RL: How did you come up with the Baseball Abstract name?
BJ: All of the good names were taken. Digest, Guide, Register and Preview...so that was all that was left.
Therein lies the reason for the name of this site: Bill James took the last good name almost thirty years ago! And believe me, the situation has only gotten worse.
Still, we poked around the scrap heap for available domain names, and did manage to scrounge up a few normal sounding ones, like baseballcommunity.com and baseballcolumnist.com. So why choose toaster?
Mostly because I'm completely loony.
And because somehow, I managed to convince the other writers ("Toastmasters"?) on this site that 'toaster' was a good idea. They're all either as goofy as I am, or just very gullible. I'm not sure which. But in either case, they all seemed to buy the following story:
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You know what a regular toaster is. It's a simple device that heats bread slices.
"Toaster" is also a computer term. A toaster is what techies call any simple device dedicated to a single task.
A "web toaster", for example, is a computer that does nothing but serve web pages.
So a "baseball toaster" is a simple tool dedicated to baseball.
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Last year, I was part of the All-Baseball writers group. I'm a software programmer/architect by trade, and I observed them at work in their blogging, and began to think about how I could help them become more effective and efficient.
I created a list of things I'd like to do, and began to think about how to implement those ideas. I looked at a lot of different tools. I thought I'd probably have to integrate a gazillion different software packages to accomplish my goals.
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Ever play Minesweeper? You click along, box by box, being careful not to click on any mines. Then suddenly, you'll click a certain box, and--whoosh! Half the obstacles suddenly disappear, and your task becomes much more clear.
One day last fall, I had one of those moments. I had the idea to attack the problem from a slightly different perspective, and then--whoosh! I suddenly realized how I could accomplish my goals with a fairly simple technical design.
I debated whether I actually wanted to do that. Anyone who would write a new software package when several pretty good ones are already available is probably completely loony.
But we've already established that, haven't we?
But the idea seemed pretty cool, and I was intensely curious whether it would work. I had to find out.
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So this site is an experiment, of sorts. An experiment to see if this software design will work. To see if it will enable me to implement my laundry list of ideas.
The first thing on the laundry list is just to be able to blog. That's what you're seeing now.
Over time, as I work out the bugs and the kinks and missing features, I'll start rolling out the other new features on my list.
I'm not going to rush, though. I want to do things right. I've restarted my programming from scratch five times since November, just because I kept finding better ways to design it. The last time I started over was just two weeks ago.
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So this site is running the first beta version of the software, which I've named Fairpole. You may find a few things that don't work quite right.
I hope you'll be patient with us, as I first fix those glitches, and then roll out the new stuff.
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I'd like to thank the group of writers who decided to take the plunge and join me in this risky experiment: Alex Belth, Alex Ciepley, Cliff Corcoran, Derek Smart, Jon Weisman, Mike Carminati, Scott Long, and Will Carroll. Oh, and that Score Bard dude, too. I hope I can live up to the faith they've placed in me.
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And so it's springtime again, the time for optimism and new beginnings. Will the year bring success or disappointment? There's only one way to find out.