Pinball Map Open Thread


#1

I thought I’d create an open thread Scott and I’s project, http://pinballmap.com. In this thread, we’ll post notable site updates. And you can use it to give feedback or make suggestions!

Intro
Pinball Map is a website, and it has native Android and iOS apps. It tracks publicly playable pinball machines. The data is updated by users. Scott and I started it in 2008, as a Portland, Oregon map. Then people asked us to make maps for their cities, so we did. At the moment there are 65 maps on the site. This blog post has more details on the site’s history (focusing on the technology we’ve used).

Free
The site is free and ad-free. We consider the data to be the users’ data, given that they update it while we just supply an interface for it. The site is also basically free advertising for businesses and operators.

Regions
We add new maps when people ask. Our goal is for each map to be locally supported, though we have little control over this. But we require that each map be administered by a local person. The admins have more access to the data, and they are crucial to a region’s success (a successful region is one that is updated frequently and is valuable to the people who live in or visit the area).

If you want to help out as an admin, you can! Just ask.

Open Source
The site code is open source. Anyone can contribute updates. This is just a side project for us, but we care about it and are regularly updating it. As you can see, since we started tracking on github we’ve committed 1,708 updates. If you have a feature suggestion or found a bug, you can open an Issue here (or just reply to this thread). That Issue list also gives you an idea of what we’re working on - such as a “find closest locations” button for the website… which basically means the most valuable feature of the mobile apps will soon be on the website, too!

API
We have an API. You can do all kinds of things we the with API, such as listing machines on your website using the data from our site.

News
We have a blog where we post news and crap. We don’t have a facebook presence. We have a twitter that dumps out location updates for every region. It’s likely TMI for most people, but it’s a fun way to track updates. There are also many Twitter accounts for individual regions, many started by the admins.

Contact
A good way to contact us is through the form on the Portland “About” page.

Apps
Apps!

Misc
We use the IFPA’s API to display nearby Events for each region.
The website is mobile-optimized, so it works well even if you’re not using a native app.

We love feedback! And we’re happy when people find the site useful. We think it’s especially useful for newcomers who don’t know where to play pinball. We especially value people who put their time in and update the data (because updating maps is fun!).


#2

As the admin for www.Pinballmap.com/Syracuse , id like to see a time stamp on locations and/or machine submissions. Some get out of date, and it would be nice to see how long ago it has been checked


#3

Thanks, Dave. That’s a good suggestion.

We could add a timestamp to each location that is updated whenever anyone: adds or removes a machine; adds a machine condition (note that machine conditions already include timestamps); adds a high score or a picture. I think that would let people know that someone’s been to the location and looked at the data. “Location updated on mm/dd/yyyy”


#4

It might be a good idea to add a “confirm” button in order to confirm that the machine is there, condition is the same, etc. Time stamps based on entering high scores are great, but some of us don’t get high scores, and don’t like to be reminded of it.


#5

Another wise suggestion. I’m tracking these two here: https://github.com/scottwainstock/pbm/issues/385


#6

I want to start by saying that I love this app and site and use it all the time. In fact I was just on business in Bumblefuck, PA and was pleased to find that there was a Central PA region and was able to find some pinball to play. I also updated the app with the latest games at the locations I visited.

My one nitpick, is that I find the whole “region” concept to be very clunky in the mobile version. I understand the utility of having regions (having designated territories for admins, creating smaller data sets, etc…) and I actually find that feature to be very useful when using the full browser version. However, when i’m out and about in the world (and especially since I travel a lot between regions) I don’t want to have to tell my phone where I am. I just want to open it up and for it to find me and find the locations around me. I know that all I have to do is select “change region” and it uses GPS to find my closest region, but can’t the mobile version just look at ALL regions?? Or could that be an option?

Thanks again for making this available to us and especially for making it free (though I wouldn’t mind paying a buck or two for such a wonderfully useful product). I’ll let you know if I have any other ideas, but largely it’s just a fantastic tool that I love. :smile:


#7

Thanks! We’re working on an “all region” option: https://github.com/scottwainstock/pbm/issues/366
I see what you mean about the convenience of a single map, especially because you move around.

One thing about developing a website and two apps is that it’s much easier to deploy updates to a website and less so to the apps (apple is especially annoying because it takes about a week for an update to be approved… and sometimes our updates introduce a bug, so we have to take extra time testing beforehand). So there always a delay for the apps. But, it’ll get to the apps eventually! Thanks for the feedback.


#8

On the website, we just added a “Find Your Closest Map” button on the home page. When clicked, it takes you straight to your closest region. That should take some of the guesswork out of figuring out if your area is covered by a map.

More geolocation stuff to come.


#9

Would offline caching be easy to do? Not a big deal, but I wind up wishing I could use it on the subway. Probably nobody else cares.


#10

Do you use the android or ios version of the app?

The iOS one supports offline usage. But, I’ll be honest, I don’t know much about it (for some reason I never use any mapping apps while offline).


#11

I’m on android.

I realize an offline mode wouldn’t be useful to most.

Every once in a while, the app wants to be restarted because of a connection thing. I suspect walking away from my wifi and into an elevator and then into mobile data.

BTW, I LOVE the app and have been using it for a couple years. The “machine condition” stuff is starting to see more participation in NYC, which is great.


#12

We addressed a lot of the restart issues with the latest update. But, yeah, it still happens sometimes. Interesting that switching from wifi to mobile data may induce it. I’ll try to test that.

Thanks for using it! Yeah, it’s cool when more people leave comments about machine conditions.


#13

I’ll pay attention to what’s going on with the app and see if I can tell you something more specific.
Of course, all these android phones are different, so who knows, maybe it’s just me.


#14

the latest revision of the android app did introduce some caching but once you do things such as pull up locations, or pull up conditions, these may call the server and expect a network connection.
if you get a crash, hit the ‘send a bug report’ button, please


#15

I think the regions concept does not work so well for covering many areas, espeically ones near me in the northeast and mid-atlantic. I am very confused on what a region truly is, since sometimes it is a city (New York City, Toronto), sometimes it is a region (Bay Area, Hudson Valley), sometimes it is a city which is really a region (Syracuse/Central New York) and sometimes it is a State (New Jersey).

Personally I think it would be better if it were possible to have overlapping regions. I’ll use Pennsylvania as an example because I am most familiar with it.

In Pennsylvania there are currently 3 regions: Pittsburgh (which covers Western PA and Greater Pittsburgh), Central PA (mostly covering Greater Harrisburg, but also including a few locations in the Greater Philadelphia Area) and Philadelphia (which only includes the Philadelphia urban area minus the Railroad Street duplicate entry with Central PA)

I believe it would make more sense to have the following overlapping regions: Pennsylvania (State), Greater Pittsburgh, Greater Harrisburg, Greater Philadelphia/Delaware Valley (including Camden, NJ and Wilmington, DE) as well as perhaps a PIttsburgh and Philadelphia urban area filter for a better map zoom level. This way, for locations in small towns and cities within major metropolitan areas, there doesn’t need to be a separate region, and regions that are not yet created (e.g… Binghamton and Buffalo, NY) do not need to be created until some sort of critical mass of locatiions is reached.


#16

Our initial reason for creating distinct maps was to try and prevent data rot. Back when we started this, we would look at Pinball Rebel’s data, and see a lot of locations that are outside of heavily-populated areas and hadn’t been updated in years. Did the dude who added Bob’s Falafel (in some desert town) to the site three years ago ever visit it again? Did anyone who uses the map visit that place? If not, then why’s it on the map at all? A national pinball map is cool and all, but in the end it loses value when locations aren’t updated. And locations have a greater chance of being updated in more-urban areas.

Thus we tried, at least originally, to focus on cities. I’d say two things lead us to stray from this: people asking us to create a map for their region or state; and people sending in locations that were outside of the original city (and admins adding them). It’s difficult to turn someone down when they ask us to create, say, a Hudson Valley map. And while I try to discuss with them what makes the most sense, ultimately it’s their decision since they know the area.

I still don’t know of a great solution for this that: 1) doesn’t add a burden to the admins; and 2) avoids stale data. Perhaps we should have maintained stricter standards about what regions are added. But our ultimate approach was to just let others do what they will. And it kind of got away from us!

You make a good point about the various contexts: city, region, state. And why sometimes they make sense and sometimes they don’t. Thanks for the feedback. I’ll continue to think about this.


#17

We added basic location timestamp functionality. See it in action here: http://pinballmap.com/bc/?by_location_id=3602

This shows when the location was last updated. You can click the “Click to confirm that this location’s machine list is up to date” link to update the timestamp. It also updates automatically when machines are added/removed, or if a machine comment is left.

Not on the apps yet.


#18

In my opinion, having an open map with some amount of “stale data” is preferable to being limited by a geographical region that may or may not make sense in my world. I don’t think that old data is really that much of a detractor at all. Like you said, in more populated areas, the data will naturally be more up-to-date because there are more people checking in. In more rural areas, there may be a data point that is several years old, but I’d rather it be easily accessible and have a chance that it’s wrong than have it not be there at all. You even put a time stamp on the last update, so I know going in that it may not be very reliable. And then the onus is on me to check up on it. I can email/call the location, or I can just swing by and see if it’s still how it was reported 3 years ago. I’ve definitely done this.

A suggestion if this would make it feel better to you: What if you denoted on the map that a data point hasn’t been updated in a given time frame (1 year?). Like a grey pin instead of a red one for example?

I will concede that the Pinfinder Pro app does exactly what I want and it does suffer from stale and incomplete data, just like you fear, so maybe that’s a point in favor of your argument. But I contend that your app is generally much better and updated more regularly by more people and would thrive rather than suffer with an open ended format.

My 7 cents.


#19

Thanks, Double Jurf. Yeah, we’re questioning whether our value as a site with curated regional maps has been supplanted by popularity and people’s desire for comprehensive coverage (not sure if that’s an appropriate use of the word, “supplanted”).

We’re working on a prototype of an open map. From what I can tell, it will entail changing the search methods a fair amount (to something similar to Foursquare, or Yelp, or Atlas Obscura). Our current model is closer to craigslist. I’ve been sketching it all out, and I think it’s going well. But there are still many questions to answer. Such as, how would our regional admins factor into it - like, how would we define where their territory ends?

This whole thing will take a little while to put together. But we may need beta testers at some point, so I’ll check back in with progress reports.


#20

You guys should have a “donate” thingie on the app.