That Golden Rule Thing Craigslist founder Craig Newmark turned an online forum of ads and discussion boards into a virtual community. He believes its citizens are trustworthy and usually abide by "that Golden Rule thing."
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That Golden Rule Thing

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That Golden Rule Thing

That Golden Rule Thing

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Unidentified Man #1: I believe in figuring out my own way to do things.

Unidentified Woman #1: I believe in the power of numbers.

Unidentified Man #2: I believe in barbeque.

Unidentified Woman #2: Well, I believe in friendliness.

Unidentified Man #2: I believe in mankind.

Unidentified Man #3: This I believe.


Our This I Believe essay today comes from Craig Newmark of San Francisco. Newmark describes himself as the customer service representative for Craigslist, the enormously popular classifieds Web site that he founded in 1995 as an e-mail list. Today, Craigslist has sites for every state, and over 50 countries. Here's our series curator, independent producer Jay Allison.

JAY ALLISON: Craiglist fans like the site for its no frills appearance and function. It is direct, spare and straightforward, not so different from the way its founder approaches his beliefs. But its ideals and his are ambitious. Newmark says he wants his site to quote, "restore the human voice to the Internet."

Here's Craig Newmark with his essay for This I Believe.

Mr. CRAIG NEWMARK (Founder, I used to share the cynicism common to many of my fellow nerds, that people were frequently malicious and opportunistic. But, of course, you don't get treated well wearing a plastic pocket protector and thick, black glasses taped together, and now I get that. Years of customer service has changed the way I think about people.

Now, I believe that people are overwhelmingly trustworthy and deeply okay. I don't want to sound sanctimonious or syrupy, but for the past seven years, I've been doing full-time customer service for Craigslist, interacting with thousands of people. I see that most people share a similar moral compass: They play fair, they give each other a break and they generally get along. I see that pretty much everyone operates by that Golden Rule thing.

When Katrina hit, for instance, people figured out what other people needed. They didn't ask for permission to repurpose our New Orleans site. They just turned it into a bulletin board for people to find friends and loved ones. Others offered housing for survivors, and soon, jobs were being offered to survivors.

Many of us have lost a sense of neighborhood and community, and we really crave that. In today's culture, sometimes we can find that on the Web - like it's easy to connect with someone who's just trying to sell a used sofa, and it's really hard to hate a person who's trying to do that.

To be clear, there are bad guys out there, and they're drawn to any trust-based, democratic system, like our site. For example, we spend a lot of time dealing with just a few apartment rental brokers in New York who might be, let's say, ethically challenged. A few seem to feel that if others are being sleazy, it's okay for them to do the same. Under pressure from the Craigslist community, though, they're forced to behave. We reason with brokers, explaining our principles, and that usually works.

I started our site to help people help each other. I created the original platform, and then I got out of the way. The people who run our site really are the people who use it. They are worthy of trust, and I believe in them.

ALLISON: Craig Newmark, with his essay for This I Believe. Newmark says he lives by what he calls nerd values - make a comfortable living, then make a difference. Tell us how you make a difference and what you believe. Find out more and see all the essays in our series at For This I Believe, I'm Jay Allison.

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