Hero of the Day - Jim Buckmaster

Jim Buckmaster (born August 14, 1962), a native of Ann Arbor, Michigan, is an American computer programmer who has been the CEO of Craigslist since 2000.
He was an undergraduate at Virginia Tech and studied medicine and classics at the University of Michigan in the 1990s.
In late 1999, after posting his resume on craigslist, he was recruited by Craig Newmark, the founder of the website. As lead programmer, he contributed the site's multi-city architecture, search engine, discussion forums, flagging system, self-posting process, homepage design, personals categories, and best-of-craigslist. In November 2000, he was promoted to the post of CEO.

A fan of Noam Chomsky, Buckmaster has been accused of being "anti-capitalistic", which Buckmaster claims is an inaccurate characterization:
"We are not so much anti-capitalist (...) We're fortunate enough to have built a very healthy business, even though we haven't attempted to. All we have done is stop short of trying to become insanely wealthy. We have met billionaires and it sounds funny but it's not necessarily a bed of roses to have that kind of money. (...) Their life becomes about figuring out how to employ all that money either by philanthropy or other means. So we don't consider it that revolutionary to have stopped short of that."[4]

"Companies looking to maximize revenue need to throw as many revenue-generating opportunities at users as they will tolerate," Buckmaster says. "We have absolutely no interest in doing that, which I think has been instrumental to the success of craigslist."[5]
Buckmaster has been described by Martin Sorrell as a "socialistic anarchist"[6] and was once denounced on Fox News by Reverend Jerry Falwell[2]

Buckmaster wrote a series of haiku that appear in lieu of error messages on craigslist:[5]
""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. For instance, start too many conversations in the forums and your new threads may fail to show up. Instead, you will see this:
frogs croak and gulls cry
silently a river floods
a red leaf floats by "

Referring to the purple peace sign he created that serves as craigslist's symbol and favicon:[5]
"The only topic he can remember their disagreeing about is the peace sign that adorns the craigslist Web address. "Craig thought it was associated with the hippies and that hippies were discredited," Buckmaster says. "Whereas I think peace is among the most desirable things you can have."

On the topic of craigslist's company culture:[5]
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."

Buckmaster also manages the craigslist Charitable Fund and serves as executive producer for craigslist TV

Despite its enormous popularity, Craigslist has not received a great deal of respect as a business. Part of the reason is that the world’s premiere classifieds service seems to go out of its way to avoid making a profit. Most of the service is free. (It generates revenue solely through small fees for apartment and job listings in select cities.) There is no advertising. No branding. No attractive user interface. In sum, Craigslist does not actively compete for business. Craigslist’s CEO since 2000, Jim Buckmaster says the key to their success is an anti-commercial value system based on three “ironies”: “the ironies of unbranding, demonetizing, and noncompeting.” Instead of going for the quick profit like other startups, Craigslist survived the dot-com boom and bust by providing a service as simply and straightforwardly as possible. Buckmaster says, “We’re definitely oddballs in the Internet industry, and we always have been. Lots of people made fun of us, especially at the height of the dot-com boom. Most of those people are out of business now.”

Read entire wikipedia entry here:


Jim Buckmaster's Quotes:

“On Tuesday [August 30], there were 712 posts. The traffic [Wednesday] was on pace to double that.”

“We've had requests for a long time to make a change like this. New York, and particularly Manhattan, is, in our experience, completely unique.”

“Tens of millions of users are a much more powerful force in examining the more than 8 million classified ads per month than any staff could be.”

Often, perhaps even in the majority of cases, it is the friends and associates of the person sought in a Missed Connection that actually see the posting, recognize who is being sought and bring it to their attention.”

An interesting article about him from 2006:

Craigslist Meets the Capitalists
By DEALBOOK DECEMBER 8, 2006 12:51 PM December 8, 2006 12:51 pm
Jim Buckmaster
Jim Buckmaster, the chief executive of Craigslist, caused lots of head-scratching Thursday as he tried to explain to a bunch of Wall Street types why his company is not interested in “monetizing” his ridiculously popular Web operation. Appearing at the UBS global media conference in New York, Mr. Buckmaster took questions from the bemused audience, which apparently could not get its collective mind around the notion that Craigslist exists to help Web users find jobs, cars, apartments and dates — and not so much to make money.

Wendy Davis of MediaPost describes the presentation as a “a culture clash of near-epic proportions.” She recounts how UBS analyst Ben Schachter wanted to know how Craigslist plans to maximize revenue. It doesn’t, Mr. Buckmaster replied (perhaps wondering how Mr. Schachter could possibly not already know this). “That definitely is not part of the equation,” he said, according to MediaPost. “It’s not part of the goal.”

“I think a lot of people are catching their breath right now,” Mr. Schachter said in response.

The Tech Trader Daily blog ponders this question: “If YouTube was worth $1.65 billion, who knows what Craigslist would be worth if Jim and [site founder] Craig Newmark ever considred becoming — what’s the word? — capitalists.”

Craigslist charges money for job listings, but only in seven of the cities it serves ($75 in San Francisco; $25 in the others). And it charges for apartment listings in New York ($10 a pop). But that is just to pay expenses.

Mr. Schachter still did not seem to understand. How about running AdSense ads from Google? Craigslist has considered that, Mr. Buckmaster said. They even crunched the numbers, which were “quite staggering.” But users haven’t expressed an interest in seeing ads, so it is not going to happen.

Following the meeting, Mr. Schachter wrote a research note, flagged by Tech Trader Daily, which suggests that he still doesn’t quite get the concept of serving customers first, and worrying about revenues later, if at all (and nevermind profits). Craigslist, the analyst wrote, “does not fully monetize its traffic or services.”

Mr. Buckmaster said the company is doubling in size every year, as measured by page views and listings.

Larry Dignan, writing on Between the Lines blog at ZDNet, called Mr. Buckmaster “delightfully communist,” and described the audience as “confused capitalists wondering how a company can exist without the urge to maximize profits.”

NYTimes
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Another good article about Craigslist: HowStuffWorks.com

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