different tech ideas for boosting their online (and perhaps even print) revenue.

Admittedly, Storyflow was launched on the business section of a few months prior to the start of the Challenge, giving it perhaps a small advantage over some of the other candidates with arguably more solid financials etc. Either way, the eight-week presence inside the building gave us an opportunity to understand how the digital team worked in more detail, find out what the near- and long-term future plans the company had for its online presence and, most importantly, try to push the widget out to the whole site.

In retrospect, the main reason why we could not achieve our main goal seems to be that the entities and topics provided by Storyflow with the help of Zemanta were not local enough for an Irish newspaper. Unfortunately, we did not have the resources to create and maintain our own meta-linguistic system, while the Irish Times were working on integrating a different third-party platform into their CMS at the same time, effectively resulting in the take-down of the Storyflow widget from with the release of their newly designed Web presence in early 2013.

Having considered our options, we have now decided to open source the code for the Storyflow javascript widget, allowing any news site or blog to display a visualization of news story development next to an article. With this move, publishers won’t be bound to our entities and topics any more and can use a system of their choice, whether something built in-house, a Web-based API like Zemanta or just rely on good old tags and categories.

From those of you who find the Storyflow widget a worthy storytelling improvement to their blog or news site, all we ask in return is maybe a small note to @TheStoryflow that you are using the widget as well as any kind of feedback that you might want to send our way to let us make the experience even better. From others, we would love to hear what your reservations are about Storyflow and again, how we could make it better.

To get the Storyflow widget, visit this github page. For now, you will need to install the script manually on whatever platform you’re using. However, we are working on plugins for WordPress and Drupal, with possibly more to come on demand. We really hope that many authors and readers will be able to have some fun with this small piece of eye candy and hope to hear from you about your experience with it!

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Want to write a review? Pick your format of choice!

Last week, I summarized some of the main issues with the recent approaches to post-publication peer review (PPPR), such as comments and different types of altmetrics. The conclusion was that, while these approaches have a certain amount of potential, they usually fail to reach a high quality level, predominantly due to their very short and unstructured nature.

As mentioned in the previous post, most researchers will be writing summaries and reviews of research articles on a regular basis, yet these will usually be kept private. And even if one were to find an incentive that would drive researchers to publish these reviews, they would in most cases be of little value to others. The reason for this is that every researcher has his own particular focus of interest and will write his review accordingly, meaning that there will be a lot of conflict between researchers, particularly ones coming from different disciplines. The solution to the problem, in my opinion, lies in making reviews more systematic even at the personal level.

The need for systematic reviews has so far been relatively well addressed only in the health care section, with the establishment of the Cochrane Collaboration and Cochrane Reviews in the 1990’s. Unfortunately, other disciplines have so far failed in developing a similarly structured format for reviewing its advances. However, I would not necessarily see this as a failure of the disciplines, but as an indication that it can be simply infeasible to agree on any one particular review format for a specific research area.

In fact, there is no reason why smaller fields of study should not be given the opportunity to develop their own review formats that would have a higher chance of being adopted by its scholars because they would provide more value to both review writers and readers, than any generalized review format could ever do (from this perspective, a free-text review is basically as generalized a format as it gets).

In order to facilitate the above, PaperCritic will be rolling out a review template system this Summer that will enable its users to collaboratively define review formats that are most meaningful for their particular field of study. Furthermore, we will also be launching both public and private interest groups, aimed at bringing together scholars from one disciplines and sharing their views on the latest research in the field.

Ultimately, the hope is that having more structured reviews will make it significantly easier for scientists to both produce and consume these, thus making it a much more enjoyable process. Additionally, having a set of established review templates available in one’s field might just provide the needed encouragement for researchers to publish their reviews by alleviating the fear of not having composed the review well enough.

As ever, comments and suggestions are more than welcome as this is really a proposal and work in progress. Other than that, we’re looking forward to bringing the review templating system to you as soon as possible, so keep following us here and on Twitter.


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Where is all the quality post-publication peer review?

Post-publication peer review (PPPR) is something that we all would like to flourish, yet at the same time seem to struggle to find a proper format for. Arguably the most accessible and widely accepted form of PPPR is writing comments in the form of letters, or directly on a publisher’s website. However, Kent Anderson has recently discussed the problems associated with comments being used for PPPR, the main issue being a lack of substance and quality in such ´reviews´.

In search of new forms of PPPR, a new movement called ´altmetrics´ has established itself recently as a potential front-runner, basically switching the focus from traditional full-text reviews to widespread usage-based metrics, ranging from the more traditional citation counts, to more recent inventions, such as tweets, Facebook likes, etc. Unfortunately though, these metrics suffer from several drawbacks themselves, as discussed by David Crotty in one of his recent posts. Not surprisingly, the main issue identified was that these metrics are extremely hard to interpret, especially since one needn’t be an expert in the field (or even know what an article is about) to retweet its link to others for example.

The big question that remains then is: Does a form of PPPR exist that can provide a sufficient amount of substance, not be too demanding for the reviewer and in fact provide an incentive for the reviewer in itself? To answer this question, I suggest that we stop looking at public metrics for just a second, and focus on the reviewer. This person will in most cases will be a (semi-) professional scientist, meaning that the person will be spending a lot of time reading and evaluating the work of others, looking for gaps that could be addressed in future research.

In effect, every researcher spends half the time writing personal comments and reviews on published books and articles, which may partially end up in the “Introduction”, “State of the art” and “Literature review” sections of the researcher’s articles, books, dissertations, etc. There is already an abundance of quality PPPR out there, our task is to encourage researchers to make (some of) this material public, by providing the right tools and formats.

How can we do this? The short answer is: by providing even more value to the researcher. I’m still mulling over the details somewhat, so I’ll put off the full proposal for a follow up post which should appear later this week. I’d be happy to hear what your thoughts are so far, though I guess the solution is the most interesting aspect to all this.


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Topify Storyline or Related Stories 2.0

If you still consume news at their source, i.e. by visiting blogs and online newspapers you will be accustomed to seeing a “related stories” block somewhere next to or at the bottom of a story. The list containing usually 3 to 5 links has become an inevitable part of almost any article on the Web, just like the share buttons and the comments. However, how often does one really check the titles of the suggested related articles, let alone go ahead with reading these? (That is really meant to be rhetorical, but if the owner of a news site wants to share some analytics stats, you’re more than welcome!)

I would argue that the issue with the provided “related stories” is not that readers are not interested in reading more – in fact, if a person took the time to read this article, and if the suggested stories are truly topically related, he would more likely than not be interested in a few of these. That being said, a “related stories” list does not offer the reader enough background information about the articles to persuade him to actually take a look at these.

What I’m referring to in the above is that, when we consume news, we do so as a continuous lifelong process. We build up our perception of the world by doing so, and we (subconsciously) keep track of the evolution behind the stories and topics that interest us. Reading a bunch of random articles that may be from last week or from five years ago does not fit into that process as it requires too much effort from the reader to place the bits of additional news into the timeline that is kept inside our heads.

To alleviate the above issue, all one needs to do as an owner of a news site is provide the related articles in a visual representation that would enable the reader to easily detect the immediate context of the different stories, and at the same time identify stories of high relevance and importance, as opposed to occasional mentions of a topic that bear little to no significance on its evolution.

WebScio team invites both article writers and readers to experience the new way to discover the bigger picture behind a single news article by trying out our new Topify Storyline widget. The service is currently in a beta state and is being tested by the Irish Times in their Financial section (see e.g. here). Interested news site owners are welcome to subscribe for the service and will get notified very shortly with installation details.

We realize that many changes might still need to be made along the way, however, we strongly believe that this is the right next step in the evolution online news narrative! Visit Topify to learn more.

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WebScio – Where ideas live

With the number of Web-based companies out there growing like mushrooms, it seemed like a hopeless enterprise to form yet another one and hope that clients and projects would come eventually. In fact, much like a job seeker needs to be able to exhibit experience in the field in order to get a job, even if you have worked on private projects for a decade, your Web firm still needs to have a respectable public portfolio to stand any chance of being picked up for a job. The analogy can be extended even further: if you want to be hired by a really innovative and cool company, you need to show not only skill, which something that can be acquired relatively easily, but also an abundance of creativity and engagement in your field.

Curiously enough though, once you go down the route of building independent public projects, commercial or otherwise, you realize that this is where the real challenge of modern Web work lies – in structuring, designing and executing the numerous startup ideas into highly useful (and eventually profitable) projects that bring both value and joy to your client. It doesn’t matter if you’re doing it for the end user or a business client, nor if it’s a commercial or a non-profit project – the rewards of a successful execution and a satisfied client are the same, and these are what truly drives us.

So, with all that said, and after having successfully launched PaperCritic and a second project nearing its launch, we thought that it’s time we offered our services to anyone who has ideas for a Web project, but either lacks the time or the skills to execute these in a way that would bring real value to the user and true satisfaction the creator. Enter WebScio – where ideas live!

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The pyramid of Open Science – Which way is up?

Having just read Dan Gezelter’s (now relatively old) post on the definition of Open Science, it has struck me that the two main streams of the movement have been around for quite a long time, namely: the openness of data, documents, code; and the openness of communication and collaboration that leads to the creation of the above. However, if one looks further into the blog posts on the Web, and the talks given at different Open Science conferences, then it become instantly apparent that the former far outweighs the latter, yet is that really justified?

Is it possible that we’re trying to tear down the ‘pyramid’ of science by approaching it from the wrong end completely, i.e. by trying to damage its foundation which is highly resistant, instead of moving the more loose bricks at the top first? In other words, could it be the case that the use of different public review tools like PaperCritic, altmetric measures listed on and open scientific collaboration tools (which I sadly don’t know a really good example for) will actually drive science to be more open by setting a standard for open communication. In a way, this could (and should) satisfy the motivations Dan outlines more and more as these tools become more widely accepted, leading to more openness in the actual sharing of data, thus ultimately putting the pyramid on its head!

What I’m trying to say is certainly not that we should stop trying to make scientific papers, the corresponding code and data as open as possible. On the contrary, those remain very important aspects of the whole movement. However, in order to truly revolutionize the way science is conducted, we just might want to put a bit more effort into raising the value of scientific communication and collaboration as an accepted metric in the community.

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