Royal Barrel


A software engineer based in Seattle, WA and New York, NY, currently working at in Chelsea as a software engineer on the DFP by Google team.

Topics of interest:

  • Python
  • JavaScript
  • iPhone
  • Network programming
  • Typography
  • Mac OS X


John Simons
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Kelly Smith
John Kieltyka
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Joan Li

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MangleBracket on the Google App Engine

July 12, 2010

MangleBracket (the Word document to HTML power tool) has been offline for several months. It's back up now, not in its feature complete form, but still functional. Check it out at

The problem was that the Word import process requires a fleet of OpenOffice processes, which need a dedicated server or at least a virtualized server, since it can't run in a shared hosting environment. This costs money. I tried to monetize MangleBracket with traditional means such as AdSense, but traditional means rely on crawling your site to determine contextually relevant ads to show. This doesn't work with web applications, where the contextual relevance data is in a private session and locked up in server-side variables.

I also tried Amazon affilate ads, by hacking their JavaScript snippet to feed it a special URL that contains the contents of the uploaded Word doc. So that say you upload an ice cream recipe, ads would appear for ice cream makers on Amazon. It did work sort of, but it took about 30 seconds for Amazon to process the contents, meaning I'd have to show generic untargeted ads in the meanwhile. And the conversion rate was abysmally low.

Since then, Google announced AdSense for Ajax, which sounds like it perfectly addresses my issue, however it appears to still be invite only. No self-service signup.

Then I started thinking, maybe ads wasn't the best way to monetize. 37signals' DHH would probably say "if you have a useful app, charge for it." I'm inclined to agree. So the plan now is to leverage Google's up-and-coming web app distribution network, either with the Google Apps Marketplace or the Chrome Web App Store, or both. Those systems don't yet provide an integrated billing solution, hence MangleBracket is free for the time being. But when they do, I'll integrate with it, and perhaps make enough monthly income to pay my AT&T/iPhone bill. ✜

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The best and most powerful way to convert Word doc to HTML anywhere on the Internet.


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