If I were David Bowie, I’d be pretty amazed.
As some of you may know, I made Markpond, a bookmarking website. I’m not going to lie, it’s similar to Pinboard. But I made Markpond as a challenge for myself.
I’m 15. I’ve “got my whole life ahead of me”. So I figured why not make something that I use on a daily basis. That way, if something irritates me, I’ll be motivated to fix it. And if it fails, it doesn’t matter.
Markpond is not a startup. I’m not intending to make that much money from it. I made it in the spirit of hacking – because I was motivated to make something that worked, and be able to point to it and say “I made that”.
It’s not a free service because I spent a lot of time on it. The basic account if £5/year, and the archival account is £10/year. That’s not that much. It’s actually quite cheap. And best of all – you get a three-day free trial (in that you’re only charged on the third day of use), and so if you want to cancel your account before then, you can do so without incurring any loss.
Well, you’re probably going to ask what Markpond does differently from all the services out there at the moment. Well, the answer is – not that much. But it might do in the future. Right now, the only major difference is the Little Printer publication, which is quite cool.
Despite being a hacker, and a geek, I do like looking at pretty things. And if I’m going to use a site every single day, I’d like it to look nice. And I think I’ve done that without having an impact of the speed and overall responsiveness of the site. The front page of Markpond gets 89% from Google PageSpeed, compared to 84% for Pinboard and 70% for Kippt.
I’m not saying that PageSpeed is the only measure of how fast a site is, but Markpond’s good score is also a direct result of gzip compression coupled with Rails’s asset pipeline and using SVGs instead of normal images.
The speed of Markpond isn’t just limited to the front-end though. The average server response time for a full profile page is around about 100ms, which is pretty damn good considering Markpond is run from a single Mac Mini.
So – what am I saying here? Well, mostly that I don’t see why you can’t have a site that looks good while simultaneously being on average only 30ms slower than the current status quo. Some people will like the fact that Pinboard has a geeky interface with no images and the default font. But personally, I don’t – not for a site that I visit every day.
As so that, coupled with the project being a personal challenge, inspired me to create Markpond. I’m not looking for huge success – Markpond isn’t my full-time job – I’m still in school doing my GCSEs. But if there are similarly-minded people out there, I can’t see any harm in providing a service for them. So I have.
While rewriting Markpond, I thought it would be pretty cool if there was some way to track my progress through my roadmap of post-it notes. And so I took inspiration from one of the projects at the Little Printer Hack Day 2, GitHub Yesterday by Martyn Loughran and I looked into how I could make something using the Little Printer’s direct print API.
And I found out that GitHub has a thing called WebHook URLs, which posts a dump of data every time someone pushes to a repository. So I made a little Sinatra app, reusing a bunch of code from something I did on the hack day.
In short, it receives a bunch of info from GitHub, formats it nicely, and then sends off another post request to BERGCloud to get it printed.
Once I had got this working locally, I pushed it up to Heroku and set it up as a service so that anybody can use it. You can find instructions here.
And so, every time I finish a little bit of the new Markpond, I get a printout and put it up on my roadmap.
You can view the source of little-commits on GitHub. It’s really simple, but I think it’s quite useful.
Right. Let’s start out by going to their homepage.
Looking nice enough. Finally, maybe they’ve fixed the awful site design from 2003 they had before. Oh wait. Let’s try logging in.
How about the developer site?
NOPE! It’s gone. Completely. The UK one sometimes redirects to https://www.sandbox.paypal.co.uk, a domain that doesn’t exist on any DNS tables. Other times, it’s just 404ing. I even tried using a US proxy, and trying again to see if the US one was broken as well. Guess what? It was broken as well.
I’m at the point of redesigning Markpond where I’m choosing a payment platform. If I possibly could, I would be running in the opposite direction right now. PayPal, a huge multinational company, has broken its developer site completely. And it looks like it’s been like that for the past few days. No service announcement, no public apology, just silently broken.
If I could, I would use Stripe, which looks amazing. But, it’s US and Canada only for the foreseeable future. There’s also Braintree, which has a nice functioning sandbox, but as far as I can tell requires a social security number to get your payment processing online, which of course I don’t have because I’m not a US citizen.
So it’s back to PayPal again. And for now, all the code I’m writing can’t be tested until I either put it in production and hope there aren’t any errors, or until I set up a second actual PayPal account, send some money over to it, and then try buying something back with it through the site. Great.