Here at Viafoura, we don’t like to brag. In fact, if anything, we’re the best at not bragging. We regularly win awards for humbleness. We think it’s likely these reasons (and others) that make us so successful at customer service.
First Response Time
We take client success very seriously, because if our clients aren’t happy, no one wins. That’s why, according to zendesk, a leading help desk software while the average first response time is 2.1 hours, we respond in 0.6 hours, making us a full 71% faster.
First Resolution Time
The industry average to fully resolve a support ticket sits at about 48 hours – that’s two days, and a lot of time you could be using to…you know…not wait for support. That’s why we resolve tickets in 9.5 hours, a full 80% faster because we know you have plenty of better things to do.
System Uptime, Client Communication
Here at Viafoura, we’re proud to display our system uptime for everyone to see and that’s just something that simply isn’t done by our competitor’s enterprise engagement platforms. We revel in keeping you in the know. If something should go wrong, we communicate that to our clients immediately on http://viafoura-status.com which feeds to @ViafouraStatus just to make sure everyone is informed.
Viafoura has been trending toward a heightened awareness of its team members, their needs, goals and career growth. All of this is wonderful and much of the groundwork required is borne of lessons learned while at other companies and organizations that did some things right, but most things wrong.
I don’t want to start off by blaming those organizations, but rather much of the blame goes to the lack of training, foresight and knowledge that many leaders possess. I really am not very different in that I have many shortcomings, however one thing I’m good at is to realize that something has gone awry and that it should be fixed. This has lead to a pleasant experience at Viafoura for our Engineering teams and an overall team satisfaction that is VERY respectable.
How did we get here then? What are some of the methods we use that differentiate us from other companies? Why are people happy?
All great questions indeed, let’s explore them a little.
How did we get here?
I was tasked with taking over Viafoura Engineering and growing the team from 4 to its current size. There have been stumbling blocks in hiring, managing and delivery of deadlines, but we are a pretty good place these days. So what were some of the mistakes I (and we) made?
We have had issues with prioritizations in the past. This lead to some of our team members, the brightest of the bright, being upset about not being able to “do the right thing” (in Engineering terms) and/or not having the time to think about these things.
How did we solve it?
It’s taken some time, but we have attacked this problem by making it increasingly difficult to NOT do the right thing. It’s become ingrained in our philosophy and culture that taking the time to do the right thing is crucially important. Further, we’ve instituted weekly architecture meetings and tea parties for the frontend team that allow us all to meet and discuss ideas, issues and possible improvements that are available.
We often find these things not only based on our own knowledge of the platform, but also through exploratory looks at what other companies are doing, what technologies are gaining adoption and by challenging all the paradigms we assume to be correct. Afterall, we’ve gone from a standard LAMP (well LEMP) stack to a very well-tuned Event Based Architecture (for which I will have a write-up in a few weeks).
This one is sort of related to above. Not only do prioritizations matter, but once they are out of whack, you start incurring technical debt. This isn’t the kind of debt that will cause the bank to foreclose on your home, however like a financial debt, the technical debt incurs interest payments. These happen in all the extra effort that we have to do in future development because of the quick and dirty design choice(s). We can choose to continue paying the interest, or we can pay down the principal by refactoring the quick and dirty design into the better design. Although it costs to pay down the principal, we gain by reduced interest payments in the future.
How did we solve it?
This issue made us totally re-think how we were doing things at Viafoura. We knew that we would eventually end up with a system that would fall flat on its face and no longer be able to handle the requests we threw at it (for example – one story today cause a spike of well over 1500 requests/second – which we now handled without batting an eyelash).
We took the opportunity to re-factor absolutely everything about our system, slightly delaying product delivery and small features that had been requested. Yes, that does suck for our clients, however they’ll be so much better served going forward and we’ll be able to iterate against our series of micro-services (read Service Oriented Architecture) that they’ll (eventually) be happy we went down that road. (Well, at least that’s the hope – right?)
Lack of expectations
One of our major issues was that no one had set out expectations for projects, people, product, etc… This year at Viafoura was the year of Accountability. All our departments were tasked with figuring out ways in which we would measure our success and minimize our failures. During the year, we also hit large growth spurts which lead to rethink much of what we knew and reassess all the things we didn’t know (including those we didn’t know that we didn’t know).
How did we solve it?
This took some work! It has been ongoing and will never cease to exist. We attacked it from many angles to set expectations across the board and to communicate those to our team(s). The first change we made was to set expectations on a departmental level. From here, we then further reduced these to goals and objectives that led to alignment on the part of everyone within those departments.
Everyone was now on the hook for something, but they still didn’t quite understand how they were being measured.
I then set up a performance review that runs quarterly, measuring all kinds of aspects about our team, outside of just the typical – completes his work, plays well with others, does not wet the carpet!
We work with all our team members to figure out what matters to them and how that will align well toward their career growth, personal growth and Viafoura’s growth and bottom line. We then have them set some stretch goals that will take longer than one quarter to fulfill and measure their progress against it quarterly. Once these have been achieved, we add more to it. It’s really an ever evolving process.
We have a great range of talent, which lends itself well to cross-team, cross-functional, multi-disciplinary work. As such, no one is actually bound to any one job title or description. This is yet another one of those ever evolving, living documents that we take a look at with our team during review periods.
With all that being set, we now have the groundwork for expectations at Viafoura, which has led to better timelines, better delivery of work and happier people.
The lessons learned:
Do the right thing
Stop making short-sighted decisions
What’s in the Viafoura stack anyway?
Viafoura prides itself on its engineering practice and as such is happy to constantly share back to the community. Much of our work can be found on github and I personally am an avid speaker, presenter and teacher of everything I know.
- Competitive Salary
- Viafoura University
- Education reimbursement
- Lots of vacation
- Free food, snacks, beer
- Learn from the best in Toronto
- Collaborative space where many meetups are held
- Monthly hack days where you “scratch an itch”
- Have a voice – employee feedback genuinely taken into account
- Percona XtraDB
- Spark streaming
This is a city-wide event where 150 companies across Toronto will be opening their doors for those who want to come in and see a day in the life of a startup. We’re inviting the public into our new office so you can see what a day in the life of our start-up looks like. So come hang out, meet new people and see if our start-up is the right place for you!
Viafoura values passionate and fresh-minded individuals and we are always looking for talented professionals like yourself. If you’re looking to grow, learn and innovate, Viafoura is perfect for you.
So bring yourself, maybe grab a friend, and register for the event.
Here’s what’s up:
When: Thurs Oct 30, 4 – 7 pm
Where: Right in our new office! (545 King St W, Suite 300)
What: Meet our team, find out what we do, attend a demo, talk to our people!
Looking forward to seeing everyone there!
Last night we hosted a Data for Good (@Data_for_Good) event entitled “Top Tips for Data Quality Assurance”, a great talk that brought together all kinds of people in the datasphere to listen to some data experts talk about…well, data!
We began the night’s events with Neity Kic (@peaceforlives) discussing the all important issue: Cleaning Dirty Data. Dealing with various formats and merging datasets can be rather complicated (especially with near identical records), but luckily she takes us through various methods on how to get around them.
— Viafoura (@viafoura) October 21, 2014
The evening carried on with Kry Lui who spoke to us on the all important issue of filling in missing data in datasets, definitely not a favourite of our data scientists. He starts off by explaining patterns that missing values can create, and insisting that those patterns themselves can be utilized to help fill in the gaps. By looking at various data points, you can infer missing data using K-means, K-Nearest Neighbour and other more advanced methods, while also considering the weight and distance of the surrounding points.
— Viafoura (@viafoura) October 21, 2014
Our evening continued with Adam Jacobs from MaRS Discovery District, who gave us a non-profit’s perspective on data – specifically, survey data and how difficult it can be to weigh responses based on extreme variables in the data returned. For example, some industries vary in their response rate which can make it difficult to get a true picture across the board. The problem in the end? Not enough data. With such little data, we’re left with a limited descriptive base and when dealing with surveys, that can be a real problem.
— Viafoura (@viafoura) October 22, 2014
Last, but certainly not least, Samara (Canada) (@SamaraCDA), a Not-For-Profit, stepped forth to describe their plan for using data to increase political participation in Canada. They’ll be working with Data for Good in hopes of cleaning up and deriving meaningful data out of their datasets regarding Contribution Data in Canada, which until now, has been largely unstudied. They plan to attack survey data at all levels to create a comprehensive donation map of financial contributions made to political parties. We wish luck to both them and the Data for Good volunteers!
We are looking for a superstar Account Executive who will bring in new business across domestic and international markets. You will be expected to consistently achieve revenue targets by selling Viafoura’s audience engagement and social monetization solution.
You should have a strong consultative sales approach, and a passion for the industry, acting as a trusted adviser throughout the sales cycle.
Culture is the most important part of our company. An ideal candidate will have exceptional social skills, bringing diversity, energy, and cohesiveness to the team at large.
In A Nutshell
- You’re passionate about winning and doing what it takes to be successful
- You’re great at creating and managing relationships
- You have the ability to use resources available to you in order to achieve your goals
- You inspire those around you to do extraordinary work
- You don’t take ‘no’ for an answer
- Leveraging our marketing/lead generation team to manage new and existing opportunities
- Ability to present an overview of Viafoura’s platform and solution via phone and web conference to digital media companies and Brands
- Flexibility to travel and present to prospective clients in person
- Exceptional organization skills for managing and closing a high volume of opportunities
- Knowledge to engage with senior level executives and technology prospects with a high degree of professionalism, accuracy, and follow-up
- Proven record of prospecting, nurturing, and closing net new business opportunities
- Meticulous sales pipeline management through Salesforce.com
- Teamwork and strong communication skills are a must
- 3+ years of experience as top performing quota carrying sales representative
- SaaS (Software as a Service) experience within a high-velocity business preferred
- Ability to work in a rapidly expanding and changing environment
- Proficient knowledge of Salesforce.com
- Knowledge/experience in selling SaaS technology, website analytics, website platforms, CRM, SFA, marketing software, or social media applications
- University/college degree required or relevant experience
Interested? Send your resume to firstname.lastname@example.org.
Viafoura is a tool for brands and publishers (online newspapers like CBC and LA Times) that facilitates commenting through text, audio, and video, and highlights the best people making those comments.
Viafoura is one of Canada’s busiest APIs, handling billions of page views and thousands of requests per second.
Viafoura is creating the best real-time commenting and engagement analytics.
We are funded by some great investors have an amazing team and revenues are growing FAST.
Find out more about us in our careers section: http://viafoura.com/careers
Stock Options Available.
We are proud of hiring really smart, passionate and motivated professionals.
As a business, you need a community – that we’ve covered. The problem is, how do you keep your community engaged? It’s not enough to create or share content to be commented on, and trying to lure users to a space outside of social media can be hard. If all the things they’re interested in exist inside their own social networks, what will make them want to join your community? Luckily, there are tools that exist solely for this purpose – making it easier for you to build your community and easier for users who want to engage.
1. Single-Click Social Login
Most users don’t want to make yet another account on yet another site – it’s hard enough to remember the half dozen or so passwords we have, let alone the credentials for the 26 online accounts we already own. The fact is, users now vastly prefer Social Login. Social Login allows you to use one account (be it Facebook, Google+, Twitter or any number of other sites) to log in to anywhere it’s enabled. It’s faster and easier.
2. Multimedia Commenting
Commenting’s a no brainer. Everyone loves to have their opinion heard and that exchange is as valuable to you as it is to your users. The abilities of your commenting system to allow multimedia only makes it better – allowing users to add images and videos to their comments enhances the conversation and provides a better variety of content for them.
3. Content Discovery Widgets
Using what we call content discovery widgets keeps your site and content exposed and easy to access. We’ve all spent hours on sites like BuzzFeed and Cracked, and why? Not just because their content is fun and interesting, but because we’re constantly being suggested other articles to read. Widgets like Top Discussions shows the user where the most conversation is happening and invites them to read and participate. Widgets like Recent Articles shows them the most relevant content and makes it easy for them to binge read. All of these things encourage users to spend a lot of time on your site, which is a great tactic to help your monetization strategy and build your community.
4. Reward Mechanisms
Another way to keep your users engaged is using a reward system – a system that shows them that you value their contribution to the community. It’s often called gamification, a practice that makes it more fun to contribute by awarding badges, ranks and titles.
You can customize your badging to fit your own brand, as well as award them for whatever you want. Award them for 100 comments, reward them for sharing content, anything you decide. This creates an incentive for adding to the community that only helps to propel interaction.
5. Analytics Dashboard
Analytics will tell you what’s receiving a high engagement rate, as in what users seem to like the most, and that gives you a great idea of how to proceed with your content strategy. If you find that your audience is most attuned to your articles about movies, hockey, international politics etc., then you can decide what to focus on to help increase their engagement rate. Knowing a user’s interests, location, age or more all help you understand who they are and how to speak to them. Your community can grow much faster with that kind of knowledge behind it, because, as you know, data is an amazing thing.
Want to know more tips on engaging your users? Download our white paper today.
I’m sure you’ve heard a lot about first and third-party data. It’s all over the internet, headlines plastered across every business and tech blog all over the world on a weekly basis. For most of us, that means next to nothing. Okay – so it’s data coming from different places. What’s the big deal? What’s the difference? To explain this, we first need to take a close look at the different kinds of data.
- Third-party data comes from another provider or website (such as Facebook, Twitter etc.)
- Third-party data is based on whatever data the provider feels is important, or wants to release to you
- It can often contain information that is too thin to base a full demographic profile on
- You don’t have ownership over any data
Now that we know what third-party data is and where we get it, how does it work? Well, the short answer is: it doesn’t. Not well, anyway. Reliance on third-party data gives us poor ad targeting and adversely affects all attempts to monetize. Instead of rich and direct information, you’re receiving vague information which can be withdrawn from you anytime the third-party company decides to change permissions, rendering any usage of that data suddenly ineffectual. It’s also poor quality because you can’t ensure the source, the authenticity, accuracy, and whether it’s permission-based or not. If you’re obtaining API access data (which is what you’d receive from Facebook, for example) and you ever need to access it again in the future, there’s a chance the company will decide you can no longer have access; worst of all – you don’t own any of it and can’t keep it stored. There also exists third-party data that you can purchase (as in static, databases or data sheets). You also run the risk that your competitors are buying the exact same thing.
- First-party data comes directly from the source
- First-party data contains all information available, you can choose what has importance to you
- It contains heaps of detailed and useful information you can use to build complex and meaningful profiles
- You completely own your first-party data
First-party data is king, and vastly preferred across the net for it’s relative freedom. Having control over all your data means you have total control over your monetization and marketing strategy – something all businesses dearly need. In this way, we’re able to rely on concise, detailed and robust information that gives us much more accurate user profiles and demographics. As opposed to third-party data, you can manipulate the data and analyze it in your own way, making it more customized and tailored to your company’s needs. First-party data has proven itself more useful in situations like targeted advertising, making sponsorship deals and in producing more relevant content for your audience which in turn drives your pageviews and visits ever higher. The most beneficial aspect of first-party data is that you own it – 100%. You store this information in your own databases, meaning it’s absolutely available anytime you need it – whether that’s in a few months, years or even decades. This means you can’t have the rug pulled out from underneath you at any time, and your data-based strategies aren’t in jeopardy.
Enabling tools like Social Login, you collect this data directly from your users and smoothly add it into your database. From there, it’s displayed in your Analytics Dashboard and is also available to export at your leisure.
For more information and tips on making the most of your data, download our white paper.
For sports fans, one of the most trusted and influential sources for news in Canada is Sportsnet. It clearly sets itself apart by being more comprehensive and insightful than your average sports channel but it’s known mostly for its dedication to its fans. That’s why we’re pleased to announce that Viafoura is now powering Sportsnet’s comments and together, we’re keeping you in the game. Literally.
We know that one of the most important aspects of life as a sports fanatic is being able to discuss them with friends and sometimes strangers, whether it’s at your local sports bar or, in this case, online. Sportsnet aimed to create a more interactive space for its readers, which is why Viafoura’s commenting platform has been instituted site-wide and includes user profiles complete with comment counts. Our badging system keeps fans engaged and rewarded for their conversation, because that dialogue is the most valuable part of the community. Fans can follow discussions to make sure they never miss a comment, and also follow each other to get notificications from their favorite commenters. Both follow functionalities serve to bring the community closer together.
We want to congratulate Sportsnet for their unwavering dedication to their fans and their commitment to making engagement easier and better for everyone. We’re proud to be working with companies who value their online community and strive to be innovative.
About Rogers Sportsnet
Sportsnet connects Canadian sports fans to their favourite teams and athletes, using five platforms: TV, Radio, Print, Online and Mobile. Sportsnet is Fuelled By Fans, and delivers storytelling on a local, regional, national and global level. Sportsnet is an official licensed broadcaster of the 2014 FIFA World Cup BrazilTM and also offers an exciting sports lineup including the NFL, the Memorial Cup, CIS Vanier Cup, Ultimate Fighting Championship®, Grand Slam of Curling, IndyCar, the Rogers Cup tennis tournament, and extensive soccer programming including Barclays Premier League, UEFA Champions League, UEFA Europa League, CONCACAF and Canadian national team matches for men and women. Launched in 1998, Sportsnet has been owned by Rogers Media since 2001.
Last week, from September 10th to the 12th, San Francisco was home to Cassandra Summit 2014, the world’s largest gathering of Cassandra Developers. On the agenda were lots of training exercises, exploring data modeling, performance tuning, architecture review and more. It gave the Cassandra community from all over the world a chance to meet and discuss all things data.
We interviewed our very own Head of Engineering & Measurement, Victor Anjos, who was won Cassandra’s MVP award this year (and was Canada’s first too)! We couldn’t be prouder, so we sat down to get his take on the Summit, his award status and Cassandra itself.
What was your favourite part of the Cassandra Summit?
Victor: The learning aspects at the Summit were great. I find that getting more people involved and learning this technology can only benefit the ecosystem that is being built around Cassandra and lead to engineers being more prepared for the data issues of tomorrow.
How does it feel being Canada’s first Cassandra MVP?
Victor: It’s a great honour to just be nominated and absolutely incredible to have received the award. It just goes to show how forward thinking we are as an organization here at Viafoura that we are well ahead of the curve with our technology use. Not only do we use Cassandra, but we live, breathe and bleed NoSQL here. Denormalization is the norm and we aim to be as Agile as possible with our product decisions based on the awesome time-series capabilities that Cassandra affords us.
How did you become involved with Cassandra?
Victor: It all started out as a pet project, where I was hacking against Cassandra in different databases in proof of concepts to see which would lend itself well to absolute scalability. Coming from a relational world where MySQL, Oracle and DB2 were my go-to tools, I could see the writing on the wall, with the push to Big Data and the infamous “Internet of Things”, that the days were (and are) numbered for a strictly RDBMS world. After trying other datastores such as Couchbase, HP Vertica, Redis, Riak, MongoDB and HBase (just to name a few), I finally got serious with it and went to Cassandra. I had read all the Big Table and Dynamo papers that were released in the mid 2000s and knew that this would be the winner from the moment I started using it.
The point at which everything really materialized for me was when I took over Engineering at Viafoura. At this point, I could now have a more biased agenda because I was ultimately the one in charge and all technological decisions passed through me. This was right around the time when Cassandra 1.2 came out – which made the learning curve much better for the rest of our Engineers.
It was around this time that I saw a call-out to Toronto Engineers to lead and promote the datastore through a meetup group – which I jumped at. I have merely been doing my best to get more people working with and adopting Cassandra in Toronto ever since. I see the landscape starting to change, but Toronto (and Canada as a whole) is generally behind San Francisco (and most of the United States) by a few years. It seems that most companies here like to “play it safe” and adhere to the motto of “if it ain’t broke, don’t fix it”. At Viafoura, we prefer to do things in a much more forward-thinking manner – we like to innovate and be ready to grow. This way, we’ll reap the benefits as we scale immensely without much worry (and with ZERO downtime).
Why are you so committed to promoting Cassandra?
Much like how Cassandra is based around community (that is, everything is a cluster where no node is more important than the other), we want to ensure that Canada gains traction in using Cassandra and that it helps build a cluster-like community here. I currently speak and exchange ideas with all the other Cassandra MVPs, but I am very lonely up here in Canada.
It’s extremely nice to think in terms of being the first or the only, but I would much rather have several MVPs up here. I really want to challenge Toronto and the entire country actually, to get on with it. As the Raptors famously put it; “We The North” — REPRESENT!
Do you see Cassandra as a game-changer, or something that can put many technology companies today at a competitive advantage?
For my competitors – not at all! I think they should remain with their current technologies and not bother changing. They’re fine the way they are and should keep doing what they’re doing.
For all others (and competitors – please stop reading here) – I absolutely think that in the world today, with data no longer being simply important to house, but also to keep historical events as they occur, a database that is built in a manner to allow you to constantly write to it, in ways that are modeled to reflect the real world and not an abstract view of it, is a must. The “Internet of Things” has brought on a day where companies who are early adopters of this technology will get such a huge leap forward that competition may not have a chance to catch up.
I truly believe that this is yet another paradigm shift (forward) in storing data. I have worked in insurance, telecommunications, hardware design and digital and built wonderful data-warehousing technologies for them that cost several millions of dollars to accomplish what I could on Cassandra for orders of magnitude less. Imagine a telecommunications company dealing with all its billing, its offers and its customer base on commodity hardware rather than full-rack $10,000,000 servers with a SAN connected to them! With Cassandra and SSDs – it’s a reality.
You run the Toronto Cassandra Users Meetup Group. What are these meetups about and how do the attendees benefit?
Victor: Our meetups range in topics from a 101-level meetup (held every so often) to a deep dive into Cassandra internals such as what Gossip is all about, where do memtables get written to, what are bloom filters, etc.
As mentioned earlier, the Toronto ecosystem is growing, so we are seeing more and more people coming out to these. I am doing my best to spread the word and we have a great partnership with DataStax in hosting these events. I often times get most of my material from real-world experience, but once in a while will see what the other Cassandra MVPs have been talking about and relay some of their knowledge.
It’s always a great pleasure to be a part of a community, and Victor’s always keeping us up to date on the most relevant, effective and efficient technologies that only serve to benefit us and the community at large. We can’t stress enough how proud we are of him, and kudos! Viahighfive!
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