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iD Tech Camps & Craig's List

instructor helping student at computer tech camp

Hello iD Nation,

It’s Big Pete!  Yesterday I had the chance to head to the User-Generated Content Conference in Silicon Valley at the San Jose Convention Center.  I went with two colleagues.   If you think of companies like Facebook or MySpace or YouTube…or Craig’sList, then you actually have an idea of what user-generated content is.  In a nutshell, it is about letting the customers choose and decide what is important and relevant.

Social Media Conference

Social Media Conference

I took these pics on my new Blackberry curve (Nextel service).  So, the pictures aren’t all that hot.  While I’m at it, if I can ask Nextel to upgrade their network, it would be much appreciated.  I drive all over the Valley (always hands free!) and there are more dead zones than anyone should have to take.  The walkie talkie feature on the phones is awesome for communicating with our summer camp staff, but the Nextel network is spotty and it’s been that way forever.  Help!

OK, back to the conference.  We got to hear Craig Newmark (Craig’s List Co-Founder) speak.  I even snapped a few low-quality photos of the outing.

Pete and Craig.  Good buddies!

Pete and Craig. Good buddies!

That’s Craig in the background.  You can tell we are highly engaged in conversation!  OK, all joking aside, Craig was a pretty cool cat.  He is a nerd, and proud of it.  But he is sincere, and he had some good reminders and lessons.  Here are a few of the things I plucked from his talk:

Fun Facts about Craig’s List:

Craig’s List started in 1994/1994 as an email list serve.

The company started from Craig’s living room in San Francisco.

Today, the site attracts 50 million unique visitors per month and 13 billion page views per month.  Wow!

The company is a combination of a business and a community service.  It is an interesting hybrid.

To Craig, the internet = inclusion.  It is the biggest tent possible.

Craig’s secret for success?

Ask for feedback.

Listen to it.

Do something with the feedback.

Repeat.

Did you know that Craig spends 50% of his time in customer service?  Why?  So he can listen to feedback and hear what the customers have to say.  It seems so basic, doesn’t it?  He said one of the hardest things to do is to follow through with good customer service.  But, once you master it, you need to do it even better.  Keep improving.

Another lesson he preached was “getting out of the way.”  He had several examples of how he and his team stepped to the side and allowed the Craig’s List users to lead the way–even if it meant the business had to flex and change.

Finally, Craig talked a lot about creating a “culture of trust.”  He said “you don’t need surveys if you are listening carefully.”  This is an interesting point.  He wants to make sure his site is simple and fast (hence the spartan design and layout) and he wants to make sure it works.

It was a pleasure to meet Craig yesterday.  He is pretty unassuming–but very smart and he is actually funny, despite what he says about himself.

Craig Answering Questions

Craig Answering Questions

At iD Tech Camps, we use Craig’s List quite a bit for recruiting.  It is nice to know the man behind the list is real and genuine.

Until Next Time, Live Long and Prosper!

-Pete

  • Josh

    Take me next time!

  • Very interesting… He is one smart cat…. And not greedy, hes smart

  • Pete

    He is smart, and no, he’s not greedy. He kept saying that Craig’s List is not “altruistic” but it certainly does some social good. In a way, I think it is like our summer camps. We run a business, but we are developing skills in kids. It is a business we can feel good about–and one we are passionate about. Our mission is clear, we need to make money, but profits and greed are not our bottom line.