Just as there has been an influx of new tournaments over the last few seasons, so too has the online presence of snooker increased on the internet.
One of the best of these websites to have surfaced is CueTracker – which has quickly become the most concise online database for snooker results and statistics.
I caught up with the man behind CueTracker, Ron Florax, to find out more about the site and his continued ambition to keep adding to the database.
SHQ: Tell us a bit about yourself.
Ron: I’m 26 years old and I’m from Holland originally. I spent three years living in Cork in Ireland where I met a Swedish girl, who is now my fiance, and I moved to southern Sweden three years ago.
SHQ: What is your background in snooker?
Ron: I first saw snooker by accident really. We get the BBC in Holland and I stumbled on the 2001 UK Championship When I was about 14, and became fascinated instantly. I spent the next few years watching all I could, and since I always was quite active on the internet I ended up collecting DVDs of snooker and pool matches. I don’t actively do that anymore, but I still have a massive collection lying around!
I played a bit of pool at the gym those days and on an afternoon off school decided to visit a local pool & snooker club. Within days I was hooked. I ended up working at that club, and gradually things sort of developed! I still go back to that club regularly when I go back to Holland (it’s called De Dieze in Den Bosch), the people there are great, and there are some real quality players. I’m playing at a club in Copenhagen at the moment, trying to get back to a decent level, but it takes hard work.
SHQ: What made you think about starting the website, CueTracker?
Ron: A couple of things really. Firstly, I ended up with a two and a half hour one-way commute to fill, and I felt I may as well do something useful, preferably a large project which I could use to show off my web development skills, and hopefully end up with a job in it. Secondly, I simply wanted to use it myself. Snooker.org was an inspiration because it made its results archive dynamic so stats would be updated in near-real time. Global Snooker was also an inspiration, because if you dug down into that site there was simply so much there. I felt it was a shame that all this data was spread out across different places, but I felt each place lacked something, and that finding them could be a real hassle sometimes. I’m a fairly hands-on guy, so I thought I’d best give it a go!
SHQ: Did you every have an interest in writing or was it more the statistical side of things that lured you?
Ron: I do have a bit of an interest in writing. I’ve written a few articles for a now-defunct snooker magazine, and I’d actually like to write a few more opinion pieces and such. I don’t want a blog, however, because then you get the pressure of having to produce something too often, and I’d prefer to do writing when I feel like it.
SHQ: How did you initially go about attaining the relevant data? What kind of data were you looking for?
Ron: I tried to go with a way of being able to get as much data as possible digitally, so that I could add it in big batches (ie. all Last 32 matches at once, etc.), and could format them to the import format I use more easily. Sources were initially Snooker.org and Global Snooker, quickly followed by Snooker Scene, the WS live scoring system and some contributions from some other statisticians/enthusiasts. I’ve always been a bit of a control freak with it, so even though it was a bit of a daunting prospect having to add all this data, I desperately didn’t want to let other people add data directly in order to maintain uniformity and a quality standard.
SHQ: How difficult was this process early on?
Ron: The beginning was actually easy, it was when I got to around the late 1990s that it started to become difficult, as there started to be fewer sources, more incomplete data (such as missing first names, missing centuries, not being able to guarantee that I had all centuries, no frame scores, etc.), and from the early 1980s backwards even finding dates and venues became very challenging. This continues to this day, as a lot of those tournaments are lacking dates or venues, or in some cases even matches. I’ve kept track of this on a page called Notes on Completeness in order to both keep track of it myself and hopefully encourage people with data to come forward.
SHQ: What were some of the stumbling blocks you encountered?
Ron: Aside from hard-to-obtain data as I mentioned, the other thing was being taken seriously. A notable issue is the slight discrepancies which sometimes appear in the total number of centuries between, for example, the numbers used by Eurosport and the numbers my site comes up with. Part of this has to do with my site not yet listing team events, because the system needs modification, but largely it is a catch-22 because I can’t verify whether mine or other data is correct. The commonly agreed-on list as used by Eurosport does not have a detailed specification of which centuries by which players in which tournaments are included, so it becomes impossible to check if I am missing some, or perhaps certain events are counted on one list but not the other. I think I am at least 99% accurate, though, and my list does give the option of breaking it down to every century in every match in every season, which I think is quite an achievement.
Another thing would be trying to figure out which tournaments should be included. The definitions of terms such as Professional, Amateur, Ranking Event, Invitational, WPBSA-sanctioned, Templated, and so on had a lot to do with this. A lot of people have been very helpful in figuring this out, especially Janie Watkins and Dave Hendon.
SHQ: Did you have much help in the beginning or was a lot of the effort done by yourself alone?
Ron: Actually, these days I have a couple of people who regularly email me with data they find in newspaper and other archives which is very helpful, and a guy called Kai in Germany helps me with checking frame scores and is very good at spotting details I may have missed. I also get a lot of comments and advice on Twitter these days, which really helps. In the beginning, all the data finding was done by me, and that is still the case for a large part of it, but the help I get from people is nice, flattering and essential. The actual adding of the data is done completely by me, and the programming always was and always will be done completely by me, because I like things to work a certain way, I like layouts to be a certain way and queries to the database to be structured a certain way.
SHQ: When did you realise that the site could become a major success?
Ron: That’s a bit harder to answer. I think when I started getting comments from pro or semi-pro players, commentators, journalists and bloggers whose work I watch and read regularly it started to sink in that I had really done something significant. It is very flattering to me that people I like and respect tell me they find it useful and that I’ve done well. I always wanted it to be seen as snooker’s go-to archive of the complete history of the game, and I think I’m well on my way to that. It already is the most complete thing out there by far, but I believe it can always get better.
SHQ: How did you feel about the reaction, then and now?
Ron: It’s great, really great! It went very quickly, and I keep an eye on the visitor numbers which are going up, and it is regularly used by Snookerbacker on his blog to provide head-to-heads. I’ve gotten mentions in articles on other renowned blogs such as Matt’s (ProSnookerBlog) as well, and I see it being mentioned on Snooker Island and Twitter a lot, which is really nice. I very much hope it will continue this way! I’ve met a lot of nice people through this, and I especially enjoy going to the PTCs when I can and talking to the players and staff there. I’d love to attend more of these to have a chance to play and talk to people, as I just like being part of it, being part of the buzz and having a laugh!
SHQ: Does it inspire you to keep adding to the database?
Ron: It does. If you only get 10 visitors a day it’s not that big a deal to not add some recent results for a bit, but when you get 1200 unique visitors per day, and when you speak even to commentators who say they refer to it, then the need for accuracy and completeness is hammered home even more. Also, I pride myself in it being the most complete thing out there, and I do what I can do make sure it stays that way! There are also many ways to go now that just about all professional tournaments are in there. I’m working on being able to add team and doubles events, and I want to add the European, World Amateur and Asian Championships too. I have taken my foot off the gas a slight touch, deliberately not working on it during the weekends (although I do try to add results for the currently ongoing tournament when I can), but aside from that I still work on it every day.
SHQ: What is your favourite aspect of the website?
Ron: I love the fact that everything is dynamic and clickable, and that you’re able to compare a lot of stats very quickly. I also like that I have the control over it where I can do what I like with it!
SHQ: Is there anything you would like to add in the future but haven’t yet had the capabilities or time to do so?
Ron: Well, adding team events is a big one and I think that’s a major exclusion at the moment. Also, I’d like an app at some point, but we’ll have to see about that. Other than that I have a large list of ideas for more stats pages and such. A lot of those suggestions come from or are inspired by comments people made on Twitter and social media so keep those coming!
SHQ: You encounter countless statistics, records and numbers every day. Are you a walking snooker encyclopedia away from the computer? If somebody had a random question about, say, the record between John Higgins and John Parrott, would you know the answer?
Ron: I have a certain amount of knowledge, but I certainly can’t pull up stats just like that. I think I know quite a lot about the game and the world of snooker so to speak, and I do have a good feel for numbers and calculations and such, but I have a bit of a dodgy memory sometimes!
SHQ: What do you make of the online presence of the sport in general?
Ron: I think it’s much better than it has been, but I think there is a lot of room for improvement. On the World Snooker side, I feel the streaming service is great but can do with all, or at least more, tables being streamed, and in general the production values of certain things can be greatly improved. This is a bit of a complicated issue, though, and too long to go into here! I do think WS does a good job with their YouTube channel and such. The strength I think is in around five to eight websites which are established, here to stay and have a large readership, as well as the Twitter community, which I personally am a huge fan of. I think the well-known blogs and sites, the WS website, betting sites, live scoring and streaming, as well as my own site all add something significant to the whole, making it a pretty good place to be right now!
Many thanks to Ron from CueTracker for taking the time to answer these questions and we wish him continued success in the future.
Follow Ron on Twitter: @CueTracker_Ron
Categories: Features and Interviews