When You Practice What You Preach…

I’m hearing, anecdotally, that cultural transformation at VA and elsewhere might have been nudged into motion by relentlessly handing out my business card and practicing what I preach.

The big thing I’ve learned here is that for me, tech skills and money aren’t what gets the job done. What works is bearing witness to the good works of others. This can work partly through helping ’em get their social networks going, by sharing their stuff.

bizcard
My business card says “customer service rep & founder” and people see that I’m committed to that, every day.

Customer service is a big part of what inspires me; that, and my rabbi, Leonard Cohen. Ya know, customer service can really be corrosive, and it gets worse than the usual trolling and abuse. However, singer and poet Leonard Cohen really helps me get through the day, with a small but substantial assist from Dr Stephen T Colbert, DFA (Doctor of Fine Arts).

Seriously, my team, people smarter than me, and I, we’re listening, and what you say affects the trajectory of our work. If you feel we miss something, please tell us via craigconnects.org/connect, or if you really want, I’m personally at craig@craigslist.org.

(Recently I’ve made a point of reminding people that I haven’t been a spokesman for craigslist, or had any role in management since 2000. On the other side of things, I’ll be in customer service for a lifetime…)

Travel Tips, Inspired By Misadventures

Okay, you already know about useful sites like TripAdvisor and SeatGuru, and you’re doing your best to accumulate and use frequent-flier points. Here are some tips to cover the other stuff, inspired partly by my own misadventures.

The context for these tips is that I travel for public service and philanthropy, not business; I haven’t been in craigslist management since 2000. (I hear that people travel for “pleasure” or on “vacation,” which I understand are mythological concepts.)

Store everything online. Anything that has to be local, encrypt. Act as if you could lose your laptop anytime. Recently, I cleverly left my backpack in the cab taking me from airport to hotel, containing my laptop and medicines. The latter includes thyroid medicine, since I need it daily or I WILL DIE. (Slight exaggeration.)

As for forgetting the laptop, that’s expensive, but I keep very little data locally (anything sensitive is elsewhere). Worst that could happen is that someone would learn my terrible taste in music and books…

Learn to do pretty much everything on the phone. Seriously, I can do almost all of my work on a smartphone, though some tasks are much easier on a laptop. Regarding your phone, store everything online. Accept that your terrible taste in music and books will become public. Always carry your phone in a pocket or somehow attached to you. For male humans, if the pocket thing doesn’t work for you, learn to love the “murse.” May have begun with Seinfeld…

Before you get to the airport, or inflight with Wi-Fi, check out your flight status. Now and then, I get a flight canceled with little notice. Sometimes that happens when I’m in flight, and my connecting flight is the problem. I use flightstats, which also seems to have the most current ETA. Even if you’re at the airport, and they ask you to line up for customer service to get a flight, get on the phone while you’re in the line.

Do good while traveling. Sometimes hotels don’t have a preventive maintenance program, and you encounter a problem with facilities like the shower or A/C. Even if you’ll be there one day and have to deal with it once, call hotel engineering anyway. (The next guest won’t have to deal with it and will never know you helped, but do it anyway.) While you’re at it, bring an extra charger and cable, and loan it or give it away to someone who forgot theirs.

If you happen to mix business with pleasure, be prepared to dodge drool.

Sometimes, I’ll take a side trip and wind up in a family way. Pictured is the #20 nephew, aka The Kumquat. He’s the one (visibly) drooling.

Oh, and if you’re possibly getting married, and it’s possible that they might have a chair dance planned for you, I recommend scotch.

Photo: creative commons licensed (BY-ND) flickr photo by ♔ Georgie R; selfie with Billy the baby

Why I speak ONLY for myself

Hey, recently I’ve made a point of reminding people that I haven’t been a spokesman for craigslist, or had any role in management since 2000.

My deal is that, as a manager, I kinda suck, but I found my calling in customer service, and every day I saw how we helped people put food on the table and put a roof over that table.

Customer service is a big part of what inspires me; also consider that “the arc of the moral universe is long, but it bends toward justice.”(Martin Luther King Jr.)

For a few years now (time flies!) I’ve been working on public service and philanthropy under the craigconnects.org umbrella.

In the short term, I have a few causes I believe in and support a number of organizations who are good at getting stuff done for those causes.

In the long term, over a twenty year period say, my goal is to connect people everywhere, to support the stuff *they* believe in.

People often know me as the founder of craigslist, but these days I’m on my own public service mission. So, thoughts I share publicly here (or anywhere else) are my own, and I speak only for myself.

That way craigslist and its users won’t (or at least shouldn’t) get blamed for anything I say or do.

 

Thanks from the Chief Nerd

Hey, everyone, my team and I’ve been reading everything you’ve kindly posted in response to my updates and posts.craig

My natural, nerdly, inclination is to respond to all, but that doesn’t work, and my focus must be to get good work done.

That work is mostly craigslist customer service, public service, and philanthropy. In my gut, they’re all party of the same thing, the same mission. We articulate that on craigconnects.org.

(Reminder: I haven’t been a company spokesman or in management since 2000.)

Seriously, my team, people smarter than me, and I, we’re listening, and what you say affects the trajectory of our work.

If you feel we miss something, please tell us via craigconnects.org/connect, or if you really want, I’m personally at craig@craigslist.org.

The team I mention?

the team

Otherwise known as:

  • Jonathan Bernstein, principal advisor and consigliere, and Army vet
  • Bruce Bonafede, media relations
  • Susan Nesbitt, nonprofit org expert
  • Allyson Kapin and Justyn Hintze, Rad Campaign, social media
  • Nora Rubinoff, admin guru
  • Mrs Newmark

Thanks for everything, I really value that!

 

5 websites you should be glad exist

It’s a little hard to say, since most of my reading is via RSS feeds. But if I were to pick a few sites I couldn’t live without, I’d have to go with the following.

    1. Maybe Political Wire for best political summary.
      powire
    2. HuffPost for general news…
      huffpo
    3. Dilbert; Seriously, I lived the Dilbert life for nearly twenty years, often failing to learn what normal people learning growing up.dilbert
    4. Consumerist for updates on consumer reports.
      consumerist
    5. …and because I couldn’t resist, craigslist.cl

 

I’m keeping an eye out for new sites to follow in 2014. What sites are your favorite go-to websites? (And more on my favorite podcasts later…)

10 ways to rule at customer service, hint: watch out for astroturfing

I’ve been doing customer service in different capacities for the last 32 years, more or less… I joined IBM in ’76, became a Systems Engineer in ’82, did CSRthat into ’93. And have been a craigslist (CL) customer service rep (CSR) since 1995. It’s a tech customer service kind of thing.

This is a good time to mention that I do enough real customer service to keep my emotional investment in the CL and grassroots community, but my involvement in CL management ended well over ten years ago, and you need to look elsewhere for a CL spokesman. Getting perceived as spokesman, though, is a big pain in the butt, with no solution. That’s why I’ll direct you elsewhere for CL stuff.

As for my CSR stuff, here are 10 ways to rule at customer service:

1. Treat people like you want to be treated

 2. Talk to people about what they need and want.

 3. Act on what you hear from people.

 4. Repeat #2 – #3 forever

 5. Use your own product, AKA “eat your own dogfood.”

 6. At least, customer service should be a senior position, probably C-level.

 7. Ideally, CEO does customer service.

 8. Focus groups are no substitute for getting out there and talking to real people.

 9. Watch out for astroturfing, fake feedback.

 10. See #1

 

My First Job: What Big Blue Once Was

My first real job was at IBM, in the old Boca Raton lab, in 1976. (Important: IBM has become a very different company in the last twenty years, so please assume none of this applies to the current company. Also, this is all to my recollection, and memory is unreliable.)

chunk

The offer was made early, and sounded great. I’ve never been in love with the beach, but thought it might be fun to live near the ocean, and live in a city whose name means “mouse’s mouth.”

The job was in “advanced technology” and dealt with systems architecture.

It took a few years to sink in, but turns out that in corporate language, “advanced tech” is a euphemism: It isn’t what it sounds like. But the software design process didn’t include asking actual customers about usability. I discovered later on, through founding craigslist, that listening to people is about the smartest thing you can do.

I got involved in some software development. That led to some customer involvement, but I was too easy to read, and customers looked to my reactions to see if marketing was, say, stretching things. We nerds are not great salespeople.

After some years, the opportunity to transfer to IBM in Detroit was made, to be involved in a joint effort with General Motors to do factory automation work. Well, I took the offer.

Detroit was pretty good for me, I liked the people and got involved with the local science fiction community, and the local artists community.

After a total of seventeen years, IBM was going through a lot of changes. I took a really good buyout offer and ended up moving to San Francisco, where I got another job and a few years later started craigslist in my spare time.

Photo: Adam Jenkins/Flickr

Startups, marriage, and other things I did after 35

Hey, I’m on Quora and I noticed that someone asked:

What do people in Silicon Valley plan to do once they hit 35 and are officially over the hill?

Since life in Silicon Valley ends at 35 unless you hit it big or move up in management (and simple logic tells you that most won’t), I’m curious what people younger than this think they’ll be doing at that age.

Well, I started craigslist when I was 42… Folks seemed to really like my answer, or were just surprised by it. To my surprise, the response has received 82K views, 3,200 upvotes, and counting.

MisterEd

On that note, I decided to write something regarding the onset of my sunset years…

  • I started craigslist in the last blush of my youth. Experience counts folks. I learned a lot in my other roles in other jobs and I brought that with me to craigslist.
  • My involvement in craigslist management ended well over ten years ago. I gave up any management role, but I’m committed to customer service. I do enough real customer service to maintain my emotional investment in the CL and grassroots community.
  • Every day customer service reminds me that we help millions of people put food on the table.
  • I did some work with nonprofits before 35, but didn’t formalize it until I began craigconnects in 2011.
  • Things are starting to not work, as in, my body just isn’t as young as I want it to be; am I right, guys?*

*Note: when I say “guys” I almost always mean “people”, but in this case I mean “male humans of a certain age.”

  • I’ve really accepted what I am, a nerd, modified by customer service.
  • Somehow I’m still surprised, people are asking questions about what they could easily look up.
  • …well, some of us waited til after 35 to get married.

 

Craig Newmark’s big issues for craigconnects in 2013

Hey there folks, I’m figuring out what’s my deal, what do I spend time doing, and what’ll be my main focus for 2013. This seems to be the shortest version which makes any sense to anyone else.

A lot of this involves quiet, back-channel communications, which I might never go public with. Sure, sometimes I gotta be a squeaky wheel, or sometimes I need to be annoying enough to motivate people, but will do so reluctantly.

You’ll see a focus on matters in the here and now, looking to help solve problems that exist now, while learning how make things work better in the longer term by motivating people in increasingly large numbers.

That includes figuring out how to get people to work together, particularly the people at groups with similar goals. Nonprofits with common goals normally find it really hard to collaborate, and that begs for a solution.

Anyway…

craigslist customer service is something I’ve got a hard commitment to, only as long as I live. I got only lightweight stuff to do these days, which is a big deal since:

  • it reminds me of what’s real, when I hear from people who get food on the table via our site.
  • it reinforces my emotional investment in operating from the grassroots level on up, in identifying with the grassroots, and in viewing life from the bottom up.

Also, there’s my craigconnects.org stuff, which includes a number of areas, but the two big areas are military families/veterans issues, and journalism trust/ethics issues.

If someone’s willing to serve overseas and risk taking a bullet for me, I should give back at least a little. Also, everyone should remember that it’s not only a troop serving, it’s also his or her family who give up a lot for all of us.

1. There are networks of military spouses, often linked by the mailing lists (listservs) where spouses at specific bases help each other. Multiple spouse organizations maintain their own networks. Finally, the senior-most spouses talk with each other. If they would work with each other, and supported each other, they could get a lot more done, including much of what follows this item.

2. Military families sometimes need a hand from one of the tens of thousands of helping organizations around the US. This is what the Joint Chiefs call the “sea of goodwill” and the problem is locating who can help with what. A milfam group has built the beginning of a database and smartphone app toward this end. (Veterans need this also, but spouses groups might just have the lead.)

3. There are specific areas where maybe I can help in very minor ways, for example:

  • schools that serve military kids, at specific bases, are underfunded. A matching grants effort via DonorsChoose.org might be useful.
  • when a spouse moves from a base in one state to another, we need to find ways to make re-licensing fast to avoid loss of income.

4. Spouses and veterans need jobs, and the Veterans Job Bank is a good start. It needs updating, and then, we need to tell people it exists and is useful.

5. It’s really difficult for veterans to express military skills and experience in terms that civilian hiring managers can understand. Better programs need to be developed and they need to be actively used during transition from active service.

6. Troops who transition from active service can have a really hard time getting disability claims approved. The Fully Developed Claims effort needs to be amplified during transition and thereafter. Also, perhaps the Department of Veterans Affairs disability approval backlog can be helped by effectively getting the assistance of Veterans Service Organizations. VSO worker level personnel, maybe working directly with VA disability raters can help accelerate processing in unexpected ways. (Disclaimer: I’ve been personally involved with the VA employee innovation effort which has already helped a little.)

7. There needs to be greater outreach by VA medical centers via social media, and also regarding Blue Button efforts which allow veterans to download medical and work experience while in service.

 

Okay, the other big area I focus on involves journalism integrity and ethics, toward increasing the trustworthiness of news reporting. I really am aware that I’m not in the news industry, and won’t tell people how to do their job.

However, I really want to get news I can trust. After all, the press is the immune system of democracy… or should be.

Toward that end, I’m already working with the Poynter Institute, which is a really big deal in professional journalism. They’ve run a conference on journalistic issues, raising big issues. For example, to maintain a pretense of objectivity, it’s common to bring on a speaker a reporter knows will attempt to deceive the public. In such a case, is the reporter and news outlet complicit in that deception?

Moving forward, I’ll be increasingly involved in publicly raising such issues publicly, with the objective of finding news I can trust. That means working with more news organizations with a history of trustworthy behavior.

Finally, well, I was heavily involving in protecting the rights of all eligible Americans to vote, mostly by supporting organizations with boots on the ground. I figure this is about the values articulated in the Declaration of Independence, in that all are created equal, and that we really can be the “shining city on the hill.”

However, there are people who disagree with universal suffrage, and have taken that to the Supreme Court, so I’ll continue to help.

Anyway …

Please remember that I’m doing this real discreetly, not really rocking the boat except when a little of that is required, just the least amount needed.

Finally, nothing I do is altruistic the way I look at things; it just feels right. A nerd’s gotta do what a nerd’s gotta do.

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