Craigslist: A Company of Makers

As people who hate meetings, we were particularly taken with one paragraph from this wonderful piece on the unlikely success of Craigslist. Among the counterintuitive business practices that help the company thrive: “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.” Of course they can’t have meetings. They’re too busy making things. (HT: Kottke) [%comments]


Donnie

Didn't Ford fire all of his accounting staff because they didn't make anything?

msgnet

That was a really great article in Wired. Craigslist has to be one of the oddest business success stories in history. Their site is ancient and often painful to use, their customer service is terrible, and yet they have a near monopoly - amazing!

Matt

So will they schedule meetings later with outside counsel after they have been sued for sexual harassment, discrimination or some other alleged employment law violation that the lack Human Resources department and policy enforcement would have perhaps otherwise prevented?

Meetings are atrocious. But sometimes, they actually are necessary.

Scott W

Always happy to see successful companies calling BS on MBA.

Matt W

Great article - yes - they have resisted all the so called "improvements" that graphic design firms want to sell them and have settled for a simple site that just works.

My wife and I use Craigslist all the time to get rid of stuff we dont need and get recycled items and building materials for our various projects. You can get in and out of the site and get exactly what you need from it without distraction.

An older user interface is a small price to pay, and we are totally used to it.

How many sites are too complex for non-technical users to use? Craigslist is simple enough that anyone can use it. But powerful enough to be of immense value.

Google's simplicity (clean, ad free home page) was also a big key to their early success.

-MattW

Kevin

I don't know what they are spending their time making - definitely not new features or improvements to the site.

Craigslist is a complete anomaly in the internet business. I would caution taking any wisdom from it. If you don't believe me, try replicating something with the same principles and tell me how it goes ;)

Avi Rappoport

I bet they outsourced a lot of that stuff, HR and payroll. So the meetings happen, just in a different company.

Charles

Regarding the simplicity of Craigslist, go to jambajuice.com and experience the painfully long and slow Flash download just to see what's on a relatively simple menu.

Charles

there was an article a few years ago about Craigslist and "Plenty of Fish" about why ugly websites win:

http://www.site-reference.com/articles/Website-Development/The-Surprising-Truth-About-Ugly-Websites.html

interesting read

Jonathon K.

There was another article in the same Wired issue about how low-fi (low quality) is quickly becoming the more desired medium. Craigslist, skype, hulu, and mp3s were some of them named that have low quality, but are easy to use. Eventually the desire for quality will go back up, once technology (if ever) is able to keep up with the demand of an easy and portible product.

MBA

"Always happy to see successful companies calling BS on MBA.
- Scott W"

I'm always even happier to see people interpret a ridiculous anomaly as somehow useful for drawing broad conclusions.

Pat

@2 Their customer service isn't bad at all - though people rarely use it. In fact, you have a pretty good chance Craig himself will pick up the phone.

@6 The reason replicating something from it wouldn't work, is cause most sites taking those principals are trying to hit it big. Craigslist could, but doesn't want to. The fact that they care more about being useful than squeezing money out of users is what truly matters.

Mark S.

Craigslist is a fascinating model on so many levels. CL's free classifieds is killing the newsprint industry and at the same time the listings appear to be increasing the valuation of stuff that would go for less at garage sales. Has anyone done a comparison of garage sale vs CL listing prices ? With the transaction cost going to zero its worthwhile to sell items for as low as $5-10 and find buyers. Selling things for $10 may not seem significant but pre craigslist these items might have ended up in the trash or as an (inflated) donation for tax purposes.

Kevin MN

Just because they don't use names like "Business Development" and "Human Resources" doesn't mean that there aren't people doing those roles. If there is no HR department, who does the hiring? Who does benefits and payroll? They probably outsource it, certainly not a particularly notable business practice. Microsoft could change the name of all their programmers to "Magical Fairy Handlers" and claim they don't have any programmers, but it wouldn't make it true.

Chris

As a software development professional and someone who has dealt with issues of craigslist, I'll tell you they are not implementing this successfully.

I'm not entirely sure how we could design software without meetings - since more than one person need to be in a room together to coordinate what the software does. It's helpful if you are in the room at the same time - hence a meeting. Are long boring status meetings with 50 people useful? Not necessarily, but meetings of 4 or 5 developers and designers, yes.

Craigslist is a very simplistic website with zero customer support. It's success comes from the fact that its free and not too complex for folks to use, not because they have found some amazing meeting-free software development system.

Angeles Asodatsi

There's a version of CL which is giving a lot to talk:

www.clasilistados.org

It's the same model but entirely in Spanish and of course, only in the USA

Ang