Jim Buckmaster: craigslist CEO/comedian

Who knew that Jim Buckmaster, the CEO of the massively popular craigslist classified advertising/community, was such a funny guy? Not yuck-yuck, clown-in-a-little-car funny, but insightful and funny in a very dry and laid-back sort of way. And there’s a lot of Jim to lay back, since he’s very tall — six-foot-seven or so, I believe.

His mesh “keynote conversation” with Mark Evans this morning was not just fascinating and informative — especially about the way that craigslist manages to run a site that gets 9 billion page views a day with just 200 servers (Jim said he heard that Google has about a million) and 24 staff — but also funny.

For example, Jim was asked by someone what was the weirdest thing he’s ever seen on craigslist, and Buckmaster said at first that he couldn’t mention some of them in mixed company, and then said he had found a couple in the “best of” section of the Toronto site of all places — including one in which a woman said “Spadina subway station, I spilled my grandmother on you (because I was carrying an urn with her ashes in it); think we got off to a bad start, would love to have coffee.”

Delivered in his laconic way, it was hilarious. There were many moments like that, and also tons of insight into the laser-like focus that craigslist has on its users — they are effectively in control of the company, Buckmaster said over and over. If they don’t want it or ask for it, it doesn’t happen.

Update:

Tony Hung of Deep Jive Interests has a couple of great live-blogging posts here and here.

mesh day two — Buckmaster and Edelman

Looking forward to the second day of mesh, with Stuart MacDonald and Richard Edelman talking about marketing and social media, and then Mark Evans talking to craigslist CEO Jim Buckmaster about what has to be one of the most successful online startups in recent memory — and one that deliberately refuses to take advantage of the hundreds of millions of dollars that are no doubt shoved at it by venture capitalists dozens of times a day.

As usual, the post-mesh social in the atrium and the post-post-mesh social at the Distillery District were some of the highlights of the first day — tons of fantastic conversations happening in the atrium of MaRS and then at the Archeo restaurant and the Boiler House, with people like Mike Masnick of Techdirt and Christine Herron (who is leaving Omidyar), Andrew Coyne and Phil de Vellis, Jon Dube of the CBC and Rachel Sklar of Huffington Post.

mesh 2007 is on a roll

Our second mesh conference got off to a great start this morning (if I do say so myself) with a keynote conversation I did with TechCrunch supremo Mike Arrington, followed by one that my co-organizer Rob Hyndman did with Austin Hill of Akoha and Tom Williams of GiveMeaning.com, and then the 15 Minutes of Fame with Octopz, DemoFuse and FiveLimes.

The talk that I — and the mesh attendees of course — had with Mike was really fun, I have to say. He took some well-deserved shots at the traditional media (I’m sure he didn’t mean me) and he talked about how blogs need to deal with issues such as accuracy.

He also admitted that he doesn’t know everything, which was refreshing, and how he would much rather take the immediacy and constant interaction that new media offers, even with its flaws, over the slow-moving and inflexible process that is the norm in traditional media (I’m paraphrasing here).

My favourite mesh moment so far: when Ted Murphy, CEO of PayPerPost, put up his hand to ask a question and Mike proceeded to tell everyone how Ted was the “most evil man in the room.” Classic. The two shook hands later, so we didn’t have to call in security 🙂

Some early pics from our friends at Canada NewsWire are here.

Update:

Tony Hung of Deep Jive Interests has been a live-blogging machine this mesh, and his posts on the Arrington keynote conversation are here, here, here and here.

let the meshing begin

Just wanted to say that mesh 2007 is off to a great start. First the mesh team did a great panel with the Third Tuesday gang, and then a bunch of in-town and out-of-town speakers got together at the Pantages martini bar for some social meshing. We had Austin Hill and McLean Mashingaidze-Greaves and Cynthia Brumfield and the incomparable Loren Feldman, Rachel Sklar, Ethan Kaplan, Andrew Coyne, Jian Ghomeshi, Christine Herron and the head blogger for Dell, Lionel Menchaca – and others too numerous to name. An eclectic mix, and some great conversation. If that was a taste of what mesh is going to be like Wednesday and Thursday then we are in for a great ride. And now I have to get some sleep.

The decline of rational argument

225626046_a2bf5db0dc_m.jpgIt was touching to read a journalism professor’s stirring defence of traditional journalism and criticism of newspaper cutbacks in the San Francisco Chronicle — particularly since the Chronicle is losing about 25 per cent of its staff due to cost cutting. And I was totally with Neil Henry until about halfway through, when his argument went off the rails in an all-too predictable way. He starts off talking about the attacks on traditional journalism, including:

“The Chronicle’s announcement earlier this month that 100 newsroom jobs will be slashed in the coming weeks in the face of mounting financial woes represents just the latest chapter in a tragic story of traditional journalism’s decline.”

Fair enough. A little over-dramatic, perhaps, but still — journalism is kind of going through a pretty strenuous transformation or evolution. Fine.

“As a result, newspapers such as The Chronicle must make staff cuts to survive — and increasingly it is highly skilled professional journalists committed to seeking the truth and reporting it, independently and without fear or favor, who must go.”

Still with you, Neil. Professional journalism is valuable, and should be supported. Carry on.

Idolaters of Web-based news and information sites, “citizen”-produced journalism, and the blogosphere of individual self-publishers, often argue that old mainstays such as The Chronicle are, in fact, getting only what they deserve.”

Whoop! Whoop! Warning bells are going off. Idolaters? Seems a little over-the-top.

“There are plenty of alternatives on the Web to take traditional journalism’s place, including the millions of bloggers opining about the news, not to mention powerful news aggregators such as Google and Yahoo whose computerized search robots harvest riches of news and other content provided by others — and generate billions of dollars in annual profits for their owners.”

Okay, now I see where we’re going with this. It’s all Google and Yahoo’s fault for stealing newspaper readers, and they should cough up some dough to keep papers in business (just out of curiosity, why is it always the robots who get bad-mouthed in these things? They just do what they’re told).

I guess I should have expected it, considering Neil’s book is entitled “American Carnival: Journalism Under Siege in an Age of New Media.” But still — it didn’t make any sense when Sam Zell said it — or the World Newspaper Association, or the Belgian newspaper group — and it doesn’t make any now. Newspapers may be in trouble, but blaming Google is a cop-out.