Earlier this year, we announced the arrival of Brendan Quinn, the new managing director of the International Press Telecommunications Council.

And while we’re thrilled to welcome Brendan to his new role, we’d be remiss if we didn’t take a moment to honour the man whom he’ll be replacing: Michael Steidl, who is retiring from the IPTC after 15 years.

Michael joined IPTC in the beginning of 2003 after two decades working as a journalist, managing director for news agencies and information technology consultant for news providers.

Upon his arrival, he pledged to do one thing, recalled IPTC Board Chairman Stuart Myles in a tribute at the recent IPTC Spring Meeting 2018.

Michael didn’t want to reinvent the wheel, but to simply continue the good work of the previous director and “add some extra shades of colour” to IPTC’s image as a leader in news industry standards.

Of course, Michael did more than just add a few extra shades. Myles said:

“In fact, I would say that Michael’s contributions to the IPTC is really more equivalent to an entirely new artistic movement – a sort of Renaissance for the organisation – including managing the introduction of entirely new ways of operating the IPTC. When Michael started, there were no teleconferences or video conferences or even development of standards through email lists. There was no internet available during the meetings – which has perhaps been a mixed blessing, since people can keep up with the work back home, but we aren’t always as focussed.”

Klaus Sprick, a former IPTC board member who has been involved with the organisation for nearly 50 years, said the council – and the industry as a whole – owes Michael a debt.

“He is THE key person in IPTC to have moved it forward,” Sprick said. “IPTC is now, thanks to his efforts, the only respected and acknowledged organisation setting standards in international press information technology: media topics, subject codes, metadata, formats.”

Michael has called his time with the IPTC a great experience, adding he was happy to have been involved with the development and launch of nine new standards, the new Media Topic taxonomy and other vocabularies, and in his role in setting up new formats for face-to-face meetings and the creation of new kinds of meetings.

“Being in contact with our membership is also part of the bright side of my IPTC life and I enjoyed spreading the word about IPTC and its work among people knowing only little or nothing about our organisation.”

Prior to joining IPTC, Michael spent 11 years as managing director of Kathpress, where he had also worked as journalist. He has also worked as vice press officer for Medienstelle ED Wien, and as a freelance reporter for ORF.

We wish Michael a very happy retirement and thank him once again for the work he’s done to bring the IPTC to where it is today.

Image: Liuzishan

By Johan Lindgren

The Sports Content Working Group of IPTC started in the early 2000’s, initially to develop the XML standard SportsML. But the group has evolved to handle many aspects of reporting sports in the news.

The initial big question for news organisations handling sports is to decide if it should be handled as text or as data. The sports articles have, obviously, more in common with articles about other subjects. It is the results, schedules, statistics and standings that provide the dilemma. You can choose to provide the results ready for display on screen or on paper. Or you can provide the results as detailed marked up data and let the receiver handle the formatting, depending on purpose.

In fact, with using both NewsML-G2 and SportsML from IPTC you can provide both variants in parallel, if you wish so. In a NewsML-G2 news item as wrapper you provide one rendition of the content with the results as data in SportsML markup, and in another rendition you provide the same results, but in a displayable format like HTML5.

Vocabularies and Media Topics

Another big issue in handling sports data is knowing all the terms, what they mean and how they are used. The people in the sports group have spent a lot of time on this and provide very extensive vocabularies. Some are found in the Media Topics, maintained by the NewsCodes Working Group of IPTC. The same is true for the new addition to this, called facets. Facets refine the semantics of a Media Topic.

Example: If you try to combine Nordic skiing, female, relay, freestyle, 4×5 km as constituting one combined Media Topic and think of all the variations resulting from alternates to those terms, and then expand that thought to all sports events, the number of Media Topics will be overwhelming. Instead, IPTC chose to minimize the number of Media Topics and instead create a system of facets that qualify these broader topics. So, for example, “male” and “female” can apply to many, many sport competition topics, eliminating the need to create separate Media Topic terms for all of them.

About SportsML

Apart from the topics and their facets there is a huge number of metadata property values maintained by the sports group. These values are listed in 113 vocabularies (they can be downloaded), 37 of them are used for the core of SportsML and the other 76 are used for sport-specific additions. In total there are 1,850 values defined and listed as concepts in 113 knowledge items. The list of metadata values and their explanations is fundamental know-how in the sports reporting. You can have names and definitions in several languages.

Example of a code saying the player started the game on the field:

<concept id=”spplayerstatusstarter”>

<conceptId qcode=”spplayerstatus:starter” />

<name xml:lang=”en-US”>starter</name><name xml:lang=”en-GB”>starter</name>

<definition xml:lang=”en-GB”>A member of the lineup that enters the field at the commencement of play.</definition></concept>

SportsML is used by news organisations around the world both for everyday sport reporting and big events. BBC, for example, built their handling of the Olympic results in London around SportsML. It is also used by organisers of so-called fantasy sports leagues. Even by just using the core you can handle most normal news reporting of all sports events and competitions. There are also plugins for eleven sports, when you want to handle very in-depth data of these sports. And more plugins can be added. There are also ways to extend the standard with your own values or constructs. When developing SportsML the aim has always been to handle things in the core if the things are applicable to more than one sport. But some things are very specific to one sport and will instead be placed in its own schema which is imported and linked in proper places.

To illustrate this we can use this snippet from a soccer game:

 <team-stats score=”0″ score-opposing=”2″ event-outcome=”speventoutcome:loss”>

 <team-stats-soccer line-formation=”433″>

 <stats-soccer-offensive corner-kicks=”2″/>

The first line is general with the score and outcome. But the two other lines are soccer-specific with a line-formation and the number of corner-kicks this team shot in this game.

SportsML for JSON

Up until now SportsML has mainly been serialized using XML. But with increasing interest in JSON the sports group is working on also providing a schema of SportsML for JSON usage. The work is close to being ready for the first public release. Some details of the schema need to be finalized and then the Working Group provide samples and some tools. We’re hoping to have this ready to release by early 2018.

The release of 3.0 of SportsML in XML also provided some tools (see our Github repository), mainly to transform between the earlier version, 2.2, and 3.0. One of the big developments in 3.0 was the possibility to handle statistics either in generic structures or in specific structures. So there are tools to transform between the two variants. To show this we can compare the above soccer example with the similar generic sample:

<stat stat-type=”spsocstat:line-formation” value=”433″/>

<stat class=”spct:offense”  stat-type=”spsocstat:corner-kicks” value=”2″/>

As you see the attribute names become type-values in the generic stat-construction.

The work in the Sports Content Group is completely done by volunteers. The members of the group work in the news business and contribute to the group as much as their work allows. We welcome all interested persons, e.g. by joining our public discussion forum. The more people who can contribute the better, and there seem to be a never-ending flow of interesting topics when you start talking about sports data.

Johan Lindgren is the Chair of the Sports Content Working Group and a developer at TT Nyhetsbyrån, Sweden.

 

By Jennifer Parrucci

In leading the way for the creation of a rule-based, multilingual classification system, the IPTC’s EXTRA (EXTraction Rules Apparatus) project is providing a powerful and innovative way for publishers to classify documents using the industry standard IPTC Media Topics taxonomy, as well as tailor rules to their own existing taxonomies. By making these powerful capabilities freely available to the global news publishing community, the EXTRA project catalyzes a variety of innovative outcomes including intelligent aggregation, search and analytics.

In 2016, the IPTC received a €50,000 grant from Google’s Digital News Initiative to create EXTRA , an open source, rules-based, classification system for the annotation of news documents with high-quality subject tags that can be used by publishers to deliver valuable services including, but not limited to, subject related content streams and collections, advertising targeting and content recommendations.

While EXTRA is still in development, attendees of the IPTC Spring Meeting in London were treated to an update and EXTRA demo. The group was shown the rule writer tools and interface and given an example of how to write and test rules. Feedback on these tools is welcomed – the EXTRA project is available via github, including the Extra User Manual, the Extra core code and the Extra API and UI.

 

A Rules-Based System Improves Tag Consistency Over Other Methods

The fact that EXTRA is rules-based, rather than relying on hand-tagging or statistics-based machine learning systems on the other, is key. EXTRA’s rules-based system allows publishers to improve tag consistency over hand-tagging methods, and provides much more rapid and scalable functionality. EXTRA also allows publishers to adapt their tagging for breaking new and low-frequency topics that cannot be captured by statistical approaches that require numerous annotated results. Users of EXTRA can tweak and customize the extraction rules to suit the needs and patterns of their publication and will be able to either use the IPTC Media Topics as the basic vocabulary or load their own taxonomies into the software. And unlike machine learning, which is a “black box,” EXTRA makes it easier to explain why a given classification was used, and to precisely explain–and correct–mistakes.

A team of IPTC members began by creating a technical requirements document for the project. System requirements included that the tool could be easily configured by given taxonomy, corpora and rules schema, that a comprehensive query language for rules creation was decided upon, that document classification resulted in high precision and recall scores, that the classification could be done in multiple languages, that the system and UI were intuitive and transparent and that everything be available through an open MIT license.

After an extensive search, IPTC hired Infalia in January 2017 to develop the software for EXTRA. Two linguists, one for German and one for English, were hired to create sample rules based on the IPTC Media Topics. The Austrian Press Agency (APA)  and Reuters licensed corpora to be used for the EXTRA development process and as examples for users. The working version of EXTRA was completed at the end of June 2017.

 

Demo of EXTRA: Taxonomy Management Feature

On May 16, 2017 attendees of the IPTC Spring Meeting in London were treated to an EXTRA demo and update about the project. During the demo, the group was shown the rule writer tools and interface and given an example of how to write and test rules.

The group was first shown the taxonomy management feature. For the demo, we pre-loaded the taxonomy management module with the IPTC Media Topics in both English and German. Users are free to use whatever taxonomies they would like. If a taxonomy is selected, one will be able to see the terms in that taxonomy along with their term definitions. The user will also be able to edit and delete terms from that taxonomy.

EXTRA demo taxonomy management tool

 

To assist the linguists in writing rules, they used the document search to see what articles within the corpora returned for each Media Topic. This process provided insights into keywords, phrases and article structures that could alert the engine that an article was about a particular topic, and enabled refinement of the rules or the vocabularies. Users can see the IPTC NewsML-G2 XML of a selected document to see what fields they might want to leverage in the rule.

EXTRA demo document search

 

Sample rules

It was then time to show some sample rules. The EXTRA Query Language enables rule writers to create rules that analyze the text of the documents using ElasticSearch operators plus some custom ones. It allows for stemming by language, querying by a whole document or tokenized by a sentence, paragraph or headline. Rules can be written to target the proximity of words or phrases from each other, whether in the document as a whole or a specific field, the frequency of words or phrases individually or how many words from a list appear.

Examples of simple rules:

A rule that requires that “play” and “bass drum guitar piano” appear in proximity of 3 words

  (prox/unit=word/distance<=3

    (text_content any/stemming “play”)

    (text_content any/stemming “bass drum guitar piano”)

    )

A rule that requires that “Merkel” and “Obama” appear in the same paragraph

  (prox/unit=paragraph/distance=1

       (body = “Merkel”)

       (body = “Obama”)

EXTRA demo sample rules

 

After writing a rule, the user has the ability to syntax check their work.

EXTRA demo syntax check

 

Then, one can run the rule against a corpus to see how many articles match the rule and were tagged with that term (if it is a pre-existing tag), how many many articles only matched the rule and how many articles matched the rule and not the tag. The user is also shown precision and recall scores. All of this data allows the user to tweak their rule until they are happy with the result.

EXTRA demo rules

 

While EXTRA was still in development at the time of the EXTRA demo, the response from the room was positive and members were eager for the finished product. 

 

Feedback on EXTRA:

The EXTRA project is available via github, including the Extra User Manual, the Extra core code and the Extra API and UI.

Please send your feedback about EXTRA to office@iptc.org.

Jennifer Parrucci is a the group lead for IPTC’s News Codes Working Group and a Senior Taxonomist for NYTimes.com.