Pinball Map iOS App Version 4.0.2

Hey iPhoners, we just released an update to the Pinball Map app!

This update features some fixes and enhancements.

They are:

  • Display the Location Description
  • Region list – include sort by alpha
  • Add option for location services “when app is running”
  • When no Operator at a location, say “Tap to Edit”
  • Locations say “last update: June 03, 2016 by” blank 4.0.2 — bug fix
  • Minor comment issue – words can span two lines — bug fix
  • Location submissions often come in twice — bug fix (this is for Admins)
  • Reformat list of machines in location submissions (this is for Admins)

If you want to see what we’re up to for the next update, check here. We also have some cool longer-term plans brewing right now, so stay tuned.

If you LOVE the app, feel free to rate it!

Some Usage Statistics

Since I know some people here enjoy stats. Here are some fun site usage stats!

Neither of us are fascinated by web analytics. The only parts of analytics we care about are device/browser stats (e.g. how many people are using chrome vs firefox, and what devices they’re using to access the site), response times, and error rates. But we both hardly ever (maybe a couple times a year) view stats showing the number of visitors. Well, newrelic sends us a weekly email containing that, but since it only captures website users and not app users, it’s not super valuable.

Anyway! A better (or at least, more interesting) metric is map edits/submissions. How many machines were added/removed, etc. Given that we started working on this app back in 200…8? the following stats only cover a smidge of the life of the project. The start dates represent when we added functionality to track this information.

Locations submitted (since 2015-10-17): 2,809

A small percentage of this number can be attributed to an iOS “bug” wherein if people smash the Submit button then we receive their submission multiple times. We’d say 3% at most can be attributed to that bug (which will be fixed very soon!).

Machines removed (since 2015-10-17): 11,130

Machines added (since 2017-03-06): 4,166

Different start date than machines removed :<
To extend this rate to the same start date as the “machines removed” date, very basic math can show us that if 4,166 machines additions occurred in the past 146 days, then 18,604 may have occurred in the past 652 days (e.g. to 10/17/2015). But that’s not really accurate, given that we’re regularly adding new regions, thereby increasing the opportunities to add machines to places.

High Scores (since 2017-03-06): 420

We wiped all the high scores from the site when we implemented the user system on March 6. This is a little-used feature, but hey! That’s ok.

Machine comments (since 2017-03-06): 3,278

Location metadata (since 2017-03-06): 1,555

Metadata refers to user-editable location info, such as Location Type, Website, Phone #, and Operator. I know that’s technically not “metadata,” but… shut up.

Contact Us messages (since 2015-10-17): 407

Confirm Location (since 2017-03-06): 2,283

And we have about 2,000 user accounts (since March 6). That number is obviously a better representation of how many people are editing maps, and not how many people use them.

We hope you find these super basic stats interesting. We certainly did! More interesting would be something like, “rates of usage, holding ‘number of map regions’ constant” in order to see how usage has evolved over time.

Pinball Map Flier

The WWW can be great for getting the word out about stuff. You got blogs, articles, podcasts, RSS, social media, etc. At Pinball Map HQ, we are… okay at it. We don’t have a marketing budget, and we basically only use Twitter for social media. It often turns out that YOU’RE better at it than us. And that’s perfect – that’s the way we like it.

One of our favorite things to do is to spread the word about Pinball Map in person. When we’re out playing pinball, and we start chatting with enthusiastic people, we tell them about it, and perhaps give them a button, too. And I think that goes a long way. But there have been so many times when we’ve said, “we should just make a little flier with the info on it, so we can hand it out or drop it places.” Actually, we did do that like six years ago – at least for a couple of the maps (but that was back when we were using a logo font that wasn’t web-friendly and so had to be created in an image editor).

So, that’s what we’ve now done! Introducing the regional Pinball Map flier that you gotta print out! Each map region has its own flier, located at the the /flier url. For example, see the Minnesota Pinball Map Flier (btw, we changed the Twin Cities map to be the Minnesota map). They are dynamically generated, so the content may change from time to time (since we started writing this post, the number of machines listed has gone from 13,036 to 13,038).

They are very simple, and they print four to a page. We think they get the message across well. Here is a static screenshot of one:

flier image



You can find links to them on each regional map’s home page (in the little “intro” text section) and on each regional map’s About page. The fliers are not on the app, but just the website. And they’re geared toward the desktop website (not mobile).

Printing the Flier

Printing should be easy. If you press File+Print on your browser, you can preview it. All of the extraneous stuff on the webpage is automatically removed in the print preview.

The flier is accessible by anyone. And we encourage anyone who wants to help spread the word to print it out and give it to people! You’ll be part of the Pinball Map Street Team, so to speak! If a location is cool with you leaving fliers around (like at a coffee shop), please do so!

Hope you like it! We’re open to feedback.

Stern Pinball Prizes for Top Map Contributors

We try to thank our map contributors at every opportunity. After all, the maps would be much less cool if they were out of date. But they’re not! You all continue to make your local pinball map useful for the casual “is there still pinball in the world?” person as well as the seasoned pinball warrior, while we continue to make the maps easy and fun to update. It’s working, people! Over the years, we’ve individually said thanks to hundreds of operators, thousands of users, and over one hundred map administrators. And in the past, that’s all we could do: props! shout-outs! keep it up!

Now with our user system, we can do a little more. First we gave you the User Profile. Your profile is a nifty way to see which locations you’ve edited, and an overview of the types of edits. Your User Profile is cool and all – and some sweet stats can be a reward unto themselves – but how about a bonus for being an extra great contributor? Sounds good!

Since we’re tracking contributions, we can rank our contributors. When we partnered with Stern Pinball last year, we told them that we had the user system coming around the bend, and would love to work with them to give rewards to our top contributors. They were totally into the idea. So that’s what we’re doing!

Here’s how it works:

  • A couple times a year we’ll rank users by quantity of contributions during a set period of time.
  • The top 3 contributors will receive signed translites from Stern Pinball!

That’s it! We’ll contact you if you’re in the top 3, and will share news of your victory on the blog. We hope this serves as a reward for all your work, as well as an incentive to do more! Pinball Map now has well over 1,000 editors (along with many times that non-editing active users), and that field is growing every day. So competition will be tight!

In the future we may get crafty with it and assign different scores to different types of contributions. But for now, this is a great start!

Again, THANKS!

Redo Results When Map is Moved

We added a new website feature: Redo Results When Map is Moved.

To use it, perform a search. When the result loads, you’ll see this checkbox in the upper left of the map:
redo checkbox

When checked: if you move or zoom the map, then the results will reload, showing all the locations within the map window. This is similar to Yelp’s “redo results when map is moved” function. Now you can more easily browse around an area to find pinball machines. You won’t have to do new searches; you can just zoom around!

We made a quick video showing how it works:

API Authentication

The recent user system update introduced an authentication system for users. For the last month, we still allowed write access for unauthenticated users (meaning, users who hadn’t updated the app could still edit maps). But that grace period is over, and we’ve locked down the API.

If you are using the API for a tool/website, and you just lost write access, please contact us to obtain an auth token. If you’re using the app and things seem weird, update the app! The iOS version will give you a detailed error message about the problem, but the Android app will not. We also updated the “Message of the Day” on a lot of regions to try and spread the word. Fortunately, we can see that the vast majority of edits are made by authenticated users, so this should only affect a few people.

Donations
Thank you for your generous donations!! As noted earlier, we recently started accepting donations to help us cover infrastructure costs. To date, we’ve received ten donations, covering over half a year’s costs!

Shout out! Thank you:

- William B.
- Matthew C.
- Jason C.
- Stephen H.
- Julie A.
- Tyler D.
- Jukka A.
- John K.
- Erin K.
- Amy C.

If you want to help out, here’s the link!

Side note
We’ve noticed that some people mess up when entering their email address (when they sign up). This makes it so you can’t confirm your account. In some cases (…@gmail.con), we’ve noticed and corrected the problem. But sometimes we don’t know what the problem is – except that the email wasn’t delivered. So! Let us know if you need your email fixed.

Similarly, if you want a new username, let us know.

Pinball Map iOS App Version 4.0.1

Thanks for updating the Pinball Map! It’s been cool watching people sign up!

We’ve released version 4.0.1 of the iOS app!

This update includes:

  • Sort by Operator
  • Location details will display Operator name (and you can add/change the operator)
  • Events page now has three tabs: Today, Upcoming, Ongoing
  • Location detail now displays the most recent machine comment (years ago we accidentally removed this from the app, and you were outraged, so we added it back in immediately; THEN we accidentally removed it again with the 4.0.0 update. So now it’s back again).
  • Region Info displays the correct number of locations and machines in the region
  • Fixed the app feedback form

Keep up with upcoming releases via the issue tracker

Misc Notes

Clarification on users (even though no one asked this):

  • In some contexts you can view other people’s Profiles (you can on the website, but not on the app).
  • User contact information is never shared. Unlike many sites, you can’t send private messages to each other.

Note to API users: If you’re WRITING through the API, please get in touch because you’re about to lose write access. We’ll have to give you an auth token.

App Updates - User System

We just released updates to the app to complement the recent website update. These updates have been in the works since last Spring!

We’ve listed the changelogs below. The user system is the biggest change. Once you create an account, you’ll be set. You won’t have to log in/out. You’ll always be logged in, and you won’t notice anything different… except a bunch of new features! With the user system comes a neat Profile page, where you can see an overview of your updates (screenshots below). We also fixed lots of bugs and added a swath of new features. New features include additional ways to look for machines (sort by operator or city). The Android app received a much-needed facelift. See the full lists below.

Hope you like it! We’re really excited about this update. They mark a big change for Pinball Map. And we think it will be for the better. Thanks for keeping your local pinball map up to date!

iOS app

profile imageprofile image



Check out screenshots on the app store.

Here’s a changelog of the things we added to the iOS app:

* User system
* Profile Page
* Sort locations by operator
* Store page
* High scores for a machine sort by score
* “Recently Updated” section lists 25 updates instead of 10, and includes the date
* Misc things
* Bug fixes

Github page for PBM-iOS

Android app

profile image
profile image



Check out screenshots on the play store.

Here’s a changelog of the things we added to the Android app:

* User system
* Profile page
* Enter high scores
* Lookup by operator
* Lookup by city
* Donate page
* Store page
* Include distance on Location Detail page
* New icon
* Style update
* Misc things
* Bug fixes

Github page for PBM-Android

Website Update - User System

Big Update: Pinball Map User System

We’re very excited to announce that we’ve added a user system to the site! This is something we’ve talked about implementing since very early on. And after nine years of chatting and over a year of developing, we’ve finally done it!

Now you can track your map contributions! Usernames are automatically attached to comments, high scores, and the like. Basically, if you edit a location, the location detail will note, in some form, that you made that edit. There are other little things, too: like, if you contact your regional admin you won’t have to input your name/email.

You can see an overview of your contributions on your Profile page. The Profile page displays:

  • # of machines added to locations
  • # of machines removed from locations
  • # machine comments written
  • # of new locations you’ve submitted
  • # Locations edited
  • List of the locations you’ve edited (with links to them)
  • All your high scores

profile image



In the future, we’ll add more user-based features. But we think this is a great start. We’ve started a list of future ideas here. Some ideas include a points system, favoriting locations, and rankings of each region’s top contributors. If you have ideas, please leave them on that page, or comment here.

With this user system, the site/app is read-only for non-logged in users. When you log in, you can then add/remove machines to/from locations, leave comments, leave high scores, submit locations, etc.

To create an account, go here.

We hope you like it!!

The update for the Android and iOS apps will come out this weekend. Thanks for your patience.

How the user system benefits our admins

In the past we had very little control over abusive behavior. This was by design: 1) the site is designed to be very simple, with very few hurdles to jump; 2) we knew that people who love pinball are generally really NICE! Being nice, and given that the site exists as a helpful tool, we were hopeful that people wouldn’t mess with the data. By and large, this has been very true. We put a lot of power in your hands, and in the 9 years we’ve been doing this there has been just a handful of abuse. But when it does happen, we have very little control over it. So, with this new system each action is tied to a user that we can contact or ban.

Donate to Pinball Map

Another first for us: we added a donate page. We don’t have ads on the site, and the apps are free. In the past there were low costs to operate everything. But those costs have risen as the site has grown. So, rather than include ads to help us pay the infrastructure costs, we’re soliciting donations.

Here are the costs, and thus our annual donation goals:

  • $110/year – Dreamhost
  • $20/year – Domain
  • $192/year – Database + SSL Encryption
  • $100/year – Apple Developer Fee
  • GRAND TOTAL: $422

To donate, click on the paypal button, or visit our Donate page. Thank you!!!


Update Overview

We began working on this update over a year ago. During this process we knocked out lots of bugs, tweaked things, added new features, and redesigned the entire website. On the website alone (e.g. not including the android and iOS apps) we committed code more than 450 times! So, what follows is a brief overview of the updates that we’ve unleashed this week. We might be forgetting some things.

If you find a bug or something, please let us know!

Website Changes

  • Added profile pages, and all the user-based stuff
  • Redesign. The brown color scheme with the hard to read text is totally kaput. In its place we’ve designed a clean, light theme. We hope you like it! The bones of the layout are still pretty similar – this redesign is mostly a new set of clothes. But we focused hard on getting every little detail to look nice. We tightened up the mobile site, too. It can be tough to design sites for all the different devices out there, so if you see anything that looks wack, let us know.
  • SSL. For secure logins and all.
  • Added a “Night Mode” option for the map display. If viewing the site from a mobile browser, this is enabled by default at night (but you can toggle it off). Just like google maps. It’s not enabled by default at night on a desktop browser, but you can toggle it ON!
  • Added a bookmark for searches. Say you search for all the machines for an operator, or in a city, or in a Zone, or all the machines at pizza places – now you’ll see a little link hovering over the corner of the map, called, “Link to this Search Result”. If you copy that, it’s a direct link to that search you just conducted. So you can easily share that link with people, or just bookmark it so you can quickly bring up those results.
  • Added some new, user-related items to the FAQ

For a more nerdly look at the code, you can see all the issues we’ve recently closed.

This is a big update, though we tried to keep this post pretty simple. If you want any more details about any of this, leave a comment!

How to Use the Pinball Map API

It’s no secret that we have a public API. Or wait, maybe it kind of is, given how many people say to us, “I had no idea you had an API!” Point is, it’s not supposed to be a secret. After all, we link to it on the homepage (though not in the app, which is likely the problem here) and frequently mention it on the blog.

We get excited whenever anyone uses the API. And now, not only has someone used it, but she wrote a tutorial on how to use it! Beth Poore, a post-bacc in Computer Science at Oregon State University, used the Pinball Map API for a class project. For anyone looking to learn more about the API, this project is not only a great how-to guide, it’s also an illustration of the creative things you can do with the data (things that we don’t do on the Pinball Map website).

The tutorial covers a lot of ground:

- Querying data
- Post a list of your locations machines on your website
- Post high scores for your machines on your website
- Compare the machines in TWO regions
- Show national high scores

As you can see, you can do a lot with the data via the API. We’re excited to share Beth’s work with you all. Hope you find it useful!

How-To: Using the Pinball Map API

Pinball Map iOS App Updated to 3.2

Oh what a day! A new Pinball Map iOS app update has hit the streets.

It’s a modest, yet important, release. Modest because it mostly adds some functionality that was already on the website. And important because 1) those functions are cool! and 2) it marks the end of programmer extraordinaire Frank Michael’s involvement in the project. If we had it our way, FM would still be ‘gramming with us. But FM has this thing called “free will” and he’s walking a different walk these days. He stuck around to complete this latest update, and for that we’re very grateful. Reminder, Frank Michael burst into our lives in 2014 and completely revamped the iOS app from the ground up. This the FOURTH app update of his. He played an important role in the app these last couple years, and now we wish him good fortune in his future endeavors.

Here’s the changelog for the 3.2 release:

[New] View PinTips for Machines
pintips.net is a great site for quickly grabbing some machine tips (and for easily contributing your own). We’re glad to be synced up with it.

[New] Show past Machine Conditions
We keep a record of comments made on machines. Previously, you could only see the most recent one. But now you can view past one’s, too!

[New] Show the last time a Location was updated
Is the data for this location two years old, or was it updated yesterday? The answer to this question is now at your fingertips.

[New] Ability to confirm the information for a given Location is up-to-date
Say the location data hasn’t been updated in two years, and yet it’s still up to date! If there’s no data to update, but you’d like to tell the world that you’ve verified the data, now you can with a click of a button.

and…
[New] Filter Nearby Map based on a set of distances (From 10-50 miles
from your current location)

[Fix] Update list of Regions when main site is updated
[Fix] Minor UI Issue where Machine names would not be formatted correctly

Pinball Map Partners with Stern

If you’ve visited the Stern Pinball website in the last few days, you’ll surely have noticed a giant Pinball Map logo in the homepage slideshow. We’re excited to announce that we’ve formed a partnership with Stern Pinball!

Put simply, Stern thinks Pinball Map has the best maintained data, and when people ask, “where can I play your machines?” they point to us.

A key component to sharing the love of pinball is playing them on location. Location pinball reaches more eyes, and tends to be more social. So knowing how to find public pinball is really important. We try to make it as simple as possible to find machines, and we’re happy that Stern (AND all of our users) thinks our site is succeeding.

It’s a mutually-beneficial relationship. Stern is by far the largest pinball manufacturer, and they have a robust social media presence. The more folks they drive to our site, the more up to date our site is. And the data on our site gives Stern an idea of where people are playing and where pinball is growing.

(And for full clarity: this isn’t a sponsorship (we’re not making any money); pinballmap.com is not beholden to Stern.)

As a related aside, we just played Ghostbusters LE the other day, and holy crap is that game fun. So many cool shots packed in there. Stern is at the top of their game right now!

Frequently Asked Questions

We added an FAQ to the site!

We don’t get a lot of questions, but we do get a fair amount of statements. For example, “There are no more machines at this location.” We’re including these statements in the FAQ, and to make them look like questions we added question marks at the ends (that’s how you make something a question, right?). At the moment the FAQ link is tucked away in the menu within a regional map. But we’ll add the link to the homepage soon, too.

At this point, the topics cover:

- Criteria for adding new regions
- Role of administrators

And more.

If YOU have a question, feel free to ask it.

Roanoke, Tucson, Bend

Hey. HEY!

We added three new regions recently:

Roanoke, Virginia

Tucson, Arizona

Bend, Oregon

EDIT: And CHICO!!!

The Bend locations haven’t been added yet, but will be soon. They have a nice growing pinball scene there.

If you live in any of these areas and know of locations that aren’t listed, please submit those locations! Roanoke’s gotta have more than three locations, right? We want them ALL listed!

Updated Criteria for Creating New Pinball Maps

As much as we want to consider this site to represent anarchism in motion – with anonymous, equal users contributing bits of knowledge – there is a hierarchy of roles. Scott and Ryan are gatekeepers, allowing or denying the creation of new regions. And admins are sub-gatekeepers, allowing or denying the creation of new locations. This made us think: What if we (scott and ryan) are a weak link in this process. We don’t think we are… but still, it made us wonder for a minute there.

People regularly email us asking for a new region. Some of these requests don’t go anywhere. They usually don’t go anywhere because 1) the requests don’t say anything about wanting to administer the data for that region (and they don’t respond when we ask them about that), 2) the region only contains one or two locations, and/or 3) the request is made by an operator.

So, in an attempt to codify this, we’ll elaborate a bit on those three points. They are necessary points when creating a new map.

1) Each map must have a local person acting as an administrator. The administrator must care about the integrity of the map! They’re an overseer. It doesn’t take much work to be an admin. But a good admin is the difference between a languishing, sloppy map and a maintained, clean one. And regular users get a lot more out of a well-maintained map.

So if you request a map, but don’t want to be the admin, then you don’t get a map.

Fun fact: right now the site has 73 regions and over 90 admins.

We’re often looking for NEW admins. If you want to help maintain your local map, hit us up. It never hurts to have more.

2) When areas just have a couple locations with pinball, the maps usually don’t see much action. Ideally, a new region will have 10 (ten) or more locations. But of course, this isn’t always the case. However, we’re going to try and stick to this. The more locations an area has, the more active the map. It’s really cool that your area has one giant arcade with 40 machines. But do you need a map for that?

3) Admins can’t be operators. We’ve had a couple bad experiences lately with admins who are operators failing to remain neutral. In one case, we deleted the region because the guy only added his own places (and did a terrible job with the data entry) and ignored all other location submissions, and in the other case that admin resigned because he steadfastly refused to add his competitors locations (followed shortly by that region experiencing the most malicious edits that we’ve seen in nine years of doing this).

There is a major difference between operators and all the other people who use the maps: operators are in it to make money. It’s their business. And that’s great – part of the mission of this site is to promote pinball, and operators are at the foundation of this. They put machines on route. This map doesn’t exist without them. For everyone else (including us) it’s purely for pleasure. But since operators have a financial stake in contents of the site, they sometimes take it really seriously and personally. For example, to one operator, a “right flipper broken” machine comment might be responded to in the comments with, “oh, thanks, I’ve fixed the flipper.” And another operator might respond to that with, “A++ Machine, Brand New LED. Plays Perfectly, You Gotta Come Down Here And Check It Out!!!” Did this latter operator fix the issue? Not sure. What is more clear is that the comment resembles an advertisement.

It’s flattering to us that operators think this website impacts their business. We want to help them and encourage them to maintain their machines. But… bottom line, they can’t be admins.