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!
We’re all familiar with anonymous commenters (or, dreaded “anons”) and the idea that anyone can misrepresent themselves on the internet. That said, in the end, a commenter is a commenter right? Wrong.
Think of it like this – if you were on a dating site, browsing through profiles, how attractive would you find a profile without an image? What if there’s no name, only a username? What if their interests fields and the About Me section were entirely blank? Would you consider starting a relationship with them? Probably not (unless you’re very, very brave and/or a gambler). So why treat your relationship with your online community any different?
Anonymous comments can be beneficial to a website, to a degree. It shows that there is interest in your content, drives pageviews to an extent and adds reading material for other users who happen by. That said, think about all you’re missing out on:
The Benefits of Known Users
1. Better Community, Less Trolls
Let’s face it – when users are required to input actual details about their lives, let alone connecting a social account through Social Login, they’re a lot less likely to leave trollish, rude comments for no reason. One of the main reasons why online communities degrade are due to abusive users - almost all of whom register anonymously or with fake credentials. Requiring users to login with Social Login cuts down the odds of that dramatically, and that makes for a more comfortable community overall.
2. More Brand Advocates
Known users are much more likely to become brand advocates, who are especially valuable members of your community, in that they will share your posts with all of their friends across various social networks. In a way, they become advertisements, a testament to their loyalty to your brand. Anonymous users might be advocates in spirit, but you have no way of actually knowing it and rarely see the impact.
3. Capture More User Data
You simply can’t collect much information from anonymous users – the only data you’d be able to gather is whatever they decide to fill out, and even that might not be real information. Data, as we know now, drives entire monetization campaigns and is key to a great deal of marketing campaigns. Publishers who enable Social Login on their sites can gather tons of information about their users – age, location, gender, interests, occupation and education, among other things. All of these things help you paint a pretty good picture of your target audience. And speaking of targeting…
4. Targeted Advertising
Targeted ads are a great way to monetize a website. When you know who your audience is and you know what they like, advertisers are more willing to pay top dollar to advertise on your site because your users are more likely to become good customers for them. With anonymous users, the best agencies like Google Ads can do is guess which ads might suit your audience and that can amount to…well…unfortunate cases like this:
What Google ads does is sort of “glance” over words and phrases on your site. Ideally, it sees articles about rollerblading and knows to insert ads about roller blades on the side. Sometimes though, the context is lost and you get oddly (or unfortunately) places ads like that.
5. Content Analysis
As a publisher or community manager, it’s always important to know what kind of content your users like the most. Which article got the most likes, which got the most comments and why? With anonymous users, you can see those numbers…but not why. Why did more people like the article about dinosaurs than the article about cell phone batteries? The world may never know.
Actually, the world could know. Known users come with detailed information, and that helps you figure out why some content does better than others. People in their 20s might be more excited about an article about 18th century pirates and new video game technology, so when you publish something about an 18th century pirate video game, you know it will do well and most importantly: You will know why.
As you can see, known commenters are better for your community in a lot of ways – the most of which is in sheer monetization power. For more tips on how to increase your ROI and monetize your community better, download our white paper.
We’ve been working hard here at Viafoura and are excited to announce our new Analytics Dashboard! This release reflects our commitment to empower our clients and digital publishers to make the most of their community’s data. The biggest challenge we hear from digital publishers and our clients is the inability to make the most of their data, so we knew it was time to ramp up and fix that.
Those challenges are all in the same vein:
- The data visualization is hard to read, ineffective and confusing
- The data doesn’t contain enough meaningful information
- The data doesn’t aid monetization
- The data doesn’t easily compare to previous data
- The data is the same our competitors are receiving
Our new Analytics Dashboard provides deep insight into your community’s engagement and demographics. You’ll be able to browse through key performance indicators and measure growth in a meaningful way, helping you to better understand your audience.
We collect rich information about your community, presenting it in an easy to understand fashion, using 5 key metrics: Comments, Users, Likes, Shares and Follows. You’ll be able to see the percentage change in site interactions over pre-set or customized date ranges, compare to past performance and examine each metric in detail.
If you enable Viafoura’s Social Login, you’ll have access to user demographics that can help target your monetization and ad campaigns better, as well as collect information which will help you understand who your audience is. As long as the user has allowed their information to be shared, you can see their gender, age, education level and interests.
To get an intuitive representation of the engagement in your community, you can review the dashboard and see how your community engages with your content – do they prefer to comment or “like” items? Do they post multimedia comments? Where is your content being shared to and how often? Knowing how your audience engages with your content can allow your community to grow, a jumping off point for further monetization.
We’ve also made a lot of other enhancements to our graphs and figures to increase usability exponentially. Data for most graphs can now be exported into an easy to access CSV file, with a simple click. Our comments graph now shows how many comments have been disabled and marked as spam, as well as regular site comments. User graphs now display each social network enabled for your site, and the new Active Commenters graph shows the number of users who have created comments across the site. Our updated date picker makes it a great deal easier (and hey, more fun!) to pick date ranges. All of these changes serve to make things easier for everyone, while still getting the most of your data.
Want to see our Analytics Dashboard for yourself? Book a demo today, and let us show you how it works!
Paywalls are becoming more common in the age of digital publishers. Since there is a decline in print circulation, large publishers such as the New York times have adopted them in an attempt to increase their digital revenue. By producing higher quality content or selling more exclusive ad space(or no ads at all, in some cases) some publishers hope to increase loyal readership and monetize their readers. There still remains a lot of debate regarding whether or not paywalls are a good idea, but naturally, it depends on the brand.
In the long-term, paywalls have been shown to increase revenue but only at the expense of advertising revenue. Many large publishers have seen an increase in subscriber revenue, only to discover an equal loss in advertising, not to mention reader losses. The NYTimes lost 10% of it’s readers in two years, and Times of London lost 4 million unique readers (or around 62%). Publications like The Economist tend to lose less, but only because their content is more specialized and tailored. Losing community engagement is a large risk to your monetization strategy if not done correctly.
Many publishers have discovered that growth in digital subscriptions slows down, or even hits a wall after a while because readers will often seek out a free alternative, especially if they don’t deem the content to be valuable enough to pay for. If the content is valueable, a user might want to share it – and that causes another issue when it comes to social engagement when their friends and social networks aren’t able to view the content (or click on your ads).
Knowing these things, if you’re still interested in implementing a paywall, we do have some recommendations.
Consider a metered paywall – allow users to access a limited number of articles monthly before they are asked to subscribe. This allows them to view your content (and it’s value to them) before they are required to buy in.
Put a paywall only your most exclusive content – If you have information no one else does, or write a particularly valuable segement, ask people to subscribe for that instead of for all of it.
If you utilize a strategy that negotiates between totally gated content and totally free content, you’re more likely to avoid the largest issues associated with paywalls, and improve on your ROI.
Find out how we can help your monetization strategy by downloading our white paper.
The crowning jewel of the digital age is communication. Communication with friends both near and far, family members spread all over the world, meeting new people from countries we’ve never been to and last but not least – the ability to have our opinion heard across media outlets. We’re now able to tell products what we think of them without having to wait on a phone line for hours or write a lengthy letter with little hope of a reply. We can express our opinion on daily news or heavy issues with ease. What this means for the user is a sense of freedom and value. And what does this mean for your company? That your community may mean more to your brand than your CEO. Yeah, I said it.
Traditionally, companies actions have been judged based on their CEOs, owners, marketing campaigns and/or rare reviews that appear in newspapers or television. People would decide to try your product based on those things. Now, it’s about what users are saying. Your consumers (and future brand advocates) are the voice of your company and they can be leveraged to great effect. In fact, 58% of people who join branded consumer communities did so because a friend posted about it, talked about it or invited them. A whopping 83% of branded community participants are willing to become advocates for the products and services of that brand. It stands to reason then, that the community is a powerful thing and absolutely needs to be a part of your marketing strategy. By allowing consumers to interact with your brand, share its content, and feel like they’re a part of the process, you expand your consumer base and best of all, your advocates. Creating goodwill and a sense of community is only a bonus – a bonus that has worked for some of the largest brands in the world.
We’ve previously discussed the benefits of hosting your own communities, rather than relying on social media. Your own community, situated on your own site, allows for more control on branding than social media does – you play by your own rules, not Twitter’s. It’s also important to consider the data you can capture from your consumers who login using Social Login, and what you can do with that data. It’s time to reach out to your consumers, engage them and watch what their combined power can do for your brand.
Find out more about building your community by downloading our free white paper.
Last night we held a talk with our very own Victor Anjos, on the topic of Data Modeling with Cassandra (sponsored by DataStax). After some lively conversation and networking, we settled in with our sushi and the talk began. The purpose of the meeting was to go through real-life Cassandra data modeling exercises, giving attendees the chance to participate in designing a service. The team chose to use basic “LinkedIn” like functionality as the “real life” example, since it’s a service familiar to everyone.
— Viafoura (@viafoura) August 6, 2014
Victor began the night by brainstorming with the group on which data entities would be required to build something like LinkedIn from scratch. They picked Job Postings as the focus of discussion and began by describing the type of information available in a Job Posting. To figure out the database design, the group moved into a discussion about the types of searches that would need to be done against that data.
— Viafoura (@viafoura) August 6, 2014
The group engaged in friendly debates over the best ratio of read to write information. After identifying a set of required searches, Victor led the team into a discussion on how to model the data to facilitate these searches (how to query, primary keys, cluster keys and query patterns using truth tables).
— Viafoura (@viafoura) August 7, 2014
A lively Q&A followed, getting participation from all and a healthy dose of networking shortly afterwards. People from all kinds of industries came out, learned a lot and got involved. We were happy to be a part of it, and are grateful to Datastax for its sponsorship!
Media executives have a tough job to do. You have to think about what will most benefit your community while still driving up your KPIs, all without sacrificing the look and feel of your brand. You don’t want to betray your user interface, nor do you want to clutter the website with plugins that only superficially drive up pageviews and ignore the all-too-important time spent on site. So how do websites like Buzzfeed and Elite Daily keep people so thoroughly engaged that after reading for hours and hours, they realize they’ve gotten next to no work done and it’s almost the end of the day and that report won’t finish itself?!
Well, there’s a science behind it actually. A branch we like to call “Pluginology” (yes, it’s real but no, please don’t double check that). Each plugin serves a different purposes, and in order to best make use of them, it’s important to know exactly what those are.
Editor’s Pick is a great tool that, at it’s core, makes a user feel valuable to the community. A moderator or editor is able to choose comments they like – whether they’re insightful, funny or informative – and highlight it for the whole community to see. A user feels rewarded knowing that their participation is being acknowledged by the brand itself and is more likely to return and become a loyal community member, which positively impacts associated KPIs (time on site, page views, etc.).
Each site awards points differently – maybe you give out 5 for every comment, 1 for a like and so on. For users that gain the most points, you can choose to feature them – rewarding them further for being the most active members of your communities (who are often brand advocates, as well!).
Showing off the most recent comments made on a particular article (or site wide) can show users, old and new alike, where the action is happening. It’s a great way to draw in site visitors who aren’t sure where to start – let them see what your community is capable of, what their thoughts and opinions are and show them what they can be a part of.
Top Discussions allows you to highlight articles with the most commentary – it shows the visitor what the most popular conversations or topics are at the moment. This is a fantastic way to highlight what’s important to your community and it helps to keep the conversation going, which results in more pageviews.
By highlighting the most popular comments, you’re able to show off the opinions your users agree with, and it helps to show visitors the tone of your community right off the bat. Not only are popular comments great insight into your community’s preferences, beliefs and behaviours, but it also serves to draw people into the conversation – whether they’re lending support or debating.
Deciding Which Plugins To Use
It’s important for you to look at your community and decide what it truly needs, and what KPIs you want to focus on. Since each plugin is fully customizable to suit the look and feel of your brand, it’s a matter of your engagement strategy when deciding what plugins are best suited to meet your objectives.
Plugins like Recent Comments and Editor’s Pick put an emphasis on time spent on site, which is a valuable and often overlooked metric. The longer a user spends on your site, the more likely they are to engage, become an active user and then, in turn, a brand advocate.
On the other hand, plugins like Top Comments and Top Discussions encourage pageviews, enticing users into clicking on and consuming your content which is featured handily on whatever page you choose.
Our plugin system is designed to load quickly and to be as flexible as possible. Only interested in Top Users and Editor’s Pick? Good news! Plugins can be enabled and disabled at will, allowing an à la carte solution for your engagement initiatives.
Let us help you find out what your community is missing – book a demo today.
This is the age of data. Data is important and it’s out there, whether you make use of it or not. The problem is, a lot of brand executives still don’t know what to do with it and we can’t blame them. It can be overwhelming. Heck, it can be distracting. But good data is gold. And the brands that understand their audience the best will be the only ones left. So how can this affect your ROI? How can you make use of it? Face it – you need a game plan. Here are some things to consider:
We’re all more than familiar with the unspoken rules of the internet, the dogma of the digital age. Meme’s like “don’t read the comments” are so often repeated it’s no wonder we treat them as rules, rather than mere guidelines. We hear a lot of these myths so often they’ve almost become mantras and that’s why, before they spread further, we’re going to clean them up.
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