The cover story of this month’s Wired started when the magazine’s editors asked me a pointed question: How can a site that’s so good be so bad? Serving a vast community at an irresistible price (mostly free), craigslist nonetheless seemed the antithesis of what a modern web business should be. Oblivious to innovation and stuck in a 1997 mindset, craigslist was hogging the sector and holding things back. When the editors invited me in to propose that I write the story, they wanted an exposÃ©.
That helps the dissonance in the article. I read it feeling like Gary Wolf, the author, was out to get Craig, but couldn’t find anything negative, so he wrote a weird Attack of the Positives article.
Sure, Craigslist’s site design is cramped, prosaic, and old Webbish. Sure, Craig is quirky and eccentric. So? Instead of writing a piece titled “Why Craigslist Is Such a Mess,” why not write one called “What Craiglist Gets Right,” because, Craigslist gets just about everything right: It offers a service of immense value to users, but prices it not by that value but by its cost. And there isn’t a thing on that cramped, prosaic, old Webbish page that isn’t for the benefit of the user. Craigslist is so much for us and about us that many of us feel it’s actually ours. That’s why we trust it â€” a classified ads site, for Lawd’s sake! â€” so much that we’ve built communities there. And the folks who run it, do it with the utmost humility, out of a sense of service.
Cripies, what more could you want? And yet we end up with a story that seems to want to be an expose … except the further it digs, the better Craig looks. So, Gary’s blog post helps to explain what happened. I wonder if the headline was Gary’s; the writers often aren’t even told what the headline will be. (This happened to me here: I don’t think copy protection is “a crime against humanity.”) I also found Bobbie Johnson’s posting about the Wired story to be helpful.
We could do with a WHOLE lot more Craigs.