Not many business trips afford you the opportunity of hiking through a national park on an afternoon off, so I jumped at the chance of taking a look around the Southern Ridges NP in Singapore. While not exactly a Himalayan undertaking, the equatorial humidity made a few hours trekking much more of a challenge. And so it was that on returning to my hotel, exhausted and sweaty, that I bumped into an immaculately turned out Rick Astley in the hotel lobby. The Stock, Aitken and Waterman star was in Singapore for a show with Bananarama, I was in town to manage the rollout of a major update to ballball.com for News Corp.
ballball.com is the sole provider of football highlights and in-match video clips for the five major European leagues (EPL, La Liga, Bundesliga, Serie A & Ligue 1) in Japan, Vietnam and Indonesia. In addition, BallBall delivers bespoke articles as well as articles from The Sun, The Times and The Sunday Times. Originally built in Wordpress, ballball.com had been completely rebuilt in Django with a combined CMS for the BallBall website and Android app. The new release was to provide the automatic translation of each article into Japanese, Vietnamese and Indonesian Bahasa as well as adding a live match section to the redesigned homepage.
Based in the Dow Jones office, I was to train the BallBall web editors to use the new CMS. Another part of my remit was to gather feedback from the users and capture additional requirements that would then be prioritised by News Corp and sent back to the Ostmodern development team in London. While interacting with the users I had to be careful to manage expectations and not promise anything the budget would not allow while at the same time ensuring that the team could feel involved in the evolution of the CMS and website and see the value that they were adding to the process.
Working in an air-conditioned office all day surrounded by English speakers, you can easily forget where you are until you pop out for lunch at a sweltering hawker centre nearby. The hawker centres reminded me of London’s pop-up restaurants, some even had their own Facebook pages to like. A particular favourite was the Tian Tian Hainanese Chicken Rice stall in the Maxwell Rd hawker centre.
A key feature of the redesigned homepage was the promoted content area which was managed via a new homepage content section of the CMS. This provided editors with far more flexibility and the ability to promote bespoke content such as collections of video clips (goals of the week etc) and breaking news. A second new feature of the homepage was the introduction of the live match section - a repository for each game which collects all in-match video as it happens as well as highlights packages following the final whistle.
Additional requirements were coming in thick and fast causing the release date to be pushed back and my stay to be extended twice. Days were long, working a Singapore day followed by daily meetings with the team in London left little time for exploring, other than late at night when I could be found wandering through Little India, the Muslim Quarter and Chinatown. I felt particularly at home in Tiong Bahru, with it’s coffee shops, gourmet burgers and bookstores - a tropical Shoreditch.
The release day finally came and went with barely a hitch; both client and users happy with the improvements to the CMS and the new features of the now multi-lingual website. I can only guess whether Rick Astley’s fanbase in Singapore were left equally satisfied.