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Why We're Building Observable Funding Announcement

Hi everyone. We’re excited to announce Observable’s Series A funding.

Thank you for joining us on this journey!

Read more about our funding announcement from our founders Melody Meckfessel and Mike Bostock. https://observablehq.com/@observablehq/why-were-building-observable

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Congrats!

In the announcement notebook, I get a 403 error on this link:

https://next.observablehq.com/d/32a368eb40688ecf

… I would raise a comment but don’t really wish to clutter the notebook on a minor point.

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Congrats on raising $10.5M, @mbostock & al.!

Seems like that should buy you an extra maybe 2 years of runway? Are there any big changes implied by taking more VC money? A bunch of new hiring? An aim for new business models / markets? Big new marketing push? Or is the platform doing okay at organically growing a self-sustaining customer base? Hopefully there isn’t too much pressure to start “monetizing” existing users.

In any event, thanks for making Observable. It continues to be great!


Edit: just spitballing, here are a few ideas for possible business directions:

(1) Add paid features to tailor the platform for classroom use, and try to get adoption from teachers of statistics, math, computing, GIS, etc. classes.

(1b) Figure out how to publish (free and/or paid) online textbooks for a variety of subjects that students can deeply interact with.

(2) Help companies streamline visualization of internal non-public data; start by creating a bunch of examples matching people’s existing data shapes so that they can hook a simple prototype up in a few minutes.

(3) Make deals with governments (or other kinds of organizations) to help them publish their data online in an easily consumable way. All of the Microsoft BI / Tableau widgets popping up around the web are ugly, horribly laggy, and a pain to interact with in this reader’s opinion.

(4) Partner with newspapers and other informational websites to host data visualizations and models, perhaps aiming particularly for those who don’t have the independent budget to do fancy work like e.g. the NYT can do.

(5) Look for grants from governments or funding agencies to do UI / visualization research.

(6) Build some tools specific for publication of interactive computing API documentation.

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I’d assume that “next.observablehq.com” is a staging version, but now I’m at least a tiny bit curious if there’s more to it.

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I am also curious. I think it’s a reference to next.js, which I assume underpins Observable. Is the Observable team working on crazy server-size stuff that will solve all my questions about linkages to different data stores? @visnup’s database client just the tip of the iceberg, I imagine? :slight_smile: should be fun!

To wit: https://observablehq.com/d/32a368eb40688ecf is not a valid notebook. Would be interested to know what it was meant to point to.

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Thanks for the feedback

Link no longer in announcement notebook. The world may never know…

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@jrus and others, for fun and thought (i hope it is read as such), some reactions:

(1) Add paid features to tailor the platform for classroom use, and try to get adoption from teachers of statistics, math, computing, GIS, etc. classes.

I appreciate how monetization of niche learning materials would be interesting (as there’s an entire publishing industry to potentially displace), but I also very much appreciate the the way that Observable emphasizes education and treats users equally. It is amazing that recent features like URL renaming have not been monetized or linked only to Teams accounts. Thank you.

(1b) Figure out how to publish (free and/or paid) online textbooks for a variety of subjects that students can deeply interact with.

This is my dream, and not just for textbooks: for everything. It’s amazing when people can think through scenarios based on data, forecasting, modeling, and facts. It’s amazing when people can see things. The notebooks can be used like this now, but one has to know to name every cell so it can be imported / embedded, and one really does need to give some thought to the organization of content as notebook chapters (in Observable, huge flexibility here as never before; thank you!). Advancements like nested collections are huge here.

(2) Help companies streamline visualization of internal non-public data; start by creating a bunch of examples matching people’s existing data shapes so that they can hook a simple prototype up in a few minutes.

YES. For me and my tiny world, yes. But it goes beyond visualization to the very core: data management, editing, linkages, and synthesis. Give me 5 inputs, let me compare and annotate, and mutate with beautiful JS functions so I can see insights in the browser… but also let me audit and save my synthesis, corrections, findings, etc. Let me write back and save my results. (By the way - this is already an Observable strength, as all the download options on visualizations are amazing! Thank you!). But I’d love to go a step further…

(3) Make deals with governments (or other kinds of organizations) to help them publish their data online in an easily consumable way. All of the Microsoft BI / Tableau widgets popping up around the web are ugly, horribly laggy, and a pain to interact with in this reader’s opinion.

Please!

(4) Partner with newspapers and other informational websites to host data visualizations and models, perhaps aiming particularly for those who don’t have the independent budget to do fancy work like e.g. the NYT can do.

Seems like newspapers are among the leading users! :slight_smile: Thanks to all you smart people for sharing your work.

(5) Look for grants from governments or funding agencies to do UI / visualization research.

I wish this were more in jest, but probably not grants :frowning: Would be nice, but I don’t know how likely you would be to beat 10.5 million in venture capital looking to the US government (or any foreign government).

(6) Build some tools specific for publication of interactive computing API documentation.

This sounds very fancy and I do not know what it means, but I am sure I support it! I am trying to figure out what I would need to do in terms of writing AWS Lambda functions so that the browser and AWS APIs could securely authenticate and transmit information to a serverless data store. I am looking for something interactive like a well written terminal application, but from within Observable. I am lucky that most of this is documented for AWS, but a recent blog post from Tom reminds me to look into other alternatives… but slow to work through all the configurations. Would love help to really connect visualization to data clean-up and persistent data storage.

Thanks for these conversations! :heart:

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(1) Add paid features to tailor the platform for classroom use, and try to get adoption from teachers of statistics, math, computing, GIS, etc. classes.

I appreciate how monetization of niche learning materials would be interesting (as there’s an entire publishing industry to potentially displace), but I also very much appreciate the the way that Observable emphasizes education and treats users equally.

Well for example, for a programming course it should be possible to streamline the process for students to fork a homework assignment, fill it out, and submit it, and then have some kinds of (non-public) testing that the teacher can automatically run against all of the notebooks. Have a specific page where the teacher can see all of the students’ notebooks in one place. Maybe some special tools for having group discussions about student work. Maybe some extra work could be done to make notebooks into a platform for online lectures, with chunks of video interspersed with bits of code to fill out. Someone could maybe develop a whole set of (free and/or paid) notebooks teaching particular skills/ideas intended to be used as part of a “flipped classroom”.

I dunno exactly what ideas would be most helpful to existing teachers. Pretty much anything you can think of could in principle be built ad hoc by a particular committed teacher with enough free time on their hands, but I’m sure that by dumping some resources into directly working with teachers and classes, testing out ideas and seeing what works and doesn’t work, many common tools could be built out and streamlined to make the overall process as easy as possible for folks who are already stressed and overworked as it is.

(6) Build some tools specific for publication of interactive computing API documentation.

This sounds very fancy and I do not know what it means

I think notebooks make for better documentation of software libraries than static web pages or printed books. But almost all documentation is one of the latter types.

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