Sunday, April 27, 2008

Craigslist Etiquette by Craig Newmark, Part I

After a whopping 13 years online, Craig Newmark, founder of, still answers user e-mails directly as a part of the customer service team. That means that he not only wrote the book on the quick-and-dirty online classified ad community, but he's also its veteran editor.

Since Craigslist caters mostly to city-dwellers, we asked Craig to lay down the law for readers and stake out some official...

Craigslist Etiquette
(Part I of III)

The entirety of proper Craigslist etiquette falls under Craig's take on The Golden Rule:
"Treat people like you want to be treated." The Craig himself was kind enough to break that down for us...

What is it about CL that attracts so many visitors?

Craig Newmark:
We have this culture of trust – based on that golden rule – and our site is simple and effective.

What is the most-misused part of the site?
Oh, I don’t know! So much of the removal is automatic, so I don’t have a chance to see that. We focus less on what is being abused and more on ensuring that users have the power to remove abuse.

Top user complaint

Speaking of, is that “flagging” system of self-policing as effective at deterring spam and inappropriate postings as you would like it to be?
We need it to be better, but we’re working on it. The intent is to get way ahead of the curve.

Are you able to offer any insight into how the system works such as: are there are certain number of flags required before CL staff will review a post?
There is actually no monitoring involved from the Craigslist end. It is all automated. If enough people flag an ad, it is automatically removed.

Has CL ever had to ban people?
Now and then we do block people, as best we can. Some people are severely abusive one way or another and when reasoning with them doesn’t work, they simply have to go.

What is the BEST thing about running a site like Craigslist?
The general feeling is that we’re helping millions of people out with everyday stuff.

The Three Biggest Craigslist Community Faux-Pas:
3. Uninformed Debate
Sometimes people repeat misinformation propagated by a public source, such as those who pass along false info from shady politicians. Stating information as though it is true without finding out from a credible source also touches on the idea of spreading rumors without verification: another big Craigslist no-no.

2. Misrepresentation
Users sometimes try to pass one thing off as another or even misrepresent who they are. For example: on the New York page, brokers and agents often post to the Owners’ section – not realizing that this is really out-of-line.

1. Over-posting
An extremely common problem is posting far more than guidelines allow - such as posting the same things in different sections and re-posting over and over to bump a listing up.

Craig Says:
  • "Every category in every city has own culture, so look around at what the acceptable standards are and then just be consistent."
  • "Basically, I just trust people to do what’s right for them and those around them."

Since he's too nice to be so crass, we'll do it for him:
Don't be a dick.


Leslie said...

I think you summed it up fabulously with the last sentence!
Craigslist really is an amzing tool/phenomenon. I just spoke to a manicurist this morning, in fact, about hiring her for a bridal shower and guess where I found her? CL!