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.

A Weekend in the Life of CFF Legs

A couple months ago we used updates to the Portland Pinball Map to construct a simple narrative of a weekend’s pinball activities. This narrative showed not only how people use the site, but how they play pinball: people play though each machine at a place; machines break; machines get fixed; people get more drunk as the night progresses; etc. The post incited one Portland player, Crazy Flipper Fingers member Legs, to update the map more often! She thought it was cool that her contributions could be accounted for if you looked carefully enough. She told us that she hoped to one day make it into a future narrative.

Well, that day is here. Through careful analysis of the data and notifications, and some on-the-ground sleuthing, we were able to track Legs as she played pinball last Friday. All in all it came out as a pretty robust narrative. Thanks for updating the map Legs! Okay, here we go.

So we were hanging out at Pinball Map HQ last Friday evening, just staring at the site analytics like we usually do. Things were slow at first. A “left flipper borken” comment on the Tron at Alleyway; a machine removal at the nearby The Know; etc. Nothing special. But then we got a lucky break. A user left this comment on the Champion Pub at Ground Kontrol:

“Maybe I can’t punch my boss, but I’ll punch the hell out of Franz Von Pain! yours in deth, @CFFLegsDeth”

Jackpot! We have Legs. We brought up Legs’ twitter on our third monitor. The most recent tweet was just a picture of Morrissey drinking a beer and wearing brass knuckles. Huh. Well! Looks like we have a night in store for us. We buckled into our control couch, cranked Meat Is Murder, and watched the map updates come in.

A few minutes later a user with the same IP address, obviously Legs, left another comment on Champion Pub: “right punching bad broken, probably from too much punching. anyway, speaking of speed bags…”

We can only presume that Legs then went into the GK ladies restroom and did a blast of meth. Side note: we aim to make a pinball map with the hottest data around. If our users are active because they’re riding the lightning, then so be it. We’re not here to judge. We’re just here to map.

Ten minutes later on No Good Gofers, she left a comment saying that, “all the gofers are destroyed. they were too slow. I am a fucking god.” Legs, tearing it up!

An hour later the same IP removed Judge Dredd from GK, then immediately added it back. Then she left the comment, “oops, this game is here. gonna play it now.”

At 8:54pm she entered a GC high score on Judge Dredd. Nice job, Legs! At 8:55pm she left a comment on it, “plays fine I guess. but this place is rank, they cut me off at the bar after only a couple beers. I’m out of here.” Oh crap! We’re gonna lose her!

Fortunately, when the mapping bug bites you, you gotta scratch that itch! At 9:32pm, the same IP (Legs!) left a comment on the T2 at Adam’s Coin Op Laundry:

“sound is a litte low. can’t hear it over the washing machines.”

We then hopped over to her twitter to see if she had anything else to say. She did:

“Ate it on my bike and got my CFF hoodie muddy. Washing it now.”

Sucks Legs, but it’s cool that you can wash your clothes and play pinball at the same time. Life isn’t so bad! We brought up that location on the map, and saw that she left a location description, “This place smells nice.” We bet.

Another look at her twitter revealed, “bored. gonna go to black water to see prolix destruct and acracy.” Black Water Bar is a newish vegan metal bar in Portland. They have Elvira & the Party Monsters and the Medieval Madness remake.

We eagerly waited to see if Legs would update the map entry for this place. Well, we didn’t have to wait long. First thing she did upon entering the place is “confirm that this location’s machine list is up to date.” No new machines there, but it’s still nice to know that the map entry is up to date. Thanks for verifying that, Legs!

And at 11:22pm, a machine comment on MM!

“not a lot of room here. some guy moshed into me while I was running castle multiball. I mule kicked him in the nuts without draining.”

Impressive. Yeah, those moshers can get out of hand. Sometimes you just need to hit them really hard.

At this point in the night we were at the show ourselves, being huge Prolix Destruct fans. But we were wearing corpse paint, and Legs couldn’t recognize us. We took the opportunity to follow her around for the rest of the night to see her updates firsthand. Around 1am she took off on her motorcycle (who knew that the “bike” she crashed earlier was a motorcycle?) to Houndogs Bar & Grill. She played the X Files machine there and sang some karaoke. She did a really terrible rendition of Killing Joke’s Love Like Blood ending with her falling to her knees and crying into a Tecate coaster. The whole bar just stared in silence. We felt bad for her… So bad, in fact, that we were willing to break our cover. We quickly wiped off our corpse paint and strode up to her. We extended our hands, she grabbed them, and we pulled her up. She looked at us with shock as recognition dawned on her face. “It wasn’t that bad,” we said, “you only missed a couple notes. Don’t need to cry about it.” Her shock quickly turned to anger, and before we could run away she reached into our pockets, took all our quarters, and shoved one up each of our four nostrils. Then she pumped two into the X Files and started a fresh game.

So, that’s a weekend night in the life of the Portland Pinball Map and CFF Legs! We sort of cheated by looking at her Twitter account to help fill in some details. But, it’s all good. Right?!

Regional Map Model Poll Results

We had a poll to see if people want ONE GIANT MAP or to keep our current regional model. The feedback was great! And here are the results:

36 people voted. Well, 33 of them voted, and 3 of them skipped voting and just left a comment on the poll (which is different than leaving a comment on the blog post).

15 (45.45%) voted for regional maps.
18 (54.55%) voted for one giant map.

And some, in comments, wanted both. Some also wanted the regional maps to be broken up by state.

What does this all mean? Well, it means we’re still discussing things. One giant map is intriguing. Having both is also intriguing. We’ll keep you posted! But for now we thought we’d share the poll results. Interesting how it’s close to a split, don’t you think? But that doesn’t make our jobs easier!

Pinball NYC Locator

Here’s a cool example of a third-party site using our data. Pinball NYC’s locator pulls all of the data from the New York City Pinball Map and reskins it on their site so that league members can find places to play. Kris, the founder of Pinball NYC, is also our admin for the NYC map. He just released a big to the league’s site, and added in this feature as part of it.

Their league formula can be used in any city! So contact him if you’re into it.

Operators: We Want You

Do you operate machines that are listed on pinballmap.com?

When something’s wrong with one of your machines, do you want to know about it so you can fix it ASAP?

If you answered YES to those questions, then read on.

For all your locations, we can “tag” you as the operator. Then, you can “search by operator” for yourself, and pull up all your locations. From there you can quickly update the locations (add/remove machines) and see if anyone has left comments about the conditions of your machines. Pretty handy, right?

But wait! There’s more: If you choose to provide us with your email address, then we’ll automatically send you a daily email that contains all the comments left on your machines. This is a simple way to see what problems people are reporting (and note to sensitive operators: most of the comments people leave are about problems, so don’t let them hurt your feelings). Then you can fix them, and then leave a new comment that says, “Fixed!”

If no one leaves a comment on one of your machines, then you won’t get an email that day. If you decide you don’t want to receive them anymore, just tell us.

What do we want from you?

If you want your locations tagged with you, then we’ll need your business name and a list of your locations.

If you also want to receive the daily digest of comments, then please include your email address.

How do you send that to us?

You can send it directly to the administrator of whichever region your machines are in. For example, if your machines are in the Grand Rapids region, you’d use the contact form on the Grand Rapids Pinball Map.

Or you can send it to the uber administrators, Scott and Ryan, using the Portland Pinball Map contact form.

We added this feature as a service to you. We hope it makes your life easier, and your customers happier. Thanks!

New England Pinball Maps

The Boston Pinball Map was a big map. How big was it, you ask? It covered a good portion of New England.

But if you live in Connecticut, would you know to look under the Boston map in order to locate pinball machines in your area? Probably not. So, in order to make the regional maps in that area more intuitive for people, we split them up in state regions. So now instead of a Boston map we have:

Massachusetts Pinball Map
Connecticut Pinball Map
Rhode Island Pinball Map
New Hampshire Pinball Map

We didn’t create Vermont or Maine, because there are already two city-based maps in them:

Burlington, Vermont Pinball Map
Portland, Maine Pinball Map

We’re looking for administrators for Connecticut, Rhode Island, and New Hampshire! If you live in those states, love pinball, and enjoy punctuating things correctly and helping keep data clean, then please contact us.

Update Location Metadata - Show Closest Locations

New website features:

1) Users can now edit some location metadata fields:

- Operator
- Location Type
- Phone Number
- Website

To edit them, lookup a location then click “click to update location metadata”.

Both Operator and Location Type are from dropdowns. So if you want to assign an operator that isn’t currently listed, then you should use the contact form and request to have that op added.

Notes:
The Website field currently only accepts values that start with http:// – But we’ll soon have it also accepting https://

The Phone Number field only accepts this format: 000-000-0000. And we haven’t added error messages yet! So, if you type in (000) 000-0000 you’ll be silently rejected.


2) Regional maps now include a “Show Closest Locations” button! When clicked, it will display all locations within a 5 mile radius.

This button is in the header.

The results even show how far each spot is from you!

We’ll be adding in more geolocation-based features to the website soon.

Location Timestamps

A lil’ ditty ’bout location timestamps.

Ever wondered when a location was last updated? Like, is the machine list possibly old and stale? Or is it new and fresh? Well wonder no more! Now each location has a timestamp that shows when it was last updated. The timestamp is automatically updated when machines are added/removed from the location, and when machine comments are made.

There’s also a button so that you can click with either your mouse or your finger (if you’re on a touchscreen) to confirm that the machine list is up to date. So, even if you don’t have an update to make, but you know the machine list is current, then you can click it and feel good about your good self.

We’ll roll out this feature to the app in a bit. For now it’s just on the web. And if a location hasn’t been updated since we added this to the website, then the timestamp isn’t there.

Here’s an example of it in action: Bierstube on the Twin Cities Pinball Map was last updated on October 8, 2015.

Take care, everyone.

A Weekend In The Life of the Portland Pinball Map

Activity on the website picks up on the weekends. The weekends, after all, are when many people get a chance to hop around and play pinball. Friday and Saturday evenings, especially, seem to produce the most updates. Some of these updates are drunkenly typed machine comments (which can be pretty entertaining!), but many are quality map updates: machines added to spots, machines removed, comments about machines. We’re always thankful that people have their local pinball map in mind when they’re out and about. It’s cool that they (you) take a moment to make sure it’s up to date.

We thought we’d use this last weekend’s updates to the Portland Oregon Pinball Map to try and produce a narrative. The data are based on machines being added to places (as seen on the RSS feed), machines removed (these notifications are emailed to us), locations suggested (again, email), and comments left (email). Put together, this can provide a decent story about site usage (the only – fairly major – thing left out is analytics… which we didn’t bother to look at).

We’ll start it off by showing an example email. This is the first comment of the weekend, left on Friday at 8:08pm.

Stugots Drop-gate is bustered.
The Sopranos
Paymaster Lounge
portland
(entered from xx.xx.xxx.xxx via PinballMap/21 (iPhone; iOS 8.4.1; Scale/2.00))

This message tells us that someone left a comment on The Sopranos at Paymaster Lounge, stating that “Stugots Drop-gate is bustered.” And they were using the iOS app.

Fortunately for this person, Paymaster has three other machines to play.

An hour later, someone else, also using the iOS app (but with a different version of iOS) was playing at Speakeasy Gil’s. They left a machine comment on the Attack from Mars, saying, “No ball related at start of play.” No ball related? Not exactly sure what that means… It’s an autocorrect mistake. No ball launched at start of play?

A few minutes later, at 9:28pm, someone was having fun at Red Flag! Actually, they had a frustrating time. And they had some helpful advice for others.

On AC/DC (LE): “Upper right side rubber broken. Ball stuck. Don’t play.”

One minute later, on Lord of the Rings: “Balrog is fucked. Do not play.”

Luckily, Medieval Madness seemed to work well for them, though it was tough to put up a score: “Plays very well. Difficult replay score(s).”

At that same moment, someone else was playing at B Side Tavern. They noted that “Left flipper soft and super sticky” on The Sopranos. Bummer. No one loves a soft and super sticky flipper.

And then everyone went to bed.

The next day, Saturday, someone submitted a new location for the Portland Map. Except they spelled it, “Portladn” and the machine as “Fash Tales.” Luckily, our trusty Portland Pinball Map admin swooped in and corrected these spelling errors, and added the location!

That’s actually the only map edit/activity on Saturday. So, this example weekend is a slow one!

But it’s not over yet. On Sunday, Twilight Zone was added to Pinball Outreach Project – POP HQ. Interesting story: when that location was first submitted to us, it was submitted as “POP HQ – Pinball Outreach Project.” And when the words are in that order, people have trouble finding it on the map. We received numerous location submissions and messages, even though it was already on the map! So I switched the order of the words, and now everything’s cool.

Also, Twilight Zone was added to that location at 6:37am. Never too early to play some pinball!

Moving on. At 2:37pm, someone got bummed about the left flipper dying on the Attack from Mars at Slingshot Lounge. Let’s hope it gets fixed soon!

Sunday at 4pm’s a good time to hit up a strip club. And that’s exactly what this Android user did, at Hawthorne Strip. Bad news, though: they removed The Simpsons Pinball Party and WHO Dunnit! When machines are removed, often times another one is added in its place. In this case, two more machines were added later Sunday night: Eight Ball Deluxe and Harlem Globetrotters. I would guess that the operator, Rose City Pinball, added/removed these machines.

Remember 2:37pm when that flipper at Slingshot Lounge broke? At 5:18pm, someone using the same device type reported that the flipper was fixed! It either fixed itself, or the operator, Quarterworld, is super on top of it. Probably the latter.

Sunday ends on a sad note. Two machines were removed from Bunk Bar Water. And they didn’t replace them. What gives, Bunk? Bunk actually has two other locations on the map, so perhaps they’re not altogether giving up on pinball. Let’s hope that Bunk Bar Water gets them back.

Welp, that’s all we have for you! It definitely doesn’t give a full picture of what’s happening on a weekend in Portland, Oregon. But these anonymous updates help us form some sort of narrative. Jeb Bush is right that “things happen.” In this case, the things are new discoveries (machines added), setbacks (machines removed), glitches, and – we can presume – a whole lot of fun. But people are more apt to share their problems than their triumphs. We just want you to know: we hear your frustrations about those broken machines, and we hope they are soon resolved. And thanks to cool ops who use the map, chances are they will be.

Feedback About Regional Map Model

When we first launched this site back in 2008, it was the Portland Pinball Map. Then people in other cities wanted to use our interface+app, so we created separate maps for them. We figured that distinct maps would encourage locals to “own” their map and keep it up to date. And distinct maps would help contain the data, so that admins would have a better chance of verifying the validity of data. And users would have a higher chance of updating the data, given that the regions were centered around populated areas with active pinball scenes. Plus, we didn’t want to attempt to map every machine in the entire country. That had been done before, and it resulted in many locations in far off areas that are never updated.

We refer to each map as a “region.” But what is a region? Where does it end? The Portland, Oregon map extends across the river to Vancouver, and all the way to the coast. This map includes all the pinball machines in Portland, but also all (or most) of them in 30 other cities. The edge of the Portland map is fuzzy. We don’t know where it ends – it’s a judgment call.

Now there are 65 regions on the site, which means 65 judgment calls. Which means site users are sometimes confused. For example: We used to have a Milwaukee region. But it grew to cover the entire state. Users from Madison would contact us asking for coverage in their city. They didn’t realize (understandably) that Madison was tucked within the Milwaukee map. So we changed the name of the region to Wisconsin to more accurately reflect the contents.

Regions are sometimes defined as cities, sometimes states, and sometimes… regions. But most of them turn into the same thing: amorphous blobs with no definable edge. And it’s the people who turn them into this. So we’re trying to figure out if each map’s value as a curated, regional map has been surpassed by peoples’ desire to cover everything.

So please take this survey! And leave a comment if you have a comment. We want the data to be valuable and accessible. There are upsides and downsides to both the regional model and the open map model.

Survey is closed as of November 17, 2015! We’ll make a post about the results soon!