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 After all, the maps would be much less cool if they were out of date.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.

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.