Interview with Jinseo Park creator of Algorithm Visualizer

Today I would like to welcome Jinseo Park creator of Algorithm Visualizer a project initially created to help during competitive programming competitions. The project now has over 30 thousand stars on Github. Algorithm Visualizer appeared in the very first edition of Trending Projects in May 2020.

Hello Jinseo, Please tell us a little bit about yourself?

Hi! I’m Jinseo. I used to go by Jason as in my domain I am studying Computer Science and Economics at Georgia Tech. This summer I am interning at Google.

At what age did your interest in computers and computer programming start?

I was 9 when I found my interest in programming. I was learning how to insert a hyperlink on Microsoft Word, and thought that I could make a website with it set my feet on programming.

Could you tell me about your day job and how you got to where you are now?

I code most of my day like many other developers do. 80% being work and 20% is personal projects. Whenever I feel burnt out, having a weekend getaway to a random country has helped me get re-energized.

Algorithm Visualizer Screenshot
Algorithm Visualizer Screenshot

Algorithm Visualizer has become very popular with over 30k stars on Github. What inspired you to build Algorithm Visualizer and how would you describe it to someone who may never have heard about it?

I was really into competitive programming during my high school years. While looking up algorithms on Wikipedia to get prepared for a competition, I found it boring to read lengthy text including maths equations and pseudo code. I wanted to see the actual working code and to witness step by step that it is not magic. On the same day, I started building Algorithm Visualizer, an interactive online platform that visualizes algorithms from code.

What is the tech stack behind Algorithm Visualizer?

The frontend is built with React, and the backend is built with Express and TypeScript. The server is running on AWS EC2. It compiles user-submitted Java and C++ code on AWS Lambda for scalability. On the other hand, user-submitted JavaScript code is interpreted on a Web Worker on the client-side, which enables faster visualization. Aside from them, there are visualization libraries written in each supported language. The entire source code is on GitHub.

I first built it with ES5 and jQuery as I didn’t have much knowledge in JavaScript. Since it only visualized JavaScript code back then, I published it on GitHub pages without a server to save money. (First commit, if interested!) A few weeks later Nemanja, one of the contributors, helped rewrite it in ES6 and modularize it, which I really appreciate.

Have you been working on anything new that you would like to share?

As part of my internship, I’ve been working on Project Guide-Doge. The project is to explore improvements to data consumption for visually impaired or blind users.

Web development is evolving so rapidly. What changes would you like to see in the next 5 years?

I dare say the history of JavaScript is divided into before and after TypeScript. TypeScript made JavaScript no longer an error-prone spaghetti language. I can’t wait to see more syntax sugars and performance optimization to come and to see big companies consider using TypeScript instead of traditional languages.

What are you learning right now?

I am recently feeling communication skills are as important as coding skills and trying to enhance them as much as possible this Summer.

What are your future goals?

I try to not set up many future goals, but one of them is to travel more to find which city I want to live in.

What is something that you did outside your comfort zone that you’re glad you did?

It is when I decided to quit my high school in Korea and move to the USA. It is not necessarily because the USA has the best computer science industry but because experiencing more than one culture has been the most valuable lesson in my life in many aspects.

What is the best advice someone has given you?

My uncle often told me to quit doing anything not enjoyable. I’m learning to agree that enjoying is the best motivation to keep me going.

What advice would you give to anyone looking to start a career in web development?

I am not at the level to give advice, yet I personally have learned the most from maintaining open-source projects and participating in hackathons/programming competitions. They have taught me what to learn and why to learn.

Are there any podcasts, books, or websites you would like to recommend?

I enjoy scrolling through GitHub activity feed (after following some awesome and active developers like Sindre Shorus) or GitHub Trending.

Awwwards has been a great source of creativity as well.

How can readers find out more about you and your work?

Most of my work is on GitHub, and I update my personal website every now and then.

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