The Inforati Files
By Tim Devaney and Tom Stein
Craig Newmark founded Craigslist in 1995 as a way to tell friends about art and technology parties in San Francisco. It wasn't long before this offbeat event guide became a nexus for information on everything from finding an apartment to buying a used fridge to, yes, connecting with that special someone.
Today, more than 20 million people in 450 cities across the globe visit craigslist.org each month. And the best part? Unlike traditional newspaper classifieds, Craigslist is, for the most part, absolutely free.
Newmark says he's liberating information and making it easily available to the masses. Newspaper publishers say he's putting them out of business. "That's part of the mythology around our siteand there is a little bit of truth in it," says Newmark. "But newspapers have bigger problems."
Newmark spoke about his relationship with information from his home in San Francisco.
Who are your information heroes?
My heroes are Steven Colbert and Edward R. Murrow. I like Murrow because he exposed Joseph McCarthy as a scammer.
What are your top information sources?
It's a mix of blogs and NPR, CNN, and BBC. Blogs typically have really useful information. I read about 20 different blogs with some regularity, like BuzzMachine, MediaBistro, and Valleywag. Also among my favorite news sources are The Daily Show and The Colbert Report. I like these shows because they tell the truth and do it in a funny manner. Yes, they label themselves as fake news, but I think it has always been true that comedy makes difficult news easier to handle.
What other information tools are most valuable to you?
I like Wikipedia because it has a lot of good information.
Do you trust the information you read on Wikipedia?
I take all information with a grain a salt. Not just Wikipedia, but all information is suspect. That is just real life. I put information through a personal filter, and I have a little bit of cynicism. I think that is just being grown up.
How are you managing the information explosion?
I use a good, fast e-mail tool. And then I try not to procrastinate too much. That means checking my e-mail, my primary source of communication, roughly from 8 a.m. to 11 p.m. pretty much every day.
How important is e-mail to your daily life?
Right now I run my professional life largely through e-mail, and a big slice of my personal life, too. For example, a half an hour ago I e-mailed some friends a link to some photos I just put up of me wearing some new eyeglasses.
Were you asking for their opinion?
I went to the optometrist's and had them snap some photos. I then uploaded the pictures to a photo-sharing site. I've gotten a few responses already. I'll be choosing one or two sets of frames based on the feedback I receive. For me, e-mail is the best way to communicate. But people have to decide for themselves what works best, whether it's communicating over the phone or e-mail or in person meetings.
Is there such a thing as too much information?
Yes. If you look at the Internet you'll see many versions of the same news story. The problem is deciding which one to look at. And on cable TV there are too many channels, so how do you figure out what to watch? I use intuition to make those decisions.
Do you ever feel overwhelmed by information?
I don't feel overwhelmed by information. I am sometimes overwhelmed by decisions, like having to choose opportunities, but not by the information itself.