A sexist app and API in 2016? Surely Not.
TLDR: In spite of a push for equality between the men’s and women’s games, the Cricket Australia Web-App (http://live.cricket.com.au/) penalises women’s matches to ensure they are always presented last.
Growing up in Australia I have loved the game of cricket from a very young age. While my boyhood dreams of being an international cricketer have not eventuated, I still closely follow the game. Traditionally, men’s cricket has received substantially more investment and coverage; however, cricket is played professionally by both men and women. In recent times the Australian cricket community and administration (Cricket Australia) has been much more active in elevating the status of the women’s game and promoting equality between the men’s and women’s game. This drive for equality has resulted in pay rises for women, and increased sponsorship and television coverage of women’s matches.
Cricket matches are played throughout the year and I find the easiest way to stay up-to-date is via the very excellent Cricket Australia web-app http://live.cricket.com.au/. The web-app allows you see a list of current, upcoming and recently finished matches, with basic summary details, and the ability to see more details about any of those matches.
With the Men’s and Women’s T20 World Cup currently in progress in India there has been plenty of action and I have spent most recent evenings watching the games unfold via this web-app. In my frequent visits to the app I have noticed that the women’s games are consistently placed further down the list and usually not in the correct chronological or intuitive order. As a fan of women’s cricket I was very interested to understand why this was so.
To begin to understand how the web-app displays the games, I fired up the developer tools in Google Chrome to see what the incoming data looked like. The API for this web-app is conveniently self documenting (using swagger) and available at apinew.cricket.com.au. An example match is represented using the following data structure:
Two things that are of immediate interest in the retrieved data are the inclusion of the variables “fixturePriority” and “isWomensMatch”. The “fixturePriority” variable seems innocent enough and prioritising certain matches over others is surely used to discriminate between different categories or types of games (i.e. international and domestic games). However, from looking through the prioritisation of the matches retrieved from the API it appears that while international men’s matches have a “fixturePriority” of 1, Australian domestic games and international women’s matches both have a “fixturePriority” of 2. This already appears to be somewhat sexist, but it pales in comparison to what is yet to come.
The second variable “isWomensMatch” is a binary field that returns true when the match is a women’s match. The name of this variable immediately implies the need to single out matches involving women and the egregiousness of this field becomes apparent when one investigates the sorting function used to determine the ordering of matches on the web-app. The primary function for determining the ordering of matches on the page is given below:
A cursory examination reveals that this function returns an eight-digit integer value (x) that is used to determine the sort order. It constructs this integer by concatenating the “fixturePriority” variable, with a second variable that is 2 for women’s matches (i.e. “isWomensMatch” is true) and 1 otherwise (i.e. if it is a men’s match). Finally, a six digit representation of the number of hours till the match begins is appended. Matches with lower numbers appear higher in the list when displayed on the web-app.
If the discriminatory nature of this ordering algorithm isn’t already clear, then allow me to illustrate with a few examples. Given that all women’s matches appear to have a “fixturePriority” of 2 (or potentially greater) then they will always rank behind other men’s international matches, and based on this digit of the ordering code, equal with men’s domestic matches. However, as detailed above, the second integer is determined by whether or not it is a women’s match, meaning that for matches with an equal “fixturePriority”, the sort order is then entirely determined by the gender of the players playing. In simple terms, this means that women’s matches always rank last on the list of matches displayed in the web-app match order.
Design decisions like this are totally unnecessary, needlessly discriminatory and ultimately more complex to implement. The design of this ordering algorithm impedes the user’s ability to get to the information they want by positioning women’s matches in the incorrect chronological order with respect to other games. Ironically, removing both the “fixturePriority” and “isWomensMatch” fields from the API and presenting the ordering of matches in the web-app based solely on the chronological order would make the app easier to use, there would be less code required in the ordering algorithm presented above, and the needless discrimination would be avoided.
The sporting community broadly is already facing issues around discrimination and marginalisation, and ill-conceived approaches like this only further entrench these issues. Surely the cricket community and Cricket Australia, who is already working hard to address these issues, should be supporting gender equality however they can. It is vitally important that we do not allow such sexism and discrimination to remain pervasive.