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from The Tech (MIT), September 9, 2003

Web Site of the Week: Craigslist
The Perfect Place to Buy or Sell Anything, Including Yourself

By Fred Choi

The World Wide Web can seem like an infinite place, even for the experienced surfer. But fear not! Every week, I will be your friendly guide to the indispensable and the disposable, the ponderous and the quirky, the enlightening, or the just plain goofy corners of Al Gore's Internet. So hop onto the superhighway and away we go!

Remember that time you saw a hot guy on the Red Line who kept sneaking looks up from his copy of Borges's Labyrinths at you and when he got off at Kendall Square he seemed to be standing just a little closer to you than necessary? And then after he left you kicked yourself for not talking to him and wished there was some way you could get in touch with him? Or have you ever moved to a new city where you needed to find a roommate fast but you didn't know anyone there? Or what about all those times you wanted to find someone to play tennis or chess or speak German with? And where do you go when you're looking for a date or advice on where to go on a first date or what to do after a bad breakup?

Luckily for the denizens of major cities throughout the U.S., (including Boston, New York, Minneapolis, San Francisco, Miami, and more) along with residents of Toronto, Vancouver, and London, there's http://craigslist.org. Craigslist is a group of sites that share a similar format, surprisingly advertisement and clutter-free, all with the goal of providing an efficient -- not to mention fun -- way to make connections with other people.

Just perusing the various categories is guaranteed to keep you entertained for hours. The "Community" section will help you find a drummer for your band, a ride to Montreal, or people to "RPG" with. "Rants and Raves" is a place you can blow off some steam or pay some compliments. If you want to drop an anonymous line to that girl in 6.001 who always seems to sit near you in lecture and recitation go to the "Personals" section of craigslist.

Although the free, bi-weekly "Improper Bostonian" magazine posts a few "missed connections" in each issue, nothing beats the hundreds of missed connections posted to Craigslist every week. The Personals section also includes the usual W4M, M4W, M4M, W4W personals ads, along with "Casual Encounters" for those who are seeking a more "intimate" contact.

There's a "Housing" section for pretty much anything you could think of involving places to live, including house swapping, apartment sharing, renting, and subletting. There's a "For Sale" section where you can barter, give away, post "wanted" lists, and look for tickets, books, bikes, and even cars and motorcycles. According to the site, in San Francisco the "Jobs" section is reported to be the most effective job site in the area. The site also includes a "Discussion Forum" with such categories as "Arts," "Fixit," "Beauty," "Gaming," "Haiku," "Kink," "Philosophy," and "Queer."

Perhaps the most entertaining section of Craigslist is the "Best Of" section, a collection of particularly outstanding posts as voted by other Craigslist viewers. A small sampling includes someone from Los Angeles who is willing to pay $75 an hour for anyone who has telekinetic powers; a 28-year-old from San Francisco who in order to recover from childhood trauma wants an older woman to act as a Webelo [sic] Den Mother ("I have a uniform and you should have that yellow blouse that indicates your rank as well"); and a New York resident who gives a heads-up on secret signals on the F train. The latter cogently outlines a sample scenario:

1. Sign of Interest -- Touching the face with the right hand

2. You're Cute But Out Of My League -- Right hand to hairline

3. Coffee Sometime? -- Hand to ear

4. Do You Think I'm Cute Too? -- Right hand to left arm

5. Let's Bang (hottie's discretion) -- Left hand to right arm

6. Check Craigslist As Soon As You Get To Work -- Right hand to chest

The poster cautions: "Practice this at home before venturing out on your morning commute to lessen embarrassment to yourself and others."

Craig Newmark, the man behind the craigslist phenomenon, began the site in San Francisco in 1995 in an effort to combat the coldness of keys clicking in isolated rooms with the warmth of real human contact. The site's mission statement is an admirable one, and includes "restoring the human voice to the Internet, in a humane, non-commercial environment," "providing an alternative to impersonal, big-media sites," and "being inclusive, giving a voice to the disenfranchised, democratizing."

MIT411.com is similar to the selling section of Craigslist, but focuses on the MIT community. Check it out for selling or buying used textbooks -- only the weak or the trust-funded buy their textbooks at full price -- as well as local restaurant menus and phone numbers.