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Talk: Craig Newmark on Building a Community of Trust

Posted by Ana Yoerg | 1-02-2012 22:31 | Academy | Category: Online, Social Media, Talks

In the movie Hot Tub Time Machine, John Cusack goes “back to the future” and discovers that his friend Lou has become incredibly wealthy due to a little search-engine-that-could that he aptly named “Lougle.” It’s a fun example of how an individual’s name can become a familiar household term based on a single choice to use that name in a product.

Can you think of another example of this? You got it—craigslist. In the States, craigslist is synonymous with connection. Hundreds of thousands of people utilize the ad-free website to find jobs, frisbee leagues, used furniture, and to barter their services. The founder of this incredible site is Craig Newmark, a self-professed nerd who has dedicated his life to customer service.


At the iStrategy conference on global digital marketing in San Francisco, Craig Newmark was not there to speak about his great invention. Rather, he wanted to talk about where he’s putting his energies now: craigconnects.

At first look, craigconnects seems to be a way for him to organize his personal efforts on giving back: military veterans, technology for good, and back-to-basics journalism. And right now, it is. But a few points that were brought up in his talk on how to build a community of trust provide a few hints as to the potential of his own model.

1. “I’d like to connect everyone on the planet.” Craig speaks about how he began providing simple advice to nonprofit organizations as long as ten years ago about how to share their stories on the web in order to spread awareness of the socio-political issues and their work around it. This site was simply a way to organize his own passions, in an attempt to unify people around some issues that they believe in. Scaled properly, and put into more of a craigslist framework, there does seem to be potential for a platform that connects people who want to utilize their skill sets to make a positive impact.
2. “I’m not the Lady Gaga of the Internet… more like the Forrest Gump.” Measured and humble, Craig Newmark is not going to mobilize thousands of people to rally around a cause. But there are plenty of charismatic individuals who can do this, and plenty of platforms to connect nonprofits and storytellers: Care2, Network for Good. What Craig wants to do is use his basic value system to help orgs aligned with that grow. For example, GreatNonprofits.org is a third-party unbiased database of NGOs where people can see how effective an organization is, a project that he is supporting and promoting.

3. “The press is the immune system of democracy.” Craig informs us that most publications no longer fact-check, because it’s too expensive and time-consuming. So he’s working with American Public Media to ensure that journalism remains true to its original form and doesn’t lose quality, even as the distribution model evolves and old methods pass on.

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