Reflecting on 2023
In order to reflect back on 2023, we must gaze upon it in a mirror. What is reflected back? Mostly ourselves, since ourselves is what usually shows up in mirrors. Which maybe means that we - and you, too - are 2023.
But enough about us.
Pinball Map has been around for something like 15 years now. It began humbly, and then grew, and somehow never stopped. But how is it doing? Since our establishment, surprisingly only one other pinball locator has shown up (the Pinside one about four years after we sprouted). Plenty of space here for two maps - and to each their own! So we continue to thrive. To prove it, here is some information:
App releases: We released 25 app updates this year. Checkout the readme on the repo to see what those contained.
Website: We committed a little over 280 commits to the website repository this year. These include things like routine maintenance (e.g., gem upgrades), small tweaks, and new features. And we had contributions from a few folks, including fiveNinePlusR.
Expo seminar: Beth, Ryan, and Scott were invited to Pinball Expo in Schaumburg, Illinois, to present a seminar about Pinball Map. We were very honored to be invited, and we had a lot of fun! See our post about it here, which includes the seminar stream.
Users: Over 22k total signed up users (and more not signed up).
Machines added this year: 23,104
Machines removed this year: 16,938
Locations submitted this year: 3,344 (some were dupes)
Locations removed this year: 1,561 (some may have been deleted in a way that isn’t captured here)
Machine comments this year: 19,691
Scores added this year 2,627
Stern Insider Connected toggles: 6,681 (this is something we added midway through the year. It’s a weird metric because you sometimes have to click twice to get the result you want - since it’s just a true/false toggle button)
Currently listing 9,752 locations and 39,622 machines (this changes every couple of minutes)
Locations in 59 countries
79 Patreon supporters
We don’t like to gripe. We strive to be responsive and helpful and for the map to be a chill thing to use. This is just a side hobby project for us. It’s not a business, and everything we do for it is just volunteer work that we do to be helpful. For the most part it’s nice and not stressful.
By far (by very far) the biggest source of stress are operators.
The map is a tool for two different types of users: operators and non-operators (e.g., regular users). For operators, the map is a business tool, because people use it to learn about their place and then go there and spend money. It’s free advertising! This radically alters their relationship with the map.
From this, some operators develop what we would describe as an unhealthy relationship with the map. In short, they consider comments on their machines to be directly and immediately impactful on their business. They monitor which users are leaving comments and then start formulating hypotheses that some particular people are actively attempting to hurt their business. They scrutinize the types of comments to see which ones are “not helpful” (either to the general public or to their daily operations in managing machine issues). And then they unload all this, and more, on us. They demand that we investigate users, and then also demand that those users are banned from the map (and at the least, banned from commenting on their machines). They usually request that we disable all comments on their machines, or at the least give them the ability to moderate, rate, and/or delete comments at their places. Or make it so only they can see comments. They want user ratings so we can demote people. They want the real name and contact information for people who leave comments on their machines. They also remove machines and re-add the same machine in order to get rid of comments (this is bad - and in fact, this is by and large the primary unsavory behavior that occurs on the map).
Needless to say (or probably not needless to say?), all of these requests are in opposition to what the tens of thousands of regular users want from the map. Regular users like leaving comments! They like seeing comments. They are smart enough to understand when some comments are ridiculous or a little off-topic.
Furthermore, they leave comments because they are trying to be helpful. However, it is the nature of pinball that machine issues can be ephemeral. When a user comments about an issue and later on the operator cannot replicate the issue, there are some conspiratorial-minded operators who assume this is part of some organized campaign to hurt their business. This conclusion is nearly always incorrect (based on all the messages we’ve received to investigate and take action against certain users).
We provide a bunch of tools to help operators. We love operators! They are a critical part of the life blood of pinball. And we totally understand that random internet comments about your machines can be aggravating. Overall, we try to balance things, because it’s impossible for everyone to be 100% satisfied. We gives lots of tips to users on how to leave helpful comments, and also how operators can respond with their own comments: simply note when things have been fixed or they differ from reality. The comment dialog is really valuable (we hear it all the time)!
By far, most operators have a healthy relationship with the map, and seem to appreciate what it has to offer and do not overly sweat the small stuff. If you find that you are developing an unhealthy relationship with the map, we suggest not using it. Simply remove it from your life. Your business will not be negatively impacted and life will be better.
Why are we saying this in a recap post? After many years of us spending our time investigating and responding to these requests - always starting by giving them the benefit of the doubt that there is unsavory activity occurring - it has become pretty apparent that 98% of the time it’s a big nothingburger. The comments in question are almost always really benign, super normal machine comments. The amount of time, thought, and effort that we expend responding to these issues (and then going back and forth about them) are not really worth it. They’re exhausting, and being asked to micromanage a fingerful of comments on one location, on top of managing the data for nearly 10,000 locations, is tough.
From now on, we are going to attempt to better manage these requests. If we are presented with evidence of wrongdoing, we will investigate and take the appropriate action. We will consider, and thank you, for your site suggestions. We will refer you to read the FAQ (the last few items in it attempt to address these and related things). We will monitor situations as needed. We will likely limit the amount of time and energy we devote to digging deep into the reported issues and responding to them.
Overall, business as usual, to be honest. Moderating location submissions, making sure people aren’t being jerks, doing some app and website updates!
Also, we were carefully watching the total number of locations all year and thought there was a chance we’d get to 10,000 in 2023. Alas! While the map gets lots of location submissions, 20-30 locations are removed each week. We’ll definitely get to 10k next year.