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Community Meetup in SF (Dec 10)

We’re going to have our first community meetup in San Francisco!

When: December 10th, 2019 5:30 - 7 PM
Where: Our offices at 215 2nd St. San Francisco, CA

Come meet other Observable users and hang out with the team. We’ll have talks from community members along with show & tell so you can demo what you’ve been working on! Also, bring your questions or ideas and we’ll try to answer them during office hours .

:speaking_head: If you’re in the area and interested in giving a quick 5-10 minute talk, please email us.

You can RSVP at:


Any chance you’d be willing to open up a video connection for a virtual tour :wink: Especially if there are any formal sessions, it’d be fun hear about how you brought all of this together, what your grand vision is, and what steps and milestones you have along the way.


It’d be fun to try to stream, but being the first meetup here in this space there are a lot of unknowns with that. When you say “this,” you mean Observable’s vision and near-term roadmap right? We might have a quick spot on that, but haven’t decided the details yet.

We’re really excited to source talks from users to see what cool things they’re doing with Observable.

Yep! :slight_smile:

Totally understood. Also, I’m on nearly the opposite global timezone - so I’d likely be joining at (to borrow someone else’ term i read yesterday) ‘stupid-o’clock’ (but would still sort it out b/c i’m such a super fan).

Another HUGE motivation to digitally attend :heart: This community is so inspiring, welcoming and nurturing. I can’t express to you all how much I appreciate it!

No promises, but I’ll try to be there. I’ve been meaning for a while to find a time to drop by for a visit.


We had someone submit some talk ideas to present remotely even. Would love to be able to handle that setup in the future too. Possibly even more difficult than streaming would be recording talks (and editing them appropriately), which would allow a bunch of people to “participate” asynchronously in opposite time zones.


that’s amazing! are you folks planning to have regular meetups? It would be really cool to see people IRL.
I’m afraid I won’t be able to make it this time, but I’ll be back to bay in January!
Thanks for organizing

The plan is to have them regularly along with workshops too, but we’ll see what the time effort turns out to be.

Cool! Please let us know if you need support. I’d be happy to volunteer for a community around observable, it’s such useful and fun tool! thanks

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Okay I’ve apparently been signed up for a 5–10 minute talk slot, so I guess I’d better show up. Don’t expect anything fancy or well prepared.

Most of what I want to talk about with folks in person is soliciting help/feedback with various projects that I think are generally useful across a wide variety of notebooks / use cases. I have a whole lot of possible things to talk about and 10m isn’t too much time, so if there’s anything specific anyone wants to hear/chat about, I’m happy to take suggestions (here or via private email).

  • I want to take the math/code from https://observablehq.com/@jrus/cubic-spline and make a little standalone “curves” (think photoshop) type view widget which can either (a) be used generically as an user interface for inputting a function or more concretely (b) can be used for adjusting the color content of an image, ideally with spline evaluation (or lookup table application) implemented in WebGL so adjustments can be applied to large images in real time.

  • I want to take my idea for shading contour maps with multiple levels of subdivisions from a few years ago (which I implemented in a slow and hacky way in Matlab) and get it implemented in WebGL so it can be used generically (and as a background behind an SVG plot), with the first use case being to shade the background grids behind arbitrary scatter/line plots, but later with the goal of also implementing contour shading (as an alternative to e.g. d3-contour), and to implement complex function coloring the way I think it should be done. I’d like to figure out how to do high-quality antialiasing, etc., without too much GPU expense.

    Example picture:

  • I want to make (or entice someone else to make / help me with) some kind of user interface for inputting integers or floating point numbers which shows the individual bits and allows bits to be toggled instead of (or in addition to) showing a slider. I’m not sure if just a row of squares representing bits cuts it, or if sign/exponent/mantissa should be separated, and so on. This type of thing would be very useful for debugging numerical code, or e.g. finding interesting looking input values for https://observablehq.com/@jrus/non-robust-arithmetic-gallery (click through to Vlad’s original to tweak parameters)

  • I still haven’t put the work in to figure out how to draw (interactive) geometric diagrams with reasonably auto-placed LaTeX labels, nice arrowheads, visual elements indicating angles, etc., ideally with diagrams specified in some mostly declarative way without too much boilerplate. What I want is something vaguely like geogebra but with better pictures and more of a code focus than a plop-arbitrary-elements-down-graphically focus. I really need this for many expository notebooks but don’t have the bandwidth to do it properly, so if I end up implementing things myself they’ll probably end up pretty hacky and inelegant and cumbersome.

  • I would like to sometime implement (or entice someone else to implement) a color picker tool based on a human-perception-relevant color space like https://observablehq.com/@jrus/jzazbz or https://observablehq.com/@jrus/cam16 – see my hacky unfinished prototype from 8 (?) years ago at http://www.hcs.harvard.edu/~jrus/colortheory/javascript/colorpicker.html for some idea how this could work.

  • I have found that my process for picking colors for diagrams/etc. in notebooks is inefficient and not especially effective. Often using a hodgepodge of guesswork, code libraries, external graphical tools, … I would love to have (but didn’t get around to implementing and don’t have too much bandwidth for) some kind of “color palette” view which outputs a value like colors = {red: "#a44", blue: "#44a"} which can be referenced elsewhere in the notebook but (a) in the view itself shows all of the color names with a demonstrative swatch, and (b) includes a selection whose color can be viewed/modified via a separate color picker cell. For bonus points, it would be neat to fetch the colors from an attached file (in some kind of standard format(s)), save the palette to a file, drag/drop swatches between palettes, save/load swatches from some browser cache, …?

Note: I can probably only talk about 1 of these things in 5–10 minutes. But would be also happy to chat about the others face to face informally (or via email, etc.). I’m listing them here in case that gets gears churning in anyone’s head / inspires anyone to build stuff (either from this list or other generally useful components which can be used across notebooks).



Here’s an existing example: https://evanw.github.io/float-toy/

You can type a number directly, click bits to toggle them, or drag across bits to set them to the same value.


All of these are great!

My personal guidance is to shoot for talking about a handful of these while you have everyone’s captive attention tomorrow and expect to break off afterwards to deep dive into the nitty gritty on any given one, with people 1:1.

From experience, the high bandwidth 1:1 conversations that happen afterwards after you’ve piqued everyone’s interest is where things really get done. We’ve specifically budgeted time at the beginning and end for more self-directed interaction between everyone showing up.

Hope that helps!

My plan is to give a bit of a meta talk about what kind of high-level wishlist I have for the evolution of Observable as a platform for doing creative/exploratory work, but pitched at the community because the types of general-purpose components I want to build / entice someone else to build are mostly on the notebook / library / user end, rather than platform changes. 10 minutes isn’t too long though, so we’ll see how it goes…


How did it go? (and has it been filmed for us for farfaraway?)


Random idea, @jrus: A running checklist notebook with the widgets and tools you’d like to see. Then if/when they’re implemented, turn it into a link. (And of course including things which are already done). Mostly as a way to collect information so it becomes a go-to resource you’d memorize and don’t even have to think about, like @jashkenas/inputs.

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Also, @jrus, here’s a quick cut of a binary input that handles all the basic typed array data types: https://observablehq.com/@rreusser/binary-input, e.g. binaryInput({type: 'float64', value: Math.PI})

I didn’t try to display the separate parts since that requires a bit of extra interpretation that’s easy to mix up—as opposed to letting JS interpret the bytes directly via typed array views. Wouldn’t be too bad to add, but a little tricky.


It went well, I think! Not filmed, sorry. There are a few bumps to iron out with the next one (early February). Depending on ambition and time, may try to tackle either streaming and/or filming for the next one (where the stream could just be made available to play in its unedited entirety afterwards).

It’s definitely a goal to involve more of the global community in these meetups. If you have more ideas towards that, would love to hear them!


We were contemplating another meetup format we could try of “co-working hours” or “code jam” (all the names we could think of were bad). It’d just be time reserved for people to come in and write notebooks together in a low pressure, undirected fashion. There’d be a mix of people familiar with Observable to help each other out. I could see predefined lists of exercises to do or “wanted” lists helping to give some people interesting paths to explore.


Disorganized and probably rather incoherent. But hopefully got my message across.

If I give another talk at one of these thingies I think I’d try to show off a single notebook that has pretty pictures involved. :slight_smile:

It was great to see everybody face to face. I learned from Mike about the videos of German trains and tractors at https://www.youtube.com/user/Bidone1967 which as advertised are great for small kids.