The Jelastic Spotlight: Erik Rasmussen and Jyst

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erikThis Spotlight comes to you from North Carolina! We got a chance to interview one of our users Erik Rasmussen, the president of Jyst. The app he is currently working on is a product which is the dream of all social network fans.

Thanks for taking the time to chat with us, Erik. So, where did you grow up?

I grew up in western North Carolina and went to college in Raleigh.

Where are you based now?

I’m based in western North Carolina.

What’s your background?

Java and e-commerce.

Before this, what were you doing?

I’ve been programming in Java and JavaScript for over ten years now, building e-commerce sites to sell various products.

Tell us about Jyst.

I’ve long been frustrated with the UI of social networking sites, and especially having to visit multiple websites to see all the information from the people I want to follow. There’s something boring and unappealing about the normal way Twitter and Facebook feeds are displayed. So much scrolling! The “pinboard” layout of Pinterest, on the other hand, is immediately captivating, drawing your eye to the items that most interest you without quite so much scrolling. Immediately I suspected there was a market for visualizing Twitter and Facebook feeds in the pinboard format.

jyst2While we at Jyst feel that the Jyst interface is superior to that of either Twitter or Facebook, and would be worth using with only one social networking account, the true power of Jyst comes from the ability to merge social feeds, presenting data from both Twitter and Facebook together on one page. Jyst’s power of combining social networks is not only for reading, but also for broadcasting. Sharing a status update or link to both your Twitter and Facebook accounts is simple and easy with Jyst’s sharing bookmarket. Other sites that do broadcasting to multiple social networks cost $10/month or more. When we do finally switch to a freemium model, after our beta period, we hope to undercut such prices by a very large margin.

Jyst was built from the ground up with scalability in mind. The server-side component is very minimal, merely proxying requests to Twitter or Facebook. Due to the nature of OAuth2, in fact, after the initial authentication, 100% of the requests to Facebook are direct from the browser, bypassing Jyst’s servers entirely, making Jyst’s Facebook access as scalable as Facebook itself. All the processing and GUI work is done in pure Javascript.

jyst1

Which other PaaS or hosting options did you evaluate or use and what made you pick Jelastic?

I started out with Google’s App Engine, and I made it all the way to the authentication and account creation part of my application before I realized that they didn’t allow even basic relational database operations. What??? That was when I realized I needed some real Tomcat hosting with a real database behind it.

After that, I evaluated a few options, but only set up trial accounts with CloudBees and Jelastic. I liked the interface and available services (e.g. PostgreSQL instead of MySQL) of Jelastic a lot more than CloudBees, and for the architecture I needed, Jelastic was slightly cheaper. There were a variety of other minor factors, such as CloudBees wanting me to use a specific Maven plugin to deploy, whereas Jelastic needing only my build WAR file. In the end, it was a pretty clear choice.

What were your specific needs/challenges?

I just wanted a place to host a WAR file that I knew would be scalable, should Jyst be successful, without incurring excessive fees. Jelastic impressed me very much by the wide menu of scalability options available.

How did Jelastic address those needs or challenges?

Getting up and running was incredibly easy. It was literally just a matter of selecting my WAR file from my build directory and uploading it, via the Jelastic web interface.

Did Jelastic save you money? Up front? Ongoing? How much?

If I had gone with another hosting platform first, I’m sure Jelastic would’ve saved me money, but I did my research and chose Jelastic right out of the gate. I’d rather not think about how much more money I’d be paying to host elsewhere.

Have you used Jelastic’s technology in any new, unique, or surprising ways?

Not yet, but I look forward to having to use load balancing and replication.

So far, how do you like Jelastic? Is there anything in particular that stands out to you?

I’ve written some apps myself using Sencha’s ExtJS, and there are some UI’s that benefit from it and others that do not, but Jelastic’s is definitely one of the former. The UI is very professional and easy to use. Designing my “environment topology” was straightforward and simple.

What are your plans for the future with respect to your application?

We’re in the growth stage at the moment, looking to get the word out to more users and for suggestions on how to improve our application. We encourage people to email us or contact us on Twitter or Facebook.

Eventually we will monetize it into a very cheap, undercutting the competition, subscription-based freemium service. We also plan to add other social networks, as we only support Twitter and Facebook at the moment.

What’s your favorite hobby?

I love golf. It’s so challenging, fun, and nice to be outside.

What do you like most about your work?

I like making elegant solutions to complex problems.

Do you have a favorite website?

As you might imagine, I’m a bit of a social networking addict.

Do you have a philosophy by which you live, something that you rely on when making decisions or use to guide you in tough times?

After waiting for years for someone to build a social networking client that I really liked, I decided it was time to just buckle down and build it myself. No software is ever perfect or finished, but we’re proud enough of Jyst to show it to the world and we think people might find it useful enough to use on a daily basis.

Well, thanks for your time, Erik. We appreciate you sharing with us.

If you are interested in learning more about Jyst you can learn more at jyst.us.

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