Craig Newmark, founder of craigslist, gave a lecture at the Julius S. Held Lecture Hall at Barnard on Thursday, where he spoke about his “nerdiness,” his decision to forgo becoming an internet billionaire in favor of “doing well by doing good,” his ambitions for craigconnects, his efforts with the Women in Public Service initiative, and his dream to “boldly go where no nerd has gone before.” Sanat Kapur clues you in.
Craig Newmark is better known as the guy who founded craigslist, the online classifieds site where you can find everything from someone giving away free furniture to someone looking for “casual encounters”. However, what you may not know is that Craig gave up most of his executive responsibilities at craigslist way back in 2000 and instead, he’s been spending most of his time helping out community service organizations with their efforts to leverage the power of the Internet in furthering their causes.
Newmark started his lecture by talking about how a simple principle he learnt at Sunday school has guided most of his life, “Treat people the way you wanted to treated.” In fact, this was one of the guiding principles behind Craigslist – he was part of a group of software guys in San Francisco, and his friends would regularly tell him about launches and events in the tech world in the Bay Area. He thought he should be spreading the word to his other friends, and thus began craigslist. When craigslist started picking up steam, he chose not to monetize his creation by taking his company public because according to him “my roots told me I had enough”. As he puts it, he has a “nice shower, and place to park my 11 year old Prius” and he doesn’t need much else.
Newmark then spoke about what he’s been up to for the last twelve years – he’s been doing amazing things to help community service organizations learn how to build a social media footprint. His advice to people looking to establish a social media footprint was that they should get familiar with social networks, get used to putting up pictures and videos of what you’re doing and most importantly, get everyone you know involved. As he puts it, social networks allow people to spread their message at zero cost – all it takes is a click of the ‘share’ or ‘retweet’ button. That is where craigconnects, his latest website where he shares stories from organizations around the world working for the common good, comes in. His ultimate vision for the website, in his own words, is “I want everyone on the planet, including myself, to be connected, within two of three degrees, to everyone else across the world for their own individual visions of what the common good is”. It may sound fantasy-like, but you can see that Newmark is willing to do whatever it takes to get him closer to that goal.
The Internet pioneer also spoke about his recent work with the Women in Public Service Project, and how he believes its essential that we see more women represented in the public service – he firmly believes in the goal of the organization that wants at least a fifty percent representation of women in public service by 2050. To him, the Internet is a great place to help that cause since the Internet changes the traditional dynamics of power and allows everyone to have a voice. As he puts it, “the Internet is everyone’s printing press.”
Even though I went in expecting a cool story about how craigslist was born, it ended up being really inspiring to see a technological pioneer who could have gone on to become another dot-com billionaire, but instead, chose to spend his time working for the common good.
The man himself, via Wikimedia Commons