The Tragedy of the Tragedy of Craigslist

Gary Wolf’s The Tragedy of Craigslist, in this month’s Wired, is full of both brilliance—

“I’m not interested in politics. I’m interested in governance,” [Craig Newmark] says. “Customer service is public service.”

… Universal search subverts craigslist’s mission to enable local, face-to-face transactions; it increases the risk of scams and can be exploited to snatch up bargain, giving technically sophisticated users an advantage over casual browsers.

—and idiocy—

On this site, contrary to every principle of usability and common sense, you can’t easily browse pictures of the apartments for rent.

But seen from another angle, craigslist is one of the strangest monopolies in history, where customers are locked in by fees set at zero… .

The article’s introduction asks, “Craig Newmark started a galactic garage sale with millions of users, a killer business model, and revenue to match. So why is the site such a wreck?” Wolf then suggests that Craig’s laid-back quirks-slash-principles keep him from caring about the fact that craigslist is a wreck. The article never takes seriously the the possibilities that craigslist went galactic because it’s a wreck, or that that craigslist is a wreck because it’s galactic. Wired seems to have it in for craigslist because craigslist is boring—but craiglist is only boring if you care more about spiffy Web 2.0-compliant glitz than about transformative services and sustainable communities.

Saying the craigslist UI design is “boring” undersells it’s genius. Where the Wired story misses the point is in not understanding the emotional design success of the Internet’s greatest anti-brand.

I love how they judge the site by their own metrics and find it wanting. I think it drives people crazy that people still go there despite the fact that it’s ugly. We get this at MetaFilter all the time “Hey, you guys can’t compete if you don’t start doing this….” And we’re like “Who wants to compete? We employ people full time, have a thriving community and everyone who works here loves their jobs. What else would we be wanting to get out of this?”

Wired thinks everyone wants to be rich and on the cover of Wired. Oh well.

And yet … Craig Newmark is rich and on the cover of Wired. Go figure.

that’s terrific, I totally missed that he was on the cover.