Using data to help people get active


Table Tennis England

Positive feedback for a pioneering organisation.

Patrice John-Baptiste, Communications Associate at ODI, speaks with Jamie Gordon, Communications Officer at Table Tennis England, about early impact witnessed in the first month of publishing open data.

What has the response been like since launching Table Tennis England open data?

It has been just over one month since Table Tennis England launched the first of our open datasets and the feedback received has been overwhelmingly positive. Members, developers, and other sporting organisations have all been in contact to congratulate us for being one of the pioneering organisations working with the OpenActive initiative.

We coincided the open data launch with the announcement of a partnership with TTRadar, who is using the open data to populate its table finder website. The announcement really helped to kickstart our open data initiative and get the word out there as it visualised the possibilities of working with our opportunity data.

That’s excellent! How did TTRadar come to use the data?

TTRadar contacted Table Tennis England around a year ago, asking for our assistance in populating its global table finder with the tables we are aware of in England. At the time, we were reluctant to provide the data as we know from past experience, that manual data lists become outdated very quickly and it can become a difficult situation when clubs do not know who to contact in order to update their info.

However, shortly after we began discussions with the ODI about the OpenActive initiative, we got back in touch with TTRadar and asked them if they would be interested in taking a JSON feed from our database. Within a week we had a test server up and running and published the live version of the site not long afterwards.

Are you aware of the data being used anywhere else?

GoSweat, a new app set to launch later this year for people looking to find physical activity opportunities, has already been in contact around using our club dataset to populate their bookings tool. We have also had initial conversations with the International Table Tennis Federation, who is considering using our Ping! data to populate a table tennis opportunity finder in their TTX app.

Both of these initial discussions are great examples of the power of open data for starting conversations and the possibilities of attracting people from outside our National Governing Body’s sphere of influence.

spotlight_tabletennis.jpeg “Our mission is to create and support opportunities for everyone to enjoy and achieve in table tennis and our vision is to get everyone talking about table tennis.” said Jamie. Image source: Table Tennis England used with permission

How would you like to see the data being used in the future?

I’d really like to see some developers from outside of our sport take our data and innovate with it. For example, the 750 Ping! tables that are located across the country could provide a great meet-up location, which could be used by community groups, dating websites or even Augmented Reality or Virtual Reality apps like Pokemon Go.

We spoke about external data use, how will Table Tennis England use this data? We have multiple databases for different areas in our organisation, which can be confusing for both staff and the end users to navigate. However, through the use of our open data APIs we plan on releasing a Table Tennis Finder, which should make it easier for users to find the information they need. Initially the finder will show clubs and Ping! tables, but we’d like to expand it to include coaches, leagues and other organisations when the time is right.

Opening our data has also given us the motivation to start a thorough data cleanse, as it is no longer just ourselves who are using the data. This was a welcome exercise as data hygiene is really important when it comes to reporting the current state of climate for our sport.

You mentioned positive feedback from your CEO, how has senior leadership supported your efforts?

The senior leadership team have been really supportive in our quest to publish open data, however there was an interesting conversation that took place when the idea was put forward to the Head of Commercial. He said: “What?! …You’re giving away our data?!… For free?!” But when I explained the benefits of doing it and the chance to contribute to a national initiative that could help shape the future of our industry, he quickly understood and reverted his opinion.

Are there any lessons learnt from opening up your data that you can share with others?

Coinciding with the open data announcement with an example of a partner who is using it, really helped. If we had simply communicated the raw datasets to members, I don’t think many of them would have understood our decision and could have caused frustration among them. I would definitely recommend NGBs to consider a similar approach when communicating about their open data.

How will Table Tennis England build and sustain awareness of open data across the organisation?

As we continue to develop the tools our organisation uses, we hope open data will become more engrained throughout. The more we continue to push open data, the more opportunity there is to attract non-members into our sport and increase the size of the market.

We’ve informed all staff through our internal newsletters, and once a few more adopters of our data come on board, we will host internal training sessions on how departments can use open data to grow, diversify, and become more efficient.

The Open Active case study also provided a great springboard to communicate the initial message across the team.

Table Tennis England

Table Tennis England is the National Governing Body for the sport and exists to create and support opportunities for everyone to enjoy and achieve in table tennis.

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