Destination Bangkok

Alois and Jeff at the Grand Palace

The 10 hour flight from Melbourne to Bangkok went smoothly and we touched down around 7:30pm local time. We were eager to get to our hotel and catch up on some much needed sleep. Unfortunately before we could relax we had to face the scariest taxi ride! Our driver insisted on hurtling down the road at 120 kph in the pouring rain, swerving in and out of traffic all whilst we sat unrestrained as the seatbelts were not working. Thankfully we made in to the hotel and headed straight to sleep.

When we woke it was time to check out some of the sights of Bangkok. Despite our experience the night before we jumped in another taxi and headed off to the Grand Palace. This time it was a much more pleasant ride and we were certainly impressed when we arrived at our destination. It’s incredible to think of all the work that went into constructing all of the intricate buildings starting back in 1782.

As you can see in the photos, our wives surprised us with new PingSkills Thailand Tour 2013 t-shirts which we proudly wore. They also helped us find each other and in fact helped a PingSkiller from India spot us in the crowd. It was great to meet someone who enjoyed our website.

It was a great day and the people of Thailand are so friendly.

PingSkills Thailand Tour

PingSkills Thailand Tour

We are excited to announce that the PingSkills team are heading to Thailand in September. As well as filming videos and meeting some club players in Bangkok and Chiang Mai, we are hoping to catch up with any of our Members who live locally. We plan to set up some meet and greet sessions and exhibitions – further details to follow – but if any Members have any ideas we can implement to make these sessions fun and exciting, please let us know.

I Love the PingSkills Touch

PingSkills Touch with Vega Pro

Hey Alois,

Just wanted to say that the Pingskills Touch arrived today. Felt like a child at Christmas when I saw the package in the mailbox.

I spent about 3 hours trying it out today and I am in love. I didn’t realize what people were talking about when they said their rubbers were “dead”, but switching from a 5 year old cheap premade racket to the Touch immediately explained it. My serves have more spin to them now, and I’m “feeling” my opponents spin much more. Topspin/loop shots feel a lot better too.

Thanks a lot for the trouble you guys went to.

Rohit Nair

Ask the Coach Search Engine

Ask the Coach Search Engine

Would you like to know the answer to a table tennis question? Chances are we’ve already answered it or something similar. And to help you search through our 8,000+ questions, we’ve built our own search engine. This allows us to highlight video responses and return the results in our own format. Try it out now; Search for an answer and let me know how relevant the results are. Also let me know if the results are returned quickly or slowly.

For the Tech Heads

So how do you build a custom search engine? Well I’m glad you asked. :) The first step is to create an inverted index. This is like an index in the back of a book. It has a list of words and alongside each word is the list of questions that word appears in. For example, if we had the following 2 sample question titles:

Question 1: Fast Footwork
Question 2: Fast Forehand Topspin

We would build the following index:

Word Questions
Fast 1, 2
Footwork 1
Forehand 2
Topspin 2

Querying the Index and Ranking the Results

Now if someone searches for “forehand”, we can look up forehand in our inverted index and we instantly know that this word is in question 2. Similarly we can see that fast is in questions 1 and 2. In reality, the word you are searching for is going to be found in a lot more than just 1 or 2 questions so we need a way to bring back the most relevant results. This is where ranking comes in to play. To rank the results, we use some basic information. First we count how many times the word appeared in each document. Doing this on it’s own would tend to favour longer documents as more writing gives more chances for the word to occur. For this reason we try to normalise the frequency count over all documents so that length is not a factor.

Then we try to see if there are any words which are more helpful in our search. For example, if we search for “penhold service”, the word penhold is a rarer word, and hence any documents with this term should be given extra consideration. If you’re really interested in finding out more information, read up on “term frequency – inverse document frequency“.

Through experimentation, we found that the title of a question was the most important piece of information, followed by the question and answer, and lastly by any comments. Based on this, we assign slightly different scores depending on where the word occurs.

Also, because we think that answers with a video response are more helpful, we bump relevant questions up the results list a little so they are more prominent.

To make the search a bit quicker, we remove extremely common words. For example the word “the”, would appear in nearly every single question. So it doesn’t help us determine which question is more relevant. So we simply ignore these common words when building our index and when searching the index.

Putting all of this together, we grab all the questions that contain the word you searched for (ignoring extremely common words), and then for each question we give it a score based on the frequency of that word in the question, how rare the word is over all questions, and whether this question has a video response. If you search for more than one word, we do the same thing for each word and add up the scores by question. Then we order the questions by the score returning the 20 highest (and hopefully most relevant).

Future Improvements

Phrase queries: We’ve structured the inverted index so that the position of each word in a question is recorded. This will give us the ability to do phrase searches in the future. At the moment if you search for “forehand topspin”, the results don’t need to contain the exact phrase with topspin following immediately after forehand. In fact, the results don’t even have to contain both words although due to the ranking function, they probably will.

Search result pagination: At the moment, the top 20 results are displayed. Most search engines display 10 rows, and have previous and next links.

Snippets: When a result is displayed, you see the title of the question and a video icon if the question has a video response. It would be nice if the result showed a snippet of the relevant text from the question.

Interesting Facts

We’ve currently indexed 1,014,167 words in 8,640 questions. Ball(s) is the most common word (excluding common terms) occurring 20,348 times. Variations on “serve” are also extremely common occuring 12,830 times. Our longest question in words is Your Combination which has 4,860 indexed words. Coming in second place is Apologize for net or edge ball? with 4,255 indexed words.

Happy searching!

WTTC Spectacular Pre-Match Light Show

WTTC Pre-Match Light Show

What did you think of the light show before the Men’s Final at the 2013 World Table Tennis Championships in Paris, France?

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Powder Coated Steel Surfaced Table

Steel Table Tennis Table

When we heard that a PingSkiller had built a powder coated steel surfaced table we had to find out more so we asked Lou to send us some photos. It was then we learnt that his partner was a photographer and we’d be getting some very good shots to put up on the website.

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Juniors and Ratings

Juniors and Ratings

If you’re involved with juniors then you must read a great article by Larry Hodges. He talks about ratings being a cancer on junior table tennis and I couldn’t agree more. In fact I think it can also be a negative for seniors too. Lately I’ve heard a few people mention that they don’t want to play a particular event for fear of losing to a fast improving junior and losing too many points.

Larry suggests that coaches should stress that ratings are not to be taken seriously, that the focus should be on improvement, and that ratings are only a snapshot approximation of your current winning ability in a tournament.

Make sure you read the full article on Juniors and Ratings.

Best Instructional Sporting Videos

Justin loves Receiving Secrets Revealed

Hey Jeff and Alois,

I have watched many instructional DVDs on various sports, mainly golf, martial arts, and table tennis. Receiving Secrets Revealed is by far the best sporting instructional DVD I have ever seen! I used to play a lot of A – scratch golf and martial arts and watched their instructional videos. Yours is so much better as you explain everthing very well and it is easy for the lay person to understand. Great work Jeff and Alois. A very helpful DVD. Your dedication to helping other table tennis players is awsome and is appreiciated by us the players. Thank you guys!

Yours sincerely Justin O’Toole.

Receiving Secrets Revealed

Receiving Secrets Revealed is now available online as part of our premium membership.

Table Tennis is …..

table tennis is fun

Panda takes part in this short video showing how table tennis can be fun, tiring, and make you look cool (especially in slow motion).
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Merry Christmas for 2012

Merry Christmas to all PingSkillers

It’s been another big year and Alois and I would like to thank you for your support during 2012. May 2013 be a great year for you and your family!

Merry Christmas and Happy New Year!

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