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August 29, 2009 3:47 PM   Subscribe

Why Craigslist is such a mess. (via)
posted by djgh (111 comments total) 25 users marked this as a favorite

 
This was fascinating, thanks!
posted by The Whelk at 3:54 PM on August 29, 2009 [2 favorites]


I suspect the freeform and simple nature of Craigslist (which ostensibly is the reason it's such a "mess") is partly what makes it so successful. For instance, the jobs site is probably much easier to post onto than Craiglist's competition because you don't really have to sit there and fill out form after form. Ditto with rentals. In reality, it seems people don't actually want to be inundated with choices and grids crammed with pictures of apartments. They want something straightforward, and that's pretty much what the site delivers.

In any case, I'm not sure what I'd do without Craigslist. I got my apartment, some furniture, a few musical instruments, books, and who knows what else through it.
posted by spiderskull at 4:09 PM on August 29, 2009 [2 favorites]


All I know is that if I need a hard drive on a Sunday night and all I have is 10 bucks...I can usually get what I need. I have bought and sold countless items in CL. Sure, there is a lot of bullshit but as long as you are careful, one can do business easy and quick and free. What do you want for nothing?
posted by shockingbluamp at 4:12 PM on August 29, 2009 [1 favorite]


From the article: If you try to build a third-party application designed to make craigslist work better, the management will almost certainly throw up technical roadblocks to shut you down.

Crazedlist is great. Allows you to search multiple geographic regions at once.
posted by mlis at 4:15 PM on August 29, 2009 [1 favorite]


CL reminds me of nothing so much as the back-of-the-classifieds and Little Nickel type ads it's supplanting. No graphics, cramped typography, no colors, just a note placed where someone can see it. Basically, I agree with spiderskull — this is an instance in which "design" and actual usability diverge.
posted by hattifattener at 4:17 PM on August 29, 2009 [1 favorite]


man, craigslist is as close as we get these days to aesthetic (as opposed to interface) of cyberpunk science fiction. it's a wild and wooly wasteland where you can tread in underground markets, digitally solicited prostitiution, and drug sales all next to pictures of people's cats. the only thing that keeps you on one side or the other is your wits and what you happen to stumble on while you're wandering around.

mind you, I don't think this is what everyone thinks who continues to go there. but I do think it's how we naturally tend to congregate. everything else on the web imposes structures that, though wonderful and useful, don't necessarily appeal in the same way. craigslist is awful and awesome at the same time for the same reason: you can't shake the feeling that somewhere out there someone is making an awesome illicit transaction anonymously and getting away with it. it's a digital wild west. The sheriffs are a joke, the marshalls don't even know what's going on and everyone's living a riskier, wilder life than in the rest of internet civilization, doing for themselves.

at least, that's the romantic vision.

the other part is that facebook/twitter/et al are all populated by a vastly younger crowd who grew up in a more robust internet, and craigslist is mostly people my age and older who are resistant to change.
posted by shmegegge at 4:18 PM on August 29, 2009 [18 favorites]


Craigslist or CL is NOT a mess. What is a mess is the standards designers and artists use to judge CL.

CL works, but its not that pretty. I guess you could say that form follows function here.

Eat that Frank Gehry.
posted by hal_c_on at 4:19 PM on August 29, 2009 [9 favorites]


On our way out of the cafè, I step aside to let Newmark go ahead, and he walks face-first into the plate glass door.

Bastard.
posted by netbros at 4:28 PM on August 29, 2009 [2 favorites]


What the fuck do people want for free? I love Craigslist, I have found countless awesome items for next to nothing on there.
posted by MaryDellamorte at 4:28 PM on August 29, 2009 [1 favorite]


That was interesting. Newmark has basically created a public service department without actually needing any public service funding from the government. It's difficult not to like him.

My first few years of employment were with the public service. One of the most valuable lessons I learned there was from a guy who had been there for thirty years and was hated by both the senior management and the union. He said "There are only two types of worker, no matter where you go: careerists, who are loyal to their own ambitions, and technicians, who are loyal to their work."

I guess that's what I find slightly beguiling about Newmark - he's become successful through being absolutely, unshakably loyal to the work, and the ambitious are completely flummoxed by it.
posted by Ritchie at 4:31 PM on August 29, 2009 [60 favorites]


There may be a peace sign on every page, but the implicit political philosophy of craigslist has a deeply conservative, even a tragic cast. Every day the choristers of the social web chirp their advice about openness and trust; craigslist follows none of it, and every day it grows.

There may be overcomposed black and white photos on every page, but the implicit philosophy of this article has a disingenuous, somewhat conformist cast. Every day Wired bangs the drum for the exploiters of the social web; craigslist refuses to follow, and for its independence and success it is condemned.
posted by Iridic at 4:38 PM on August 29, 2009 [20 favorites]


he has a selection of sound effects on his mobile phone
I salute your stubborn business genius Craig, but how in the name of all that's holy do you survive conversations without being physically assaulted?
posted by Abiezer at 4:40 PM on August 29, 2009 [7 favorites]


I like craigslist. I don't like Wired. Someone should change this article to make it more like what I want it to be.
posted by bluejayk at 4:40 PM on August 29, 2009 [12 favorites]


I found the apartment I'm lazing about in using a mash-up of CL and Google Maps, allowing me to see where the apartments were and get an idea of the price ranges in the different neighborhoods in my city. The information on CL isn't pretty, but it can be tinkered with to make it more so.
posted by Thoughtcrime at 4:41 PM on August 29, 2009 [9 favorites]


...people don't actually want to be inundated with choices and grids crammed with pictures of apartments.

This is exactly why I hate craigslist. You have to stand there and watch every. single. thing. go by to have a shot at finding what you really want.
posted by DU at 4:42 PM on August 29, 2009


What makes people think Cragslist is a mess? It's great. It's only a "mess" to people who want to cram every ge-gaw down people's throats in order extract as much revenue off them so they can have a huge staff, etc. It's not a mess for people who use it, it's a mess for people who want to make money doing the same thing.


Craigslist is simple and it works. People don't need complex UIs to facilitate querying a database to find an apartment, car, date, whatever.
posted by delmoi at 4:43 PM on August 29, 2009 [7 favorites]


"Run, run, run," he says. "Dig, dig."

'Pon my soul, he's the Mole!
posted by CCBC at 4:43 PM on August 29, 2009 [1 favorite]


I think it's hilarious that Wired is trashing Craigslist. Craiglist is successful, humble, and pure content. Wired is failing, arrogant, with almost no content at all - just ads, glitz, and "gee whiz aren't we great!" I think Wired has more to learn from Craigslist than the Craigslist has from Wired.
posted by jasper411 at 4:45 PM on August 29, 2009 [25 favorites]


Interesting article, but felt a bit slanted and agenda focused..

I love craig's list, I've hired my last three teachers with ads there... (the local paper folded last month, I'm guessing I'll hire ALL my teachers from CL in the future)....

Mess??? I don't think so... works fine for me..
posted by HuronBob at 4:50 PM on August 29, 2009


Newmark is the Buddha of the Internet. He believes in the goodness and kindness of people and doesn't get upset or disappointed when a few prove they are not. Just go out do what you think is right, he says. If it is right, you will be rewarded. Plus, he's a little fat and speaks in riddles.
posted by Kraftmatic Adjustable Cheese at 4:51 PM on August 29, 2009 [3 favorites]


I didn't read this as an attack or a trashing of Craigslist at all. It seemed pretty fair as an examination and explanation of the philosophy of the people who run it. I think some people need to read the article before they comment on it.
posted by Kraftmatic Adjustable Cheese at 4:57 PM on August 29, 2009 [6 favorites]


I'm on Craigslist baby, come on!
posted by bwg at 4:58 PM on August 29, 2009 [2 favorites]


Heh, from the article:
"In the entire time I've been here, I don't think Craig has ever said to me, 'This is the way it has to be,'" Buckmaster [the CEO] says. The only topic he can remember their disagreeing about is the peace sign that adorns the craigslist Web address. "Craig thought it was associated with the hippies and that hippies were discredited," Buckmaster says. "Whereas I think peace is among the most desirable things you can have."
posted by delmoi at 4:59 PM on August 29, 2009 [1 favorite]


I always feel like something is wrong with me whenever Craigslist is brought up. Everybody else seems to love it, and use it all the time, and consider it indispensable.

I look at it and see people trying to give away and/or sell their junk. Maybe there's some particular piece of junk somewhere in there that I might want, but if so, it's hidden under a mountain of random tras (and I'm not even referring to spam).

At the same time, though, I love Newmark's attitude, so I want to like Craigslist. This, together with the fact that everyone else seems to love Craigslist, is what makes me feel like something is wrong with me.
posted by Flunkie at 5:01 PM on August 29, 2009 [3 favorites]


"tras" = "trash"
posted by Flunkie at 5:01 PM on August 29, 2009


Man, I love Craigslist. I can post junk on there I no longer need, some dude shows up at my door with a wad of $20 bills, we say cheers and are both happy. It's frickin' awesome.
posted by jimmythefish at 5:04 PM on August 29, 2009 [6 favorites]


Maybe there's some particular piece of junk somewhere in there that I might want, but if so, it's hidden under a mountain of random tras (and I'm not even referring to spam).

Uh...there is a search bar, you know.
posted by Sys Rq at 5:07 PM on August 29, 2009


Uh...there is a search bar, you know.
I'm not looking for anything specific.
posted by Flunkie at 5:08 PM on August 29, 2009 [3 favorites]


Wired should know better than to turn up its nose at the smells coming from the great digital bazaar.
posted by fleacircus at 5:11 PM on August 29, 2009


I'm not looking for anything specific.

I think I found your problem. Next time you want to sell something, or buy something, try it again.

With respect to the "It's a mess! It's just a bunch of BLUE LINKS!! WTF?!!" insanity in the article, the CL interface is exactly awesome for this reason. It's just one touch above raw SQL statements that, though they'd be more useful, nobody would use.
posted by odinsdream at 5:17 PM on August 29, 2009 [1 favorite]


I'm not looking for anything specific.
I think I found your problem.
I don't think it's that simple. There are plenty of websites that I've bought stuff from after randomly browsing around.
posted by Flunkie at 5:19 PM on August 29, 2009


I would say that Craigslist's "old fashioned" aesthetic is influencing current site design. I have have read more than one would-be guru extolling FFF and KISS principles by citing Craigslist and positing it as the antecedent for Google and Facebook's designlessness.
posted by bonefish at 5:22 PM on August 29, 2009


ain't nobody pretty much in the world who cares much about me & mine unless they can figure out how to get me to give them money or fall in line with whatever agenda they're pushing. craig ... that dude just wants to help me clean out my garage & my closets & keep my old crap out of landfills. if i make a buck along the way, he's ok with that.

i fear the day that craig wearies of all the attacks--moral, technological, financial--and capitulates. sells the whole thing for a quadcillion dollars, buys an island, and disappears from the sight of every would-be puppetmaster who's tried to pull his strings for the last umpty years, simply because he had a hobby that his friends liked & used, and it grew into something that people around the planet like & use, and he's happy to keep it the way it is but OH NO HE'S DOING IT WRONG BECAUSE THERE'S MONEY TO BE MADE WHAT ARE YOU SOME KIND OF COMMIE LUDDITE NUT, CRAIG? craigslist will turn into a 3-ring circus that BLINKS and WINKS and slices & dices & only costs $x to join so YOU, too! can be marketed to by the masters. i believe that day will come, and i believe that when it does, the last bastion of any kind of internet decency goes with it.
posted by msconduct at 5:26 PM on August 29, 2009 [11 favorites]


Mess??? I don't think so... works fine for me.

this is a totally valid point, and people are making it here for good reason. but I think it's grounded in a weird idea of what the article means by "mess." the whole point of the article is "jesus, craigslist is hugely successful, and it works just fine for so many, DESPITE the fact that it's a mess."

the point isn't that craigslist doesn't work. the point is that it's messy and ugly and devoid of all the web 2.0 trappings that other sites assume are necessary for success. that it works for you is both true and great. that doesn't mean it's not a mess. it is absolutely a mess. it's a giant crazy pile of shit with virtually no organization and no way to find what you want except for a minimal search and scouring through the mess.

similarly, though I know where every damn thing in my apartment is, and how to find most of what I want by retracing my steps, the fact is that it's a mess. it works for me, but it's a fucking mess.
posted by shmegegge at 5:27 PM on August 29, 2009 [2 favorites]


MetaFilter: this is an instance in which "design" and actual usability diverge.
posted by hippybear at 5:27 PM on August 29, 2009 [2 favorites]


Craig seems like he has Aspergers. Not that that's a bad thing.
posted by tighttrousers at 5:52 PM on August 29, 2009 [2 favorites]


I love craigslist, and after reading that article, I love it even more. When I moved across 3 state lines, I found my home via CL. I found my job via CL, and half my furniture too. I have bought guitars and keyboards and a bike rack via CL, and I've gone to a stranger's house & walked away with a bunch of perennials free of charge. I also hooked into this amazing network of animal lovers who find homes for abandoned pets and then get volunteers to transport them from one place to another, sometimes over hundreds of miles. Occasionally transporting an animal from my town to the next stop on the map makes me feel groovy without having to commit to another pet.

Also I love craigslist's professional white background.

When I scan the help-wanted ads and other categories, I see tons of spam and I cringe thinking about people giving their personal info to scammers ... but on the other hand I don't know if that's any worse than signing up with the kind of hardcore for-profit sites Wired recommends, and then having that site mine your data & usage habits for all they're worth and then sell your info to any buyer who comes along.
posted by headnsouth at 5:52 PM on August 29, 2009 [1 favorite]


oh, and djgh: GREAT post title!
posted by msconduct at 5:56 PM on August 29, 2009


Huh. I always thought it was kind of a success.
posted by Afroblanco at 6:16 PM on August 29, 2009


I don't think it's that simple. There are plenty of websites that I've bought stuff from after randomly browsing around.
If craigslist made this process easier for you, you'd end up spending too much of your hard-earned money and filling up your apartment with crap. You should thank them for preventing that.

Seriously, I use craigslist when I'm looking for an apartment in a certain neighborhood or looking for a specific item. It's great for that. Why would you want to just browse around for something random? Then you'd just end up with something you don't want. Come to think of it, that sounds like something that fits into Newmark's overall philosophy.
posted by deanc at 6:22 PM on August 29, 2009 [4 favorites]


The simple design works fine with dialup, which according to this, about 9% of internet users still use in 2009.
posted by zombiedance at 6:24 PM on August 29, 2009


There are only two types of worker, no matter where you go: careerists, who are loyal to their own ambitions, and technicians, who are loyal to their work.

no, there's a third type - those who are loyal to their paycheck and will do as little as possible for it

i've yet to buy anything through it but it's my impression, at least in a small city, craigslist seems to work fine - i do wonder how they plan to stay in business in the long run
posted by pyramid termite at 6:24 PM on August 29, 2009 [2 favorites]


I disagree that CL is a mess. It is wildly successful at what it attempts to be, online classified ads. I think most "business" people are cheesed off that they aren't exploiting the possible ad revenue stream, or allowing 3rd party developers to do so. It's simple, runs on slower connections & machines, and gets the job done.
posted by jbelshaw at 6:37 PM on August 29, 2009 [1 favorite]


i do wonder how they plan to stay in business in the long run

Huh? They make an estimated $100 million dollars a year and have 30 employees. What could drive them out of business?

Or do you just think they'll eventually get comodified?
posted by delmoi at 6:38 PM on August 29, 2009


Yeah, this article sounds a lot like the guy who watches a lifelong chef prepare an amazing meal for free, using little more than a cutting board and a knife, and then goes "but... but I wrote this flabbergasted article about how crazy it is that you're still using a knife, when you could be using the RONCO SLICE N' DICE, AS SEEN ON TV! It makes curly fries!"

As for me, I saw an awesome exercise bike at Play It Again Sports (a Schwinn Airdyne: dawg, they heard I like to fan, so they put a fan in my bike so I can bike while I fan), but they wanted too much for it. I went home, put "airdyne" into Craigslist, and got one for $100 less. Dunno how I managed that without Flash video or a link where you can "vote up" a great deal on an exercise bike, though. It's a mystery!
posted by vorfeed at 6:38 PM on August 29, 2009 [11 favorites]


The way I see it, the surprise isn't that Craigslist is functional.

No, what's surprising is that it's succeeded despite being functional. Most useful, no-bullshit services get edged out by the flashy and pointless. Craigslist an the exception to that rule, and that's awesome.
posted by nebulawindphone at 6:50 PM on August 29, 2009 [4 favorites]


This article nicely sums up what I love about Craigslist: it's anti-corporate and delightfully fucking subversive, and few of the corporate types it disdains really know what to make of it.
posted by killdevil at 6:53 PM on August 29, 2009 [2 favorites]


Also, I will take Craigslist over A-List-Apart-Shaun-Inman-overdesigned hooey any day of the week.
posted by killdevil at 6:55 PM on August 29, 2009


What a bunch of bullshit. Mr. Wolf thinks this site would be better if it had tag clouds, built-in chat, AJAX widgets, social rating, etc. -- making it another over-engineered "web 2.0" platform that serves other sites to varying degrees of success. For every Facebook, there's 100 other websites that tanked because not enough people care about fancy UI if it doesn't do something useful. Often this fancy UI just gets in the way of that, but people use it anyway. If facebook stripped out 95% of its content and just left status updates and photos on a page you had to refresh manually, I actually think it would be better, but maybe that's just me.

CL success is the momentum from its huge demographic attracted to the simplicity and purity of function. By all means, if you think it's so shitty, this is a ripe business opportunity for a startup!

This all amounts to "but you're doing it wrong!" Well, who's the guy rolling in cash, here? Maybe your premise is flawed.
posted by cj_ at 6:55 PM on August 29, 2009 [4 favorites]


What could drive them out of business?

they're giving away a lot of their services, for one thing - and the ones they charge for - jobs, apartments and dates have a lot of competition - and furthermore business people who are hiring or letting apartments may have reasons for going with a site with more features

they can be undercut or outperformed - people will try and eventually some will succeed
posted by pyramid termite at 7:12 PM on August 29, 2009


It's certainly nice to get a reminder that there are some people running big, nationally-known, influential businesses out there who won't go to any lengths to squeeze the most they can out of their customers, but instead will say, "well, I've made enough money, now I'm just going to stop and enjoy life on my terms."

There's an argument out there that says that the profit motive drives everything and there's nothing that can be done about perceived unfairness in the marketplace (for example, the controversies over facebook's privacy policies), since if they weren't doing it someone else would be, and therefore any attempt to change the system is futile. It's nice to see a counterexample in Craig of Craigslist. Capitalism as practiced in America is not an inevitable natural law, it's a culture. If the culture was different (more emphasis on something like 'community' or 'connectedness,' less on pure individuals' profit), the market would look different too. Probably more firms like Craigslist. I think it would probably be a good thing.
posted by notswedish at 7:16 PM on August 29, 2009 [5 favorites]


you can't shake the feeling that somewhere out there someone is making an awesome illicit transaction anonymously and getting away with it. it's a digital wild west. The sheriffs are a joke, the marshalls don't even know what's going on and everyone's living a riskier, wilder life than in the rest of civilization, doing for themselves.

Agreed. It's basically the Internet's Burning Man.

I guess now would be a good time to link to Best of Craigslist, in case someone isn't aware of it.
posted by mannequito at 7:23 PM on August 29, 2009 [1 favorite]


I use craigslist a lot, have bought and sold houses, cars, you name it. It's awesome.

The only thing I grate at is spam, especially keyword spam. It's explicitly against the TOS, as far as I can tell, and yet half the ads are things like:

1995 Chevrolet Douchebagima
Keywords: Mercedes, BMW, Audi, Ford, Car


I mean, how hard could this be to trap? And if you're in a big city, the flag level seems to be set so high that this stuff never gets flagged off. Minor quibble, though.

I think CL would actually be even better if they took a page from Matt's book and disallowed html in their listings except for a few text-formatting tags. Most of the non-keyword spam is stupid-ass images and link farming, and I have never seen an ad with outside HTML that was any better than a standard text ad.

P.S. CL sellers, I know you used a computer to place the ad and therefore have email. Putting "please don't email, call 555-1212" means you're cutting your audience down. Some of us only see the ads at 2:00 in the morning, and if we can't email, we go on to the next thing.
posted by maxwelton at 7:36 PM on August 29, 2009 [1 favorite]


Craigslist is NOT messy. Craigslist is the pinnacle of design. If you don't like the amount of whitespace or the link colors, surely you are throwing the baby out with the bathwater, for these are tiny details in the grand view.

Just because it doesn't have any fucking drop shadows, banners, javascript expand navigation menus, flash slideshows, etc., doesn't mean it isn't all web2.0 and hot.

the flag this post? AJAX. i pretty much crapped my pants the first time i flagged a cl and a little box popped up saying "thanks for flagging". if that doesn't count as progress, well, i'm not really sure what does. although i hear wired has some pretty boss widgets that around 2000 people downloaded after advertising in a sister mag to the tune of 140k.
posted by shownomercy at 7:46 PM on August 29, 2009 [1 favorite]


I like the simplicity of CL. It's easy to use and doesn't try to dazzle me with bullshit banner ads of office girls dancing.

I like reading the "Missed Connections" sections. Often wonder if anyone ever connected up that way.
posted by mnb64 at 7:50 PM on August 29, 2009


cj_, I think you missed the point of the article. He's not saying that craigslist sucks -- he's saying that craigslist LOOKS like it sucks, but is actually wildly successful. Its sites are ubiquitous and the company as a whole is extremely profitable without even trying to be. It's the twenty-ton gorilla of the P2P space -- to the point that it's mostly outlived the entire "P2P" hype concept. Many companies were born and died trying to compete with super-slick interfaces and awesome MBA-backed business plans, and failed.

Craigslist has few features, a minimal interface, and costs nothing... they only charge a few types of sellers. And they grow and grow and grow and just make everything else irrelevant, without even trying to compete or particularly caring that competitors even exist.

He's saying, in other words, that it's everyone else that sucks, that the people who criticize Craigslist don't understand what it's about. And he's trying to understand and explain what that is.
posted by Malor at 7:50 PM on August 29, 2009 [2 favorites]


uh ... I read that article as ironic. It made me lust for Craig. I think the writer was in lust too. What is not to like about something/someone so eccentric?! Maybe Wolf (writer) just had to fluff out enough corporate razzle dazzle language to pass it off as criticism. And ... uh ... this (ironic?) slant did make me think back on the first issue of Wired -- back when it was brazenly maverick-y ... eccentric ... lol.

Craigslist (i.e., the Wild West) is to meat and potatoes as Facebook (et al) is to baconaise on free-range chicken patties.

Ya gotta love a 'dictator' that at least knows he is one!
posted by Surfurrus at 7:58 PM on August 29, 2009 [1 favorite]


To me, Craigslist is probably the most useful thing on the Internet. That bamboo I used to take to the dump every spring now makes me $200. The wood stove I'm selling will be gone in a few days. The granite island in my kitchen used to be in an apartment just down the street. I missed out on the greenhouse last week, but I'll find another before too long. Heirloom garlic, iPhone, boat motor, truck sold, truck bought, etc. etc. All it takes is a little common sense.

Its not broken, and I hope whomever buys it eventually is smart enough not to fix it.
posted by Patapsco Mike at 8:17 PM on August 29, 2009


the keyword spam thing bugs me too. i hate searching for a toyota corolla and some piece of shit has tagged 'toyota corolla' for their bmw or whatever.
posted by jcruelty at 8:35 PM on August 29, 2009


That bamboo I used to take to the dump every spring now makes me $200.


Elaborate plz.
posted by The Whelk at 8:46 PM on August 29, 2009


As an experiment I posted a "housing wanted" ad for a European city where I'll be living for the next several months. I received about 20 email responses, every one of them spam. I can't think of a way to prevent this, so I don't blame CL, it just makes me doubt the site's usefulness for certain kinds of transactions.
posted by 1adam12 at 9:00 PM on August 29, 2009


Jesus christ, that's an important preposition there. I was trying to figure out how bamboo could help you take a dump — even a big once-a-year spring colon cleaning kind of dump. (I wasn't even going to consider why someone would spend $200 on a used bamboo pooping implement. Some things are best left unexamined.)
posted by nebulawindphone at 9:13 PM on August 29, 2009 [2 favorites]


I even found most of my closest friends with Craigslist.

No kidding. When I had my first child, I found the Craigslist parenting forum one dark night of nursing a baby who just wanted to eat and stare at me all night. At the time, the Parenting Forum was a really great resource for new parents with questions and concerns (it isn't so much anymore, but I'm also no longer a new parent, so maybe that, but it honestly looks like Free Computer Time At The Funny Farm whenever I peek in there anymore).

One day I posted a question about a local mother's club, and got a response from someone asking me to email her, she'd give me the scoop. That led to a coffee date, which led to a "let's start our own little mother's group". Other parents would post wondering how to meet people, and we'd say "Email me! Come play with us!". It grew into a really solid group that eventually dissolved to an extent as maternity leaves ended and situations changed, but a few of us never lost touch.

Years later, I can honestly say that the best friends I've got, I got on Craigslist. Totally free, no flakes.
posted by padraigin at 10:00 PM on August 29, 2009 [3 favorites]


Wired won't exist in five years. CL will.
posted by bardic at 10:25 PM on August 29, 2009 [1 favorite]


The design of Craigslist doesn't bother me, but man, I wish they'd let me search more than one area at a time.

hey, Craig, the next area is 20 minutes up the road. I can drive it, it's ok.
posted by madajb at 10:30 PM on August 29, 2009


I think a large part of Craigslist's success in the US is down to first-mover advantage. I don't think that it has been anywhere near as successful overseas. Have a look at the Craigslist sites that are in non-English speaking countries - there's not much going on there. Similarly CL hasn't owned the online property market in Australia - if you want to rent out your house you need to be on one of the big property sites.
posted by awfurby at 10:30 PM on August 29, 2009 [2 favorites]


Craigslist is not perfect, but it does work. You've go to learn it, is all.

I've been selling off lots of 'stuff' recently -- and I do mean lots of it, I'm a pack-rat, trying to amend my ways -- and I've used CL exclusively, thus far. It's taken me some time to get the rhythm of it but I do think that I've got it now; to sell on CL you've got to have patience, that's all. Re-post and re-post and over time you will sell almost anything.

Problems? You bet. The worst is all the people who post their items again and again and again, twice, three, four, five times a day, pushing everyone elses posts off the screen almost immediately. And since so many who use CL aren't exactly the most computer savvy on the planet, they just don't use search, they just see what is there on the screen when they happen to show up. Since I try to be a citizen, I honor what CL asks of me, and only re-post every two days.

So I know that I've just got to find that right person at that right time. Over a bit of time, and through a bit of frustration and annoyance, I've seen that the people who want what I am selling are 'out there' and that I will sell pretty much whatever I put on CL, and sell it at a fair price, too, fair to them and fair to me. You've just gotta wait, it'll come to you.

Adopting this attitude makes it a much more fun practice, in fact it's a hoot -- just exactly who is it that's going to purchase this printer? Answer: A real cool, very geekzoid but also street-tough guy who'd just moved here from NYC on his motorcycle, left pretty much everything behind except his laptop, which contained his entire work-life, which was transportable. His laptop pretty much contained his entire life, which, it's clear, is also transportable. This guy was jammin'. And he had this awesome black Triumph bike. We talked, maybe half hour, I told him some fun Austin stuff to do, asked him some about his life in NYC, etc and etc. We had a time. Then he was gone. Fun.

Who is going to buy these dang Cuisinart utensils? Answer: A really sweet, poor Tex-Mex woman who'd never had anything nice in her life, had just given away her entire kitchen to her son when he moved out to his first place; so happened I posted them at at 2am just because I was up and damned if I didn't get an email within about three minutes, just happened she was up and looking for kitchen 'stuff'. I got the sense of who she was almost immediately and I would not have sold them to anyone else for any reason; though she didn't have the $25 right then, she asked would I hold them and I damn sure did. I probably would have given them to her but fact is that I do need some bucks about now, plus she was real proud. I like her. I'll never see her again. It was really fun.

Who wants this VHS tape of a 2002 Calvin Russell European tour, this song shot in this city, this other song shot in this other city, high quality VHS maybe but hey, VHS, and I don't want it anymore. I put it in the 'Free' section of CL, gave it away but I wanted a good Calvin Russell story. I got one, and also got a CD of a performance from two years ago in some dive across town, the best kind of performance for a blues/rock/Texas/sleaze/prison/broke-heart blues singer, recorded off the sound-board, and you can hear the clink of glasses of the crowd in the quiet parts, hear but not be overwhelmed by the clapping and cheering after this song or that, you can almost see some sleaze-bag trying to pick up some trashy gal and take her home and give her herpes, or get herpes from her, whatever. I've a few CD's of SRV earlier in his career, also off the soundboard, also in sleaze blues bars but in Houston, and it's like you're there -- I love it. Anyways, this guy was a longhair puter programmer driving an old pickup, he's super-cool, loves Calvin much as I do, we swap a story or two and he's on his way. It was really fun.

Who wants this ratty old laptop, missing one key, I think it maybe had WIN98 but maybe XP, I don't remember, don't even know where it came from -- who's going to buy it, for 25 bucks, or thirty? Answer: Some really great guy, runs an IT learning center for damaged kids, 'troubled youth', he's doing all he can to give these kids a chance, he's a religious guy but he's a fine man, his religion has got him moving in directions I like -- he's trying to give these kids a rudimentary puter education, so they can fill out an application of whatever kind, send email, begin to live in the world that you are I take so for granted. He was so grateful to get this puter, he shoved a few bucks into my hand, it was a rainy afternoon, met him in front of a coffee shop he was in or I was in, only as he left and I'm standing there with the dollars in my hand did I think that I should have given HIM money, but he's gone down the road, into the rainy afternoon. I like him, admire him, I'm glad he's here, I'm glad I got to meet him, he had the richest eyes.

The point of this meandering post? CL, for all it's weaknesses and aggravations, hey, you can make it fun! I do, or try to, sometimes succeed. Yeah, sometimes I'm just selling this old pair of hiking boots, it's a transaction and there's no real connection, but I do try.
posted by dancestoblue at 10:37 PM on August 29, 2009 [46 favorites]


msconduct: i fear the day that craig wearies of all the attacks--moral, technological, financial--and capitulates... i believe that day will come, and i believe that when it does, the last bastion of any kind of internet decency goes with it.

I agree wholeheartedly.

In fact, I can already see it. He'll end up selling to ebay, who will promptly dump millions into marketing, throw up fifty-foot-high walls to separate the buyers from the sellers, and encourage executive management to get as friendly as possible with failing political candidates.

ebay: where everything vile and nasty about the internet lives
posted by koeselitz at 10:47 PM on August 29, 2009 [1 favorite]


Flunkie: I don't think it's that simple. There are plenty of websites that I've bought stuff from after randomly browsing around.

Which ones? Seriously not snarking - I'd like to know so I can look at them.
posted by koeselitz at 10:49 PM on August 29, 2009


shownomercy: Craigslist is NOT messy. Craigslist is the pinnacle of design.

This is so absolutely true.

Those people who talk about craigslist being 'primitive' or make wry comments about it be 'web 1.0, heh heh' are simply people who do not know what web design means. That neat 6-million-color widget that you invented that's now on the front page, the widget that allows people to teleport instantly to Mars and back but requires Silverlight, a new graphics card, and Internet Explorer 9.2 beta? Pointless.

A site that's easy to peruse; looks the same in all cities, on all computers less than fifteen years old, and on all browsers less than ten years old; requires no logins and no authentification; is comprehensible to a user within five seconds of seeing it; has built-in anti-spam measures that work and yet are for the most part completely transparent?

Fucking brilliant. craigslist is the pinnacle of good web design, and more sites should take note.
posted by koeselitz at 11:01 PM on August 29, 2009 [6 favorites]


Similarly CL hasn't owned the online property market in Australia - if you want to rent out your house you need to be on one of the big property sites.

Very true, and from a renter's perspective, it's annoying. Every property site has it's own rental listings. To look at properties available in a single region requires searching 2 or 3 different sites. I've sometimes wondered what would happen if someone just transcribed them all somehow into CL or some other unified site.

The other things that's always bothered me is how the Yellow Pages works in Australia - their search feature is so clueless in its attempts to be helpful that most times I actually wind up thumbing through the physical Yellow Pages instead, or using Google.
posted by Ritchie at 11:04 PM on August 29, 2009


The design of Craigslist doesn't bother me, but man, I wish they'd let me search more than one area at a time.

hey, Craig, the next area is 20 minutes up the road. I can drive it, it's ok.


CL automatically searches nearby areas for me if it can't find anything nearby.
posted by delmoi at 11:20 PM on August 29, 2009


Yep, craigslist works. I have found a place to live twice, 11 different roommates over the past 6 years, I sold my car, sold my furniture, bought new furniture, all on craigslist. I've been to two weddings of couples who met through craigslist personals and I'm going to another in two weeks. I've gone a few cl first dates myself (someday there'll have to be more of those, too).

So the thing I think the article has wrong is not that craigslist works (clearly it does, and they know that too)-- but that it seems to think craigslist works in spite of its messiness. I think it works precisely because of its messiness and attendant lack of blinky crap.

re: browsing for random things-- I always just check the free section near me. I've only picked up a few things (mostly old books) there, but it's quick to browse and anything you get won't cost you. Plus people post the weirdest things so it's good for entertainment, which is really what I'm looking for when browsing.
posted by nat at 11:27 PM on August 29, 2009


When I lived in a smaller town on the west coast of Florida, basically any search for anything would end up being 95% results from Miami and Tampa, which actually annoyed me at the time because it wasn't really clear what was happening. They could certainly do better, but I've never really found myself looking for that. If so, there are sites mentioned upthread that help.
posted by feloniousmonk at 11:30 PM on August 29, 2009


I'm writing this from a two-week sublet in the exact neighbourhood I wanted to be in for a working holiday in Berlin, a place perfectly suited to our needs, bigger and in better shape than the pictures suggested, fully equipped kitchen, free wifi, and the guy who rented it to us gave us fantastic suggestions as to how to make the most of our time here. Found on Craigslist for 1/2 or at most 2/3 the price of a similar space on one of the big, corporate short-term rental sites, with no registration or subscription fee, no third-party brokerage/service charge added on, no stale half-empty chain-motel vibe, no hassles, and little more than a handshake and some casually worded email as a contract.

Dude we rented from had a little stuffed gorilla set up in the single bed for my four-year-old when we arrived. Helped me hump our metric fuckton of luggage up the four flights of stairs.

I'm never finding work accomodations any other way if I can help it.
posted by gompa at 11:52 PM on August 29, 2009 [1 favorite]


CL automatically searches nearby areas for me if it can't find anything nearby.

It does for me as well, which is useful, but sometime I'd like to comparison shop more than one area when things are found.
posted by madajb at 12:12 AM on August 30, 2009


For some reason people equate the lack of color or graphics with poor design. But I think Craigslist is fairly well designed. A first time visitor doesn't get a five minute Youtube video, or have to read a wall of text. They get a list of cities to choose from, and their first introduction to the CL hierarchal layout.

You choose a city, and are presented with a tableu. Several post forms, with obvious grouping from size cues and background color. The hierarchal form makes it simple to navigate and still offers a diverse selection. At this stage, the only input available from this screen is search. Perhaps you enter a search term, or drill down on one of the blue links. The resulting page is a list, without the metadata overload. No threaded conversations, no "latest reply on aug-24", no "author so and so posted this on Aug 12th".

The webpage looks far more like this than that. They've skipped over mean tricks like changing the link colors, and don't load the search results with pictures. If this means Billy Bob, who's not so great with computers but runs a good racket buying busted cars and fixing them up can find my post, great. Graphic designers are all broke anyways.
posted by pwnguin at 12:26 AM on August 30, 2009


I may have mentioned this before. My employer and my former employer both post their jobs on Craigslist. There may be many talented people reading the help wanted ads on Craigslist, but then there are the people posting to RnR and Casual Encounters. Thankfully, the interview process seems to weed out middle aged white supremacists who want to be fisted by young black men.
posted by crataegus at 12:33 AM on August 30, 2009


one of the most curious things about craigslist is that a company designed and run entirely by programmers is so hostile to outsiders who want to pull neat technical tricks to improve the site.
Curious, and a bit unusual for a team dedicated to technical excellence...
independent programmer Jeff Atwood created a service that would allow people to search multiple cities at once or even search craigslist globally
Oh, so this is Wired ignoring the obvious in favor of an editorial theme, that craigslist sucks. Jeff Atwood has repeatedly demonstrated that he should be separated from the role of programmer. I'm certain this is yet another such incident. Indeed, Jeff's own site archives the misdeed:
There are really two issues here:

1) Craigslist is a *local* tool and we discourage any tool that blurs that distinction

2) The manner in which this tool gets information from our site is all wrong. The reason that we don't mind housingmaps.com traffic is that they pull one RSS feed a day to update their data.

#1 is enough to make us unhappy about this so it doesnt matter if #2 changes or not.

Sorry :(

-Bill
Bill Swingle on June 22, 2005 3:19 PM
posted by pwnguin at 12:50 AM on August 30, 2009


madajb: It does for me as well, which is useful, but sometime I'd like to comparison shop more than one area when things are found.

That wouldn't be a feature.

As the owners point out quite clearly and quite well in the article, if they did that, they'd turn into some kind of national marketplace with all of the attendant problems, most of which stem from people buying stuff from people they don't meet face to face; this would lead to all sorts of awful, evil scams the likes of which we can scarcely imagine, a weird, commoditized market where companies easily overcame individuals simply because of their greater resources for running capitalist interference. Craigslist would suddenly be dealing with all kinds of litigation, all kinds of claims of wrongdoing, all kinds of social static. In other words, if they allowed cross-site searching, craigslist would become ebay.

Whereas if they don't go ahead and allow cross-site searching, they see what they see today: a few users like you grumble online about how you'd like to be able to 'comparison shop,' before finally realizing that browsers actually have tabs which allow one to look at more than one web site at a time.

The choice is obvious, I think.
posted by koeselitz at 12:58 AM on August 30, 2009 [1 favorite]


Okay, forgive my ranting, but this is just crazy shit.

Craigslist sucks.

I can't believe that Mefites, who seem generally to be reasonable and not technological philistines, don't agree about that.

It's not just that it looks terrible. It has no organization. The search functionality is rudimentary. It's completely insecure and has no community to fill that gap. The fact that people have used it for murder, much less prostitution, should be a serious mark against it.

What craigslist is, is a demonstration of the power of network effects.

People don't use craigslist because it's efficient, or consumer-centric, or any sort of crap like that. People use craigslist because that's where everyone else is. Want to sell something? The largest audience, by far, is on craigslist. Want to buy something? The largest inventory, by far, is on craigslist. Half the comments in this thread attest to that basic fact.

I think the genius of craiglist is that they've found the stickiest social network of them all -- the social network that is essentially everybody. You go to Facebook because that's where your 30 closest friends are, and it would only take (at most) 30 people to get you to switch to a different network. Craigslist isn't limited to the people you know, it's bounded by anyone who might buy or sell stuff to you, give you a job, or rent you an apartment. Thousands -- tens of thousands -- of people would have to switch in order to make a competing network attractive enough for you to switch. And each of those tens of thousands of people is facing the same decision you, which means that as long as the existing network is minimally functional nobody is going to switch.

I like craigslist and use it a lot, and I love Craig Newmark's philosophy. But wrapping the success of craigslist into some kind of anti-web2.0 parable strikes me as some sort of webby version of the myth of the noble savage. Being primitive and successful doesn't mean that the latter is due to the former.
posted by bjrubble at 1:37 AM on August 30, 2009 [3 favorites]


And as long as I'm swimming upstream, pwnguin, useit.com is awful. Hilariously awful, given its purported goal. I wouldn't impute Jakob Nielson's credentials, but I honestly don't know how he produced such an eye-numbing wall of undifferentiated text for a website.
posted by bjrubble at 1:48 AM on August 30, 2009


The inadvertent monopolist, what a fantastic article, thanks for sharing.
posted by mr dodo at 2:09 AM on August 30, 2009


Whereas if they don't go ahead and allow cross-site searching, they see what they see today: a few users like you grumble online about how you'd like to be able to 'comparison shop,' before finally realizing that browsers actually have tabs which allow one to look at more than one web site at a time.

Ok, but if you'd read my post, I clearly state that I'd like to search more than one _area_ not more than one _site_.
Sure, I could open my-town in one tab, town-20-minutes-up-the-road in another, town-20-minutes-down-the-road in a third then run the same search in all 3 tabs, but it is less than convenient and, for me, a real dealbreaker in terms of using the site.

I understand quite well that craigslist likes to keep things "local", I'd just rather that _I_ get to define what is local.
posted by madajb at 2:24 AM on August 30, 2009


When I lived in a smaller town on the west coast of Florida, basically any search for anything would end up being 95% results from Miami and Tampa, which actually annoyed me at the time because it wasn't really clear what was happening. They could certainly do better, but I've never really found myself looking for that. If so, there are sites mentioned upthread that help.


I have the opposite problem. I live(d) in Wellington, New Zealand - which has its own category on CL. But almost all the posts are from people in Wellington, Florida. So while the site seems useful as a whole, it's almost impossible for me to use (something like the local NZ site TradeMe is much more useful).
posted by Infinite Jest at 2:24 AM on August 30, 2009


But wrapping the success of craigslist into some kind of anti-web2.0 parable strikes me as some sort of webby version of the myth of the noble savage.

Do you even need parables to be anti-web-2.0? I mean, web 2.0 stuff is nifty, but... that's all it really is in essence, is nifty. It's sort of the epitome of superficiality because it's sizzle and flashiness usually devoid of any particular or inherent utility - Mash-up! Personalization! Stackable portlets! - but then on top of that an almost essential component of the ethos of web 2.0 is someone somewhere earnestly insisting that the feature or style or gimmick in question is earthshakingly paradigm-changing. (And insisting that whatever it is is completely and totally novel, when it usually isn't.) And don't forget some businessmen hanging back in the wings, drooling and with their eyes turned into dollar signs dreaming of the profit margins on "user-generated content".

IMO you don't really need this counter-example of craigslist being a solid and substantial example of value and utility on the web to serve as a contrast to web 2.0. Web 2.0 outshines itself and parodies itself all on its own.

(I say the above from the standpoint of basically being a web 2.0 software engineer, btw.)
posted by XMLicious at 2:34 AM on August 30, 2009


I have to admit that I love the crazy disorganized mess of Craigslist, and the 1997ish design. The Wired article seemed to actually cast Craigslist in a favorable light, which may have been unintentional. But this part of this article really jumped out at me:
When [Craig Newmark] talks, he calls upon a repertoire of conversational gambits he has been collecting forever, and he has a selection of sound effects on his mobile phone, such as a cymbal crash, that he can trigger to make it clear he is joking. When people misunderstand him, he doesn't get upset. "I'm the Forrest Gump of the Internet," he says. He loves customer service. "I'll only be doing this as long as I live," he says. He taps his phone, triggering a ghostly whaaahahaha. "And after that, who knows?"
Dude punctuates his conversations with sound effects on his phone. I once gave a Mr. T In Your Pocket to a former boss, pretty much as a joke gift, but he loved it - he'd punctuate conversations with a "Quit yo jibba-jabba!" and "Don't make me mad! Grrrr." I thought it was funny, what a kick he got out of this thing. Other people, not so much. It made me kind of regret buying it for him. I don't really know where I'm going with this other than to say that someone punctuating their conversation with me by adding rimshots and ghostly laughter from their cell phone would probably get old quick. Seems like something Michael Scott would find hilarious.
posted by Marisa Stole the Precious Thing at 6:12 AM on August 30, 2009 [1 favorite]


I don't use it very much, but craigslist is one of the few places on the web that actually feels NORMAL to me, a 50-something luddite. That's because it's exactly like classified ads-- reams and reams and reams and pages and pages and pages of barely organized, largely unsorted, and completely unedited information, user to user with no filtering, overlays, vetting, or interference by technocracy or bureaucracy; it's pure DEMocracy. Wired's corrective designs were offensive and pointless. I don't understand why the editors felt they needed to propose "solutions" for the "design problem" at CL. The solution is to read all the ads until you find one you want (just like the classifieds) and there is no design problem. Amazingly, I have never accidentally interviewed a prostitute rather than an intern using Craisgslist.
posted by nax at 6:16 AM on August 30, 2009 [2 favorites]


Agree with those who say the headline, "Why Craigslist is such a mess" is ironic - the point is that there are very good reasons why it's what appears at first glance to be "such a mess."

Usefulness-wise, I do think it's a good online model of the bulletin board at my local hardware store: There's a pile of stuff to sort through - most of it with little detail or context - and some unscrupulous types have tried to game the system by pinning their ads over other people's flyers and that's a PIA, but you can find useful things and make connections. And of course, there's no accountability. If you go to the hardware store owners and say this guy whose only contact was a cell phone totally ripped me off, they have no real way of helping and no accountability (AFAK.)

The article does touch on this, and Ron Rosenbaum has written about it. Not sure how I feel about it, but it is clear to me that my Craigslist-using friends are OUTRAGED and think SOMEBODY SHOULD DO SOMETHING when something more serious than a no-show happens and especially when they hear about a crime. Usually, it's a case of somebody should have done something like check a person out more thoroughly but people do have these assumptions that if someone is running a website, they should be accountable for certain things. Newspaper classifieds do carry some burden on this - which makes them more expensive to run.
posted by Lesser Shrew at 8:30 AM on August 30, 2009


CL is awesome.

It's a bit like a gigantic computerized yard sale.There's crap all over the lawn, and you dig through it in order to find that little nugget that you simply can't live without.
posted by bradth27 at 9:00 AM on August 30, 2009 [1 favorite]


bjrubble: It's not just that it looks terrible. It has no organization. The search functionality is rudimentary. It's completely insecure and has no community to fill that gap. The fact that people have used it for murder, much less prostitution, should be a serious mark against it.

Mmm... I don't know. A site that sees that many visitors and still remains relatively spam- and malware-free? Seriously difficult.

Anyway nobody else has managed it, not that I know of.
posted by koeselitz at 9:09 AM on August 30, 2009


Not sure how I feel about it, but it is clear to me that my Craigslist-using friends are OUTRAGED and think SOMEBODY SHOULD DO SOMETHING when something more serious than a no-show happens and especially when they hear about a crime.

These things -- prostitution, ripoffs, scams, even murder -- are simply going to happen with these kinds of ads. The back of the local alt-weekly is full of stuff that's either a scam (WORK FROM HOME 1000$ A WEEK! HOMEOPATHIC CRYSTAL CANCER TREATMENTS!) or a thinly-veiled attempt to sell sex (the entire escorts section). And anybody looking for a victim can certainly find one there. Caveat emptor applies to the internet just as it does to print classifieds.

As for Rosenbaum's idea that Craigslist should "at least list the kinds of come ons use by those facing felony charges arising from their website’s use" -- they do do that, and they link to it at the top of every page. It says right there, in red letters no less: "Avoid scams and fraud by dealing locally! Beware any deal involving Western Union, Moneygram, wire transfer, cashier check, money order, shipping, escrow, or any promise of transaction protection/certification/guarantee." I mean, I guess they could also put "warning: the marble isn't in the second shell, you're not going to 'pick the red and get ahead', the check is fake, and he's never actually going to leave his wife", but frankly, no amount of lists or warnings are going to stop somebody when common sense did not. Scams thrive on that heady feeling of beating the system, warnings included...
posted by vorfeed at 9:40 AM on August 30, 2009 [1 favorite]


I love Craig and his list. God bless him.

Every day Wired bangs the drum for the exploiters of the social web; craigslist refuses to follow, and for its independence and success it is condemned.

It's a bad headline, but the article is hardly condemning Craigslist.

At least schmegge and Malor read the article. The rest of you: go back!
posted by mrgrimm at 9:57 AM on August 30, 2009


I met my husband on CL when I was browsing for a futon frame and ended up on the personals. And, when I canceled my subscription to Wired, I unloaded my pile of back issues on the CL free board.
posted by hellboundforcheddar at 11:15 AM on August 30, 2009


ebay: where everything vile and nasty about the internet lives

Truer words were never spoken.

But yeah, craigslist, where I managed to find the impossible; a Hell's Kitchen apartment for less than 1k a month a few years ago. It was actually pretty nice, if NYC small, but it had a nice view over the courtyard and was pretty quiet. And the landlord tossed out our super when we told him the cops were visiting him after beating his girlfriend. And I didn't pay any stupid finder fees.

Then we found a three bedroom in Boro Park a year later for the same price, on craigslist, and lived there two pleasant years. Then we had to move suddenly, but the landlady said she would give us our deposit if we found someone to take over the lease. Craigslist again, we were out of there smooth and easy.

Have a nice coffee table in my living room right now I got for 30.00, all wood, slightly scarred, perfect for a house with a young kid. Bought it from a nice lady who was selling off her daughter's stuff for her, who loaned me her screwdriver to take it apart and fit it in my car.

Oh yeah, and I found a guitarist to practise with while I'm learning bass--on Craigslist. Nice girl, moved up here from Austin; she's training to to into women's boxing, has a match in a few months. Probably no universe in which our paths would have crossed otherwise.
posted by emjaybee at 11:30 AM on August 30, 2009 [1 favorite]


Apparently I am doing craigslist wrong. When we moved, I tried to give away several items of furniture and sell some electronics for cheap. I had zero takers on the electronics, even after reducing the price, and several phone/email exchanges with people about the furniture, but no one ever showed up. For FREE FURNITURE. I probably wasted two days of my life calling/emailing/waiting for people. I wouldn't do that again; I'll just throw shit in the garbage.
posted by desjardins at 11:50 AM on August 30, 2009


If craigslist is frustrating, it is because life itself is frustrating.
posted by fuq at 12:10 PM on August 30, 2009


Desjardins, the best way to get rid of free shit is to put it on the side of the road with a note on the CL free section saying something like "free ____ on the curb of [insert address] come get it before someone else does. No I will not hold it for anyone, come get it now." I got rid of a crappy dresser in less than 6 hours that way. You have to make people feel like if they don't get it NOW, they aren't gonna get it. Otherwise people give you the run around because they don't prioritize your time like they do theirs.
posted by MaryDellamorte at 12:39 PM on August 30, 2009


Very interesting article which, unlike its attention-getting title, was not particularly critical of craigslist but rather gave a deeper understanding of how and why it works. Thanks for posting it!
posted by serazin at 2:42 PM on August 30, 2009


Having said that, the CL personals section is 85% garbage and god help you if you post a personal ad because you will receive 30 spam responses in the following 20 minutes.
posted by serazin at 2:45 PM on August 30, 2009


Hmmph. I guess this is an American thing, or at least a not-Korea thing. I've visited the Seoul Craigslist a couple of times, and found it monumentally useless.

Given what people have said, though, I guess that's because nobody is actually using it.
posted by stavrosthewonderchicken at 4:20 PM on August 30, 2009


Wait, was this intentionally a poem? Or am I losing it? Here's what I see:

Who wants this ratty old laptop, missing one key,
I think it maybe had WIN98 but maybe XP,
I don't remember, don't even know where it came from --
who's going to buy it, for 25 bucks, or thirty?
Answer: Some really great guy, runs an IT
learning center for damaged kids, 'troubled youth',
he's doing all he can to give these kids a chance,
he's a religious guy but he's a fine man,
his religion has got him moving in directions I like --
he's trying to give these kids a rudimentary puter education,
so they can fill out an application
of whatever kind, send email,
begin to live in the world
that you are I take so for granted.
posted by prefpara at 5:15 PM on August 30, 2009 [2 favorites]


Really? I was just going to quote this:

"Have a look at the Craigslist sites that are in non-English speaking countries - there's not much going on there."

And mention that ROK CL is great. Got some furniture, sold some games, bought a new HDTV. Didn't expect much, but it's been really handy.

Really good for ESL jobs and writing gigs too. It's way better than a certain well-known ESL job site that shall not be named.
posted by bardic at 5:18 PM on August 30, 2009


Same with Tokyo, I think, stavros. Japanese people don't tend to have as much junk to get rid of -- it's either in decent shape, and a place like Book-Off/Hard-Off will take it, or it's really junk and they pay to have it removed by the city.

Only thing I see with regularity are sayonara sales by foreigners leaving the country. Sometimes you can snag some good stuff that way.
posted by armage at 5:29 PM on August 30, 2009


"i hate searching for a toyota corolla and some piece of shit has tagged 'toyota corolla' for their bmw or whatever."

I try to waste these wankers time as much as possible by asking a series of increasingly specific questions and seeing how long it takes them to realize I'm asking questions about a Toyota and not a BMW or whatever.

"The design of Craigslist doesn't bother me, but man, I wish they'd let me search more than one area at a time.

"hey, Craig, the next area is 20 minutes up the road. I can drive it, it's ok."


This seems really weird, you're bothered by having to perform two searches yet a 20 minute drive is a-ok.
posted by Mitheral at 8:04 PM on August 30, 2009


If you live in San Francisco, posting something (anything!) for free on Craigslist is easier than bringing it downstairs to the trash or recycling.

I've posted all sorts of broken (but free) crap to Craigslist and am almost amazed people will come all the way across town and walk up stairs to pick up my old:

boxes full of wired magazines
broken printer (for which I received a two handed smiling handshake from recent russian émigré)
ac adapters of all sorts
packing peanuts
bag of old circuit boards / LEDS / etc.
furniture that was crapy when I first got it and got even crappier

The apartment section is starting to grow a little long in the tooth, I'm looking for a new place right now, and having to perform the same search across 4 neighborhoods is pretty annoying.
posted by bottlebrushtree at 11:40 PM on August 30, 2009


Having said that, the CL personals section is 85% garbage and god help you if you post a personal ad because you will receive 30 spam responses in the following 20 minutes.

And along with those, I found a message that, among other things, made fun of those spam emails.
That message was from the love of my life.
posted by soelo at 10:14 AM on August 31, 2009 [2 favorites]


My mother watches the Scare Sections of the Evening News and is terrified of CL, despite being consistently amazed by it when she comes to visit me. I've turned treadmills, moving boxes, and a whole collection of junk into cold hard cash right in front of her, once in a matter of literal minutes, and yet she is convinced I'm tap dancing with death every time I load the page.

She needed a bike rack and was considering spending several hundred dollars on one when I asked her if she'd be OK with a used one. Cue CL and a ten minute drive to a nice house to see and possibly buy a used rack. By this time she's literally shaking with fear despite all my assurances to the contrary. When he told me to come around to the garage while he opened it I could see the fear in her eyes. To lighten the mood I told her "Now if he starts stabbing me, run for it." This actually broke the ice and she laughed a bit and the bike rack was perfect and I saved her hundreds.

As for the moving boxes, after the last move I was left with a gigantic pile of used, flattened boxes in the garage. She was helping me and started to make elaborate multi-trip plans to run these to the recycling center. I told her that I'd put them on CL for cheap instead. My phone rang within a minute and five minutes later an extremely grateful young man and his pregnant wife were at the door, cash in hand, and I helped him load his pickup with the boxes. This all happened while she was in the backyard with a coffee and a smoke calming her nerves that the CL post would probably bring serial killers to the door. She finished the smoke and coffee and came up front to find an empty garage and simply could not believe that the boxes were gone and paid for. She kept questioning me - "What did he look like?" "He just answered your ad?" - for the rest of the day.

Yet she still will not use it. It's probably for the best.
posted by unixrat at 11:32 AM on August 31, 2009 [2 favorites]


Yet she still will not use it. It's probably for the best.

You're probably right. She'd end up chickening out and leaving some poor buyer/seller hanging, and (no offense against your mom but) CL doesn't need any more people who flake! For every psycho killer who uses CL, there are thousands and thousands and thousands of people who no-show, want to email endlessly about your stuff, misrepresent the stuff they're selling, or love what you're selling and "will be right back I promise, just need to run to the ATM!"
posted by headnsouth at 2:14 PM on August 31, 2009


I've always wondered how well-moderated craigslist is. I've always been tempted to post something like "Corpse, missing 1 leg, free to first person to pickup" or "vast child pornography collection, $10 OBO" just to test their response time.
posted by tehloki at 3:02 PM on August 31, 2009


The UK version, Gumtree, is much more well-designed - whenever I look at Craigslist, it immediately makes me think it's a scam site. Maybe because it never really took off over here.

Of course, Gumtree is chock full of scammers and shysters. I found all my London flats through it and the ad my last landlord placed to get my room filled when I moved out should have been entered for a fantasy fiction prize.
posted by mippy at 8:06 AM on September 1, 2009


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