January 27, 2014
One of my goals for myGameBalls.com is to be inclusive of all different types of ballhawks. The first column I ever wrote for the site was this one that explains the various types of ballhawks that exist in our community, and I really do hope that all seven "categories of ballhawks" will find a home on my website. So far I think I've done a pretty decent job of creating a community that can be enjoyed by all types of ballhawks.
If you didn't click over to read (or re-read) my first MGB column, the seven categories of ballhawks that I defined were The Collector, the Competitor, The Adrenaline Junkie, The Fan, The Athlete, The Hero, and The Businessman. As the site has grown from a few dozen members when I wrote the column until now when we've got several hundred members, I've found that these seven categories still hold true. Just about everyone fits into at least one of the seven categories, and in my opinion each category of ballhawks has something unique and valuable to offer our community.
I've also observed that all the categories of ballhawks tend to get along well with each other and appreciate the interests, motivations, and skill sets that others bring to the table. The one exception, however, involves the ongoing tension between "The Competitor" (I'd guess 60-70% of the members) and "The non-Competitor" (everyone else), and that tension is the basis for what I'm writing about today.
Whether it be on myGameBalls.com, Twitter, MLBlogs, or at the ballpark, the conversation usually goes something like this:
The Competitor: "I'm sick of the MGB leaderboards getting cluttered by cheaters who lie about their stats. No one seems to know who a lot of them are, and it's not fair that my legitimate stats are getting beat out by their fake stats."
The non-Competitor: "Dude, calm down. This is a HOBBY, not an Olympic sport. I'm sick of everyone taking this so seriously. It's making me want to quit ballhawking, or at least cancel my MGB account."
I've seen this conversation play out again and again over the past five years, and I've thought long and hard about how to create a system that will make both sides happy without completely revamping the core functionality of the site.
Now that we're entering our sixth season, I think it's time to put such a system into place. What I've come up with isn't perfect, but I think overall it's a pretty fair compromise between the competitors and non-competitors.
It's called the Member Verification System.
Before I explain the system, a word to the non-competitors: The Member Verification System won't affect you, and you don't even really need to know (or care) that it exists. Basically you're free to maintain your page as you see fit without having even the slightest desire to become a "Verified Member." Keep going to games, ballhawking, logging your stats, and uploading photos. Everything about your page will be the same as before the Verification system was implemented.
Now on to the competitors. Starting in 2014, the leaderboards (which includes season/lifetime standings, stadium-by-stadium leaders, top games, and records) will only include "Verified Members."
So how does one become a Verified Member? It's pretty simple. The Member Verification System is based on trust. I've identified a trusted individual at each stadium who I've designated as the official Verifier. Once a ballhawk has gained the trust of his/her local Verifier, the Verifier will notify me and I'll mark his/her page with the Verified seal (a green checkmark next to the person's profile).
So how does one gain the trust of his/her local Verifier? In short, it depends. Because of the level of trust I have in the Verifiers, I have decided to give them complete discretion in terms of when and how to verify people. My only word of advice to them is that it shouldn't be too easy to get verified, but it also shouldn't be too hard. The Verifiers won't rubber-stamp anyone and everyone who wants to be verified, but they also won't require people to provide detailed photographic evidence of every ball they've ever snagged.
The threshold at which ballhawks get Verified will probably vary from stadium to stadium, but I'm hoping it won't vary TOO much. On average, if the Verifier meets the ballhawk at the park, observes him for a couple games and confirms that the stats he's recording match up with reality, that should be enough to warrant verification. Some may require slightly more than that and others may require slightly less.
Ok, so who are the Verifiers? I've compiled a list and published it on the site. Take a look and see who the Verifier is for your home stadium. You'll notice that not all parks have a local Verifier -- in those cases I will serve as the Verifier until I've found a local one to replace me.
Lastly, take a look at your page, because the Member Verification System is actually already live. I've asked each Verifier to provide me an initial list of Verified members, so if you were on that list your page should have the green check mark next to your profile information.
If your page isn't verified yet and you think it should be, please don't get offended or angry. There's a lot of members on the site so there's a good chance your Verifier just forgot to include you on his list. Or maybe he did include you but I made a mistake importing the data. Or maybe your Verifier hasn't met you or interacted with you yet. A couple of Verifiers haven't actually submitted their initial lists yet. Whatever the case, just email your Verifier and try to get it straightened out.
I think this sytem will work well for everyone involved, but like anything new there will probably be an adjustment period. We may need to add regulations or tweak the process. There may be some disagreements between ballhawks and Verifiers that need to be mediated. Whatever difficulties we encounter, I'm hoping the system is working well by the All-Star Break.
If you've got a profile on the Minor League site, be aware that the system will work differently than the MLB site, at least for the first year or two. All existing members and new members will automatically be Verified by default, but can potentially be "Unverified" if there are widespread concerns about their stats.
As always, let me know if you questions or suggestions. Looking forward to 2014!
Alan Schuster is a contributing columnist to myGameBalls.com.