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JS Bin's Fifth Birthday and News

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JS Bin's Fifth Birthday and News

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September 28th marks JS Bin's fifth birthday. JS Bin was launched back in 2008 and has been a 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 visualizations (probably using canvas), and prizes shall be received!


Prizes

For the first of each of the full images that are solved, I’ll mail you a JS Bin sticker (perfect for your laptop).

Solve five or more (previously unsolved visualizations), and I’ll send you a JS Bin T-shirt.

Behind closed doors, Dave, the JS Bin 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-shirts.

Then two random entries will be selected for a lifetime pro JS Bin account … whaaaaat? “What are these pro accounts @rem speaks of?” Read on, my friend :-)

Terms

  • The deadline is September 27th at 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 that we've added GitHub auth a while ago)
  • Either send a tweet hash-tagged "#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

News: Side Project Moves to Full-time Focus

For some time now we’ve* been asking the question: Can JS Bin 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 JS Bin.

In short, I’m now full-time on JS Bin (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 JS Bin 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 to help young students and new-comers with JS Bin in their tool belt.

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

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

How JS Bin’s Development Cycle Works Now

At present (as of the day of this post) JS Bin only gets development resources from either myself or my team when client work stops, i.e. there’s a break in paid development – then I move on to features or bug fixes.

In addition, JS Bin’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 employee's time on JS Bin that I pay for.

Overall, not only does JS Bin 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 JS Bin launched in September 2008, JS Fiddle 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 what 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 JS Bin sustain itself? I’m not sure.

The Dirty Word: Money

I always told myself JS Bin 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 an idiotic thought.

It’s not that I want to get rich on JS Bin, but where I got the impression it was okay to lose money was acceptable, I have no clue.

Over the last three months I’ve been meeting real people who use JS Bin  (and some that didn’t and used CodePen instead), and I asked them about their use and 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 JS Bin account
  2. There’s lots of people who don’t fully know what JS Bin can do

Addressing Features

JS Bin 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 JS Bin, 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 an introduction and integrated help is a new focus for us.

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

Exciting Times Ahead

For me, it’s kind of a big deal to now turn my focus 100% to JS Bin, and instead of getting home from work and thinking about what bugs could 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 JS Bin in the future too (maybe that could be you?).

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