Monday, November 16, 2009

What can we learn from Craigslist?

Ref: Why Craigslist is such a mess?

There is lots to ponder, learn and unlearn from Craigslist in this new information age. The following are a  few simple lessons that i extracted from the following quotes in the above referenced article on Craigslist. The article is a great read.

Lesson 1:  We may not have a single definition for doing good business but we can all agree on the fact that businesses exist to serve the public.

But seen from another angle, craigslist is one of the strangest monopolies in history, where customers are locked in by fees set at zero and where the ambiance of neglect is not a way to extract more profit but the expression of a worldview.

Lesson 2: David(s) have, are and will always trump Goliath(s) in every age.

It is difficult to overstate the scale of this accomplishment. Craigslist gets more traffic than either eBay or Amazon .com. eBay has more than 16,000 employees. Amazon has more than 20,000. Craigslist has 30.

Lesson 3: People work the best when they are allowed to work.

The long-running tech-industry war between engineers and marketers has been ended at craigslist by the simple expedient of having no marketers. Only programmers, customer service reps, and accounting staff work at craigslist. There is no business development, no human resources, no sales. As a result, there are no meetings. The staff communicates by email and IM. This is a nice environment for employees of a certain temperament. "Not that we're a Shangri-La or anything," Buckmaster says, "but no technical people have ever left the company of their own accord."

Lesson 4:  If there are sufficient economic incentives, things will get done. Doesnt matter what side of the fence you are.

Captchas—distorted words that can be interpreted by humans more easily than by machines—tamed spam on craigslist for a while. Then it came back full force, not because the spammers had solved the difficult problem in artificial intelligence but because they had hacked an easier problem in global economics

Lesson 5: Simplicity and usability go hand and in hand. K.I.S.S always works.

Without a computer science research department to work on evil-fighting algorithms, or a call center to take complaints, Buckmaster has settled on a different approach, one that involves haiku. The little poems he has written appear on the screen at times when users might expect a helpful message from the staff. They function as a gnomic clue that what you are seeing is intentional, while discouraging further conversation or inquiry.Attempt to post a message that is similar to one you've already entered, and this may appear:
a wafer thin mint
that's been sent before it seems
one is enough, thanks

The slight delays in cognitive processing that these haiku cause are valuable. They open a space for reflection, during which you can rethink your need for service.

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