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.


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.


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.

Advertising head says TV will suffer

The head of the second-largest ad agency in the world, WPP Group, says broadcasters are under “severe pressure” from the Internet:

“Television broadcasters face “severe pressure” as advertisers abandon traditional media in favour of the internet, Sir Martin Sorrell, head of WPP, the world’s second-biggest advertising company, told The Times.

The chief executive said that the quickening pace at which advertisers are switching their budgets to online has created a “fundamental shift” in advertising that would change irreversibly the way in which broadcasters
such as ITV and Channel 4 make money.

Sir Martin said: “Television is under severe pressure at the moment from the internet. There has been a fundamental shift and the pace will quicken, but predictions of a depression in traditional media have gone too far. Television advertising is not going to disappear. It still has pulling power, but the balance will switch.”

Hey ISP — Joost give me more bits

fibre optic.jpgSteve O’Hear — who also writes for ZDNet on social media — has a great post up at Last100 about how bandwidth-stingy Internet Service Providers threaten to stall many online-video apps such as Joost by throttling the download speeds that their users get. He looks at how some ISPs cut back your bandwidth after you’ve downloaded a certain amount per month, which with video isn’t difficult to exceed, and how some put a cap on downloads period. Many ISPs also use “bandwidth shaping” to restrict the flow of peer-to-peer apps such as Joost and Skype.

This is an issue that is going to become more and more important as Joost and Babelgum and other peer-to-peer video apps become widespread. One thing Steve doesn’t mention is that many ISPs also have ridiculously tiny upload speeds, and this is just as much of a threat to peer-to-peer apps. It’s no good to have a big fat download pipe if the upload is a tiny drinking straw.


Of course, if you live in an area where Verizon’s FiOS is available, you can get 30 megabits download (no details on uploads or whether they use bandwidth throttling). As Cynthia Brumfield notes at IPDemocracy, there’s no such thing as too much bandwidth.

mesh 15 Minutes of Fame winners

As my friends and fellow mesh organizers Mark Evans and Stuart MacDonald have mentioned here and here — as well as the mesh blog — the winners of the “15 Minutes of Fame” feature have been chosen, and it is a pretty impressive group. Each will get five minutes to pitch their startup or service. The press release we issued this morning is here.

May 30 – 11:30 a.m. to noon

Octopz – An online collaboration service for text, video and audio
DemoFuse – Create interactive tours for your Web site
FiveLimes – A community based around eco-friendly products

May 31, 11:30 a.m. to noon

Conceptshare – An online collaboration tool for designers
SneakerPlay – A social network for sneaker enthusiasts
Wild Apricot – A website management service for non-profits

Congratulations to all. And thanks to all those who didn’t get chosen too — we had a great response and some really excellent applicants.

Desktop Tower Defense totally rulez

This isn’t really Web 2.0 or social media or anything like that (depending on your definition, of course) but for some reason I just love this story from GigaOm’s James Wagner Au about the rise of Desktop Tower Defense. Paul Preece’s Flash mini-game has exploded in a truly viral way, to the point where he is getting 20 million page views a month. That could translate into six figures in revenue, and the hosting costs are minimal. Isn’t the Web great?


What would you ask Mike Arrington?

michael-arrington2.jpgThose who follow this blog will probably know that I’m doing a “keynote conversation” for the mesh conference this week with Michael Arrington, founder and editor of TechCrunch and pretty much the go-to guy when it comes to all things Web 2.0 and startup oriented (for anyone who hasn’t been to mesh, we don’t have keynote presentations, we have conversations — fireside chat-style — in which one of the mesh organizers interviews the keynote and then we have a question and answer session). So here’s my question to all of you: I know what I want to ask Michael, but what would you ask him if you could? Post your suggestions as a comment, and I will do my best to work them into the keynote conversation on Wednesday.