Blog ► You're a company? But how? You're selling our avatar pixel art, aren't you?

You're a company? But how? You're selling our avatar pixel art, aren't you?

Post by Blake
I noticed a bit of buzz from a recent tweet I made announcing that I now have a desk and a real company that runs TwoCans. Mostly the buzz was "how are you making money off of us?" since there are clearly no ads and this site is still free.

The short answer is: I am not making a profit. TwoCans still costs money to run. However, the longer answer is that TwoCans is a platform that I want to use in a larger ecosystem that could potentially yield profitable technology.

But first, a quick statement to clear things up: your hand-drawn avatars are NOT being sold behind your back in some sort of pixel art black market. That statement also applies to all your private data. That is not my business model, nor will it ever be.

The company I've created is called String Labs and focuses on two things. The first is to build up TwoCans into a modern social platform with an emphasis on developer extensibility. The games SDK will be expanded to include multiplayer games and also interactive non-game types of apps. For example, the QA itself may potentially be converted to use this system and still integrate seamlessly with the rest of the site. I don't really expect the developer side of this to appeal to more than a small percent of users, but the results of this will be beneficial to everyone. My goal here is to not just create a large array of apps for users to spend lots of time on, but also make it easy enough to create these apps that the entire workflow for this is a compelling experience to introductory programming and create a space that is really geared towards playful tinkering with code in a social way.

This brings me to the second thing that String Labs will focus on. The product line of String Labs is a set of cloud-based compilers, an IDE, tutorials, and other related tools where TwoCans is the flagship showcase of these in action. While plenty of these things do exist already, one of the key features of Crayon (the programming language I created and am using for all this) is that it is, as far as I know, one of the only localizable programming languages, meaning that it can be switched to non-English languages. Currently there is a world-wide surge in requiring programming as a course in pre-college curriculum. But the state of programming education in non-English-speaking countries is not very ideal. Educators basically have two options for course material: force kids to memorize the English phrases like Harry-Potter-style magical incantations OR use a graphical toy programming environment such as Scratch, which is localized, but only effective up to a certain age and complexity. While it will always remain true that professional software engineers must learn English to get the most out of their career, the burden of English as a gateway to introducing programming to someone for the first time, especially younger audiences, is a large unnecessary hurdle. This is where String Labs and its Crayon-based cloud tools come in. My goal is to create a turn-key solution for course software for various ages and languages.

Expanding TwoCans helps build a developer community. A large healthy developer community creates more stable tools. More stable tools supports my larger goal. But this is going to take a long time and my goals are kind of long term. And if it doesn't work out, I will fall back and focus my efforts on just TwoCans, because TwoCans on its own is still a pretty cool project to spend my time on.

So how am I paying for all this in the mean time? I am able to self-fund TwoCans for another few years while I work on this. But if TwoCans has a sudden surge in traffic or if my full plans do not pan out and I change my focus to just working on TwoCans or if my appendix bursts, I may have to consider the possibility of introducing ads, promoted questions, etc. But I will hold off on that as long as possible as I'm pretty proud of the fact that this place is still free and ad-free. But please rest assured that I will never sell private data as a business model. Ever.
Toad at May 16th, 2019, 11:28 PM
I don't have much to say, but I'm very excited for you! As someone working on becoming a web developer (I'm currently in a bootcamp), I'll definitely mess around with crayon at some point, as well as whatever else you implement to TCaS.

I also fully support ads if that is the path you decide to go down. This would be the first site I turn ublock origin off for tbh. You've given 61071 users and counting a great experience for a long time out of your own pocket, and we owe you.
sendmecutefeetpics at May 16th, 2019, 11:28 PM
Damn I was playing around with the idea of writing some Crayon VSCode extensions or an IDE of my own. Cool to see a real IDE is coming out.
Kylljoy at May 16th, 2019, 11:28 PM
To be fair, there are already ads from the occasional bot. What difference would it make to us if it was actually supported by you?
Blake at May 16th, 2019, 11:28 PM
Kylljoy said:
What difference would it make to us if it was actually supported by you?
They wouldn't be about viagra or counterfeit designer bags. Bot ad is graffiti. Please flag if you see this.

If I had the volume of traffic to actually justify putting up ads, the income might not necessarily be enough to hire someone, but enough to at least contract periodic help for things that I don't excel at. Like a UX designer.
ecr674 at May 16th, 2019, 11:28 PM
Blake said:
Bot ad is graffiti. Please flag if you see this.


The majority of bots I've seen are ads pasted directly into super old user blurbs. What's the best way to bring these to admin's attention? Troll reports thread?

Edit: Also congrats, I'm wishing String Labs only the best.

P.S. I'd buy a Twocans shirt in a heartbeat if they were a thing.
Blake at May 16th, 2019, 11:28 PM
ecr674 said:
Troll reports thread?
Sure that, works. Or a message. If I notice a pattern of this regularly, I'll add a profile flag (although I should probably add a profile flag anyway at this point).
Kylljoy at May 16th, 2019, 11:28 PM
ecr674 said:
P.S. I'd buy a Twocans shirt in a heartbeat if they were a thing.

I'll second that.

EDIT : Also, just out of curiosity, is there any sort of rough timeline for when to expect new features/maintenance/changes/updates?
Blake at May 16th, 2019, 11:28 PM
I'm working on getting the infrastructure for the online games compiler back up and running this week and the next. After that, I'll be working on site features.

The first wave of changes will be making things load in real time rather than per-page load. My first targets are going to be the page header notifications and the messages.
sendmecutefeetpics at May 16th, 2019, 11:28 PM
Blake said:
The first wave of changes will be making things load in real time rather than per-page load. My first targets are going to be the page header notifications and the messages.


I take full credit
Blake at May 16th, 2019, 11:28 PM
Honestly, I thought this was one of those long-standing requests that people have asked for repeatedly over the years yet I can't find a single other thread asking for this. So sure.
DIAV at May 16th, 2019, 11:28 PM
Of the long-standing requests, I think the most significant would be to check for the presence of reply text when skipping.
ecr674 at May 16th, 2019, 11:28 PM
Blake said:
Sure that, works. Or a message. If I notice a pattern of this regularly, I'll add a profile flag (although I should probably add a profile flag anyway at this point).

Cool I'll post a list once I accumulate a good amount. Most of them seem to be registered 2012-16 for some reason.
Blake at May 16th, 2019, 11:28 PM
ecr674 said:
Cool I'll post a list once I accumulate a good amount.
Just post what you have, even if it's just one. I can do a search in the database for similar accounts.
Kylljoy at May 16th, 2019, 11:28 PM
Wait:
  • String Labs is now a Company
  • By extension, TwoCans is now a child of that parent company
  • Blake (I assume) is the CEO of the Company
  • The Mods work for Blake, the CEO of the Company
  • The Mods are unpaid

Does that make the Mods interns of String Labs?
Fwip at May 16th, 2019, 11:28 PM
Not only that, but we all have to share a cubicle, too.
Blake at May 16th, 2019, 11:28 PM
Fwip said:
Not only that, but we all have to share a cubicle, too.

You haven't even shown up for work yet!
sendmecutefeetpics at May 16th, 2019, 11:28 PM
You should hire me. But only if I can answer the phones with "String Labs, this is sendmecutefeetpics"
ちょたの_chotano at May 16th, 2019, 11:28 PM
You should hire me. But only if I can answer the phones with "String Labs, this is sendmecutefeetpics"


I second that notion. Being hired might be nice
sendmecutefeetpics at May 16th, 2019, 11:28 PM
I second that notion.


Blake, I've got community support. This is the guy they want answering the phones at String Labs.
DIAV at May 16th, 2019, 11:28 PM
Besides, given the username you could probably walk all over them and they'd count it a bonus.
Kylljoy at May 16th, 2019, 11:28 PM
Now I'm just imagining an even more dysfunctional version of The Office.
sendmecutefeetpics at May 16th, 2019, 11:28 PM
Can we pitch this as a TV show. There's a business plan for you.

"Two Cans and String: A Netflix Original"
Blake at May 16th, 2019, 11:28 PM
Nope. Netflix show pitches can only be done through existing industry connections which I don't have.

Back in March I stayed awake for two days while stuck in various airports and accidentally wrote a sit-com. I checked the pitch rules for some reason.
Kylljoy at May 16th, 2019, 11:28 PM
Blake said:
accidentally wrote a sit-com


Can you post that, please? Sleep-deprived writing is always interesting to read.
justabitjaded at May 16th, 2019, 11:28 PM
Well, sleep-deprived writing is my only writing.

Also, I guess we’ll have to just make our own streaming service then.
sendmecutefeetpics at May 16th, 2019, 11:28 PM
I may or may not have industry connections.

🤫