Saturday, January 24, 2009

The Wave of the Future: Reluctant Capitalism and Nerd Values?

Refreshingly modest, unpretentious, and funny, Craig Newmark , a visionary entrepreneur and founder of craigslist, works as a customer service representative at his own company. Yep, you heard right. His official title is "customer service representative"...a far cry from the arrogant, self absorbed, greedy company heads we've become so accustomed. Forbes Magazine calls him, the Reluctant Capitalist.

What are nerd values?

Craig, a self-described geek, who said he really did have a "plastic pocket protector, thick black glasses taped together, and the social skills stereotypical of that cliche" professes a system of "nerd values". This sense of values is one of the reasons he has not sold the company, nor has any intentions to do so. Unlike most of our business leaders, Craig does not find amassing huge amounts of money and material wealth very satisfying. As long as he has enough money to live comfortably, he finds it much more satisfying to change things for the better.

“There’s nothing altruistic, noble or pious about it. We figure once we make enough money to live comfortably and provide for the future…it’s more satisfying to change things.” -- Craig Newmark
Currently, strange as it sounds, he is in negotiations with his "boss" to reduce his workload as a CSR, so that he can dedicate more time to get the word out about the value of the Internet in encouraging civic participation and participatory government and corporate governance that he must attend to. He believes that Obama's promised e-gov initiatives will inspire citizens to get online and find ways to contribute at the grassroots level, thus replacing the top down environment we have now. Craig was officially dubbed the "official technology surrogate" during Obama's campaign and will continue to assist President Obama in his technological endeavors.
"...he's discussed several of the president-elect's technology proposals with the Obama team, including one that hits especially close to home: Obama's pledge to apply technology to civic participation by launching "a Craigslist for service"—a Web site where users can learn about public service opportunities.

"Users will be able to rate their volunteer experiences, and those requiring service will be able to specify skill sets and time commitments required," according to the campaign's national service plan. "Users will also be able to track their hours of service if they choose and perhaps compete for awards from local chambers of commerce or foundations."
Anthony Batt, founder of Buzznet, who was starting his social networking site at the time, was instrumental in naming and encouraging Craig to pursue Craigslist.

Craig's blog
“One reason Craigslist works is a matter of recognizing shared values. The most common value shared across the world is the notion that you want to treat people like you want to be treated. It’s a platitude, except we try to practice that everyday, seriously, and its corollaries too: give people a break and live and let live...” -- Craig Newmark


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