Yahoo7 CTO Paul Russell on the media giant’s stack overhaul

In the highly competitive online news industry, readers are unforgiving of sluggish sites, poor user experience and dated features.

Advertisers too want well-designed webpages that will give their spots the most eyeballs and engagement.

Yahoo7 – a 50:50 joint venture between Seven West Media and troubled US tech company Yahoo – is one of the most viewed online channels in Australia, featuring in Nielsen’s top ten ranking alongside the likes of Facebook, Google and Instagram. Its news sites are the seventh most popular in Australia.

Despite reaching 9.5 million Australians every month, Yahoo7 sought to maintain and improve its popularity by making its suite of sites more user-friendly and even faster.

Achieving that aim has required a complete rebuild of the technology stack behind its seven consumer sites, and the reskilling of an entire IT team. At the helm is CTO Paul Russell, who previously served as head of technology at Network Ten and CIO for Fairfax Digital, who says: “This rebuild will be a game-changer”.

Frustrating framework

For the last six years, Yahoo7 had been running its sites on a custom PHP framework on virtual machines.

“It was considerably old and inefficient to work in and the sites weren’t particularly fast. It was showing its age,” Russell told CIO Australia.

The framework was also frustrating the release of new site features.

“We were building every website individually. They weren’t sharing anything between them. So when we came up with a great new feature we had to go and implement it on every site which is an inefficient way of doing things,” Russell says.

About a year ago, a solution was sought that would allow the 40-strong tech team to do less “bread and butter website development” and “create time for more innovative features”.

The answer, initially, was more PHP. Another internal Yahoo framework was considered, but it proved complicated and not fit-for-purpose. “A bit of a false start,” Russell says.

Quickly, the ‘more PHP’ option was dropped for Node.js running on containers.

“It’s great to be able to share a language between the front end and the back end. It’s no longer just something to use to make the front end a little bit more functional. It’s a lot more mature, and the performance benefits are great as well,” says Russell.

For each site, the new framework allows page components can be reused which reduces development time and maintenance overheads.

Node.js has “absolutely come of age” in recent years, as Russell puts it. The likes of Walmart, Netflix, LinkedIn, PayPal, Groupon and eBay all utilising it in some form.

The overhaul has also seen a shift to containers, with Docker. This…

Sleepless in Singapore: Anthony Chong, Group Managing Director of Kingsmen Exhibits PTE LTD

Sleepless in Singapore: Anthony Chong

Deadlines are a daily reality for Anthony Chong, but that’s all part of the attraction for Kingsmen Exhibits’ group managing director.

Anthony Chong is the first to acknowledge that his phone never leaves his side – even when he’s on holiday. “We have to be contactable around the clock; there’s no alternative,” he says. Due to the live nature of the business, the group managing director of Kingsmen Exhibits, a wholly owned subsidiary of Kingsmen Creatives Ltd, admits he “can never totally switch off.” It’s a sacrifice that comes with the job, managing the leading Singapore-based communication, design and production group’s theme parks, museums, exhibitions and events operations – a remit that covers everything from live motor racing to luxury product launches and beyond.

Managing an events company comes with its benefits, and in talking to The CEO Magazine, it’s obvious Anthony wouldn’t have it any other way. After 36 years in the business, he still gets as much buzz from the successful completion of a project – and the smile of a satisfied client – as he did on his first day on the job.

The CEO Magazine: You joined Kingsmen Creatives Ltd in 1981 as a visual merchandiser, and today you’re group managing director of its subsidiary Kingsmen Exhibits. How have you risen through the company? What have been the biggest highlights?

Anthony: From operations to sales to project management, I’ve held a variety of roles at Kingsmen Creatives Ltd. Today, I am group managing director of Kingsmen Exhibits, and I also sit on the Board of Directors of Kingsmen Creatives Ltd.

One of the highlights was when I was transferred to Bangkok in 1984 to establish the company’s presence in Thailand. It was only our second office outside of Singapore; the first was Malaysia, which opened in 1982. Working in Bangkok was quite difficult because of the language barriers and the different culture, but I mastered the local tongue and we were able to really develop the business there.

Along the way, we have also been involved in a number of projects which really stand out. One of them was Universal Studios in Singapore, which opened seven years ago, and also the inaugural Youth Olympic Games, which was held in Singapore in 2010. We also played a very significant role in all the hospitality and events surrounding the first Formula One night race at the Singapore Grand Prix in 2008.

Most recently, we were accorded the ‘Exceptional Achievement Award’ by the Singapore Tourism Board for being named ‘Best Business Event Service Provider’ for three consecutive years – 2014, 2015, 2016. It coincided with our fortieth anniversary celebrations last year, so it was a great recognition of all we have achieved since the Group was established in 1976.

You’ve been with the Group for 36 years. What keeps you motivated?

The desire to see my people succeed, the team succeed, and the company succeed and maintain its position as one of the leaders in our industry in the various disciplines we specialise in. I am actually very excited to see the extent to which we have expanded our service offerings to advantage our clients.

We started out with display works, before expanding into exhibitions and retail interiors, followed by museums and theme parks, and now corporate marketing. It’s a dynamic industry, and that is something that motivates me. No project is the same and every day is different. It really is a job that never ever ceases to surprise.

What have been some of the biggest challenges you’ve faced?

The biggest challenge was being able to deliver close to S$100 million worth of themed attractions in Universal Studios Singapore within a short time frame. Normally, it would take around five years to build a theme park on this scale, but we had half of that time; two and a half years at most.

Fast facts: Along with Universal Studios Singapore, you may have felt the Kingsmen creative touch in the Enchanted Garden at Changi Airport, under the Christmas Lights on Great Street or in the Cloud Forest at Gardens by the Bay.

As it was essentially Singapore’s first major theme park, and, as you can appreciate, resources were scarce, we had to draw in support from all over the world – with the limited amount of time, the financial strain, the technical calculations, the project management issues all as constraints. I can’t think of anything that has been more challenging.

Can you elaborate further on your role in Universal Studios Singapore?

We were commissioned to design – from the concept provided by Universal Studios, of course – and build a significant part of the base park of Universal Studios Singapore. Since the park’s opening,…

Grenada to host October CTO conference

From left to right: Patricia Maher-CEO of the Grenada Tourism Authority, Sylma Brown Bramble- CTO Director USA, Hon. Clarice Modeste Curwen-Minister for Tourism and Civil Aviation, Rodney George-Chairman of the Grenada Tourism Authority
From left to right: Patricia Maher-CEO of the Grenada Tourism Authority, Sylma Brown Bramble- CTO Director USA, Hon. Clarice Modeste Curwen-Minister for Tourism and Civil Aviation, Rodney George-Chairman of the Grenada Tourism Authority

The Caribbean Tourism Organisation’s (CTO) State of the Industry Conference (SOTIC) which is carded for October 9-13, 2017 will be held in Grenada.

Considered the region’s premier tourism forum, the conference takes place at the Radisson Grand Beach Resort, Grand Anse, and will bring together senior industry decision makers and interested partners to address the biggest concerns and opportunities for Caribbean tourism.

SOTIC 2017 was launched in Grenada at a press conference featuring Government of Grenada, CTO and Grenada Tourism Authority (GTA) officials. The theme for this year is “Supercharging the Caribbean Brand: Meeting the…

Why Every Leader Should Have A Mentor


In 1966, fresh out of school, Michael Bloomberg was hired to work as a trader at Salomon Brothers & Hutzler. The managing partner, William Salomon, became Bloomberg’s lifelong mentor. In a commemorative op-ed published a few years ago upon Salomon’s passing, Bloomberg mused on the valuable business lessons Salomon had taught him and his colleagues.

Bloomberg wrote: “I learned more about management from Billy than I did at Harvard, and the company I started with three ex-Salomon guys is built on those lessons.” Today, Michael Bloomberg is worth about $51 billion. He is one of the wealthiest people on earth, thanks in part to having had a great mentor.

Bloomberg isn’t the only successful leader who has had an influential mentor. Steve Jobs credited Andy Grove, the former CEO of Intel, and Mike Markkula, an early Apple investor and board member, for helping him during critical periods in Apple’s history.

There are a number of ways that mentorship can benefit one’s career and leadership skills. As I have grown my own company, Owlmetrics, mentors have proved invaluable throughout the ups and downs. Here are a few of the key reasons why leaders should use mentorship to improve personally and professionally.

Accelerate Your Learning Curve

The most successful businesses are able to find shortcuts that spark growth and allow for fast scaling. PayPal was able to do this when they offered new users a financial incentive to use the platform by depositing $20 into new users’ accounts when they connected a credit card to PayPal.

As a result of this shortcut, the company grew a few percent each day for months. The early employees of PayPal were able to form other successful companies like Tesla, Yelp and YouTube thanks to their ability to mentor co-founders and employees to success.

Gaining access to a mentor who has this kind of insider knowledge on how to build a company while avoiding mistakes can help you achieve impressive business results.

Create A Support System

Being a leader can be challenging, stressful and lonely. After all, should something go wrong inside a…

Is the future of marketing automated?

Is the future of marketing automated?

Heath Barlow is Emarsys’ Market Lead for Australia. With 12 years in the marketing and technology space, Heath has a proven track record for driving sustained revenue growth and new business sales in the region

Across the globe, countless industries and organisations are becoming increasingly dependent on new technologies to drive competitive edge. From construction to retail to insurance, the use of automation, machine learning and artificial intelligence (AI) is on the rise. As a result, according to the World Economic Forum, big Australian businesses are spending an average of $6 million a year on AI technologies.

Centred on better business outcomes, the benefits and opportunities that AI brings are, of course, very exciting. For example, automation via robotics can create safer work environments by taking dangerous tasks away from individuals. Machine learning can also result in higher productivity, making more time available for business-critical and creative thought, rather than day-to-day task work.

The marketing function in particular sees huge benefits from machine learning and AI. It can help to shape and drive marketing activities based on insights on consumer behaviours. In fact, according to Deloitte Digital, 58% of global CMOs believe that within the next five years, companies will need to compete in the AI space in order to succeed.

This begs the question, will a robot take your marketing job?

Tools like AI, automation and machine learning are exactly that; tools. With them, marketing experts are better able to find their target customers and more importantly, learn their needs and wants. This will deliver a level of personalisation that we have never seen before, driving relationships between consumers and brands and delivering competitive edge. The potential of AI in marketing is incredible.

However, as more and more marketers implement new technologies, the expected fear of job loss will rise. If AI and automation take over certain tasks, what will that mean for the people who do them today? Do marketers need to fear losing their jobs?

The short answer? No. It’s true that certain tasks are likely be taken care of through…

SEO, SEM Rule Retailers’ Marketing Budgets


Retailers have been focusing on technologies to measure and assess customer response, and have been using the data they produce to drive e-commerce decisions, suggests a study of 136 enterprise retailers at the 2017 eTail West Conference held earlier this year.

Enterprise retailers with at least US$500 million in annual revenues participated in the study, which was a joint effort of Adam Software, an Aprimo company; WBR Digital; and ChannelAdvisor.

Multichannel enterprise retailers comprised 81 percent of respondents, pure-play online retailers 11 percent, in-store-only retailers 4 percent, and other types of companies the remaining 4 percent.

Enterprise retailers have been implementing customer experience strategies across multiple channels, the researchers found. They have been seeking out intelligent data solutions to obtain a 360-degree view of customers across multiple channels and marketplaces.

“Digital retailers are likely to have reversed the classic stock focus on having goods to sell as the business model, to building a base of loyal customers they assist in buying what they need,” observed Andy Mulholland, principal analyst at Constellation Research.

“A digital retailer acts more as a personal shopper using intelligence to make every aspect of your buying activity feel right,” he told CRM Buyer.

Marketing Spending Priorities

The top four spends for retailers, according to the study, are the following:

  • SEO/SEM – 79 percent of respondents;
  • Online display – 77 percent;
  • Social media – 65 percent; and
  • Email – 64 percent.

Social media was the highest spending priority for only 3 percent of retailers and the second-highest for just 14 percent.

Social media is “rarely the leading channel in a marketing strategy,” noted Jeffery Parrish, Aprimo’s director for retail and consumer goods.

“Because many retailers are focusing marketing investment in…

T-Mobile CTO: Rival Unlimited Plans Are Stifling Data Speeds

T-Mobile’s CTO, Neville Ray, says the rival unlimited plans from networks Verizon and AT&T are stifling the data speeds of those companies, and is likely a result of the lift that both wireless carriers were seeing due to the changes made to the unlimited plans that are now being offered to subscribers. Ray’s comments aren’t completely unfounded as it’s reported that both Verizon and AT&T saw a decrease in Mbps speeds on their networks during the second quarter, though this doesn’t necessarily mean that the cause of this decrease is the unlimited plans changes made by each carrier. It does, however, suggest that is the case.

According to Ray, Q2 saw a significant shift for T-Mobile in comparison to the second and first largest carriers in the U.S., taking Ookla data…

Dropbox CTO Aditya Agarwal is leaving

Aditya Agarwal, who came in to Dropbox from its acquisition of Cove way back in 2012 and was given the CTO role last year, will be leaving the company.

He announced his departure in a post on Facebook. Agarwal held the CTO role for about 9 months and was previously the VP of engineering. That kind of five-year tenure at a startup in Silicon Valley alone is pretty long, to be sure, though Agarwal is leaving the company as it begins to aggressively tout its success as a business.

“We have come a long way since then,” Agarwal said in a Facebook post. “We have over half a billion users today. We have hundreds of thousands of business customers who are using our products to make their teams and companies more productive. We have expanded our product line through SmartSync, Dropbox Paper and more. We have 12 global offices with over 1500 amazing Dropboxers. These are the hallmarks of a company that is built to last.”

Since joining Dropbox in 2012, the company has said it’s hit 500 million users, hit a $1 billion run rate and continued to aggressively pursue business customers. During this time, Dropbox has had to…

ANALYSIS V2V’s Place in an Increasingly Connected World


You’re probably tired of reading that the Internet of Things is the hottest thing going, and that IoT is a boon to technology and, simultaneously, a potential disaster for security and privacy. However, over the past few years, another IoT-related technology has been growing: vehicle to vehicle.

V2V is a way for automobiles to communicate directly with other vehicles on the road. Vehicles communicating with stationary checkpoints positioned along roadways sometimes is referred to as “vehicle to infrastructure,” or V2I.

The National Highway Traffic and Safety Association sees V2V as a way for “vehicles ranging from cars to trucks and buses to trains” to relay safety and mobility information.

Since its inception, though, there have been cybersecurity concerns. How will a vehicle communicate with another vehicle or infrastructure system it has never encountered, let alone been authenticated to connect with it?

Enter PKI

V2V uses a mesh network. In a mesh network, each device communicates with each surrounding device creating a “mesh” of communications. Vehicles communicating with other vehicles or infrastructure in their path can relay information about road hazards and other safety issues in order to alert advancing drivers. This technology initially can be used to signal drivers, but in future incarnations, it could allow vehicles to brake or steer away from the danger.

Of course, one of the issues with this technology is “spoofing.” If a malicious actor were able to trick the system or spoof the telemetry signal, the actor could create chaos by braking certain vehicles and failing to warn others. Thus, a solution for authenticating each vehicle and piece of infrastructure needs to be in place.

PKI, or public key infrastructure, is a standard method for communicating securely between parties. In the PKI system, each user or device has a “private key” that no one else can hold. Each user or device also has a “public key” to distribute freely. The private key can be used to authenticate itself to a device that can use the published public key to verify the private key.

In the world of email, the private key is used to sign an email and the public key verifies the signature as valid.

In the same manner, a vehicle could use its private key to authenticate itself to another vehicle.

The difference with the V2V PKI solution is that the system would be massive. Each device would not only…

Here’s How Helsinki Gets 10% Of All The Startup Exits In The World


Banner as attendees enter the 17,000 strong stadium for Slush

Finland is home to more than 5.4 million people spread over across +338,424 kilometres (Finland is the sparsest populated country in the EU), and yet it boasts over 10% of the world’s startup exits. Finland’s scarcity of resources and changes in the telecom infrastructure has led to a serious body of tech-heads and talent which is now leading the next generation of talent. Previously only having a relatively minor tech presence (but a big tech ‘scene’), the region has exploded over the last decade since the early days of Nokia to produce a vibrant community form with big names from Rovio, Supercell, Seriously, Framery and King to name but a few.

Many don’t realise that in the last five years, Finland has seen at least one billion-dollar exit per year. “Finnish start-ups are tending to be bought before they can list” according to Markus Suomi, CEO of Finnish trade, investment agency Finpro. That’s no accident. With over 500 startups in Helsinki alone, Finland’s capital has become a Mecca for gaming startups ($2.4bn revenue in 2015) but is also growing other areas in clean tech, fin-tech, ITC and food services (like Epic Foods) as investor attention floods in. Slush – the now multi-territory startup mega-fest – has been a big part of this success but there’s more than simple organisation behind Finland’s and Helsinki’s startup prowess. The success stems back to the early 2000’s when there was a huge demo scene that attracted +13,000 people to ice hockey rinks to see experimental tech nerds and artists showcase their ideas. When you talk to startups in Helsinki, it’s clear the Founders were inspired by history as much as a passion for creating a different future.

From chatting with government officials, startup leaders, educators and residents; it is clear that Finland made startups a priority and is now laser focused on the youth to drive the future. From the ice-cold Oulu-based Polar Bear Pitching process (imaging pitching investors neck-deep in ice-cold water) to Lasse Männisto’s parliamentary startup group, the…