Val Town Newsletter 17

Steve Krouse on

Over the last month, we drastically improved val runtime performance, redesigned the val page, and worked on dozens of other improvements and bug fixes. Jackson and JP joined the team! Steve started a weekly live coding series.

Now we’re working on HTTP streaming and improving user onboarding. Over the coming weeks and months, we’ll work on better search, improved val organization, a new pricing plan, more performance improvements, and more.

There were so many amazing community vals this month! Here are a few highlights: Static Chess, Robin Sloan’s book preorder email handler, and Cameron’s homeless resources Custom GPT. See below for sixty (!!) more awesome vals from the last month.

🤗 Welcome Jackson & JP!

We’re so excited to welcome Jackson and JP to the team!

Jackson was most recently an indie game designer, and before that a Staff Engineer at Gatsby. He’s known for styled-system, theme-ui, and MDX Deck. He’s joining full-time as our founding design engineer.

JP was most recently uncovering ancient Roman secrets at Vesuvius Challenge, and before that founded Zaplib with Steve. He is joining part-time for the summer.

⚡️ Vals are 2x faster!

Max shipped a huge performance improvement to the val runtime by cutting out a network hop on imports. Vals are at least 60% faster, and vals with many imports are many times faster. For example, the Date Me Directory (one of the most complex vals) runs 6x faster now – half a second vs 3 seconds!

🎨 Val Page Redesign

Tom redesigned the val page, and then Jackson redesigned it again!

Val Page Before Redesign
Val Page After

📺 Livestreams

Steve started a weekly live coding series. Tune into the next episodes:

🔔 Subscribe on YouTube to get notified when we go live

They’re a great way to learn Val Town by watching others use it. And if you watch live, you can ask questions and we’ll answer! Or heckle. That’s fun too. The first three episodes:

This series was inspired by Steve’s livestreams with Jason Lengstorf and Maggie Appleton, which are also recommended watching! Jason’s episode is great for pro JavaScripters who want to see us accomplish a lot in a short time. Maggie’s episode is great for front-end engineers who want to learn backend.

📝 Quickstarts

We wrote two quickstart tutorials to help you make your first vals. Let us know if you get stuck!

  1. Your first cron val - a personalized weather email every morning
  2. Your first website val - a link in bio website template you can fork and customize

🖼️ New OG Share Image

Jackson shipped a much improved OpenGraph share image for vals for when you share a val link with a friend – which you should all do every day – I hear it’s good for the soul.

New OG share image

</> JSX Pragma Helper

Val Town supports any kind of JSX. This is a blessing and a curse. The problem is you have to specify which kind of JSX (React, Preact, Hono, etc). Tom shipped a fixer that detects the missing pragma when you use JSX and helps you add it in.

🗂️ Viewing vals in a list

Jackson shipped alternative views for vals in a list. You can toggle between cards, full vals, and a compact list view. This switcher is available on user profiles, examples and packages. This is a first step towards making it easier to navigate vals – let us know which representation you prefer!

Other updates

  • Prevent vals from being run in other context than their type
  • Redesign evaluations pages
  • Trigger cmd+k on mobile using long press
  • ”Copy Email” button on email handler vals
  • Remove Feedback button from header (not enough usage)
  • Link to editor and environment variable settings from val three dots … menu
  • Link to in cron vals
  • Lots of small improvements to onboarding
  • Redesigned val hover cards in code
  • Hono/JSX template
  • Shorter val preview URL on mobile (thanks Matthew Williams for the suggestion)
  • Settings submenu in user profile menu (photo)
  • Better error message on invalid environment variable names
  • Fixed bug where users weren’t getting subscribed to our newsletter
  • Allow <img> and <div> tags in readme (demo)
  • Adjusted fonts
  • Added more prominent sign up banner when logged out
  • Hide ? menu for logged out users
  • Button to copy embed iframe
  • Add fork button to all embeds and ensure they open in new windows
  • Display yaml frontmatter in markdown READMEs
  • Dealt with our first DDOS!
  • and are on the public suffix list!

🛣️ Roadmap

What we’re working on

Max is almost done rewriting our core networking to make HTTP streaming possible. This will also improve performance for HTTP vals and pave the way for websocket support.

The rest of the team has been focused increasing signups, improving user onboarding, and making usability improvements. We’re making user interviews a regular part of every Val Town employee’s job. They really impact what we work on. If you want to have a personalized onboarding or a voice in the future of Val Town, email and we’ll set up a time to chat!

Coming soon

Here’s some of the top features we’re planning to work in the coming months. Please make feature requests and vote on what you’d like to see next.

🌟 Community Vals

Edit this page