CraigsList: Technology Enhancing Commerce

The Internet is a beautiful thing.  It can bring together people from many different worlds. It is invaluable in business in so many ways including bringing buyers and sellers together efficiently. In a failing economy we need all the help we can get. CraigsList is one of  the Internet’s commerce success stories.

I admit, I rarely take advantage of the possibilities of the Internet to enhance my life. While I often need tradesmen to fix up my 80 year old house I have not explored Angie’s list. And while I have several items to sell–primarily some furniture if any of my readers are  interested– I have heard of but not used CraigsList.

I start by being amazed that someone would have the idea and the execution skill to create an Internet business from something that was once dominated by large public companies–in the case of  classified ads CraigsList is helping to drive newspapers from the face of the earth. How can you take nothing and make it into revenues? True genius.

Actually the true genius is knowing where the money is.  In the case of personal ads it seems to be in prostitution. While no statistics have been presented on the percent of CraigsList’s revenues that prostitution provides, the Company has refused to eliminate its Erotic Services section.

On one hand there is the position of the typical sex worker (ba dum dum). In this CNET article a 35 year old sex worker expounds on how Craigs List has enhanced her work life.  “Craigslist is important to helping us avoid violence,” says the woman, who is originally from Europe. “Craigslist is a way to filter out that kind of person…and with Craigslist there is no need for pimps.” (BTW, all economists know that eliminating the middle man, pimps for example, make for a more efficient economy.)

The other point of view is represented in the CNET article by Chicago Cook County Sheriff Tom Dart. On Thursday, the Cook County Sheriff’s Office sued CraigList,  accusing the Internet site of being one of the largest sources of prostitution in the country.

In the interview with CNET News, Dart said that the kind of sex services being advertised on Craigslist frequently involves minors as well as people forced into prostitution against their will. The federal lawsuit filed by Dart’s office claims that Craigslist’s erotic section is a powerful marketing tool for pimps and prostitutes and makes it easier for criminals to elude police.

I am sure that the leaders of CraigsList have good reason for doing what they are doing ($$$). If a few minors become collateral damage in having a more efficient economy so be it.

The first thought in my head when I heard about this has its basis more in pure economics than commerce. Does a more efficient market merely enhance the profitability of the transaction or does it increase the supply and demand for the services? In other words, in addition to being able to sell my furniture can I thank CraigsList for increasing the number of prostitutes and those seeking their services.?

One last thought was supplied by a caller to a morning radio show I listen to on my way to work. Why would anyone go to the Erotic services section of CraigsList and pay for sex when they could click on the Personals section and find many people willing to have sex for free? Now in today’s tough economic times how can you turn down a free sample?

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Skiing to the North Pole

expeditionmap2

The frigid winter is not something I seek, though admittedly I choose to live in the Midwest. So when I heard that John Huston and Tyler Fish are choosing to ski unassisted to the North Pole my interest was piqued. While they have been training for many months, the official start is today, March 1 (though there has been a 24 hour delay due to weather).

How did I first learn about this expedition? One of the two is a Chicago area guy who over the summer was seen running in Lincoln Park. Not unusual.  Except for the chains attached to the 4 tires he was pulling. This part of his training caught the attention of the local radio stations and the Chicago Tribune.

Their website amazes me. Here are some things I learned.

They list six challenges to a successful expedition:

  1. Polar bears. Over ten feet tall, 1400 pounds and oh btw they are hard to see during a white out.
  2. Cold, Wet and Wind. Average cold temp will be -35 degrees with low lows as low as -76 degrees. It is very humid so moisture control is a problem–especially when you are pulling a friggin’ sled while skiing. Sweat much?
  3. Drifting ice. There will be times when the ice is drifting backward faster than they are skiing forward.
  4. Rubble and pressure ridges. There will be times that they will use energy going around stuff instead of being able to follow the most direct route.
  5. Dark and Light. Darkness slows everything down (duh). But by the end of the trip they will have 24 hours of sunlight each day.
  6. Open water. Get this. This one would stop me well before my fear of polar bears–which is already off the fear scale. At times they will don wet suits and swim, pulling their sleds through arctic water. I may never warm up completely just thinking about that.

Other factoids:

  • The good news is they get to consume 7000 calories a day
  • The trip is planned from March 1 through April 26
  • They will cover 525 miles by ski or snowshoe
  • If successful they will be the first from the USA to complete this voyage. Only 22 people have done this before them–ever

So why are these two skiing unassisted to the North Pole? Sure they may get a moment or two of fame but not the Paris Hilton type that can be turned into a paid career of doing nothing other than being famous.

According to them this is a trip of Optimism, Humility and Responsible action. They want to inspire people to take on great things, to challenge themselves.

I am inspired. To what I am not yet sure. I do plan to check their blog everyday to find out how they are doing. If you want to as well they are now added to my blogroll.

If nothing else I commit to stop complaining about the weather in Chicago–at least for 2009.