Baseball Toaster Fairpole
Monthly archives: March 2005


Norm Cache
2005-03-30 21:15
by Ken Arneson

After the problems yesterday (and what would beta software be without a few problems?), I decided to start rolling out the caching system.

Caching keeps a copy of the content closer to the web server, so we don't have to go querying the database on the back end every time we want that content.

The trick is to make sure that we clear out the relevant cached document every time the data in that document has changed.

I wanted to start with something that changes relatively infrequently. So I rolled out caching for the sidebar content only.

If it seems to be working fine, then I'll try rolling it out for some of the other content, too.

Slow Site Speed Today
2005-03-30 17:28
by Ken Arneson

Some of you may have noticed that the site has been slow today.

I think the problem was with the network at our ISP, and not with the Fairpole software. I was seeing about a 10% packet loss from the server to other places on the Internet.

I entered a trouble ticket with our ISP, and they are working on the problem.

But just to see if I can speed things up a bit, I'm going to push live some caching tonight. The Fairpole software has caching built into its design, but I haven't used it yet; everything has been dynamically generated so far.

So I'll start out by caching the sidebars, since they don't change that much, and we'll see how it goes. So there may be some downtime tonight as I push the changes live.

Update: Well, my ISP insists that my network is fine, even though I'm still seeing some packet loss to a few places. But maybe it was just a hanging database connection that was the real problem. I bounced the database server, and things look better now.

All the more reason to start caching, I suppose.

Version 0.3.1beta
2005-03-27 01:27
by Ken Arneson

I pushed live a new version of the software Saturday afternoon.

This version adds a couple of features:

  • Monthly archives
  • Editable sidebar sections

Now the authors will finally be able to get their blogrolls onto their sites.

It also incorporates a few bug fixes:

  • Non-UTF characters should now be properly escaped (in RSS feeds and on the site)
  • Fixed bad error messages on the registration form
  • A couple of other things I forget because it's 1 am

Just a few more things to take care of with the basic blogging stuff, and then we can start working on the fun stuff.

Site Maintenance
2005-03-15 17:04
by Ken Arneson

(Update): The site was shut down at 10:15pm PT for a few minutes to install a new version of the Fairpole software. All seems to have gone well with the upgrade.

This version, 0.3beta, consists mostly of fixes to some minor bugs:

  • The fold tag (similar to extended entries in MT) wasn't being recognized
  • Entries designated for future publication were showing up now
  • If you changed the status of a document on the "Hot from the Toaster" list to "draft", the blog disappeared from the list.
  • The author of a blog entry was listed as the last person to edit it, instead of the original author
  • nbsp's disappeared from HTML forms
  • The error messages on the registration form were not displaying correctly.

Tomorrow, I'll begin work on the next version of the software. The next version will focus on adding new features. In particular, I'll enable the writers to edit their sidebars, adding things like blogrolls and monthly archives.

RSS Feeds Are Up
2005-03-10 16:18
by Ken Arneson

They're all in RSS 2.0. If anybody needs an older version, I can do that, just let me know, otherwise I won't bother.

Here are the URLs:

Baseball Toaster (all blogs):
Bronx Banter:
Catfish Stew:
Cub Town:
Dodger Thoughts:
Mike's Baseball Rants:
The Griddle:

These links should be in the document headers of the respective blogs, too.

We'll get the syndication links on the sidebars tomorrow.

Please let me know if you have any problems.

RSS Feeds
2005-03-10 10:07
by Ken Arneson

A lot of people asking about RSS feeds.

That's the next thing on my priority list. I hope to have it up later today.

Welcome to Baseball Toaster!
2005-03-08 19:57
by Ken Arneson

I know what you're thinking.

"Baseball Toaster?"

The origin of the name dates back to 1977. In his recent interview with Rich Lederer, Bill James explains:

RL: How did you come up with the Baseball Abstract name?

BJ: All of the good names were taken. Digest, Guide, Register and 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 and 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:

* * *

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.

* * *

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.

* * *

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.

Unfortunately, it would mean writing the software from scratch, rather than integrating existing packages.

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.

* * *

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.

* * *

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.

* * *

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.

* * *

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.

Play ball!