Wednesday 30 May 2007

The Progress Paradox

by Ronnie Apteker

The progress paradox continually rocks our world. We have all these great time saving devices, but we just never seem to have any spare time. What's the deal here. All technology has ever meant to do was save us time, yet, with each new invention we seem to get more and more stressed out. So, I am wondering, is Vottle going to add to our stress, or not. Now, I am not saying that Vottle is a new invention, but it is a new project here in South Africa, and it is pretty cool. Where was I? Yes, is Vottle going to help us or not. Well, as the cliché goes, only time will tell. But waiting for time to tell is not something we enjoy, so I thought I would try to take some wild guesses.

South Africa represents in an interesting landscape, especially when it comes to the media. From what I understand, our leading newspaper companies, for example, made record profits last year doing what they have been doing since the beginning. And, when we look at what is happening in America and the rest of the world all the smart money appears to be pointing to the Net. Yet, here down South some key areas of the online world are still set to explode. Why is this? The phone company for one has been slow to roll out broadband access in a big way. All the telephony activity in South Africa seems to be oriented around cellular communications. The end result is that the old school media companies have been somewhat "protected". But, South Africa is not an island. By the time of the 2010 World Cup Soccer I estimate that high speed Internet access will be mainstream here in South Africa and when that is a reality so we will see a shift in consumer behaviour from the physical to the online world. Sites like, in my view, are well positioned. I think these guys were ahead of their time. The big migration is still coming. And so will there be a move from paper based classifieds to web based services. Sites like in America are a case in point. We estimate that will gain momentum slowly and a we move towards 2010 Vottle will be well positioned too.

But is Vottle going to make our lives better? As I said at the start, the progress paradox has us trapped. Will Vottle be another time saving device that adds to our stress? Well, for one thing, no sooner had we launched the site just a year ago than we saw the scammers and spammers come out of the proverbial virtual wood-work. Where on Earth do these guys suddenly come from? And yes, they added to our stress. But, we responded quickly with all kinds of tools to combat these parasites. Yes yes, I am all over the place as usual. So, the answer is: yes, we believe that Vottle does offer us a better alternative than its physical based counterpart. Now not all shifts from analog to digital have resulted in better lives for us all. Digital photography is a good example. Yes, we have more pictures being taken than ever before but we have less photographs to hold in our hands and enjoy. The romance of taking photographs is dying. Everyone has a camera these days and we snap away all the time and in doing so we trivializes what was once called "a Kodak moment". Imagine, there is a whole new generation that doesn't know what a Kodak moment is. When the world was dealing with 35 mm film we had to take our time with each photograph because it cost money and because you simply could delete the frame and shoot again. The result was that more love and care went into capturing a moment. There was more effort and more inspiration. Now, I am not saying that digital cameras are cool. They certainly are a miracle of the world today. But, we pay a price for this convenience. And that price is our souls. The progress paradox is all about our souls and about the move from quality to quantity. Digital cameras are all about quantity and the old-fashioned 35 mm machines of the last century are all about quality. But, when we look at the world of the classifieds we can see a definitive improvement when going digital. For one, we can attach pictures in sharp colour and high-resolution detail. And then, we can really go to town when it comes to text descriptions and more. But, the primary advantage is the interactive nature of the Internet whereby a potential buyer and contact the seller via email or Skype, etc. This allows faster results, more reach, greater rewards. And lastly, the ability to include a rating system is invaluable. There is so much emphasis in the online world in protecting users out there against scam artists that the online world of classifieds represents an exciting and powerful departure from its physical based newspaper counterpart.

Now, through in that fact that many of these new offerings are free, like, and you have a compelling proposition. So, again, the Vottling team believes that their online service will add something to our lives. We believe that this is a cool new offering down South and we are hoping to attract a cool membership base.