Craig Newmark on Craigslist.org

Following are my somewhat cryptic notes from Craig Newmark’s appearance tonight in New York under the auspices of TheLunchClub.net . (Jared Nissim has turned that informal social organization into a real business.) For more background on Craigslist, see the profile of craigslist in our Social Network Site Guide.

Notes:

Craig does customer service full time.
contacts NYPD and secret service when it’s needed.

his question for himself: ‘how much money do you need to make?’
they only incorporated in 1999. he gave some equity away ‘so I would have less control.’

q: how did it all start?
a: while craig was working at charles schwab.

audience member: I really love how you respond directly and personally to the community.

craig: we don’t owe anyone lots of money, so we have more flexibility.
he agrees with Mark Pincus’s (CEO of Tribe.net) comment, ““All the social network sites are a dumbed-down version of what’s going on in the blog world.”

q: are you single?
a: ‘my young lady would object if I said yes.’

q: what are your favorite sites?
a:wonkette. dailykos. nytimes circuits. gizmodo. theonion.

q:how do you handle all the emails that go thru the system?
a: we don’t store them.

craig: NYPD has nailed some people for apartment scams, harassment.

q: favorite story about craigslist?
a: abused wife who very quickly found a SAFE place to stay.

also, a few years ago someone advertised he was seeking someone to take the CPA ethics exam for him.

craig: ebay has had no real impact; it’s been a mutual learning experience. they’ve been very helpful in providing contacts at ISPs for spam control/criminal control.

craig’s favorite celebrities: leonard cohen, jon stewart.

craig: started craigslist NYC in 2000. traffic really took off in fall 2001, after 9/11. maybe coincidence, maybe not.

q: what do they do to minimize legal liability?
a: first, the site is protected under ‘safe harbor’ act.
second, they take misbehavior very personally. ‘after all , my name is on the site.’ they shut it down very fast.

craig: good PR he sends to his mom in the senior center, laminated.
their law firm does a lot of work pro bono. he likes the google/ebay ‘moral compass’.

they saw a dropoff in job postings when they started charging. they run a very lean operation–14 people!

q: why is craigslist non-commercial?
a: ‘because it feels right.’

craig: we heard report from audience member who found several kidney donors via craigslist.

he’s thinking now about future direction of craigslist.

he believes that most people want segmented identities online. e.g., one for dating and one for business. (this is a different philosophy than tribe.net, which gives you one identity). ‘we try not to get in the way of what people want.’ (in other words, if you want one identity you can have one on Craigslist; but if you want 3 you can do it too, anonymously.)

they used to run parties in CA, but no time now; it’s not critical path.

a slogan he created: ‘craigslist. no crap. well, maybe a little, but it’s your crap.’

October 2004: 6m unique visitors, and 3m unique posts.
Average user is there for 15-20 page views.
Only 14 employees (which is astounding for a company with this traffic). Also, a lot of their traffic is people surfing from work, and nielsen doesn’t measure traffic from behind corp. firewalls.

q: what metrics do you use to measure success?
a: we don’t.

q: will there be a 12step program for craigslist users?

craig: site design is so simple that they don’t run into many browser problems.

focus of his time is abuse cases. the people in the community really run Craiglist.

q: how do they feel about businesses posting stuff for sale?
a: we’re discussing it (i.e., possibility of charging them.)