Just few years ago this would've shipped as a standalone desktop software that would've cost a one-time fee in low hundreds at most, but more likely under a $100. This is after all a vector editor with specialized clip art library.
This BioRender thing apparently costs over 400 per year at its cheapest. I realize that this obviously means that there's a demand even at these terms, but that's just... disconcerting to see for some reason. It's one of the cases when conversion from an installable product to an online service is done merely to justify recurrent monthly charges rather than for any actual user benefits.
SECURE, TEAM BASED COLLABORATION
Store illustrations in our secure web-based application, forever
Share illustrations with your lab, team or organization
Add or remove team members as needed
Secure, web-based portal that auto-saves your work as you go
This is not to deny that they did a nice and important job with these icons. They did. But they're also part of an annoying trend of "take what should be desktop software, move it on-line, slap on some 'collaboration' feature, enjoy recurring pricing and taking users' data hostage".
I tend to whine a lot about SaaSS and user control, but even ignoring that, I wish we could remove the platform part from SaaS(S). There's no user benefit from each vendor doing their own half-assed reimplementation of a shared file system. There's only increased account management headache, and loss of data ownership.
Having worked as a researcher, I can tell you it's the latter.
I have, and I’ll never go back to PowerPoint. Not coincidentally, my lab uses biorender all the time and it saves us an absurd amount of time. We often paste directly from biorender images into google slides. Yeah it’s pedestrian, but it works really, really well.
Ask the penny pinchers who look down their nose at this who funds them, how many R01s/R37s/equivalents they hold, etc. $400 for a decently run lab is jack shit. Unless you’re buying Rain-X by the gallon at Sam’s Club and silanizing your own float glass for gels, I suspect there are other expenditures that offer less marginal value. YMMV, but it probably won’t.
These guys are doing well because they solved a long standing problem that is worth a lot to a large group of people to make it go away. Every single signup I’ve seen went like this:
“How’d you put that together in 5 minutes?”
“We used biorender.”
“A web application that helps put biomedical illustrations together. If something is missing, you ask and they add it.”
(Couple days pass)
“Hey we just signed up for it too. Thanks!”
YMMV, again. But probably not.
It's bad enough that we have to deal with Elseveir - we really should not be encouraging stuff like this when it is not necessary as a general principle.
Nothing in this world lasts forever. I’m ok with that. Software undergoes bit rot, and services shut down. For us, the value is simply that we can communicate complicated experimental designs and results, clearly and effectively, without a lot of application training or other bullshit. That’s worth a LOT to my lab.
We release almost everything open source, and are militant open data proponents. We also like to remind people “if it breaks, you get to keep the pieces”. The value of this service isn’t in the pieces.
And then they also want to use it on Windows 2K :)
It is a clip art application with a monthly subscription cost. It seems like a pretty on-the-mark comment.
I get why companies are doing this, they want easier cross platform, easier deployability of updates, easier to find devs who know the toolchain, easier to make it work on mobile. Everything's easier with the web, I guess. But is it worth it?
You forgot it justifies having a recurring revenue model, which I'd guess is the main reason :D.
We got more done in the past 6 months with no TV, internet, or data plan, than in the past 6 years.
Also, social media usually tends to dull a person's enjoyment of life, turn them pessimistic and depressed, make them lazy and prefer endless consumption to hard work, and make them feel resentful of the people in their life. Even "harmless" time killer websites do this like reddit and imgur, and even HN.
I've seen all these affects and more for years on our family and many other families we know, and after getting rid of internet, TV and data plan, our life has turned around substantially.
The internet is a great resource and I use it when I need it, by going to the library and using their wifi. But when I don't need it, it just becomes a burden and a crutch if I have it with me at all times.
That was 10 years ago. I suppose today the social disconnection would be even more pronounced. So I have to ask: do you live in a small town or a large one? Are your kids pre-school/primary school aged? Are your and your spouse's professions outside of the technical or Internet-requiring fields?
We live in a large suburb, and because of lack of constant electronic distractions, we're meeting our neighbors for the first time (albeit slowly, since nobody around here ever steps outside).
The kids have a great time at school, but they keep observing that all the other kids are surprisingly behind at pretty much every skill, and express surprise that they enjoy phone games where all you do is tap the screen to make a number go higher.
My wife stays at home raising our young children, and only really uses internet to communicate with the older kids' schools, which she can do with her iPhone anywhere that has wifi, including Walmart.
I'm the breadwinner of our family, doing software consulting work that often needs internet but often can be done offline. As long as I use the library's wifi for that aspect, I'm able to do my job just fine.
Honestly, if software wasn't my skill, I would be using the internet a lot less often, probably as much as I would check out a library book, and for the same reasons too. But software is what God made me good at, so it's how I need to support my family.
That said, I've installed a ton of things on our offline home computer that my kids find useful, such as PICO-8 and IntelliJ IDEA Community (so we can learn Java).
My impression is that that's pretty much all of the cases. Sometimes there happen to be benefits for the users, but that's mostly by coincidence.
The lock-in is pretty standard business practice now.
It's a specialised piece of software for biologists and doctors, I'm sure every industry has overpriced software.
Nobody I know that has signed up for this service has regretted it for one second. (Contrast with Dropbox for Business, which is a horrifying overengineered pile of shit that actively subtracts value)
I get the impression that the engineer types are missing the point. Maybe it’s possible to produce a better product more cheaply and satisfy a greater segment of this market. But others have been trying that for 50 years and somehow biorender is the rising star in their market.
Perhaps, and I’m just spitballing here, perhaps the haters might benefit from reviewing a Hacker News Classic:
It’s not about the difficulty, or the effort, or the novelty of a service. It’s the value to a market that is willing to pay and underserved. Over and over again...
It does not take anything from the quality of this product, but you can not really compare it to programs that have dozens of norms and verification processes to go through.
1. They give the impression of a mechanical system like you might make out of an erector set as opposed to the chaotic, roiling mass that is the interior of a cell.
2. They prevent students from learning to think in terms of relations among observed quantities without overspecifying them.
This is so disappointing in this day and age where everyone at least has a computer, if not an iPad, capable of displaying video and animations in line with text.
And it would be great if BioRender would apply the principles laid out in "Stop Drawing Dead Fish" by Bret Victor: https://vimeo.com/64895205
Many of the more successful abstractions seem like they would make for extremely fun games. I've seen a few Fantastic Voyage! bio-themed videogames but they are usually either stupid memory games designed to teach technical terms, recycled space invader games with bacteria clip art, or simulations like FoldIt that are fun puzzles but don't really capture the dynamism and system behaviors that make biology so interesting.
If you'll forgive me venting my spleen, I really really want a game that lets me run the immune system. I don't need it to look like the inside of a bio textbook, I need it to model the information-production-distribution-processes and their strong resemblance to dynamic wargaming.
As a medical student, however, I can vouch for the utility of clip art in visualisation. You get delivered so much visual information that if there is coherence to it, you have more chance of processing it correctly.
“Standard Commercial License: A BioRender Standard Commercial License is provided to all paid industry accounts allows you to use our Asset(s) anywhere in the world, and the license never expires.
You may use the Asset(s) in websites, print, presentations, publications, social media sites, marketing and advertising material, broadcasts, and for internal communication. However, you may not share or distribute the Asset(s) in any way that would let others use the Asset(s) without licensing it themselves.”
What does that imply, a watermark on every powerpoint slide?
But as a reformed cell nerd, my beef with the diagram i linked to is that the structure is wiggly, implying that it is slack and flexible. Actin isn't. Whenever you see actin filaments in a cell, they're part of a structure that is either under tension, and so is made of long straight bits, or compression, and so is lots of short straight bits anchored to something.
EDIT Here is a lovely picture showing the actin in cancer cells growing on a glass slide:
The actin next to the slide is red, and the actin on the top of the cell is purple. Around the edge, you have filopodia and lamellipodia, small compression structures poking outward from the cell. In the left half, you have stress fibres, tension structures anchored in adhesions on the bottom of the cell, concentrated near the edge, and reaching up into the cell body. I'm not certain what the little scribbles making up the crown on the cell's head (around the purple blob) are, but i think they're little flaps sticking up out of the cell which are involved in pinocyosis - compression structures like the lamellipodia. Bottom-rightward of the purple blob you can see a cell-cell junction, a sort of vague line with perpendicular stress fibres terminating in it. The little dots are probably associated with vesicles (not sure if those are in tension or compression, actually).
From that, there is a convention of drawing actin filaments with chevrons, such as in this paper by my old supervisor:
everyone has had to sit through powerpoint presentations with terrible clip art where a well-meaning colleague tries to explain their new hypothesis and is constantly stymied by not having fruitful visual aids. and let me tell you from experience, you feel just as bad when you're the one making the presentation.
The pricing seems a little bit low to me. Considering the target customer and the quality of the competition, I suspect you could charge more.
That being said, I could see how this may be deliberate and you have ambitions of addition upsell or consulting revenue.
Just point this out because it's a personal weakness of mine to not price my offerings high enough, even when it's obviously underpriced to outside observers.