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Wheedle back online after disaster start to day two

UPDATE: Wheedle general manager Carl Rees told NBR ONLINE the auction site, down since breakfast, would be "back up by 11am" [and it was].

The Trade Me rival has been offline on day two of its full frontal assault on Trade Me, backed by Rich Lister Neil Graham (estimated worth: $65 million), a TV campaign and a $10 million-plus budget.

LATEST: Wheedle lets you see - and change - the reserve price on someone else's auction

"This is a frustration time for us all at Wheedle, as we have experienced a massive member uptake and the interest in our site is growing," Mr Rees said.

He told NBR that according to Google Analytics, "From launch October 1 to this morning we have had 79,800 individual hits to the site and over 1 million page views."

"We are only human and we have made some mistakes.

"Nevertheless, we are committed to Wheedle."

The GM said problems had not been caused by Wheedle's server infrastructure (40 servers hosted by IBM), which were "robust and fast."

But "We have identified some back-end coding problems, these were slowing down the functionality of the site and our tech people we have been busy overnight rectifying the problems."

NBR readers have complained about intermittent access to the site, plus problems accessing their accounts. Wheedle's Facebook page is also crowded with complaints.

Mr Rees many hours of pre-launch testing in controlled live and virtual environments was carried out. "However the only real test happens when your product goes live to the market."

Rivals, and some on social media, have pointed out to NBR that Wheedle appears to have offshored some of its software development (see this job advertisement on an Indian website). Mr Rees did not immediately respond on that point.

If Wheedle's issues are related to Indian outsourcing, they echo those suffered by 2degrees with its website when it launched in 2009.

Trade Me shares [NZX:TME] rose 4c or 1% to $4.04 yesterday.

NBR readers offer Wheedle some free advice

8.30am Trade Me rival Wheedle started day two like day one: offline.

Social media complaints began around 8am, with the site displaying a Down For Maintenance message. At 10am, it was still down.

Yesterday, general manager Carl Rees told NBR that Wheedle was taken down briefly for "fine tuning and fix a few small areas." 

He did not respond to a follow up query about traffic numbers.

NBR reader reaction was mixed. Some didn't rate its chances; some welcomed the competition; some gave it go but said they had problems logging in or using ther accounts. A couple complained there was apparently no filter on usernames, with "NZPolice" and "F**K" (NBR's asterisks) being registered.

Others had some free advice. 

A number, including Institute of IT Professionals NZ head Paul Matthews, and guest columnist Dylan Bland, suggested a connect-with-Facebook option (already used some sites) for instant authority and user-friendliness.

Mr Matthews also suggested a function for importing a person's Trade Me reputation.

But while such an option could help jump-start any new auction site, it would also "put you in court really quickly," according to another commentator, Lance Wiggs (an advisor to Trade Me during its sale to Fairfax).

A number of commenters also suggested free shipping as a point-of-difference with Trade Me - more so given Wheedle backer Neil Graham made his fortune as cofounder of Mainfreight.

On Sunday, Mr Graham told NBR Wheedle was "over-geared with quality servers. We can take a huge amount of hits at once" and had recruited top tech staff.

A second Trade Me rival, Christchurch listeselltrade (which has now delayed its launch to October 4) told NBR its site was superior because all of its development work had been carried out in New Zealand. 

Trade Me shares [NZX:TME] rose 4c or 1% to $4.04 yesterday.

More by Chris Keall

Comments and questions

If I were Rees, which I'm glad I'm not, I think the best decision I could make right now would be to shut the damn thing down and save blowing anymore cash on a site destined to fail.

So let them go to court . I enjoy seeing Mainfreight take on Fairfax and TardMe and drag it out through the courts,

Every monopoly needs competition to keep it honest with its pricing. We all welcome Wheedle and I can't see it being anything but a success...Wheedle is what we want and is necessary for fair competition. Not forgetting it is NZ owned...for now.

Your first sentence is correct.

Every other market in the world has one dominant auction site. If you can't see it as anything but a success you are clearly deluded.

One can't help but think these issue wouldn't exist if it was built by Kiwis.

what about ebay, amazon?

I'm a Kiwi but wouldn't say that no issues arise when built by Kiwi's.

You're kidding right? Kiwi's have an appalling track record with technology.

There is nothing quite like the great kiwi clobbering machine is there? If everyone listened to the doomsday merchants and naysayers on here, NZ wouldn't have one entrepreneurial initiative to its name. Including Wheedle's rival site, Trade Me. Sam Morgan would have given up before he started. Fortunately a lot of people don't listen to self-appointed experts on here.

The fact is that Trade Me needs a competitor. It has a pricing monopoly and it knows it with prices for list and success fees that continue to rise to the point that it is hardly worth using the auction site anymore.

I say, good luck to Wheedle. No technology business start-up gets to launch without some technical issues at the beginning. So Wheedle, get your site up and running and go for it. (And as an aside, once your site is up and running and free of technical hitches, I would be very keen to have a very frank conversation with your site developers about their testing methodology.) I went to register myself yesterday, but the activation code you sent me was not recognised by your site. I'd be rather displeased about that as the site owner. It will stop you getting your early adopters and influencers.

Regardless of that, I'll be back to try again. Everyone knows that technology is a tricky thing, so I'll give you another go. But make sure you get it right.

And all the best for success.

Well the Internet was a very different place in 1999 when SM started TM, so your comparison is irrelevant. It doesn't take an "expert" to see that Wheedle is a joke. I don't understand all the people wishing success to a site that can't even stay online for a full day.

Unfortunately you are missing the point.

This isn't your local corner dairy whose EFTPOS machine is down on opening day. This is an internet business where uptime, speed and accessibility are it's lifeblood. Take that away and you have nothing. You will often only get one shot at this. Unfortunately, Wheedle have had an influx of thousands of people after all the coverage they have had and they've blown it. The majority of them will never go back.

The many "self appointed experts" on here are just that. They are experts, they've been doing it for years and have intimate knowledge of this space.

Wheedle would be wise to listen to the commentary on the NBR articles and pay close attention to what is being said.

Experts usually have names

I think these online auction startups are destined to fail. BUT I also think Trademe will soon be in decline. I've recently noticed a lot of "online garage sale" type pages popping up on Facebook. These seem to be very successful despite being clunky to use.

I think that the day Facebook enters this online auction space (which they inevitably must to keep increasing revenue), Trademe will virtually die overnight. And good riddance to their rip-off monopoly prices.

Only a fool would invest in Trademe at present.

My 2c

I'm all for it and welcome the new competition. As someone who frequently uses trade me for selling off household goods and whatever else around the house that is no longer needed it'll be awesome to not be pinged with such a massive "success fee" every time something is sold. Sad about the setbacks wheedle is having with its launch but it's early days and I look forward to seeing it in full operation.

It's clear on many many levels that Wheedle doesn't have what they need to survive in the market.

From their site problems (including inexcusable security failings) it's very clear they don't have necessary IT skills and experience on board. Outsourced programmers may be very capable of delivering code, but without oversight and management they will not deliver the right code.

They also seem to believe they can take on a massive incumbent simply by copying all their features and throwing money at the site. This also seems very shortsighted.

Many many auction sites have tried and failed to take on TradeMe - some offering cheaper auctions, some offering new features. None have succeeded. Even Sella, backed by one of the biggest media brands in the country, hasn't been able to make more than a small dent on TradeMe.

Without genuine innovation and a faultless implementation Wheedle doesn't stand a chance, and even then they'd be struggling.

What about the site security issues? A they being addressed?
Its an open field day for hackers at the moment.
Why would Trademe allow them to copy their own website. Even the headings are the same.

"Imitation is the sincerest form of flattery"

I have been a trader on Trade Me for a number of years - with a sell through rate of 100+ auctions per week. I have started an account on Wheedle and intend to give this site a chance.

Yesterday I was able to list only 3 items because of technical issues I encountered but will try again today (once the site is up again) to increase the number of items I have listed.

I have a number of suggestions - for example I would prefer to use PayNow or a similar facility to make the trade easier for the purchaser and speed up delivery but couldn't find out on the site how to set this up.

I am optimistic for Wheedle and hope it takes a reasonable market share.

How to make a small fortune on the internet...

First, start with a large fortune.

here endeth the lesson.

LMK you are 100% correct. Some sites are already taking business away from Trade Me like you mention Facebook. Which is the most visited site in New Zealand and has the most members more than Trade Me. Many people are buying new goods via amazon and Ebay au.
Trade Me think they can just raise prices all the time. This will add to their decline. Trade Me as a investment doesn't look that good when you think they have already reached there max in users etc the main way they can increase profit is to up fees which in turn will lead to less people using the site and more competition. I wish Wheedle all the best but I also wish someone would enter the market with some new ideas there are allot of new innovative ways to do things.

You get what you pay for outsourcing to India!

It's lack of management/oversight that's the issue, not outsourcing itself. I've had a number of colleagues outsource their websites to India with good success (albeit not to the scale of Wheedle's ambitions).

Everyone seems to think competition to trademe is good but yet when it comes to competition in programming etc which may lead to outsourced work its not right anymore? The world is now one marketplace, but requires the right approach.

Whoever scoped and managed this project did not know what they were doing. Having said that, I STILL wouldn't outsource to India. The face that the site was easily hacked and it's whole payment security system made vulnerable is no surprise. India is a country full of corruption, hackers and scammers. NZ is not. It should have been built right here. It could then have been scoped here and overseen here.

First make it easy to use, efficient, reliable and cheaper than Trademe. New bells and whistles can come later.

It will live or die on its ability to fix the blindingly obvious performance and reliability problems quickly. Outsourcing has its place but in-house technical expertise is also critical.

Google Analytics doesn't track 'hits' at all, which is a metric often used to show big numbers (there are typically a large amount of hits for every page view).

More likely Carl Rees means "unique visitors", and the number quoted would probably be right? He might have been misquoted but the lack of semantic nous continues to trouble - understanding hits vs uniques is pretty much the 101 of web analytics.

I think the Wheedle management will be extremely disappointed in how it has launched. Given that it's number one priority is gaining users as quickly as possible (before you even start to worry about retaining them) the technical issues are a nightmare start. It would be rather like opening a new flash restaurant with a huge fanfare only for terrible service and lack of food to have it fall flat on the opening night. Would you go back? Or would you go to the, established, slightly more expensive place down the road that had the food choices you wanted and where all your friends were?

I have to say, if Wheedle ends up being fully repaired and functional within the week (which seems unlikely) this is a masterful marketing strategy: getting the media to do your launch week advertising for you for free!

Any exposure is good exposure?

What a absolute joke, carl rees is a true muppet, best he sticks to property, so many bugs and imploying idiots from india you have got to ask yourself, basically its a very poor rip from trademe, sad someone has to copy trademe, I might start Tweedle up next week. :)

As someone has already commented, the great Kiwi knocking machine is alive and ?well? Thought I read somewhere that Trademe copied their site from Ebay?
Very sad Wheedle didn't get it right on day 1, but my fervent hope is they will rise and do well. Enough people pointing out the greed of Trademe - how about the minimum credit top up? For low users, it's not good. Trademe has become arrogant, that attitude leads people elsewhere.