When it comes to this site and the format of our coverage, I’ve always been a bit of a tinkerer. It’s almost like Josh Bell and his swing: I’m always making small adjustments, never really overhauling anything, but trying to get more and more comfortable with the approach.
A big reason for this is because there was never any guideline for what we’ve done here. I was a person with zero readers who started a niche site, and it turned into a fully credentialed media outlet. I get asked all the time if there are other teams who have this type of coverage. My response is always that there are maybe 5-6 teams that have a site dedicated this much to one organization and their minor league teams, and out of that group I don’t think anyone comes close to the coverage we have. I can confidently say the Pirates are the only organization in baseball that has a site which provides daily live coverage throughout their minor league organization, as well as credentialed MLB coverage.
I’m very proud of that, mostly because it goes beyond me. When this site started, it was entirely me talking. As it grew, it shifted more toward other writers having a voice, which is what I wanted. I wanted our Indianapolis writer to be the voice on Indianapolis, and the Altoona writer to be the voice on Altoona, and so on. My goal is to make this a group effort, rather than me writing most of the articles and a few people providing extra content. The latest adjustment to the site is a push further in that direction.
You may have noticed a few changes on the site in the last few weeks. Today we added a new writer, Travis Barnett, who will be contributing a weekly column to the site. Wilbur Miller, who has always done a fantastic job with the player pages on the site, along with additional live reports, will be writing a weekly column. And the biggest change is that there hasn’t been a First Pitch, but I’ve still had columns each week, with the most recent one starting with my name in the headline.
For the better part of the last year, I’ve been thinking about what to do with First Pitch. I started the article around 2012, aimed at being a regular column, but also a place to gather all of our daily articles on the site. Some of my favorite articles on the site have been First Pitch topics. But some of my least favorite articles have been First Pitch topics.
The practice of a daily column can lead to some good results, and it can also lead to some bad articles. No writer will have good stuff daily. There were times I posted an article and immediately thought “That was complete shit”. It was like going 0-for-4 and just looking forward to the next game. Granted, it didn’t always get received that way. Some of my least favorite articles had positive receptions, and some of my favorites had negative receptions.
The more I thought about it, the daily column was bringing more bad than good. It forced me to write when there was nothing to say, or to put out a weaker article just because there had to be an article that night. It often forced me to hold articles until midnight, rather than posting them earlier in the day when there was bigger news (EX: the Starling Marte article from the other day went up at 4:51 PM, rather than holding it for 7 more hours for a specific time slot). Or it would lead me to write half articles earlier in the day, only to expand on the subject that evening for a First Pitch topic.
The good part of First Pitch was that it provided a spot for some detailed articles. But that can be done just by writing columns, as I did with the Tyler Glasnow article from this past Sunday. I’m not going to stop writing columns. I’m just going to stop writing daily columns, which means you’re only going to get the good ones and will get articles when they’re ready, rather than waiting until a specific time.
On the flip side of this, we’re expanding the writing for other writers, which brings me back to the addition of Travis and the expanded writing for Wilbur. We should have the same amount of columns each week, just from a variety of writers, with everyone getting a lot more time to focus on their subject. The result is that there should be high quality articles on a consistent basis. I’m also in the process of adding more columns to the site, in addition to refining some of the features we already have.
I’d like this site to be a team effort. Moving from a situation where I write a daily column, to a situation where several people are sharing the daily column duties fits in that goal. The tinkering and adjustments aren’t complete, but I feel we’re continuing to head in the right direction with the site coverage.
As many of you have noticed, the daily stats in the Prospect Watch aren’t working yet. The simple reason for this is that technology is hard. Over the offseason, we were upgraded to a new server. In that process, some of the database scripts were deleted or moved to new folders, which threw off the script that allows for live updates of the stats for individual players.
We’ve been in the process of fixing this, but it is taking some time. Every time we get a new script installed, we get a new error message and find another thing that needs to be reinstalled. It’s almost like we’re having to rebuild the database, although I’m sure the repairs won’t take that long.
Unfortunately, we have to keep showing the “DNP” next to each player, because that’s how we test the build. Eventually we will find all of the missing scripts and code, and those “DNP” messages will be replaced with actual stats, confirming that everything is working. Until then, we’ve still got the box scores which show what every player did, and the reports on each game.
We’re currently working through the process of rebuilding our iOS and Android apps to fix a few issues. Some of the issues are formatting related, where codes do not show up properly on the app. The bigger issue is that the app isn’t working properly with the subscription software, leading to a pretty major issue for us where people cancel their subscriptions but still have access to the site.
Under this issue, someone would have to sign up for a month, cancel, and then they’d retain access as long as they had the app and an account on the site. I actually only found out about this when a few people were wondering why their subscription no longer worked on their desktops, but worked in the app. Their subscription had expired and didn’t renew, but the app gave them continued access, and it wasn’t realized by them or by us.
I don’t know how many people were in this situation. I know it was a bigger issue on iOS, since Apple’s requirements led to that build being different, and led to some complications with the membership software. We had close to 2,000 installations on iOS. I’m sure there were some issues with Android, where we had about 1,800 installations. So we’re working on a rebuild to fix this and other issues.
Technology is hard. Sometimes I wish I could just only write articles — you know, the most public thing I do that actually only amounts to a third of my job duties — and ignore all of the rest.