craigslist > about > press > dot-survivors

from San Francisco Chronicle, February 12, 2002

Dot-survivors find luck, fortune aren't the same
By Laurel Wellman

I hope you've cleaned your house in preparation for Chinese New Year. Superstition has it that if you don't, you drag last year's bad luck into the Year of the Horse -- not a good thing, considering how the Year of the Snake treated a lot of us.

Still, on a chilly evening last week a raucous crowd jammed into Third Street's Curve Bar to celebrate surviving the dot-bomb. And survival is a good enough reason to celebrate at this point, right?

"With all this talk of an economic downturn and dot-com bust, people need to have a good time," read the press release announcing the "OK Craigslist Party," and the attendees seemed to be taking this mandate seriously. After all, Craig's List hadn't thrown one of its once-regular -- and once-legendary - - bashes in quite a while.

I trust I don't have to explain that Craig's List was founded by one Craig Newmark or add that you can find just about anything, from a massage to a job to a kitchen table, on the Bay Area's favorite community Web site. In case anyone was still looking, just inside the door there was a table full of stickers printed with "I want a woman," "I want a man," "I want a pal" -- and, given the economy, "I want a job." There were even stickers which read only "I want," allowing partygoers to add their own messages; on one sticker found abandoned on a table, someone had printed, "to be touched inappropriately."

There was enough of that going on already; in fact, it was almost like clubbing back in the dot-com heyday, except the drinks were only $6. Oh, and guys? You know that "accidental" bumping-into-women thing? We've figured it out.

Since a large man was insisting that I choose a personal heuristics statement, I opted for "I want a pal," and stuck it on my jacket.

"What do you need?" another guy bellowed at me, trying to read the sticker. "Do you need a job?"

"No," I shouted back. "I already have one."

"Me, too!" he yelled, smugly -- if it's possible to yell smugly.

I found myself face to face with Craig Newmark himself. "Stickers can really ruin good leather," he said; I had to reassure him it was an old jacket.

But that's just the kind of guy Newmark is. Or, as one of the multitudes of Newmark fans and friends in attendance put it, "The greatest guy in the world, with the biggest heart."

More partygoers were jamming into the bar by the minute. "I'm supposed to be circulating," Newmark confessed, looking for an unoccupied table. "My role here tonight is that of the glamorous figurehead."

He needn't have worried; everyone found him anyway. He's bald, he's unassuming, and he's easily more popular than any five city supervisors put together. A woman rushed up to thank Newmark; she'd had 200 responses to her Craig's List personals ad -- including her most recent boyfriend -- inside of 36 hours. Another woman was a little more coy about why she wanted to talk to Newmark but said she'd be waiting at the bar when he was done chatting.

"Craig!" screamed several more people, shaking his hand.

"This is a much more down-to-earth crowd than we've had in the past," noted Newmark, and indeed, the herds of PR bunnies and B2B guys and other flaxen- haired and Gucci-shod species have vanished from the San Francisco steppes. After all, it costs good money to be blonde, and money's hard to come by right now.

Still, there was talk of VCs, of startups -- biotech, this time, whose hype- to-product ratio currently exceeds even that of the dot-coms, considering that most of the companies don't even exist yet. Newmark said he'd already been talking with someone from a biotech startup about establishing equitable hiring practices.

Across the street from Curve, an enormous pit filled with concrete and rebar will become one of the outposts of the Mission Bay development, whose buildings will house the new UCSF campus and the biotech firms that will, doubtless, spring up in its umbra. There will be prosperity. There will be Audis. There will be a new generation of PDAs. There will be resentment of the newcomers, and finger-pointing.

I walked back to my car. On the wet sidewalk next to the construction site, a homeless man was sleeping, huddled into his jacket.