Tbone’s Match History from SPiN New York’s League

After getting some nice feedback from Noah’s match history data visualization, I’ve picked a random player from @SPiN New York’s League to showcase some fun visuals. I decided to play around with this one, illustrating the complete match history that began last year in February. I combined it with a H2H match graph…

Be sure to click the graph below for a full interactive graphic (the season match history blocks are listed sequentially from left to right):

Tbones Match History
Tbone’s Match History from SPiN’s New York Sunday League.

Although I love the colour contrast, me thinks the red-green colour combo favours that of a Christmas ornament. I may think I’m a data viz junkie but truth be told I’m really a graphic designer wannabe by night (which really means I’m an arm chair critic with a ‘preschool’ hand at designing).

Noah’s Match History @SPiN Toronto

I’m a wannabe data junkie and what better data to mine than the match history we’ve accumulated over the years. After 13 seasons with SPiN and 13,000+ league matches recorded, we’re bound to have some fun data graphics to play with.

I thought I’d start by working with some of our most loyal pong duellers of all-time. From the beginning Noah’s been faithful to SPiN TO and ripping up the scene on League Sundays.

I hope to post the same data graphic for other players including match records from each of SPiN’s cities in NY, Chicago, and soon-to-be, San Fran. Hopefully folks will get a kick of the visuals.

For a high res and interactive graphic, click on the image below:

Noah Match History
Noah’s Complete Match History @SPiN Toronto


Introducing simultaneous multi-division play

SPiN Toronto’s Season 7 introduced a small feature that impacted how Toronto ran their League.

To help optimize the space more than it ever did before, SPiN Toronto decided it would run two divisions simultaneously. We made a small tweak in the Matches Page to help League Admins manage the schedule:

Multi-Divisional Pic

To keep things simple, we colour-coded Div2 matches (grey) which was enough for Admins and MCs to identify divisional matches. By alternating match call-outs between divisions, players from both levels were able to play out their matches in sequence.

(For office leagues that run a week long event, this feature wouldn’t impact their game play)

Outside the obvious logistical benefits, we found that this improved the community experience overall, especially when friends with varying play levels wanted to hangout on a Sunday aft together.

That’s it for now league-faring competitors! More feature updates soon to come…

The Matches Page

The Matches Page is a key Smashscore page . Once the admin completes live scheduling, the Matches Page houses a global list of scheduled matches to be played.

The live Player-vs-Player scheduling feature allows match schedules to be created based on who shows up, which creates a splendid set of league mechanics unique to Smashscore. With live scheduling, player defaults and no-shows no longer occur – pre-registration deadlines are also eliminated, allowing players to join at anytime during the season. Combined with a rankings algorithm that is dependent on the number of games played, the result is a well-balanced system that gives players ultimate flexibility while providing enough incentive and competition to drive playing activity.

Once match scheduling is complete, the Matches Page displays the schedule with some additional information:

Screen Shot 2015-11-23 at 8.59.45 PM

    • Green numbers represent the number of points a player stands to gain with a win (Christina will win 8 points if she beats Amy)
    • Red numbers present the number of points a player stands to lose with a loss (Christina will lose 6 points if she loses to Amy)
    • Numbers in parenthesis represent the number of matches a player has played within that league event

For details on how the scoring system works, see this blog post

Each match offers Players and Admins additional actions. Upon triggering the orange arrow button, depending on whether you are a player or admin, a few options are available:

Screen Shot 2015-11-23 at 11.09.57 PM

As an Admin, you have multiple actions you can perform including recording and deleting a given match. There’s also an option to ‘Change Status to ongoing match’, which helps change the state of a match to being ‘in progress’. This allows the admin to filter those in progress versus those that are to be played:

Screen Shot 2015-11-23 at 11.12.39 PM

A variation of the live match scheduling feature was seen used for pong at a local office; instead of a predefined date and time for play, an entire week’s event was created with scheduled matches assigned for play at anytime. This increased playability and was a regular water cooler discussion topic.

With a design point focused on player convenience without sacrificing the competitive mechanics to encourage play, we believe we’ve found the secret sauce that makes Smashscore’s next-gen leagues, work.

Now all we have to do is work on making it even better. And we absolutely plan to with tourneys, teams, and additional scoring options on the horizon.

Smashscore’s League Schedule Maker (and why it works)

Leagues are like long-term relationships; they require cultivation, and a steady dose of nurturing love. Unlike their sexy cousin, tournaments, also known as the one-night stand version of organized play, leagues tend to breed communities a wee bit better.

But managing them is tough – and sustaining them over time is even tougher. We live in an age of distraction and time is increasingly fleeting. With the right balance and dynamics however, a community will form with enough stick that can have people coming back for years.


Traditional league setups are great for team sports (volleyball, baseball, soccer). You have a pre-registration deadline and once you pay, you get a pre-defined schedule. But individual sports and game leagues (pong, tennis, darts, gaming, chess) have a problem: what happens if your opponent doesn’t show up that week? Playing short a person or two is manageable in a team; after all, you still get a game so as long as you meet the minimum squad requirements.

Today, 9-5 schedules are less the norm, and convenience and services on-demand are (e-commerce, pay-as-use plans)

P-vs-P leagues however, don’t have such luxury; if a player doesn’t show, the person that does show also doesn’t get to play. And it sucks. A lot.

The other problem? Pre-registration deadlines just aren’t cool anymore. Not only do you miss the deadline, you have to wait months for the next season. Today, 9-5 schedules are less the norm, and convenience and services on-demand are (e-commerce, pay-as-use plans).

Smashscore’s league format attempts to solve these  problems with its open league format managed by a feature called ‘live match scheduling’:

Screen Shot 2015-11-23 at 8.59.45 PM

Live match scheduling schedules matches based on who shows up that day. It’s an open league system whereby anyone can join the league at anytime. In many ways it’s a glorified league ladder but in every way, it’s the best of both worlds: league mechanics to keep the competition relevant, but flexible to maintain regular and recurring league play.

League B&W pic general

Over the last couple of years we’ve helped SPiN run their leagues. We’ve had over 4000 players checking into our ‘pay-as-you-play’ League Ladder with a total match count of over 13,000 (and counting).

I call our league schedule maker the league format of 2016. It follows the tech trend lines of cloud services (on-demand IT, pay as you go) and the growing movement of open computing. Why not open, non-restricting, super flexible, pay-as-you-go leagues?

(ok, a stretch, but just a bit).

The League Weekly – @SPiNToronto Wk3, @SPiNNewyork Wk5

An interesting trend is happening in New York. For those that don’t know, the League at SPiN NY just set a record – a record for the greatest number of player check-ins, ever.

It occurred on the 5th week of the 3rd season, and it is, for data scientists everywhere to note, a notable uptick – an uptrend – in player pong circle duel-offs. It makes Luke Skywalker shake his boots, Darth Vader roll in his grave, and Yoda say a proper sentence.


Total Checkins

Pessimists will regard this as an outlier – a blip – a sample space far too small to conclude that this is a front-end indicator of the new norm. I laugh at those that impose their logic wills; who are you to challenge the Pong gods of League play?

[For those wondering, the single day record for player checkins is 72 @SPiNToronto back in March 2014]

Basking in the light of all this positivity was Junichi Seki, pulling off a perfect record in wk5, a perfect remedy to last week’s string of 3-set losses, including some payback for Mr. Reiss himself. Screen Shot 2015-10-27 at 9.37.09 PM

In intermediate news, T-Bone kicked off his week with a key win down the stretch against newcomer, Choiju. Before that Choiju was on a roll and is one to watch with just a few weeks left. After a long absence, Clay returns with a perfect week himself. This will be an interesting run for the finish.

@SPiNToronto, Brox88 brought along a clan member (father? my spies have been slacking…) and continued his dominance with some hard-fought 3-setters against Steven, Cdnchef, and Andrzej. He needed it with Niramaydesai in perfect, week form. A slip anywhere at this stage and it’s back into the jaws of the pack. It’s anyone’s game now.

Screen Shot 2015-10-27 at 9.51.24 PM

Craig and Roman took advantage of some idle-ness from Div1 leaders with a perfect string of wins. And less not forget… our friends in Div3.

I got some pretty harsh feedback for failing to mention Div3 in previous posts. I have to admit, it was a total abomination for me to exclude, arguably, the most fun division the League as ever seen. As evidence of my blatant disregard for the beginner squad that march out on Sundays at 5p, the brilliant avatar icon from Razorblade himself has been largely ignored.

Screen Shot 2015-10-27 at 9.54.29 PM

Yeah. I know. How could you miss this when calling out best avatar icons the League has yet to offer?

Trust me when I tell thee, I shall not forget. Never again.

The League Weekly – @SPiNToronto Wk2, @SPiNNewyork Wk4

Great week of League Pong.

It was an eventful week of pong in the city of New York and Toronto. I would love for the Blue Jays to pull of an epic Game7 come back; not only would it be fitting vengeance for KC’s great escape in ’85, I think we can totally create a rivalry between both SPiN clubs:

  1. GeorgeBor, clearly a favourite in Div1 after his titanic defeat of the ‘immortal’ Denier, was idle in Week2. As a consequence, he drops to 8th. (Gotta play to keep up). His point spread with Denier is now 48 points; another win against the Denier in say Wk3 would bring the defending champ tumbling back into the mix. Love it. Screen Shot 2015-10-22 at 2.43.36 PMSome would view this as unfair – however, our goal all along was to create a format that yes, remains competitive, but more importantly, creates a few play dynamics that keeps things interesting. Denier isn’t a runaway winner – and GeorgeBor although ‘punished’ for not showing in Wk2, is absolutely still in the running to be the winner. I’ve said this before: this isn’t a league for the best of the best; we’re here to build communities and in order to do that, players got to feel they’re still within spitting distance. The FA cup format in soccer is another example of where anyone could take the title. That’s exciting stuff.
  2. I’ve officially past the torch to the best icon avatar to ksh9. The Knee of Justice’s avatar was an early favourite and to best honest, I didn’t think we’d see another that would be better so quickly. KSH9’s avatar absolutely rocks. It’s simple, works well for an icon size, but the detail remains relevant and pops.Screen Shot 2015-10-22 at 2.20.54 PMThe immediate thing that comes to mind when I see this is Kill Bill’s Oren Ishii’s character from that epic duel scene in the snow. Great stuff.
  3. It’s anyone’s game in both Expert and Intermediate divisions @SpinNewYork. Nice to see T-bone take top spot after Wk4 – he’s been a loyal contender from past seasons too. It appears that both Clay and Alfred are, percentage wise, the most talented, but like GeorgeBor, haven’t played enough weeks to sustain top spot. The leaderboard could change dramatically if they play more regularly.
  4. In the Expert division @SpinNewYork,  Suryasahithyan has created some space in top spot. Looks like Suryasahithyan -eeked a win against Junichi Seki… a tough loss man. Juni lost another tough 3-setter against against Reiss which effectively caused the tumble from top spot after Wk4. Don’t worry Junichi: vengeance is a dish best served cold. 
  5. In the parallel Div1 session @SPiNToronto, Denier regained top spot with some big-time wins against familiar foe. An interesting matchup between Kyle – the man from Northern Ireland – and Ivan was dueled-off in a 3-set grinder… the wily slicing vet comes through this time.                    Screen Shot 2015-10-22 at 3.08.32 PM
  6. In Div2 @SPiNToronto Brox88 is starting to string a small win streak together as he went undefeated… but Niramaydesai is not a step too far behind. Familiar contenders Steven and tricky Mirek lurk dangerously below with some nice upside coming from Pallettown and Pikaboo.

I know I’m biased but having an on-demand, automated league scheduler that adapts to ‘whoever shows up’ really works. In a future post I’ll talk about how the format came to be… and how I think it can help other communities.

Looking forward to the results this coming Sunday.

Fall League Seasons have begun!

What a start to the Season. Who says drama doesn’t exist outside pro leagues? There is so much to say in so little time. I’ll try to summarize in 5 fat points:

  1. NYC has started off with a bang. We got – check it – 50 players that have played a match in Season 3. It’s official, the thing down in New York is catching on.
  2. I’m giving the best name and avatar between both cities to the hands down winner…. the ‘Knee of Justice’ (NYC). See what I mean?Screen Shot 2015-10-06 at 11.08.28 PM
  3. And just like that the Denier Streak (from Toronto) is over. I made a BIG DEAL about his streak in a previous post. After going 60-0 in Season 4 and 72-0 in Season 5, his win streak was snapped by newcomer GeorgeBor in his 2nd match. It’s no surprise that GeorgeBor leads the division after Day1.Screen Shot 2015-10-06 at 11.14.29 PM
  4. Like the beginning of S5, we had Div2 graduates begin S6 in Div1 and boy was it fun watching their progress. Ivan took no time producing the first upset of the day with a scorcher over League vet and S1 winner, Craig M. He sits in 11th tied with that guy from Northern Ireland. Just so everyone knows: Ivan barely beat me in 3 last year. Just saying.Screen Shot 2015-10-06 at 11.20.39 PM
  5. We had some old crew back and THAT was nice to see. Steph by Steph. The Eye of Soren. The Thunderbolt (ponytail or short this year?). It’s also REAL nice to see Broxterman in top spot. He had it last year. I don’t think he’ll let it slip like John Elway. Right.

And finally one sad observation: It was hard not seeing Queen Talbot among active players. Have we lost her to career-ending wrist ailments? Tell me it ain’t so. Juan Del Potro you’ve got company.

Set Winning Percentage. Does it matter?

During SPiN’s Season 3 League session, questions were asked about the ‘Set Win Percentage’ (# Sets Won / # Sets Played). Here’s the ranking of the Div1 players at the time by set win %:

Rank by Set Win % Div1 Player List Set Win %
1 The Denier 93.8%
2 Vivian 79.5%
3 Danilo 76.5%
4 Roman 75.0%
5 Klaus 73.3%
6 William 71.3%
7 Craig M 71.1%

Vivian was officially ranked 8th, Roman 10th, and Klaus 9th on SPiN’s League ladder. Roman has beaten The Denier before and Vivian, Gideon and the Aussie has taken him deep into matches. What gives?

A similar story can be seen with Div2:

Rank Div2 Player List Set Win %
1 Gord 85.2%
2 Kyle Robinson 81.6%
3 John B 79.5%
4 Adam B 75.5%
5 The Thunderbolt 74.4%
6 Emily Talbot 73.4%
7 Irmina 72.7%

At the time Gord ranked 6th, The ThunderBolt 13th, and Irmina 9th.

So how is it they lag in ranking points? 

In all cases, each of these players played a handful of weeks, ‘robbing’ them of precious points in the leaderboard race:

Player Number of wks played (of 8)
Gord 4 wks (50%)
Irmina 4 wks (50%)
The Thunderbolt 4 wks (50%)
Roman 3 wks (38%)
Vivian 3 wks (38%)
Craig M 3 wks (38%)
Klaus 2 wks (25%)

(it is worth mentioning that set win % does become the tie-breaker when players have an equal number of ranking points)

So what does this all mean? 

In some leagues, the Set Win % defines a player’s ranking. In some circles this is the best way to determine a higher ranked player –  there’s no question that set win % is a serious indicator of pong power.

But our goal was never to find the best player in the city. They have pro leagues for that. This format was designed for Joes… Joes that have busy schedules, things that come up, and other activities to conquer. That’s the beauty of a ‘pay-as-you-play’ League.

Traditional leagues punish everyday Joes but this format allows them to still participate, and if played enough, can still have a shot at winning (not to mention the opportunity to fill their trash bucket to dish some serious insults, brags, and boasting techniques)

For more info on the scoring system, read a previous post, ‘The Scoring system – the format that cares‘. I assure you that you’ll feel more loved after reading it.

A salute to the League Sheriffs

I can’t tell you how lucky I’ve been to be given the opportunity to work with the people behind the League.

The original League Sheriffs, Mark Buck, Lindsey and Mike Young, and most recently, Kate Demay in NY and Emma Greig for TO, are simply amazing to work with.

It’s never easy to run a league. You have to remember names. You gotta think on your feet when things go wrong (internet? music?  ah, dude, app? 🙂 And most of all, you need to add just a little spice to keep it fun and engaging.

The smoothest run events are a reflection of the staff behind it that put the hard work, thought, and commitment to make it look easy.

I am truly thankful for the organizers of the League. Without them – app or no app – we would be no where near the level of success we are today.