(Photo by Flickr user Kellie, used under a Creative Commons license)
With football back in action, the Washington Post launched a new series of NFL Player Cards this fall. The cards are automatically created and added within stories that identify NFL players by name. When readers click on the names of NFL players, the card opens to reveal stats and other info for the player within the article.
— Washington Post PR (@WashPostPR) September 12, 2017
The project utilized three in-house tools that contribute to the look and functionality, the ability to pull data and automatically add links to the first mention of a player’s name within a story, according to a release.
Eui-Hong Han, Director of Data Science at The Washington Post, said that the project was a collaboration between the newsroom and data science departments. Staff members in the newsroom were thinking of creating the cards as a manual process, but when they approached Han with the idea, he realized that he could put several of the tools he already used to work on the project.
“So, we needed to ingest the data. That took a lot of effort.” Han said. “It’s typical of any data-related project, where data preparation takes like 80-90 percent of the time.”
The team’s first challenge was pooling all of the data that they received about the players. Then,“once everything was connected, the second challenge was more with the conceptual ranking to identify the players,” Han said. “The challenge we faced was there were 20 or so players in the NFL that they are the same name.” For now, the team has solved the problem by not ranking the players when conflicts occur. They also found some overlap between the names of baseball and football players.
The data team has since gained access to data that allows them to add headshots to the player cards. Han also envisions multiple extensions for this technology. The most obvious would be using it with other sports, but Han also imagines how it could be used to track staff members in companies that The Washington Post frequently covers, or to track many of the political figures in Washington D.C.
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