In the last month, I have used Craigslist several times for myriad reasons essential to my well-being and the happiness of others. Uses of mine have included: finding a place to live in San Francisco, considering part-time job opportunities, buying furniture, helping a friend considering a move from Ohio to find a job and apartment, purchasing Giants tickets, requesting resources on the teacher's wishlist, and posting a call for a missing wallet. All of this free of charge and extremely easy to use. Hmm. Sounds like Craigslist is pretty kick-ass when it comes to serving multiple, ends in someone's life.
But what makes Craigslist truly beautiful, what makes it a site I want to visit every day as if it were some girl with whom I am helplessly enamored, is the spirit of founder Craig Newmark and the majority of those that use Craigslist. Punch in "free" when looking for a material good you need or "face value" when hoping to catch the next big event in town and not only will you be pleased to discover that your search does not end in "no results found" but that your choices will frequently still abound. Two examples: I discovered a very nice couch for free for my new home in The City on the condition that I pick it up. I paid under face value to see Barry Bonds hit two homeruns last night at SBC Park from excellent seats.
Now surely there are plenty of swindles out there, but play it smartly and you’re in for a feel good experience. For me, my recent success using Craigslist has reaffirmed my faith in humanity as a species capable of altruism and empathy in light of the daily tragedies of human conflict that we are inundated with by the news media. In the last few weeks I have spoken with numerous strangers, many of whom seemed to carry the genuine value that sharing and giving, are well, nice things to do that make you feel good and inspire others to “pay it forward”.
Part of this spirit is also a sense of trust - a comforting, refreshing feeling in the U.S. as we saw a sky’s-the-limit optimism here in the Bay Area and many other regions so quickly dissipate and replaced by a more ominous, omnipresent Zeitgeist of vulnerability, fear and uncertainty. “Trust no one” is what we learned from X-Files and what 9/11 and our media makes it hard to forget. So the fact that the Craigslist community is virtual and often anonymous makes it all the more a reassuring buoy on foggy, choppy mid-ocean waters. Its setup certainly provides opportunities for sharks to sneak up and attack. But on Craigslist, good wins over evil. The sharks are often identified and tagged, or at least Craigslist surfers are alerted to the predators.
So let’s hope, considering also that eBay recently bought a 25% stake in Craigslist, that the site that started as a simple and free classified ads portal maintains its easy-to-use services and is characterized by such a good-natured spirit. Of course, this will require the continued leadership of its founder and community members with their noble guiding values and reasonable, but not hysterical vigilance. But I am not too worried about that for now. Although in an interview with the San Jose Mercury News Craigslist CEO Jim Buckmaster unconvincingly uses only the past tense in assuring craigslist users that “nothing has changed” in regards to their mission concerning the eBay partnership, according to Newmark one of the reasons they made the eBay deal was with hopes “to tap eBay's expertise in combating scam artists who prey on craigslist users.”
So for the time being, Craigslist is going strong, probably becoming safer, and expanding every day into new parts of the world with the same kind of spirit that is perhaps best encapsulated in the quote from Enrique Rodriguez found at the top of the Craigslist Foundation page: “When you’re dreaming that you can improve your life and the lives of other people is when you as a human being are at your best.” Take this quote for free. Take it for face value. For now, Craigslist is a beautiful thing in full bloom.