JS Bin's 5th birthday & news

(edit)

28th September marks jsbin 5th birthday. jsbin was launched back in 2008 and has been a dear project close to my heart. So in celebration, I'm going to run a fun competition and announce some important news here today.

Competition

Late last night Max Ogden posted a tweet linking to some visual representations of mathematical problems.

Instantly I thought I'd love to see code for these (but they're all animated gifs) - so I put it to you: create (js)bins that replicate these visualisations (probably using canvas), and prizes shall be received!

Prizes

For the first of each of the full images that are solved, I'll post you a jsbin sticker (perfect for your laptop).

Solve 5 or more (previously unsolved visualisations), and I'll send you a jsbin T-shirt.

Behind closed doors, Dave, the jsbin robot has been getting a bit of design love, and I'll be showing off his new super-duper vector form very soon - obviously perfect for stickers and T-shirt.

Then two random entries will be selected for a lifetime pro jsbin account...whaaaaat? "What are these pro accounts @rem speaks of?". Read on my friend :-)

Winners

All those entries will get a sticker in the post. Those who entered 5 or more, I'll be in touch to get you a t-shirt. The winner(s) of the pro accounts are: Rafael Couto and Rob Aldred (I decided on the spur of the moment to give away two accounts).

Pro accounts I had hoped would be live by the end of September, but there's more work to be done, but you will be the very, very first pro users of JS Bin - congratulations!

And in case you wondered how I picked the winners, here's a video of me doing it: http://quick.as/y5uozj

Terms

  • The deadline is 27-September 23:59 UK time (BST)
  • Post the solution on jsbin.com
  • It's better (for you) if you're a registered user (it's totally free and even easier now we added github auth a while ago)
  • Either send a tweet hashtaged #jsbin on twitter, or post it here in the comments
  • It's first come, first serve, so if there's an easy animated gif, then go for it, but it needs to match the animated gif

Solved so far...

News: side project moves to full time focus

For some time now we've* been asking the question: can jsbin sustain itself to support its own development?

"we" refers to myself and Danny Hope who has contributed his time since 2009 on the UX of jsbin.

In short, I'm now full time on jsbin (as of this week until the foreseeable future), and intend to support the development time by creating Pro user accounts (details will be revealed later).

Aside from the new features that pro users will get, the pro account will help keep jsbin 100% free for freely available educational uses (in schools, universities and community training). Those good people will be able to get free training accounts so they can continue help young students and new-comers with jsbin in their tool belt.

Education is very important to me, and pro accounts allows jsbin to keep iterating with features I want to see land, and to help fix any issues that cause issue for both general users and those students stuck working with limited access to tech (like the version of jsbin that works without a web connection and entirely from a usb stick with zero install).

If you want heads up when jsbin pro accounts go live, register (for free) with jsbin - as I'll email registered users first.

How jsbin's development cycle works now

At present (as of the day of this post) jsbin only gets development resource from either myself or my team when client work stops, ie. there's a break in paid development - then I move on to features or bug fixes.

In addition, jsbin's hosting fees are around £6K ($9.5K) per year (and yes, I'm careful about how and what I host, so I'm not looking for alternative solutions). Then there's my employees time on jsbin that I pay for.

Overall, not only does jsbin not cover its costs, but it has a deficit of several thousands. One that for a long time, I've been happy to incur.

Healthy competition

Since jsbin launched in September 2008, jsfiddle came to the market - which was fine: two freely available apps as side projects. But then last year Chris Coyier (and team) launched CodePen, and what's important is that it has a business model around the product. From I can see, it's doing well too: I can't speak for the business, but general popularity across the web is growing well.

So why can't jsbin sustain itself? I'm not sure.

The dirty word: money

I always told myself jsbin would be free, ad-free and totally open. That I wouldn't ask users for cash, because...why should I ask to be paid?

What a idiotic thought.

It's not that I want to get rich on jsbin, but where I got the impression it was okay to lose money was acceptable - I've no clue.

Over the last 3 months I've been meeting real people who use jsbin (and some that didn't and used codepen instead), and I asked them about their use, their understanding of functionality and this is what I've finally come to conclude:

  1. There's lots of people who want to pay/donate for a jsbin account
  2. There's lots of people who don't fully know what jsbin can do

Addressing features

jsbin is rich with features that (most) people don't know about. That's partly because we've taken a held back approach to the UI - in that you arrive at jsbin, and what's the thing you want to do? Code: so we present the code panels and try to keep that the focus. I still feel that's right, but the welcome page that was added back in June 2012 will be removed, and introduction and integrated help is a new focus for us.

We've also started a new learning centre for jsbin: learn.jsbin.com. Currently it's a skeletal site with only two real posts, but more to come: github.com/jsbin-org/learn - which will be updated and added to regularly.

Important notes

It's worth stating so it's clear:

  1. jsbin will remain open source and available on github as it is today
  2. All current functionality will remain free to all users (there's some ways of hacking jsbin that may move to pro accounts though)
  3. Those individuals offering free training (to students, children and doing a good thing) on a regular basis can apply for a free pro and training accounts for jsbin.

Exciting times ahead

For me, it's kind of a big deal to now turn my focus 100% to jsbin, and instead of getting home from work and thinking what bugs can I squash before I hit the sack, now I can spend my day focusing on this tool.

Really the big question is: will the pro features and your sign ups (and let's face it: your cash) be able to support that position? I hope so, and indeed I hope to bring someone else on board full time to work on jsbin in the future too (maybe that could be you?).

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