Craig Newmark of Craigslist — page 3By BTM Institute Staff Writer | Posted 2008-07-30 Email Print
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An interview with Craig Newmark, Founder of Craigslist
Q. You have some ads that are pretty racy. Why do you tolerate them?
You're right. Racy in itself is okay. Racy and illegal! We don't want them on the site. It's wrong. It's not possible for us to look at every ad that goes on the site. We get more than 20 million posts per month. Our first line of defense is the flagging-for-removal mechanism. If you're looking at an ad and feel that it's wrong, you can flag it for removal. If other people agree with you and vote for removal by flagging, the ad is removed automatically. It's a flawed mechanism. Some times we don't get many flags on a particular thing. There's a guy who pointed out that democracy is a lousy form of government, but it's the best we have. That guy isn't writing much any more. He's right. That quote comes from Winston Churchill.
Over the weekend, I went to something sponsored by the News Hour with Jim Lehrer. It was at Colonial Williamsburg at the House of Burgess, where they pretty much wrote the Bill of Rights. I'm still digesting what I learned, which I put on my blog.
Q. What can corporate America learn from you folks?
Basically, they need just to act upon shared values, not to talk about them, but to follow through with them. One can argue that corporate America doesn't do a good job of this.
Q. In Andrew Keen's book, The Cult of the Amateur, he says that you're keeping people in the newspaper industry from earning a living. What do you have to say about this?
He makes an assertion. If he did any fact checking, he would've observed that many regional newspapers are in trouble because they're part of a chain looking for a 30 percent profit margin. You might also have heard that national newspapers and local newspapers are doing very well. The man who runs the Denver Post recently brought up the plight of regional newspapers.
In mid-2006 I was on a panel with Keen at the Personal Democracy Forum. I pointed out that it appeared that he hadn't done any fact checking. He agreed. Therein lies considerable irony, in that he's decrying amateurism, and yet he was a little short of the fact-checking part. He said things like every ad that goes on Craigslist means one ad that doesn't go in a newspaper. We know that is largely false. Most of the ads we get, we hear anecdotally, would never have gone into a newspaper.
In the book, Keen makes a point that a skilled professional can do a better job than a talented amateur. I pointed out that there are many experts who do a consistently bad job. For example, there's Mr. [Donald] Rumsfeld. He certainly didn't work out well. Keen wound up agreeing with me. He pointed out problems with Wikipedia, but he didn't mention that it's self-correcting. While there are problems, they're being fixed.