Friday, June 08, 2007

Craigslist has beefed up the meaning of "flagging down"

Since getting hooked on the hot Internet community, craigslist (at, I've become a frequent flagger. I've run a few positive posts up the flagpole for best-of-craigslist consideration, and flagged down many more inappropriate posts for deletion or recategorization.

What is craigslist? It's a network of "local community classifieds and forums - a place to find jobs, housing, goods & services, social activities, a girlfriend or boyfriend, advice, community information, and just about anything else - all for free, and in a relatively non-commercial environment." The community has won multiple awards and is a philanthropic catalyst for the non-profit philanthropy.

All is not goodness and light in craigslist land, however. In addition to posting miscategorized, prohibited, and spam items, some posters use craigslist for illicit and controversial activities. Wikipedia reports: these activities include selling sex, drugs, and stolen goods, phishing, spamming and other bad behaviors. Wikipedia adds: the police and craigslist's powers-that-be are on the case, and are cooperating to stop the bad guys.

Craigslist has also inspired court action. Although dismissed, the "Craigslist suit raises red flags: a recent legal suit brought against Craigslist highlights the confusion regarding fair housing law and individual apartment ... public forums."

What is flagging? BC (Before Craigslist) the terms "flagging" and "flagging down" conjured up scenarios (like those listed below) in which visual and/or audible signals were used to elicit certain responses...

  • Stranded people, hitchhikers and cab-catchers hailing for help
  • Lawmen and sports officials signalling vehicles (or athletes) to stop moving or to move over
  • Carnival hawkers, fundraisers, panhandlers and vendors seeking to part marks from their money


  • Some actions by bullfighters, cowboys and shepherds to manipulate livestock
  • Wily women dropping handkerchiefs to encourage gentlemen to pick them (the hankies and the women) up.
Enter Jim Buckmaster (circa 2000). He beefed up Craig Newmark's digital hot spot with new services and tools, and expanded essence of "flagging." Consequently, the right side of each craigslist post includes the flagging feature illustrated below. This flagging system empowers "tens of millions of craigslist users to identify inappropriate postings for speedy removal" [i.e., flag them down] as well as to "nominate funny or memorable postings for inclusion" in best-of-craigslist.

please flag with care : [miscategorized] [prohibited] [spam] [discussion] [best of]
Community moderation-by-flagging is a democratic and extremely effective process. Craigslist reports:
More than 25% of all craigslist postings are removed through community flagging, and of these we consistently find that over 95% are in violation of the craigslist terms of use or otherwise outside our posted guidelines.
Additionally, "More than 15% of all ads are removed by users through the flagging system, and a similar percentage is removed by staff members."

I appreciate craigslist's flagging system, its efforts to prevent scamming and fraud , and its cooperation with the cops. Now if only the powers-that-be would grant users' requests to:
  • Add a telecommuting category for gigs and jobs that is language-based rather than geographically-specific,
  • Separate paid "jobs" and "gigs" from those that don't pay and from "business opportunities," and
  • Either combine or differentiate between "part-time jobs" and "gigs" in a M.E.C.E. (Mutually Exclusive, Collectively Exhaustive) fashion.###