Craig Newmark of Craigslist — page 2

By BTM Institute Staff Writer  |  Posted 2008-07-30 Print this article Print

An interview with Craig Newmark, Founder of Craigslist

Q. Craigslist looks like an electronic text-version of the world's largest Penny Shopper. Why are people attracted to it?

On the one hand, we provide a very simple, effective platform for a lot of things. We help people get everyday stuff done. On the other hand, we operate a pretty good culture of trust that has to be paired with good customer service. Also, our site itself is kind of a real expression of some values we all share. I'm talking about stuff such as the notion that you should treat people the way you want to be treated, and you want to give the other person a break. For that matter, everyone has a live-and-let-live attitude, even when we don't do so consciously.

Q. Would you say that's the innovation?

In a strange way, yes. Although we all share those values, the hard part is following through with them. If you want to treat people according to the Golden Rule, then think of the last time you had poor customer service. You can't fix another company's bad customer service. On the other hand, if you can provide good customer service for your own company, then everyone wins.

Q. Is another innovation listening to your constituents' ideas?

This is another way to follow through on treating people like you want to be treated. The deal is that you listen and then do something about it.

Q. Over the years, you received more and more feedback. How did you parse it out?

For example, the fundamental reason for our charging model is people [at Craigslist] slowly asking other people what would be the right way to pay the bills. They told us to charge people who [would] otherwise pay more money for less-effective ads.

Q. You've kept the site pretty plain and simple. Why is that?

Yup! We're all battered by too much media demanding our attention. As an antidote to that, we provide a site that's very simple and gets to the point right away and is fast.

Q. Your site reminds me of the pre-Internet hobbyist bulletin boards and the personal computer-based communication services.

I was influenced by these services, especially the Whole Earth Catalog's The Well.

Q. What's the technology behind Craigslist?

Nothing special! We have a collection of more than 200 servers, all running open source software, particularly Linux, Apache, MySQL and Perl. We wrote our own code, which does content management.

Q. Do you spend a lot of time on enforcement to keep off spammers and people who are going to take advantage of others?

I'm part of a customer service team which does things like that. I'm one of a bunch. That works out pretty well in practice.

The BTM Institute (www.btminstitute.org) brings together the academic, corporate, government and thought-leadership communities as a multi-disciplinary research think tank to address the need to integrate business and technology.

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