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best of craigslist

A: What about Shannon Lewis, Enam and the other Black Hats?

What is to say? Jerks exist; they always have and always will. Many of them are only too willing to take your money for information or software that promises that you can do all the things that craigslist AND the vast majority of the people that use it, don't want you to do. Intentionally doing things that are unwanted (abusing) is Black Hat. There are quite a few other words for it however this is a family oriented FAQ. Use your imagination.

It's worth considering that the people preaching schemes to make lots of money on craigslist (and selling books, software, etc.) seem to be selling their stuff a lot more than using it themselves. Them that can, do...

Craigslist is not intended to be a commercial site. If craigslist staff wanted to make some serious cash only a few banner ads would do it. The site traffic alone is worth millions per month in even the simplest advertising. 10 billion page views per month*, at only a hundredth of a cent per page view is a million dollars per month. 12 million dollars per year, Gentle Reader. Totally easy money---just a few banners, right? But they don't do it. Makes you wonder doesn't it? Why would ANYBODY turn down a steady 12 Million/year income?

The answer is very simple. If they did it they wouldn't get 10 billion (and growing) page views a month any more. They would no longer be what they are. They would be sell-outs. And the people that are doing those 10 billion page views a month are very sensitive about sell-outs. Craigslist is special and it's readers know it. It's VERY special. Nothing like it exists. It has earned a place as one of the top 10 web sites in the world by having a completely unique culture. In a world where everything you know about has sold out except your mother (viz. how wonderful you are) The essential craigslist culture is about being largely non-commercial. No banner ads. No Google AdWords. No making the big money. It's worth protecting this. When you yourself actually want to buy something on craigslist or sell an old set of snow tires (or whatever) you want it to be there for you. Don't piss in the soup.

Craigslist is not only intended to be largely non-commercial for craigslist, it isn't intended to be very commercial for you either. In some areas commercial ads are only barely tolerated. In others they are frankly allowed, but it's pretty obvious those areas are off the main track aren't they? 105 or so categories if you don't count forums. You can advertise your business in only 17. You can sleaze a commercial ad in two For Sale categories. Carefully posting business can do ads in jobs and gigs. The Yellow pages it ain't. The commercial advertisers themselves regularly abuse the commercial areas so badly that they are useless for everybody, reader and advertiser alike. The more Black Hat everybody plays it, the more worthless it all becomes. You cut your own throat. And when the readers go away because craigslist has become just another commercial wasteland, where will you be? (not rich and retired, we all know that)

There is one aspect about playing Black Hat of course; do you think all those users, not to mention the staff, are going to just sit by and watch? The flagging system is the tip of a larger effort to protect the site. The flags act as eyes for the staff and certain automatic systems. Enough flags will remove an ad of course, but enough flags can do other things as well, like remove every ad you have posted whether it is objectionable or not. Ads mysteriously don't appear. Ads seem to get flagged off with suspiciously little effort. It isn't your competition clobbering you, it's the way you yourself have been acting just once too often.

Craigslist has imposed registration requirements to post in the commercial (services) area. That was a gift to quell the worst of the abusers and give everyone a chance to run an ad without it being buried by some top posting idiot or other spammer. Registration has spread to some of the Personals. Same problem with intentional abuse. The registration requirements are mild---do you think they will stay that way?.

Craigslist's staffs most potent response to abusive sellers (particularly in jobs and real estate) has been to charge for the posts. They don't charge much but it's enough to cut off the Black Hat games. How much to you want to pay and pay and pay and pay? Been on eBay lately? And who is paying? The commercial posters. See where that one is going?

Being a Black Hat hurts your business reputation. One easy way to tell who NOT to do business with is to look at who is abusing craigslist. People know the score and they know that if you can't be trusted to play nice on craigslist you can't be trusted for much else either. Every time you get an ad flagged off the headline lags behind after the body text is removed. People know who got flagged off. They remember when they see you again. Even if you don't collect enough flags to get removed how many people are going to respond positively to your ad vs. the number who respond negatively? Can you afford anybody thinking you're greedy or pushy or rude? It's "marketing" running exactly in reverse. Go ahead, make your competitions day.

Craigslist readers have some special tools too. There are a LOT of them and they all have flag buttons...and they talk to each other. Flagging gangs (better known as Flagging Forums) not only exist but more pop up all the time. A lot of them are oriented around some sort of special interest like animals or weapons. But more and more people are banding together to swat spammers and commercial posters. Recently, a car dealer with 290 posts up had no posts up within a few hours of his "case" being presented in a flagging forum. His attempts at reposting failed again and again (as the gleeful posts in the flagging forum noted). All 290 ads were perfectly legitimate and posted in the proper place and within the terms of use. But he was hogging the board and it got noticed. A lot of people don't like that sort of thing. They decided he had to go. He went. His competitor with a lot fewer ads all politely spread out (leaving room for others is part of playing nice) had no problems. Now don't you just know our piglet is sitting in his little office and swearing his competition is flagging him off. Could be, but he made sure they would have plenty of help---help from all over the country.

The more people get sick of spam and overposting and top posting and posting on multiple sites and junk ads from web operations the more they are going to band together to do something. The idea has proven to be effective against even fairly large abusers. You really don't want that to be you.

If you found this FAQ from one of the Black Hat sites you might want to go back and think about things some more. The best tips and tricks are the White Hat ones you work out for yourself. By the time it's been published it's old news, the competition is hip and the systems that can and will take down your bad ad and block you are more than hip. Your own secrets to get an edge, to make friends, to get the community to like you, to be remembered in a good light, to be turned to first by customers; these are the things that build business and make money. There can be a place for craigslist in a business plan but it's likely to be a much smaller place than you would like. That is just the nature of the place. If you intrude in ways and places where you are not wanted, well---what do you think is going to happen? The Black Hats would like you to believe they have an inside track on getting away with whatever you like---but they are selling something, remember? What sells better than dreams?

*Data per craigslist Aug. 2008

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