ClubBase success and season review

During the past week, the ClubBase pages have together received twice as many page views as Structure of The Pyramid page, the most popular page on the site. In fact the Clubs and Leagues pages have together produced 38% of the site's page views this week.

Listening to the build-up to the League play-offs taking place today and tomorrow, it seems an appropriate time to take a look back at the last season, and the changes it brought to the site. After I came home from a trip to Scotland, in the summer I started work on ClubBase. My life was time rich (unusually), and I was able to make good progress. Createing the LeagueMap brought many technical challenges, as I got to grips with JavaScript, XML, VBScript and ASP. At one point, caching issues meant I had to create a new page every time I made a change to my code, which proved tedious. After getting diverted updating the Sectioned Structure pages (which need updating again), I managed to launch the LeagueMap with all desired features present. The have since been some minor changes to the backend, to allow for when leagues are removed from the site, and to automatically produce the drop-down lists used selecting the division(s). The LeagueMap has been a popular and useful addition to the site

In November, I installed the guest-book provided by my hosting company. I was dismayed to discover that the creator thought that the plural of comment was comment's. This error took far too much effort to eliminate, and I still haven't heard back from the guest-book's creators. (For other users of phpBook: the relevant word is at line 18 of english.php in the languages folder). The guest-book also experienced major spamming issues, which was a surprise, given it was recommended by my hosting company. After staring at unfamiliar PHP for some time, I managed to eliminate the more common types of spam posts. There are still some spam posts, but analysis of the server's web statistics reveal my measures have blocked the vast majority. The Ground Grading page was also added in November, and has proved a quiet success for something that was really just created out of personal curiosity. (Though that is arguably true of the entire site). 2006 proved to be a record year in terms of visitor statistics.

The New Year saw me switch to this LiveJournal for news and updates. Posting has take place (roughly) when I've done work on the site. Possibly one coudl analyise this to see if there is any pattern to when I work on the site, but I would prefere to use my time more productively. Leagues continued to be added to the ClubBase during January and Febuary, and eventually went public at end of March. (There was a link to ClubBase on a more obscure page prior to it becoming "public", in order to allow search engines to index the page).

In the middle of March, the Pyramid Poster went on sale. The invetsment required was fairly large, but I am very happy with the quality of the product. Sales were less than hoped for, but have been ticking over nicely. April was a slower month, but I did narrow dowm the list of leagues with unconfirmed status to just ten. Four of those were uncontactable, and six failed to reply to my email. (Given these emails generally require a one line reply, the lack of reply is asource of great annoyance). Finally, May saw me move house, with obvious disruptive effects to my internet life.

That was the past - what of the furture? As mentioned in the previous post, I have to check every club to see which league and division (if any) it is playing in for the new season. There's also the small matter of over 4,000 clubs that need to be added to the database. I also want to overhaul and update the League Ratings. Aside from including the last two seasons, I want to make it easier for me to produce them. (It currently uses a convuluted Excel file - I may end up cretaing a dedictaed applet to do the job instead). The League Ratings will also appear on the Division Details page. Finally, I want to the ratings to produce predictions for the FA Cup, FA Trophy and FA Vase.

That rounds off my 2006-07 season review. I shall end by wishing you a happy summer.




Summer fun and frolics

The 2006/07 draws to a close, with a only some play-off matches in a certain well-known league remaining. The worst thing about ClubBase is that I have to spend the summer months checking every single club to see which league and division (if any) it is playing in for the new season. Of course, the majority of clubs won't move divisions, and the Division Details facility simplifies the task somewhat. Clubs which are moving to a league not currently on the database will end up in a dummy league, while clubs I belive have ceased will be simply removed.

On a related note, I am continueing to email league secretaries to try and obtain club details (when this info isn't on the league website). There is potential here for a minor problem: if a club is moving form a league on the database to a league that is being added, and I haven't removed it from the first league, then it will end up being listed twice on the database, with the result that only the older record (I think) will show on the site. I'm not worries about this - the chnaces of this happening are slim, the older record will still contain useful information, and the problem will be resolved when I review the original league.

Finally, after seeing the Structure of The Pyramid colour scheme being described as "psychedelic", I have made the colours paler. The joys of CSS means this took of all two minutes, and I think the new colour scheme is an improvement. I have a cheap flatscreen which doesn't do pastel colours well, and it wasn't until I viewed the page on another monitor that I realised that is was a bit psychedelic.

A quick message

The ClubBase has been even more successful than I thought it would be. In fact, the ClubBase pages have received more visits this month together than the site's home page.

My life has been rather manic of late - hence the minimal updates to this blog and the site. Normal service will be resumed this week (subject to my new wireless router working).

One hundred and twenty two down, eleven to go.

An ongoing project is contacting every league on the site ,and verifying their details are correct - especially the feeder/feedee leagues. Out of 133 leagues listed on the site, I lack confirmation from just eleven - and I have no means of contacting four of those. I am optimistic that I can get replies out of thr emainder by the end of the season, which means that section of the site would be "finished". This would be strange, as I've been working on showing the complete structure of the Pyramid for around five years (see Site History for details).

Of course, this wouldn't mean the end of work on the site - there's still ClubBase to complete, the League Ratings to update, pages to convert to HTML 4.01 strict, the Woman's pyramid to work on, the Welsh Pyramid to include...

Of posters and bugs...

The printers are doing their bit with the Pyramid Poster. It actually takes two days (!) for the ink to dry, so I am expecting delivery on Friday (failing that, on Saturday). I'm aiming to dispatch all the current orders on the day they arrive, and will email customers when there orders are in the post.

I have also finally sorted out a bug on the LeagueMap. Thinsg started going awry when  the Manchester League was added (view map of all divisions), and I spent some time thinking it was to do with the fact that the internal reference numbers had also changed. I was partly right... it turned out the Javascript file was looking at an outdated version of the data file (with the old ref numbers). This bug was also why not all the league's had an "[all divisions]" option available, even though they should. In fact, it was this which tipped me off where to look. So, a happy ending there. There are still some leagues displaying incorrectly, but I'm pretty sure this isdue to over-zealous cacheing at some point between my computer and the server. Please feel freee to leave a comment if it's not working for you (or even if it is).

Pyramid poster - coming next week

For a long time, it has been my intention to produce a poster version of the structure of the pyramid. I am ware that the web pages do not make good printouts, and so I set about drawing up the "Pyramid Poster", using MS Excel. However, it turned out to be impossible for any printer to produce the posted from an Excel file for a reasonable price, so the project was put on the back burner.

That has now changed. I have figured out to produce the poster in a suitable format, and nowhave a printer all lined up and ready to go. I'm two-thirds the way through making absolutly sure all the details are correct, and then it can go to the printers! Once that happens, I will start accepting orders (with the aid of PayPal). All going to plan, the posters should be ready for dispatch at the end of next week.

Other work (on ClubBase and the LeagueMap) has continued in the usual way. Finally, don't forget that you don't need a LJ account to post comments.

Work continues

Added details for the Liverpool County FA Premier League, bringing the total number of divisiosn available on the LeagueMap to 101. (Links: all divisions, Premier division, Division 1, Division 2). The league secretary sent me some very useful information, which made the job a lot easier. There's now 1807 of an estimated 6700 clubs (26%) on the database - just 193 to go before I can launch ClubBase! This equates to about 10-12 divisions, or around 4 leagues.

Users may find that the drop-down lists caused the wrong list to be displayed. This is caused by something somewhere caching an older version of the javascript or XML data file. If this happens, press Ctr + F5 to clear the cache, and then try a league that you've never looked at before.

Only other (very minor) news is that I fixed a small bug (well, a typo) which was causing the phrase "website not know" to appear on the LeagueMaps marker balloons when the website was unknown, rather than "website not known".

A quick update

This morning, I recieved an email providing an alteration to a club's website (on the LeagueMap). Two minutes and ten seconds later, the relevant file (singular) had been updated, and an thank-you email sent... and 35 seconds of that was waiting for the file to upload. 
I like the new systen :-)

In other news, I managed to knock 20KB off the size of the (new, forthcoming) version of the Single Page Structure, just by using CSS tags with shorter names, and remembering that closing the <td> tag is optional in HTML 4.0. (This is one of many reasons I prefer HTML to XHTML). That said, the new version is still significantly bigger than the old one. I could reduce the file size further, the extra ASP code required would mean the server would take longer to produce the file (and thus actually make the page take longer to appear, despite requiing less time to download).