Craig Newmark of craigslist spoke at the CoolTech event in Tampa last Friday. It was a good speech from a nerd with a dry sense of geeky humor. (Not everyone got it.) He was doing his best to "simulate social behavior", he said. He had 3 themes that he repeated throughout the talk (that's kind of my style of speaking, too): Customer Service, Doing what's Right, and the Common Good. Craig was introduced by his former attorney, Brett Britton, as a Bad ass. He kind of lives up to it.Craig offered up a history of social media. It's been around a long time - just the technology has changed (from town cryer to newspapers to books to twitter). Social media has had the same effect throughout the ages though: social change. Martin Luther learned a valuable lesson about social media: You lose control of the message. Today, the Internet is everyone's printing press. Tough to fact check all the stuff that gets added to the WWW every day!
Craig is worth about $400M accoridng to Forbes with Craigslist generating about $40M per year. Craig considers himself a Customer Service representative. He has started something called Craig Connects, which "helps connect people of good will for the common good by highlighting nonprofits that are making an impact in Community Building, Journalism Integrity, Middle East, Open & Accountable Government, Service & Volunteering, Technology for Social Good and Veterans issues." These are the issues that he actively helps on: the VA, Mideast, journalistic integrity, democracy. Why? He wants to be part of something bigger. He believes in doing Social Good because It's the Right Thing to do. Is it easy? No. And he encouraged the audience to operate outside their comfort zone too. (Growth only happens when you are uncomfortable.)
Fact checking is important, according to Newmark. I agree and he gave the names of many sites that do that. Web 2.0 has certainly had an effect on shining the light in some areas. These sites grade non-profits: Charity Navigator, GreatNonProfits.org, and Guidestar. Also, Donors Choose. These check political facts or money: Politifact and Influence Explorer, [I would add Open Congress here and mention that Politifact is a project of the St. Pete Times newspaper, which is owned by the Poynter Foundation. Local pride for Tampa Bay!]
He is working with some crime fighting nerds to check grant apps and vet veterans groups. Craig worries about journalism (especially since media empires are crumbling), since the Fourth Estate is supposed to keep our Democracy in check. For our democracy to survive, the press has to have integrity and be diligent in fact checking. I'm not surprised that The Daily Show wih Jon Stewart does the best job of fact checking, according to Newmark.
Craig has his hand in many pies that all revolve around social good, customer service and doing what's right. I'll leave you with 3 quotes from his speech.
"Listen to people and then do something about it. That's customer service. Try to listen to everyone because even a disgruntled customer can be right."
"Working together for the common good - whatever your version of that is."
"Sunlight is the best disinfective for government."