The business and culture of our digital lives,
from the L.A. Times

Category: Craigslist

L.A.-based KarmaGoat lets consumers sell their goods for charity


Many companies donate a small percentage of their revenue to charities during the holidays. One Los Angeles start-up, KarmaGoat, has built its entire business model around the idea of giving back.

Launched in May, the Westwood company is similar conceptually to Craigslist but combines transactions in secondhand goods, donations to charity and social fund-raising.

Here's how it works:

-- A seller posts an unwanted item -- say, a handbag -- on KarmaGoat for $50.

-- A buyer in the market for a new purse sees it and, using Facebook to log in, makes the purchase through the site.

-- The money from the sale will go to a charity of the seller's choice, such as Red Cross or United Way.

-- The seller and buyer arrange a time and place to make the exchange.


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Silicon Valley celebrates 'Nerd New Year' on 11-11-11 for charity

Facebook co-founder Dustin Moskovitz unveils new company, Asana

-- Andrea Chang

Photo: KarmaGoat's website. Credit: KarmaGoat

Florida woman uses Craigslist in search of a new kidney


You can find anything on Craigslist — modern furniture, a job, even a one-night stand -- but how about a kidney? Selina Hodge, a 28-year-old woman from Palm Beach Gardens, Fla., is hoping the answer is yes.

Hodge was born with spina bifida and has been on dialysis for failing kidneys for three years. She spends nine hours a day hooked up to a dialysis machine. She's been on a donor waiting list for a new kidney since September, but says the average wait for a new kidney is three years. She has already reached out to family and friends for help, but couldn't find a compatible donor.

Though Hodge spends a lot of time on Craigslist, it was her mother who suggested she take her search for a kidney to the free listings site. She tried in May and did not get much response. She posted her plea for help again — titling the post Young Female Needs Kidney -- on July 14 and, according to a local television news report, she has already received over 300 email responses with offers of help and prayers.

So how do you go about asking the Craigslist community for help with a kidney?

Hodge took a straightforward approach — writing a series of short sentences that clearly and specifically explain who she is and why she needs a kidney.

"The scary thing I just found out is that being on dialysis can lead to heart problems, and like I mentioned earlier, I've been on dialysis for 3yrs now," she writes. "Please help me!"

You can read her full Craigslist post here.

Hodge is not the only person asking the Craigslist community for help with a new kidney. A woman named Beatriz, also in Florida, is posting for someone to help her find a new kidney for her aunt.


Google Person Finder: a tool born of disaster, from Hurricane Katrina to Japan's quake, tsunami

Craigslist challenges study from rival that says 330 crimes, 12 deaths were linked to its site

Craigslist drops adult services listings from international sites

-- Deborah Netburn

Photo: Screen grab from WPBF report. Click on photo to view YouTube video of report.

Google Person Finder: a tool born of disaster, from Hurricane Katrina to Japan's quake, tsunami

About one hour after a 9.0 earthquake struck Japan on March 11, Google's Person Finder system was up and running, collecting records and enabling people to search through them online for their loved ones who were either injured or missing.

Thousands of records were uploaded on day one as a massive tsunami followed the catastrophic quake. Nearly three weeks later, with a resulting nuclear plant crisis still unfolding, Google Person Finder is tracking about 607,000 records, a testament to just how far-reaching the natural disasters have been for Japan.

But Person Finder, while being launched for the crisis in Japan so quickly, got its start as a product of after the Haiti earthquake, in January 2010, said Prem Ramaswami, a Google project manager.

"The New York Times, CNN, all these news agencies had their own private databases of missing persons information and there was the U.S. Department of State and a bunch of governmental organizations that had their own databases of information too," Ramaswami said. "What we were able to do was create a hub for all of that information, and it was built completely open source and it was basically, anyone who wanted to help out at Google, that could help out at Google, was pretty much able to help out. It was a massive effort."

Ps_logo2 The initial push to build Google Person finder came from's first engineer, Ka-Ping Yee, who worked as one of about 4,000 volunteers on a similar tool called the Katrina PeopleFinder Project in 2005, he said.

"Before Ka-Ping joined Google, he had worked to define the PFIF or People Finder Interchange Format after Hurricane Katrina," Ramaswami said. After of Hurricane Katrina, multiple websites created similar people searching tools but they failed to join their data together, resulting in people having to use multiple websites for information, he said.

At Google, which has a tremendous amount of resources when compared to a collective of independent programmers working together over the Web, Yee and his colleagues saw an opportunity to use what had begun with Hurricane Katrina to help those dealing with Haiti and future natural disasters, he said.

"In the aftermath of the Haiti earthquake, we had engineers volunteering from Mountain View, Calif.; New York; Israel; Dublin; Zurich; and Bangalore," Ramaswami said.

"The thing we're good at is scaling; we can handle big traffic. So in basically 72 hours of mad global coding we got something together. And we had a lot of buy-in from higher ups in Google to leave the various projects we were working on to get to focus on this, so to some extent we skipped the process of launching a product because it launched in a crisis, and we've been able to go back and reiterate Person Finder since then as uses have come about."

Continue reading »

Craigslist challenges study from rival that says 330 crimes, 12 deaths were linked to its site


study released Thursday said that interactions on Craigslist were linked to 330 U.S. crimes -- 105 robberies and 12 resulting in deaths -- over a 12-month period.

The study has left Craigslist crying foul, in large part because it was paid for by rival classified website, which is using the findings to steer consumers to its business.

But this isn't the first jab between Craigslist and Oodle.

Jim Buckmaster, Craigslist's chief executive, wrote in a blog post that in 2005, his company issued a cease-and-desist letter when it found that Oodle was re-posting some of its listings.

AIM Group, a consulting firm for online classified companies (all of which are competitors of Craigslist), produced the study for Oodle and said in a blog post on its website Thursday that, "Sadly, Craigslist has become a cesspool of crime.

ReportPageOne "The AIM Group has just completed a research project for Oodle, a Craigslist competitor, cataloging crimes that have been linked to Craigslist. And the results surprised even us."

Buckmaster said that AIM Group, based in Altamonte Springs, Fla., and Oodle, based in San Mateo, Calif., should be ashamed of themselves producing the study.

"Classified listings scraper/aggregator and CL wannabe Oodle has paid AIM Group to falsely portray craigslist as fraught with criminal activity," Buckmaster said. "If you strip away the false (and defamatory) paid-for editorial however, and look at the numbers AIM uses, a very different story emerges."

The 330 crimes over a 12-month period that AIM said it documented as being linked to Craigslist with the help of police records are being portrayed in a dishonest light, he said.

"Sounds scary until you compare that number to the 570 million classified ads posted by 100 million or more US craigslist users during that same time span, generating literally BILLIONS of human interactions, many involving face-to-face meetings between users who do not know one another," Buckmaster said. "AIM Group facetiously writes 'we understand thousands or even tens of thousands of transactions happen safely between Craigslist aficionados.'

"THOUSANDS??? Shame on you AIM Group (and Oodle). You know better. Try HUNDREDS OF MILLIONS or BILLIONS of safe transactions."

Continue reading »

Craigslist drops adult services listings from international sites

Craigslist has officially put its controversial adult services section out of business across the globe.

Craig1 Connecticut Atty. Gen. Richard Blumenthal told the Associated Press that "Craigslist representatives confirmed to his office Tuesday that it had removed erotic services listings from hundreds of sites in dozens of other countries."

The news comes four months after the website took down the section for its U.S. sites. The company drew fire from several state's attorneys general and law enforcement officials who categorized the classified listings as advertisements for prostitution. Craig2

The section caught worldwide attention in 2009, when a masseuse named Julissa Brisman was found slain April 14 in a Boston hotel. Police said the accused killer found her through a Craigslist ad.

Boston University medical student Philip Markoff was accused of bludgeoning Brisman with a gun and then shooting her. Markoff later committed suicide while he was awaiting trial.


South Carolina's McMaster softens rhetoric, but still considers suing Craigslist

Craigslist to remove erotic services section, monitor adult services posts [Updated]

Illinois attorney general demands shutdown of Craigslist's erotic services section

-- W.J. Hennigan

Images: Craigslist's logo, top, and services section. Credit: Craigslist

Tech leaders want more employees, hugs and golf for Christmas, according to blog

Gifts When Christmas rolls around, even influential tech personalities have wish lists.

Craig Newmark, who founded Craigslist, would like a completely new Leonard Cohen album. Tony Hsieh, founder and chief executive of online shoe and accessories giant Zappos, is hoping for “hugs and kisses.”

And for Dennis Crowley, who founded Foursquare, 10 more engineers and two more project managers would really hit the spot.

Several big names are among the more than 130 industry players who fessed up to blogger Sam England, who listed their responses on What They Want for Christmas. co-editor Ben Parr has lofty holiday requests: “true and everlasting love, followed by a Bernese Mountain Dog.”

Over at, editor Jason Chen wants attention. But not in the way you think.

“It is one of the rarest things you can get, yet everyone can give it,” he explains. “Unlike most actual gifts, attention is free, yet also very expensive. You can never get your attention back, and once you give it away, you can never give it again. There’s not an infinite amount of attention to pass around.”

Freakonomics author Steven Levitt was much less philosophical. He’d be happy with a round of golf with a top professional golfer.

-- Tiffany Hsu

Photo credit: Jim Barcus / Kansas City Star/MCT

Online generation gap is narrowing, Pew report finds

Teen internet The generation gap is narrowing online, according to a newly released report by the Pew Research Center.

"There are still notable differences by generation in online activities, but the dominance of the millennial generation that we documented in our first 'Generations' report in 2009 has slipped in many activities," the report concluded.

Millennials, defined in this case as people ages 18 to 33, still surpass their elders in many areas, including use of social networking sites and instant messaging, online gaming and reading blogs, the report found. But older users were catching up in some of these areas. The fastest-growing group of social networking users was the oldest: The percentage of adults age 74 and older who said they used such sites quadrupled from 4% in December 2008 to 16% in May 2010.

In two areas -- visiting government websites and getting financial information online -- older users surpassed millennials.

And in the area of blogging, older users may overtake the young. While the percentage of teens and millennials who said they work on a personal blog has dropped, a higher percentage of adults ages 34 to 73 were blogging in 2010 than in 2008.

Some activities gained popularity among all groups, such as using e-mail and search engines, getting news and using online classified ad sites.

-- Abby Sewell

Photo: Mary Lee, 13, of suburban Cleveland, surfs the Web. The Pew Research Center report found that older generations are catching up with teens and millennials in Internet use. Credit: Tony Dejak / Associated Press

IPad Q&A with leaders of Twitter, Craigslist, Time, Sequoia, Wired and Federated Media

Apple Inc. stormed back into consumer electronics in 2001 with its iPod music player, then solidified its reputation as the coolest, most forward-thinking tech company with the iPhone in 2007. The landmark devices have generated an estimated $60 billion in sales, and the halo effect helped revive Apple's personal computer business.

Now Apple is about to light the fuse on the latest technological smart bomb: its iPad tablet computer that goes on sale Saturday.

The touch-screen iPad is being billed as a device that will change the way consumers interact with computers and the Internet, an all-in-one media reader that many think will breathe new life into newspapers, books and magazines.

But when hopes are high, products can be short-circuited by their own hype. Remember Newton, Apple's first stab at tablet computing that arrived -- and flopped -- a decade before its time? Or the much-hyped but now-little-seen Segway scooter, which Apple Chief Executive Steve Jobs himself reportedly said would be as big as the personal computer? We polled a handful of prominent technophiles about how they thought the iPad would fare.

Dorsey Jack Dorsey, creator and co-founder of Twitter

"I'm most excited about the potential of being able to get closer to data -- to be able to touch data. Being able to use your fingers for every aspect of the experience is something that's really going to change computing. Don't necessarily think it'll be an immediate massive hit like other devices in the past. It's going to take some time to get used to it. It's defining a new realm."

CraigCraig Newmark, founder of

"I suspect that I'll wait a little longer for a Google tablet. There are a whole bunch coming and they'll all start off with innovations like multitasking [not available on the iPad]. ... I like Apple -- they do great work, but they have rigid control over their application store, and that might give them too much power. [Google's] Android store is way more open, and I prefer the open approach."

Chrisanderson Chris Anderson, editor of Wired magazine, author of "The Long Tail"

"Tablet computers are going to be huge. They're going to sell in the tens of millions of units and reset standards on how we interact with digital media and how we pay for it. You could do many things right with the Web, but not magazines. Tablets will allow us to do digital magazines that are intelligently designed, flow correctly and have the artistic intent preserved."

SchreierBryan Schreier, venture capitalist at Sequoia Capital

"The tablet will enable new businesses and disrupt established ones. There's a universal interface problem: People have a hard time controlling their TV, their thermostat, even their sprinklers. It is because the interfaces are poor. I think tablet computing offers a better interface to many things you and I have not yet considered. Entrepreneurs are thinking about these opportunities."

StengelRichard Stengel, managing editor of Time magazine

"Any new technological form creates new ways artistically and journalistically of doing what we've always done. The thing about the iPad is that it's a work in progress -- it will transform how we do what we do, but until we see how it works and how people use it, we won't really know. Just the way movie cameras changed the way we covered World War II, video cameras changed how we covered Vietnam and even how Twitter changed the way we covered the Iranian revolution, the iPad will transform the way journalism works. It will become a new way of storytelling."

BattelleJohn Battelle, founder of Federated Media (

"This is all about Apple creating a channel where Apple has control and Apple makes money. My issue with the whole app world is that they're all islands, not connected to each other. ... That's why the Android-based devices and even the Windows devices will become much more valuable over time. Apple's got a head start in terms of awareness, but the fact is there are 30 or 40 of these devices coming out in the next year, so we'll see how it all shakes out: It's a much, much bigger opportunity to be open than to be closed."

-- David Sarno [@dsarno]

VeriFone follows Square's lead with its own iPhone credit card payment system [Updated]

PAYware Mobile. Courtesy of VeriFone

Not to be outdone by tech visionary Jack Dorsey -- one of the brains behind Twitter -- and his Square cellphone payment start-up, point-of-sale  veteran VeriFone struck today with the announcement of PAYware Mobile.

Not dissimilar from the Square iPhone application and accessory, which The Times profiled last week, PAYware targets small businesses with its subscription-based model.

The PAYware app and device, which plugs into the iPod dock connector and cradles the phone, is free when users sign a two-year contract.

Along the lines of a cellphone contract, users pay an activation fee of $49, a monthly fee of $15 and 17 cents on each transaction.

The subscription model makes it an unrealistic option for the casual Craigslist seller, which Dorsey pegged as his target market. Indeed, VeriFone is going after cafes (as is Square), home repair and door-to-door salespeople.

Continue reading »

South Carolina's McMaster softens rhetoric, but still considers suing Craigslist

The office of South Carolina Atty. Gen. Henry McMaster said this afternoon that it was still considering legal action against Craigslist over classified listings it sees as prostitution. McMaster is being sued by Craigslist, which is asking for a restraining order against any possible prosecution over the ads.

The renewal of the threat of prosecution, which McMaster has made several times, appeared to be toned down in comparison with earlier, more aggressive statements.

In response to a question about whether legal action against Craigslist was still on the table, a spokesman for McMaster responded, "Yes. This office and law enforcement officials in the state will now need to monitor the website to ensure that the illegal content that has been removed does not appear again."

McMaster also posted a statement on his website (PDF) noting that Craigslist "is now taking responsibility for the content of their future advertisements. If they keep their word, this is a victory for law enforcement and for the people of South Carolina."

Until today, McMaster had been threatening imminent criminal prosecution of Craigslist over alleged prostitution ads, even after the site publicly announced its plan -- now in place -- to shutter its "erotic services" section in favor of a more strictly controlled "adult services" section. But in his office's statement to the Times, McMaster seemed to downgrade the nature of his threat to the kind of "wait and see" approach that was adopted by several other attorneys general last week after Craigslist laid out its changes.

Craigslist Chief Executive Jim Buckmaster announced the lawsuit against McMaster on the San Francisco company's blog today, saying that the attorney general's "repeated threats of criminal prosecution should we refuse to shut down craigslist for South Carolina have left us little choice but to seek declaratory relief before the court."

-- David Sarno


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Andrea Chang
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