Thursday, September 29, 2011

AP Style: Useful baseball playoff style guide

AP has taken some time to put out a useful baseball style guide. The occasion is the beginning of the postseason, but it's helpful at any time.

BC-US--World Series Style Guide, Advisory

To help with consistent phrasing in coverage of the Major League Baseball playoffs and the World Series, The Associated Press compiled a World Series Style Guide of key baseball terms and definitions. Also included are some hackneyed terms to avoid. Some of the words are taken from the AP Stylebook. Others are standard usage for baseball stories transmitted by AP Sports.
AL and NL championship series
Spell out "championship series" on first reference with the league abbreviations. It's AL or NL championship series initially, then ALCS and NLCS on subsequent uses. AL stands for American League, NL for National League.

A word for each
ballclub, ballgame, ballpark, ballplayer

Best-of-seven series and best of seven
Hyphenate when used as a modifier with the number spelled out: best-of-seven matchup. On its own, no hyphens in the term: The Red Sox and Phillies meet in a best of seven.

Better to say a player hit a home run, rather than he "walloped'" or "'blasted'" or "cracked" it. Home runs are also homers, but avoid calling them "dingers," "'jacks," ''bombs," ''taters" and "four-baggers." Pitchers can pitch two-hitters, but avoid "twirling" or "chucking" or "fireballing." And teams try to reach the World Series instead of the "Fall Classic." In short, avoid hackneyed words and phrases.

Yankees shortstop Derek Jeter or Yankees' shortstop Derek Jeter? No apostrophe when describing his role: Jeter is a Yankees shortstop, Roy Halladay is a Phillies pitcher. But if club ownership is implied, use the hyphen for a possessive: the Yankees' Jeter, the Cardinals' Albert Pujols and the Braves' Chipper Jones.

No hyphens
Third base umpire, first base coach, left field line

Sample uses: first inning, seventh-inning stretch, 10th inning; first base, second base, third base, first home run, 10th home run, first place, one RBI, 10 RBIs. The pitcher's record is now 6-5. The final score was 1-0.

Pitchers' duel
It takes two pitchers doing well for a duel, so it's pitchers' duel (possessive plural), rather than a pitcher's duel.

Postseason vs. playoffs
The terms aren't interchangeable. Postseason encompasses all the games after the regular season ends — the first round of the league playoffs, the AL and NL championship series and the World Series. It takes 11 wins for a team to go through the postseason and become champions. Playoffs refers only to the first two rounds that determine the World Series opponents.

RBI or RBIs?
For more than one run batted in, the abbreviation is RBIs: Granderson led the majors with 127 RBIs, Braun had five RBIs in the win. The seldom-used plural written out is runs batted in, but in AP Style the "s'' is placed at the end of the abbreviation: RBIs.

"Take Me Out to the Ball Game"
Traditionally sung during the seventh-inning stretch as the teams change sides on the field. Even though AP Style is ballgame (one word) on all other uses of the word, it's two words in the formal title of this baseball anthem.

World Series
Or the Series on second reference.

World Series champions.
Teams that win the championship are World Series champions, not world champions.

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Thursday, September 22, 2011

Will print be dead by 2020?

Russell Viers contends much of print will be dead by 2020 - and he's making the argument aimed at community papers, not the big metros. Interesting debate at his blog with Kevin Slimp and others. Worth considering the graphs.

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Sunday, September 11, 2011

Hypercorrection with 'fewer'

Saw this in a game story tonight and have seen it more often than not lately:

Lattimore finished with 27 carries for 176 yards and one touchdown, one fewer scores than defensive lineman Melvin Ingram.

 Yes, the guide is that you use "fewer" when things can be counted, as touchdowns can. But these are guides for a reason - other considerations can come into play and modify the situation. In this case it is idiom - in American idiom we don't generally say "one fewer," we say "one less."

Why? That's why it's idiom, which is often the language equivalent of "just because" as etymological origins become hazy or disappear over generations. (In other cases, we can trace back when and why something became idiom, like "out of sorts," which actually refers to printers being angry because they were out of "sorts," the small pieces of cast type used for spacing.)

So here it would be "one less score than."

To do otherwise is hypercorrection.

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Tuesday, September 06, 2011

Reporter resources - Cool site: StatSpotting

Just came across StatSpotting, an intriguing site that scrapes the Web for some of the most intriguing statistics of the day.

Nothing I'd take to the bank, especially given the gauzy nature of who's behind it,* but certainly a place that seems useful to find out what kind of stats are bouncing around online for possible story ideas.

For instance, here's what's being featured today:

I've added the RSS feed to my reader.


*The site says it's run by "NP Labs," but that goes to a dead link. Its "whois" lists an outfit in Bangalore called Numbers Plus, but that site is just a GoDaddy container. So as with all things Web, caveat emptor, but then again you should just be using this for ideas anyhow, right?

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Monday, September 05, 2011

6 reasons to hate Blackboard

I've been meaning to write this post for several years, but just keep finding more "features" of Blackboard to hate. (I'm not alone. Type "Blackboard sucks" into Google for even more.)

The "resurrection" of some of these fine "features" in the latest iteration, however, has finally reminded me to memorialize some of these:

1) When you need a notice like this on your log-in screen, it's a hint something is badly amiss (January 2014: BB has now supported Chrome, but it still does some weird things with the "hot spot" quiz questions):

2) It's 2011, ever hear of "drag and drop"? The Blackboard interface is hugely clunky. Let's say you wanted to move an item from a folder to a subfolder. You have to click copy and then, if you've asked to remove it, you have to click the idiot warning about removing something. How about just being able to drag items from one place to another? (January 2014: Still waiting.)

3) It's 2011, ever hear of batch delete? Not in most parts of BB. No, it's click on remove for each individual item, then answer the idiot question, then ... you get the idea. So say you have a class of 20 students and they are submitting labs twice a week to the drop box. Do the math, especially since it often takes at least 30 seconds for BB to execute. That's 20 minutes a week just deleting stuff. (January 2014: BB has improved this in some areas, but still lacks it in some critical areas.)

4) Click, click, click - oops, you forgot a "switch" and so that feature won't operate. Some of the "tools" within BB require multiple "switches" to be thrown in multiple areas before they become available to students. Miss one and ... Compare that to more modern applications - say, about everything else online. If I can set up a blog online with a minimum of intuitive clicks (and those include setting templates, etc., which BB does not allow), why is it so hard for BB to do it? (January 2014: Not really improved. In fact, some of the features are even a bit more inscrutable.)

5) BB quizzes get a special place in Hell. In addition to the drag and drop (not) above, the software has some special "features" that make it difficult if not useless for those of us teaching language-related courses.

- No way to designate capital letters. This is such 1990s technology. Every question should have the option to mark it wrong if the capitalization is not matched. This is a longstanding request that BB seems to be incapable of. (January 2014: Hussah - the latest update now includes this, as well as the ability to use regular expressions for contextual text. But every old pool question has to be updated to this by hand. It should be a master setting that also can be thrown for each pool.)

- No way to expand "fill in blank" boxes to accommodate longer answers, such as retyping short sentences to correct errors. So students are left seeing half (or less) of what they have typed. Not easy to proofread there, bucko. (January 2014: Box has been expanded.)

- Conversion of apostrophes, quotes and ampersands to the "&amp" code. Put a question in with one of those and it will close correctly - the first time. But gawd help you if you reopen it to make any changes. The system automatically changes the symbols to the HTML code - and if you don't remember to re-edit it, your students will all be marked wrong. See this, for example ("World Series of Poker's" helpfully changed by BB):
Click to see detail
(The even cooler thing is that every time you open it, it adds another "&amp" code to the line, so after discovering the error and reopening it to edit, you have at least two to remove.)(January 2014: Has happened occasionally through various upgrades. So far, not on this one. Keeping fingers crossed.)

6) No ability to prevent cutting and pasting of quiz questions (so, for instance, students can't easily pass them on to others). Yes, there is script available out there. And no, it's not perfect, but it helps. So why doesn't BB just license the script and make it an option check box for the quiz? (January 2014: Still not there that I can see.)

And three bonus reasons:
1) The rich text editor interface that is javascript based is abnormally clunky and fails to work across browsers. The RTEs in about any decent online service or content management system these days (say, like the one used to post this) are relatively sleek and easy to use with about any browser. Comparatively, Blackboard's is put together with baling wire and chewing gum. (January 2014: Looks like BB is now using TinyMCE or a derivative that works much better.)

2) Having a "grade center" that cannot be opened in its own browser tab without giving you errors is stupid. It's 2011, tabbed browsing is the norm, and not allowing that means yet more clicks back and forth to get to other things from the control panel. (It's 2014, and it's still a problem.)

3) Update: Why, I almost forgot my most recent vexation - copying a file to another directory and then being unable to set the order of items because the file you copied has become co-joined with some other item (see photo - notice the two 4's) and everything gets screwed up when you try to reorder one of them. (I finally figured a work-around (emphasis on more work) - copy the item a second time. Then delete the original one you copied. Everything snaps back into place.

(This seems to have been fixed.)

I could probably find more, but this is a good start. It's 2011, but Blackboard is so 2001.

The folks at my school are exceedingly helpful. They raise these issues with BB and on user groups as far as I can tell, but the solutions are few and far between.

January 2014: My major wishes now are
- Still, the drag and drop feature so if you have something in one folder and want to move it to another (for instance if you have weeks of reading set up in the left rail), you can just drag it instead of using that clunky Move or Copy procedure.
- A calendar that lets you enter things like tests and assignments due and generates, if you want, an automatic announcement that you can set for up to five days ahead, just like most of the rest of the world's online calendars do.
- Less inscrutability in formatting a class site. It seems to want to force you into one of the preset formats.

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Friday, September 02, 2011

Logic problem: AP story on Confederate flag

Maybe it's me, but do you see a problem in this story:

LEXINGTON, Va. — Officials in the rural Virginia city where Robert E. Lee and Thomas "Stonewall" Jackson are buried voted late Thursday to prohibit the flying of the Confederate flag on city-owned poles.

After a lively 2 1/2-hour public hearing, the Lexington City Council voted 4-1 to allow only U.S., Virginia and city flags to be flown. Personal displays of the Confederate flag are not affected. The Sons of Confederate Veterans, whose members showed up in force after leading a rally that turned a downtown park into a sea of Confederate flags, vowed to challenge the ordinance in court.

Some speakers during the meeting said the ordinance was an affront to the men who fought in the Civil War in defense of the South. One speaker stayed silent during his allotted three minutes, in memory of the Civil War dead.

But many speakers complained that the flag was an offensive, divisive symbol of the South's history of slavery and shouldn't be endorsed by the city of 7,000 people.

"The Confederate flag is not something we want to see flying from our public property," said city resident Marquita Dunn, who is black. "The flag is offensive to us."

Most residents who spoke, both blacks and whites, opposed the ordinance. But H.K. Edgerton, the former president of the NAACP chapter in Asheville, N.C., said he supported flying the Confederate flag because he wanted to honor black Confederate soldiers. Edgerton, who is black, wore a T-shirt emblazoned with images of those black soldiers.

"What you're going to do in banning the Southern cross is wrong. May God bless Dixie," he said, amid some gasps from the audience.
Before the rally, ordinance opponents rallied in the city park, then marched to the hearing under a parade of Confederate flags.

Unless I'm mistaken, that should be:

Most residents who spoke, both blacks and whites, supported the ordinance. But H.K. Edgerton, the former president of the NAACP chapter in Asheville, N.C., said he supported flying the Confederate flag because he wanted to honor black Confederate soldiers. Edgerton, who is black, wore a T-shirt emblazoned with images of those black soldiers.

If not, then the "But," which shows contrast, should be dropped from the second sentence (in that case, Edgerton would be an illustration, not a counterpoint).

I'm also thinking that 
Before the rally, ordinance opponents rallied in the city park, then marched to the hearing under a parade of Confederate flags.
Should be: Before the meeting, ordinance opponents rallied in the city park, then marched to the hearing under a parade of Confederate flags.

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How TSA has bulked up its app with crowdsourcing

The headline on this article from NextGov is Agency apps must be regularly updated or face obsolescence, but the really interesting thing to me is the detail on how the TSA has used crowdsourcing to bulk up its app:

The My TSA app pulls together Federal Aviation Administration data about flight delays and crowd sourced data about how long it's taking app users to get through security checkpoints at specific airports.

The app also includes a list of more than 3,000 items fliers can and cannot carry onto their flights or put in checked baggage. That list started at about 900 items but grew rapidly as travelers used a response feature on the app to ask TSA about unlisted items.

Similar direct user feedback and computer analysis of how travelers are using the app has helped TSA to home in on precisely what their app audience wants, Bonner said.

"At a minimum, you should provide some opportunity for users to provide feedback," he said. "Maybe there's a function you think will be a real knockout feature, but if you have a feedback mechanism, you may find out people don't understand it or aren't using it."

Worth considering for those in the newsbiz considering apps.

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