More Spring Cleaning

May 31, 2021

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Herein is Part 2 of the 2021 Spring Cleaning Blog Series, wherein we discuss about cleaning up map data. Read Part 1 here. And then read Part 2 here.

As a follow-up to the last post, we did clean up the Location Types a bit. We went from 42 down to 27. The biggest change was to combine the various shop types (“Retail Store”, “Tattoo Parlor”, etc.) into a general “Shop” type. This made sense because some of those shop types were barely used. And there are lots of shop types out in the world, and we didn’t want to expand to more barely-used types, so instead we contracted to a bigger, broader type.

In this installment, we’ll talk about pinball machines. That is, the database of machines that we manage.

Historically, our database entries are created in one of two ways:

1) A pinball company makes a new machine, and then we add that machine to the db.

2) An older machine is added to a location, but that machine has never been listed by the map, and so the user types in the name in the “Add Machine” field on the website (or older versions of the app - will explain in a min) and whatever they type becomes an entry in our machine database. We get notified about these new additions, and then we clean it up or remove it if it’s actually just a misspelled duplicate.

Over the years, we’ve had to double down on encouraging users to select a machine from our database rather than typing in a name. In fact, here’s a blog post from 2013 where we chat kinduvabout this. As a result, on both the app and the website you can either select a machine from a big list or you can start typing and then you’ll see results that autocomplete your typing. On the latest version of the app, we totally removed the ability for users to also type in brand new machine entries. This is because too many app users were not choosing from the list or the autocomplete, but instead were just typing things like “Teh Adams Faimly” (resulting in a brand new machine in the database with that name, which we then had to delete). If a new machine is really needed, they can contact us (or use the website, which still had that functionality).

On top of typos and duplicates, we also had to contend with people trying to turn Pinball Map into Arcade Map. Plenty of people type in “Galaga” or something as a new machine name, hoping to list the arcade machines at a place. We always delete those and then inform them that it’s pinball only.

But what about games that are not pinball, but vaguely look like pinball from 10 feet away? And what if some folks really really lobby hard to have those included on the map, arguing that the same people who want to find pinball machines also want to find these other machines, and that they are pretty rare anyway, so can you please just list them it’ll all be good? Well, we listen to our users, and we aim to please, so historically we have added these machines. These machines, by the way, are “bat games” like 1957 Baseball Deluxe and All Star Baseball (2017) and SlugFest (1991). They are not pinball. You just kinda aim and shoot stuff with them.

We always felt weird about listing these games. We didn’t have a rule for why we included them but not other arcade games. And with them we couldn’t say things like, “we only list pinball machines.” This opened up the prospects of a slippery slope to more and more requests for non-pinball machines (or people simply typing them in and then us moderating the new entries).

Enter Spring 2021.

After 10+ years of updating our machine database, it’s in a pretty good state. It doesn’t have every pinball machine on it. But it has 1,180 of them. Most of the new machine entries (that we keep) are either by us adding newly-released machines or by users listing rare games at pinball museums, and the rest (the ones we don’t keep) are dupes, typos, and non-pinball. And the slippery slope we were concerned about is in the form of consistent lobbying by folks who want more non-pinball games like Ice Cold Beer to be on the map. Not sure if that counts as a slope. Maybe it’s more like we’re perched at the top, and there are some people behind us trying to push us down.

As a result of our database being in a stable state, and us needing a better answer for why we don’t want to include non-pinball machines, and us wanting to silence the typos (which, granted, are rare at this point), we did two things:

1) We removed all the bat games.

2) We turned off the ability of regular users to add new machine name entries via the website. Instead, we get notified when a new name is typed in, and we can choose to add it or not (and the user is notified that the entry is being moderated).

The “rule” we came up with is that if it’s not listed on opdb.org then we won’t list it. But, that ended up being a little too restrictive for us. OPDB doesn’t list any machines without flippers, so that excludes all bingo machines. Many bingo machines were predecessors to pinball. They have slings and pop bumpers and are very much like pinball. They are also rare and historical. So we kept those on. We also list some custom machines that aren’t on OPDB.

Already, removing bat games has made some people unhappy. We hope this blog post explains our logic and leads you away from cussing us out or continuing to lobby for non-pinball games.

As always, we will continue to evaluate and adapt.

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More Spring Cleaning - May 31, 2021 - Pinball Map