Machine name standards

July 24, 2013 [tech]

Names. What are they. I mean… really? Some say that nobody knows. But others say that practically everyone does.

One of the fields in our database is for machine names. It doesn’t contain every single pinball machine ever made - rather, it contains all the machines that are on, or have been on, any region of the site.

When Stern comes out with a new machine, it can be surprisingly difficult to figure out what the real name of it is. Avengers, or The Avengers? Their press releases will use both!

We consider the Internet Pinball Database to be the standardbearer for machine names. For the most part, we follow their conventions (because they know what they’re talking about). Is it Who Dunnit? or Whodunnit?? Neither! According to ipdb, it’s *WHO Dunnit.

When our site users add machines to a location, they can choose from a dropdown list of all the names in our database, or use the text field to type it in (which will, helpfully, be auto-filled with likely results).

This gets more complicated when using the mobile apps. Mobile users tend to prefer typing a name in, and there isn’t an auto-fill feature on the apps. So, inevitably some will type in Demo Man instead of Demolition Man, or Adams Family instead of The Addams Family - this results in a new machine name being added to the database. The obvious downside of having a new machine name in the database is if a user wants to search “by machine” (aka find all the locations that contain this machine), they’ll have to do two separate searches - one for The Addams Family and one for Adams Family - just to see the results for what in reality is one machine. (We get notified whenever new machine names are added. So we are usually really quick to remove Adams Family and replace it at that location with The Addams Family.)

So, it’s in our interests to encourage users to pick a machine name from the existing list (as we mentioned in a previous post, one of our aims is to guide users to making wise decisions). And if the machine truly isn’t already in our database, then they can add it (and we will clean it up when necessary).

And then came Stern…

From our perspective, it’s unfortunate that Stern likes to put out 8 different editions of one machine. Each one gets their own database entry: X-Men (Pro); X-Men (LE); X-Men (Wolverine LW); X-Men (Magneto LE); etc.

We always wonder: how much do site users care about these editions? If they want to locate the nearest X-Men machine, are they they going to be like, “nevermind,” if the closest one is a Pro version and not an LE version? Plus, there is the hassle of having to do multiple searches in order to find ALL the X-Mens. Would it be more useful to just have one machine entry for X-Men that covers all of the editions? The problem there is that some users will still create entries for special editions. And if we let that be, then the data will be inaccurate (because some LEs will not be tagged as LE, etc).

The first person to enter Metallica into the database entered it simply as “Metallica.” The next person entered it in as “Metallica (Pro)”. IPDB tends to be slow to add brand new machines to their site. So at this point we weren’t entirely sure if these names were accurate. For Stern’s Avengers machine, they didn’t have any that were simply called “Avengers.” All of them had some sort of subtitle, and the “plain” version was called the Pro.

Turns out this wasn’t the case with Metallica. According to the Stern website, there isn’t a “Pro” version of Metallica. And the plain version—I think—is just called “Metallica.” This lack of a sensible naming policy on Stern’s part tends to confuse users!

So now we had one spot with Metallica and one spot with Metallica (Pro). So we combined the two names into just “Metallica.”

Then someone created a name called “Metallica (Premium).” This is a legit name. And now users, when adding a machine to a spot, have the choice of adding either “Metallica” or “Metallica (Premium).” And chances are some will choose Metallica even when that machine is a Premium version. Not everyone’s going to notice the difference when they’re out playing pinball. So, things get splintered. And I guess that brings us back to the question posed above about whether separating out these names really matters to most users.

Perhaps we could link up certain entries, so that if someone searches for “Metallica (Primo)” ALL of the various Metallicas will show up in the results.

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Machine name standards - July 24, 2013 - Pinball Map