Craig Newmark interviewed at SXSW

According to the SXSW promo, Craig Newmark founded Craigslist in 1995 as a way to tell friends about cool events in and around San Francisco. It now serves more than 170 cities in the United States and in many other countries. Despite the power of this global community, Newmark’s overall approach has changed very little. Newmark retains a simple motto for his site: "Give people a break." For SXSW, Jimmy Wales of Wikipedia fame interviews Newmark. Wales and Newmark are talking about how a simple interface and an easy-going zen attitude have helped Craigslist make life better for millions of users, forever changing our approach to classified ads.

Wales has discussed previously three elements critical to the success of Wikipedia which, he says, define what is important about the web itself: its political and religious neutrality, which makes it accessible for a wider audience; its social parameters, because people understand that they are contributing their work to a network that will not be made proprietary; and the openness of the site itself that can be edited and republished instantly."

Today Newmark comments about the culture of trust – where his site expects people to be trustworthy and people trust each other. The staff of 19 does not run the site – just infrastructure but people who use the site run the site. Newmark says he is the chief customer service rep and monitors the site. Why is he involved in customer service – this provides the opportunity to be in touch with reality. On another note, with Tivo-saving democracy, says Newmark, you can skip through advertising and political ads could be avoided. Currently, Newmark says he is interested in journalism and now that people want to hear from him he has begun to take interest in news and dabbling on a collaborative filtering venture of ordinary people commenting on the news – both key news outlets and ordinary people. Newmark says a lot of people are focusing on citizen journalism now on the internet. The audience questioned Newmark about his view of the accountability of citizen journalist – he says with today’s fast news it is hard to do all fact-checking fast enough – but the citizen media model is changing with and other fact checking.

Asked about Katrina – his site was used by people to accomplish a lot to find each other and many other helpful connections. A comment from the audience was that Craig’s list is the only one available as an open site to help Katrina survivors. As for his design on his site – a team is looking at how it is designed and how it might change. He was complimented about its simple design currently. Expansion will be “more of the same” to more cities, and possibly using Google Maps to help people find things. It will charge for job listings in more cities, and parking listings in NYC. A goal will be to reduce redundancy on the site. With the free use of the site, Newmark believes he is able to give back the equivalent hundreds of millions of dollars back to society – but the site is making money, according to Newmark.

Again, the afternoon keynote session focuses on the lives of the interviewee and interviewer, and much of what they discussed was about user-generated content and the role it plays in society.

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