Q&A: Mr. Craigslist Talks Strange Stories, New Endeavors
Craig Newmark may seem like your average middle-age guy from New Jersey, but the startup site he founded 16 years ago has undeniably changed the way people find things on the Internet. Meet Mr. Craigslist, the man who's helped us all get concert tickets, used TVs, new roommates and even jobs over the years. Now he has a new project on the table: Helping others.
Newmark has just launched craigconnects.org earlier this week, where nonprofits and charities can connect with individuals looking to offer help. Through the site, organizations can meet up, make connections and work together.
TechNewsDaily spoke with Newmark about his initiative and his experiences with Craigslist along the way.
So, be honest: When you started Craigslist 16 years ago, did you think it would take off in the way that it did?
I had no clue whatsoever it would be so successful. However, when I commit to something I just follow through and see what happens. Sometimes I just surprise myself.
What's the most interesting or ridiculous story you've heard about how someone has used Craigslist?
Ten years ago, someone posted an ad for someone else to take the CPA ethics test for him.
That's hilarious. Have you ever used Craigslist for personal purposes? Would you ever show up on someone’s doorstep to buy a used coffee table?
It's quite possible I might visit something to check it out, but I tend to fear that there's a bit of a conflict of interest, so I hesitate. I have sold a car on the site before. I’ve also bought and sold some small items too, so, yes, I've used it.
How did you come up with the idea for craigconnects?
I had a co-worker tally up the nonprofits I'd been supporting over the years, and I expected the number to be around 30 at the most. It turns out, however, that it's around 100. I later realized an anchor site was needed as a way to share the spotlight with good nonprofit organizations. I also wanted a way to help people figure out how to detect and avoid bad nonprofits.
That's interesting. What some people think is socially responsible, however, others might disagree. Will the company be monitoring additions to the site or will you step back and trust its being used correctly?
At craigconnects.org, the users don't actually decide what organizations are featured on the site, I do. I ask users to nominate organizations that are doing good stuff and then vet them as carefully as I can, relying on review sites like CharityNavigator and GreatNonprofits.org.
Craigslist has certainly helped change the way people find things on the Internet. Does craigconnects.org have the potential to be equally revolutionary?
Absolutely. It just requires the same commitment that I still maintain with Craigslist. I'm on the job every day — and for 16 years so far — and I plan to do the same for pretty much forever. I hope it continues to connect individuals and philanthropies across the world in increasingly large numbers, both directly and indirectly. I'd like to see those connections in the millions in the next few years and in 20 years, around seven or so billion.
Do you feel a sense of duty to use the power of a platform such as Craigslist to do something good?
I wouldn't say it's my duty, it just feels like the right thing to do personally. Maybe I'm just the first guy to do something like this, but we need to see many, many more helping out.
Are you a pretty tech-savvy guy?
Only in my nerdly youth. I grow more useless by the day.
What's catching your eye these days?
Since mobile is becoming an even bigger part of our lives, I'd like to see a good Android tablet compete with the iPad .
Speaking of the future, can we expect more sites coming from you moving forward?
Well, at first I'd need more energy. And a lot more Diet Mountain Dew.