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      Here’s How Ad Tech Can Reduce Its Biggest Enemy: Latency

      Editor’s note: This article was originally published Dec. 4, 2019 on

      Latency—the delay that occurs in communication over a network—remains the enemy of Ad Tech, and by extension, the enemy of publishers and agencies relying on increasingly sophisticated tools to drive revenue and engage audiences.

      With real-time bidding demanding sub-100 millisecond response times, advertisers are careful to avoid any process that could hinder their ability to win placements. Website page-load speeds, meanwhile, continue to be a critical metric for publishers, as adding tracking pixels, tags and content reload tech to page code can inadvertently increase latency, and as a result, website bounce rates.

      If you think a few dozen milliseconds here or there won’t tank user experience, note that the human brain is capable of processing images far faster than we previously thought. An image seen for as little as 13 milliseconds can be identified later, according to neuroscientists at MIT. The drive for greater speed and better performance will march on because users will demand it.

      At its core, latency reduction—like the mechanics of transporting people—is governed by both physics and available technology. Unless a hyperloop breaks ground soon, you will likely never make a trip from Los Angeles to Chicago in two hours. It’s a similar story for the data traversing internet fiber optic cables across the globe. Even with a high-speed connection, your internet traffic is still bound by pesky principles like the speed of light.

      So how are Ad Tech companies solving for latency?

      The two most straightforward answers are to simply move data centers closer to users and exchanges, or move the media itself closer via Content Delivery Networks. The shorter the distance, the lower the latency.

      A third, lesser-known tactic involves the use of internet route optimization technologies (first developed and patented by my company) that operate much like Waze or any other real-time traffic app you might use to shave minutes off your commute. Deploying this tech can significantly reduce latency, which in the programmatic and digital ad space, can be directly correlated to upticks in revenue.

      To understand how it works, let’s first consider how most internet traffic reaches your laptops, smart phones, and (sigh . . .) your refrigerators, doorbells and washing machines.

      Unlike the average consumer, companies increasingly choose to blend their bandwidth with multiple internet service providers. In effect, this creates a giant, interconnected road map linking providers to networks across the globe. In other words, the cat video du jour has many paths it can take to reach a single pair of captivated eyeballs.

      This blended internet service has two very real benefits for enterprises: It allows internet traffic to have a greater chance of always finding its way to users and sends traffic by the shortest route.

      But there’s one very important catch: The shortest route isn’t always the fastest route.

      In fact, the system routing internet traffic works less like real-time GPS routing and more like those unwieldy fold-out highway roadmaps that were a staple of many family road trips gone awry. They are an adequate tool for picking the shortest path from point A to point B, but can’t factor in traffic delays, lane closures, accidents or the likelihood of Dad deciding a dilapidated roadside motel in central Nebraska is the perfect place to stop for the day.

      In much the same way, the default system guiding internet traffic selects a route based on the lowest number of network “hops” (think tollbooths or highway interchanges) as opposed to the route with lowest estimated latency. While the shortest path sometimes is the fastest, traffic is always changing. Congestion can throttle speeds. The cables carrying data can be accidentally severed, stopping traffic altogether. Human error can temporarily take down a data center or network routers. But unless someone intervenes, the system will keep sending your traffic through this path, to the detriment of your latency goals, and ultimately, your clients and end users.

      Network route optimization technologies, conversely, manipulate this default system by probing every potential route data can take, diverting traffic away from routes with latency that kills user experience. While it is pretty easy for a company’s network engineering team to manually route traffic, it’s not practical at scale. The randomness and speed at which networks change mean even an always-on army of experts can’t beat an automation engine that makes millions of traffic optimizations per day.

      Of course, latency is just one of many factors affecting the increasingly innovative Ad Tech space. For instance, services capable of intelligently delivering content users actually want to see is pretty important for all parties, too. And as an avid content consumer myself, I’m thankful more Ad Tech providers are turning their eyes toward the user experience.

      But that’s all moot if industry leaders lose sight of the fact that milliseconds matter. And they matter a lot. Success in Ad Tech, as with any service powering the digital economy, is only as good as the data center technology and the network delivering the goods.

      Mary Jane Horne

      Mary Jane Horne is responsible for planning and executing INAP’s global network strategy, delivering a more robust, scalable and secure network. In addition, Ms. Horne oversees INAP’s vendor management team responsible for all carrier relations, including vendor strategy and contract negotiations. READ MORE

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      Sovrn Advances Digital Advertising with Engagement-Focused Tech

      In 2019, advertising will officially reach a milestone a long time in the making: Digital spend will surpass spend in traditional channels for the first time in history, with projected totals reaching $129 billion and $109 billion, respectively.1

      This massive growth in digital advertising has given rise to a new host of technology companies dedicated to maximizing value to both advertisers and content publishers. But what if the key to that equation is a renewed focus on the experience of an important third party—the actual viewers consuming the ads?

      Enter INAP customer, Sovrn.

      Jesse Demmel
      Jesse Demmel, CTO, Sovrn

      Sovrn provides innovative advertising tools, technologies and services to help independent publishers grow their audiences and make money through engaging ad content. The company carefully develops its technology to best serve its customers, including the agencies and brands who participate in the ad exchange.

      A customer since 2017, Sovrn continues to grow their relationship with INAP, recently announcing a new cloud hosting agreement that will add performance-driven bare metal solutions in Seattle and Ashburn. The scalable single-tenant infrastructure platform includes INAP’s route-optimized Performance IP® service, which automatically directs Sovrn’s traffic along the lowest-latency path—a critical benefit in an industry where milliseconds matter.

      I met with Sovrn’s Chief Technology Officer, Jesse Demmel, to learn more about their //Signal product, why it’s different, and the elements of their data center and network strategy that keep their business growing.

      This interview has been lightly edited for clarity and length.

      Ryan: With products like //Signal, it seems as if you’re trying to deliver a mutually beneficial experience for publishers, advertisers and content consumers. How does Sovrn’s technology achieve that?

      Jesse: I’m glad you picked up on that. //Signal is trying to deliver for all three, which is the perfect trifecta. When you go to a website and you’re highly engaged, you’re spending a lot of time there. Currently, the best way a publisher can make money is to shove as many ads as they can in front of a consumer, because it’s an impression-based economy. However, those values are not aligned with what a consumer values, which is engaging content. What //Signal attempts to do is capture all those engagement metrics from a reader on a website, or on a piece of content, and make those valuable to the advertiser. And then, rather than using a currency of impressions and cost per impression, perhaps we can soon get to a place where we’re using cost by time or engagement value.

      In short, the advertisers get more value with this model because they’re seeking conversion in highly engaged readers. The publishers end up getting paid more for that as well, because they’ve written content that is engaging. And then the readers get better value because they’re getting fewer, more engaging ads that entice them to act.

      From the user’s perspective, when they’re on a website using your technology, do you think they consciously notice that the ads are more engaging and less abrasive?

      The goal of the product is for consumers not to consciously notice it. Consumers have come out and said that they want free content on the web, and that they like advertising that is relevant and targeted to them. What they don’t like is advertising that interferes with their experiences. They’re trying to enjoy the content. The idea of //Signal is being able to reward publishers on their ability to create engaging content and serve consumers with less intrusive advertising. The ads are more meaningful and interfere less with their actual web experience.

      With any media-rich website, speed is key to driving visitor engagement. How do publishers that rely on ad revenue ensure their tools aren’t getting in the way?

      Latency is important to our publishers and their pages, and with modern browsers and web architectures, there are multiple ways to manage latency. A long time ago, everything that loaded was included in that latency. But now you can serve the important parts of the page first and things that aren’t as important can load secondary to that. Our publishers work hard to make sure that the webpage architecture doesn’t adversely affect the reader experience, and our technology tries to help with that.

      What will be different about the ad tech industry five years from now?

      I hope that ad tech will evolve to be more aligned with the engagement that’s happening on the web, rather than the gross number of impressions. Internal to the ad tech industry, I hope that the movement for greater transparency continues to change.

      I think the biggest change facing the ad tech industry is consumer privacy, so the death of the third-party cookie. Safari keeps clamping down on their restrictions, and now Chrome is entering the fray with better controls around third-party cookies. Mozilla is doing the same thing with Firefox, so I think there’s a greater awareness that consumer privacy is going to be at the forefront, which we totally welcome and want to help drive. I think consumers are going to start owning their data decisions, and they’re going to decide who has access to their data and for which purposes. The ad tech industry will be coming along for that ride to play nicely in that environment.

      I’m curious about the backend of how your technology is brought to life. Can you summarize your IT infrastructure strategy for delivering Sovrn’s products and services?

      The ad tech industry, delivering tools for our publishers, that ecosystem is extremely dynamic and changes frequently. It moves very, very fast. We are solving internet-scale problems that change as fast as innovation happens on the internet, so we must be able to migrate extremely large workloads to work properly for ever-evolving standards. Our IT infrastructure must be flexible in nature, highly scalable and component based to allow us to easily add on to the technology. From a team perspective, that means we’re as agile as possible, getting tight feedback loops with our customers so that we’re always building what they want while making small adjustments along the way.

      How has that approach evolved since the company was founded?

      That agile mentality hasn’t changed since the company’s founding. But one way we’ve evolved is with a push to make sure the customer is at the center of everything we’re building. We’re solving such challenging technical problems, and I think it’s easy for the engineering teams to get caught up and forget who they’re solving these problems for. There’s actually a customer on the other side, and we’ve worked very hard over the last few years to make sure they are the focus.

      What are some of the information technology benchmarks you set to determine if you’re successfully running the platform?

      The values that we measure are performance-based for our publishers across our different products. Ultimately, it’s about whether they are making money from the ad exchange.

      For performance, what’s going to drive that? It’s an extremely low-latent environment, so we make sure that timeouts occur as infrequently as possible. That’s one benchmark that we’re constantly monitoring. We also look at availability and reliability of the systems. Uptime is extremely critical with billions and billions of requests going through the system every day. Every millisecond or second that the system goes down is going to cost our publishers money, so that availability is extremely important.

      Scalability is obviously a big one when we’re dealing with the amount of traffic that we are, and our traffic patterns follow consumer internet trends. In a given region for a given day, our traffic might go up and down by as much as 100 percent. Across all those requests, being able to scale that infrastructure up and down to meet those needs is extremely important. And then, we operate with a ton of data, so making sure that the data is stored and always reliable, as well as available and redundant, is very important. Security is obviously important as well.

      Those are the kind of things we think about when we run the platform.

      How does INAP, or your IT infrastructure, help achieve that availability, scalability, low latency and redundancy?

      INAP was a selection for us primarily in helping with the low latency and availability piece, making sure the systems are always up and available. INAP is great in terms of networking performance, which is extremely critical to our business. Second is the service component. A server is always going to break down, network routes are always going to get messed up. How responsive and how proactive of a partner do we have in helping us resolve those issues? INAP customer service has proven very easy to work with.

      1. Data featured in Ad Week, “U.S. Digital Ad Spend Will Surpass Offline in 2019”, Feb. 20 2019

      Ryan Hunt
      • Sr. Communications Manager

      Ryan Hunt is Senior Communications Manager. READ MORE

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      30 Ways to Be an Ally for Women in Tech in 2019

      Happy International Women’s Day! First celebrated by suffragettes in the early 1900s, this worldwide holiday held every March 8 is as relevant and necessary today as it was then. While the fight for equal voting rights has mostly been won, gender parity on the economic front is, sadly, far from a reality.

      The 2018 World Economic Forum Global Gender Gap report shows a wide gender gap in education, health, economic opportunity, and political empowerment — a gap, the report predicts, that could take up to 108 years to bridge.

      Let’s speed up that clock, shall we?

      It’s time to make gender equality a priority, starting in our own workplaces. While women are and have been making amazing strides in the tech industry, there’s still a long way to go when it comes to gender equality and even more so for women of color:

      How can individuals (remember, we all deal with unconscious bias) and companies be allies for women in tech? Whether you’re in an enterprise leadership spot or a recent hire at a startup, you can pitch in. We’ve rounded up 30 ideas to create a better, more inclusive environment — for everybody — at every level in tech.

      Getting Started

      Use these tips to do some background research and get started on your quest to building a more inclusive workplace.

      1. Celebrate International Women’s Day

      Timely, right? Acknowledge the holiday in your workplace and on social media. Throw a party and order some cupcakes. Recognize and thank female colleagues and other women who’ve made an impact on you and important contributions to your team or company. The International Women’s Day website lists ideas of commitments you can make to work toward gender parity this year — visit and make a commitment, share your goals, and invite colleagues to do the same.

      2. Study Up

      Read books and blogs for, by, and about women in tech. Become familiar with the challenges — and triumphs — of women in the industry, and stay up to date with relevant news and issues. Lucky you: we’ve already put together a reading list to get you started.

      3. Follow the Leaders

      Follow techie ladies and female industry influencers on Twitter and Medium. For ideas on who to follow, consult your colleagues for suggestions, ask women you respect who they are following, and spend some time exploring the hashtag #womenintech.

      4. Get Inspired

      Helping others on your team or in your company will benefit everyone. Set a goal to focus on the success and growth of your colleagues and cultivate an attitude of encouragement. With this mindset, you will take an interest in the empowerment of all your coworkers — including the women. Get inspired by watching Kare Anderson’s TED Talk Opportunity Makers and, especially if you’re in a leadership position, read up on Liz Wiseman’s Multipliers.

      5. Get Motivated

      Did you know that an organization with at least 30 percent of its leadership comprised of women could add up to 6 percentage points to the net margin? If for some reason you can’t find the motivation to spend efforts supporting and recruiting more women in the tech industry, at the very least, numbers like this can be the inspiration.

      On the Ground Level

      So you’re not in much of a leadership position. You can still make enormous strides toward crafting your company’s culture. Read on to learn how. (Pssst! Leaders, don’t skip this section — there’s plenty for you here, too!)

      6. Amplification

      Author Therese Huston suggests this technique to make sure that women — and everybody, really — are heard and get credit for their contributions. To amplify a colleague who has just shared a good idea in a meeting, speak up, name and credit the first person, and repeat the idea.

      And don’t just amplify an idea because it came from a woman! Naturally look for promising ideas and do your best to make sure it gets its due. If you’re a woman who feels interrupted or overlooked in meetings, try teaming up with a fellow female coworker (or a male ally) and committing to amplify each other’s ideas.

      7. Keep a 50/50 Mindset

      Sometimes, a man in tech may worry about coming off as patronizing when he may simply intend to do his part to support his female colleagues. To help offset this fear, men and women alike might try to keep a 50/50 mindset. That is, about 50 percent of the world’s population is male, and the other 50 percent is female. So ideally, half of the workforce would be male, half female — this is the ideal gender parity.

      At your workplace, while the numbers of male and female employees probably don’t even out, men and women should be equally valued, honored, and heard. So everything you do could be working toward equal opportunity and visibility for women and men; many of the ideas shared here work equally for both genders. We would all appreciate a little help getting credit for our ideas and support in our work.

      8. Speak Up

      Don’t be afraid to point out non-inclusive or downright bad behavior, even when you spot it above you in the leadership chain. Consider approaching the perpetrator or their supervisor privately; you don’t want to embarrass them, and they may not have been fully aware of the behavior. Don’t be afraid to take ownership of your company’s culture and say something.

      9. Make Friends

      This may feel very “back to the high school cafeteria,” but take a look at who your work buddies are and try to expand your circle a bit. If you’re a guy who spends most of your day talking to men who are similar to you, make an effort to diversify your clique. If you’re a lady, a strong circle of female friends at work can be a huge support — but don’t forget to reach out to men, too.

      10. Share Stories

      As you develop relationships on your team and within your company, ask your female friends about their experiences as a woman in tech.

      If you’re worried about sounding patronizing, try framing it in terms of, “I’ve read discouraging statistics and stories about women in technology, and I’m wondering what your experience has been.”

      And women, don’t be afraid to share your experiences — good and bad.

      11. Inclusive Language

      When talking with coworkers outside the boardroom (around the proverbial watercooler), suggest a colleague share more about a project or product she’s working on. Ask her more about an idea she brought up in a meeting and have a genuine interest in the work of those around you. This will help foster an environment where credit is given where it is due — something women in tech, unfortunately, miss out on at times, thanks to unconscious gender biases.

      Also, use inclusive language in both speaking and writing. Especially in formal documents or wide-reaching emails. Despite what your high school English teacher might have taught you, they is now an acceptable neutral third-person pronoun that will help you avoid the awkward “he/she” construction.

      12. Find a Protege

      Do you know a young woman who might be interested in tech? Get her a book about science and technology, invite her to job shadow you, or suggest local STEM-oriented programs or day camps. Consider volunteering at one of these programs on your own time to provide an example and real-life mentor to girls and students in your community.

      Taking the Lead

      In a leadership role, you are uniquely positioned to make a real difference in inclusivity in your workplace. Here are a few good places to start.

      13. Invite Feedback

      If you’re in any sort of leadership capacity, make sure to invite, request, and encourage feedback on the work environment you create. And when you do get negative feedback, accept it graciously and take steps to make necessary changes. Consider offering your team some sort of way to offer feedback anonymously and make clear that you’re specifically working on inclusivity.

      14. Sing Praises

      Offer complimentary feedback to your team members and colleagues freely and openly. Notice and thank others for their contributions, and draw other people’s attention to good work and good ideas you’ve noticed. Be authentic and genuine in your praising and make an effort to notice the good turns and successes of all your colleagues. You’ll be more and more aware of the good work going on around you — and may be inspired to achieve more yourself.

      15. Nominate Women

      Any industry awards or recognitions coming up? Consider nominating a woman or suggesting that qualified coworkers apply. Same goes for internal company awards: is there a woman you could nominate for the honor? Make sure to keep a 50/50 mindset here as well. Perhaps half the awardees or nominees are women. Or if a man won last time, a qualified woman should be considered the next time around.

      16. Listen

      Listen to what your colleagues, teammates, and those you manage are saying. And we don’t mean be creepy; pay attention when others speak to you, try to understand the emotions and thoughts sparking their comments, and truly consider their ideas.

      Simply listening will deepen your empathy for a variety of experiences and foster creative solutions. And go a step beyond listening: actively ask for ideas and experiences in formal and informal settings.

      17. Share the Spotlight

      If you’re in any sort of leadership role, you’ve got a lot on your plate. And you’re most likely completely capable of handling it all — that’s how you got to be a leader in the first place. But take a minute to ask yourself: do you really have to be the one to give the presentation, take the lead on a project, or interview the prospective hire?

      Is there someone else on your team, maybe someone with a different experience or background from you, who is as capable of performing that function? Or maybe there’s someone you could mentor through the process. This is a simple way to give women leadership opportunities and more visibility.

      18. Make Time for Mentorship

      On that note, make sure to invest in mentoring. Let your colleagues and others know you’re open to sharing your expertise over lunch or coffee and, as stated above, invite capable team members to learn new roles and participate in leadership tasks. On the company level, try implementing some sort of formal mentorship program.

      19. Invest in the Future

      Gender inequality in the tech industry won’t change overnight. In an industry once filled with women, men dominate the workforce. Consider some sort of community outreach, such as coding events or a “bring-your-daughter-to-work” day. Team up with organizations like Girls Who Code and Black Girls Code to host a program at your company. Volunteer as a mentor or guest speaker at local schools. For example, DreamHost has teamed up with Girl Develop It to promote software development and STEM education among women.

      Invite Expertise

      Conferences, trainings, seminars, and summits at the company level or beyond are great opportunities to showcase the expertise and experience of your female colleagues. Commit to better events by inviting more diverse voices.

      20. Avoid the “Manel”

      It’s time for the all-male panel to go the way of the dodo. An even greater offender is the all-male, all-white panel. Panels are a perfect opportunity to showcase a diversity of voices and to invite some female expertise. If you are invited to speak in a panel, ask about who you’ll be participating with and suggest inviting female or minority participants.

      21. Equal Speaking Time

      If you’re planning an event, commit to creating a better ratio of female and minority speakers. “Better” could mean better than last year, it could mean closer to 50 percent than zero — or you could go all out as the Shift Forum does and require perfect 50/50 gender parity. At the very least, strive to select speakers that reflect the diversity of experience in your company. If you need help tracking down a guest speaker, DevelopHer has a list of women ready to speak on tech-related topics, and Women Talk Design promotes female speakers in tech.

      22. Volunteer

      If you’re a woman, volunteer to speak on a panel or at a conference (or suggest another female speaker). If those in charge of planning the event are creating programs that are less than diverse, step in and provide a solution — even if that solution is yourself. Or offer to research a list of female techies outside the company that could be invited to share. Consider adding your name to a database of female tech speakers, such as the 50/50 Pledge.

      23. Don’t Go

      If you’ve been invited to or discovered an interesting tech conference in your field, check out the speaker lineup. If the diversity ratio is too low to stomach, just don’t go. And send feedback to the organizers letting them know about your objections.

      Diversity-Centered Hiring

      An inclusive workplace begins with creating a more diversity-friendly hiring process.

      24. Review Hiring Practices

      More diversity in your company will get you better results and give your customers a more realistic representation. Diversity starts in your hiring process so if you have any control over the hiring process, set aside some time to discuss how it can be improved to attract qualified applicants from a variety of backgrounds, including women.

      If you aren’t in a position to affect the hiring process, consider suggesting a review to someone who does. The next few ideas are great jumping off points for changes to make the hiring process more inclusive.

      25. Avoid “Bro-Speak”

      Take a look at your job listings and review them for language that is non-inclusive. The wording of your job descriptions could potentially signal that your team may be unwelcoming to women. The app Textico will scan your listings for language that could repel women — including phrases like “Nerf gun” and “crush it” — and suggest more neutral terms.

      26. Set Required Skills

      Set an agreed upon set of skills, capabilities, and qualifications in advance that a hire must have. Make sure that every candidate is judged against this specific criteria and hold yourselves to it.

      27. Make Candidates Anonymous

      Find a way to hide details such as gender, age, race, etc. of each candidate as long as possible during the application process.

      A 2000 study showed that when professional orchestras had musicians audition behind a screen, the number of women chosen rose sharply, suggesting that when people are assessed on ability alone, women are much more likely to rise to the top.

      Several apps can help you take away the bias, including GapJumpers, which hides identifying information and even résumés until after applicants complete a test you design to assess their skills. This app was built based on the results of the orchestra audition study.

      And Blendoor, much like Tinder, lets job-seekers and recruiters seek each other out: candidates can see company details and diversity ratings, and companies can only see information about skills, education, and work history. Kind of like LinkedIn but without the profile picture.

      28. Reach Out

      When it is time to hire, you probably have your go-to networks find a steady stream of applicants: your alma mater, suggestions from a former mentor, a particular coding program, a social networking group. This is a familiar way to find people you’ll probably like and trust, but it is also a great way to hire the same type of employee over and over.

      Try posting your listing as publicly as possible. Maybe reach out to a college you’ve never contacted before, or ask your female colleagues if they have any recommendations or connections. Diversifying who sees your job listing will lead to a more diverse candidate pool — and, hopefully, a more inclusive workplace.

      29. Fuel Your Talent Pipeline

      Widen your pipeline by supporting and engaging with organizations like Code2040, an organization of Black and Latinx techies, and Management Leadership for Tomorrow, which focuses on launching minority students into business leadership careers. Specifically, consider ways you can fuel your female talent pipeline, perhaps by reaching out to and creating relationships with tech schools and colleges with higher numbers of female students and grads.

      30. Form Inclusive Interview Panels

      Make it an unbendable rule to always have at least one woman on every interview panel. A female panelist can help other female applicants feel welcome and vet for gender bias. Consider creating interview panels that are as diverse as possible to project your team’s interest in diversity and inclusivity.

      If you aren’t in a position to impact the composition of an interview panel and are invited to participate, suggest that a woman be added into the mix. And women, don’t be afraid to suggest to your supervisors that you would be willing to help interview candidates.

      A More Inclusive Industry

      Putting in just a little effort to improve your company’s culture can make a big difference in recruiting and retaining a more diverse and inclusive workplace. Gender parity in the tech industry won’t happen overnight, but change can’t happen without a little effort.

      Every tech worker has a role to play. We’ve given you 30 ideas to get started; pick one to start with and work up from there.

      What else have you or your company done to create a more inclusive and balanced workplace? Any tips or experiences to share? We’d love to get your take! Join our discussion on Twitter or Facebook.

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