If there's one thing Craig Newmark is good at, it's Tweeting with squirrels.
No wait. There's another thing Craig Newmark is good at: creating a central place on the Web where organization can arise from clutter and madness. That's kind of how I view Craigslist, an unattractive, slightly confusing, yet overall organized place for all things you might be seeking.
So, maybe, just maybe, Newmark is the guy to get people to turn their attention to doing good in the world.
Emphasis on "maybe."
That seems to be the idea behind his new site, Craigconnects. According to Newmark, the "long-term purpose" of Craigconnects is to "help connect everyone of good will across the entire world for whatever they feel is the common good."
A bit of a broad mission statement, yeah? That's hardly surprising coming from the mastermind behind Craigslist, which has been known to connect people seeking and selling things from homes to spatulas to humans.
According to the site, Newmark is committing 20 years of his life to Craigconnects, "focusing first on nonprofits and public service organizations that get stuff done on a sustainable basis."
In bold, at the top of the page, he writes: "This is the biggest thing in my life, and I'd like a little help from you."
So... what exactly is it?
The idea is that this site will use the Internet to bring "everyone in the world together" to commit to socially responsible projects. For the first year, claims the site's "Purpose" page, Craigconnects will be "focused solely on the areas of support defined on this website, even though I know there are many other worthy efforts that might be worth support in the future, as craigconnects grows."
Right now those areas of support include Community Building, Journalism Integrity, Middle East, Open & Accountable Government, Service & Volunteering, Technology for Social Good, and Veteran Issues. You can see on the "Areas of Support" page the organizations that are listed under each category as worthy of attention. And, that's about it. The site itself does not raise money or grants. It just lists organizations.
So... essentially it's a site where Craig Newmark promotes causes of importance to him and the organizations he believes are doing the best job in helping out. In that case... it's a positive organization aggregator with an opinion?
That's not a bad thing. If it can reduce the noise of the Web and direct people to a clear list of things to support, that could be useful.
But at this moment it seems the biggest reason for people to commit to using Craigconnects is because Craig asked them to. If that works, that's great. But it's still very unclear what the big thing is here, what makes this site innovative, and what, exactly, Newmark wants from people. For example, he's listed The Huffington Post under the heading of "Journalism Integrity." So, what are we supposed to do... read it?
If you're still confused about what this site is supposed to accomplish, you're not alone. To clear that up, Newmark posted this blog yesterday:
Folks, it won't happen real soon, but we're getting lots of feedback, figuring out what to do about it.
We need to clarify the purpose of this thing.
We need to better suggest how to help.
Also, lots of newish nonprofits want to participate, we need to help figure out the whole mass vetting thing, will have suggestions.
In other words, if you want more clarity on how to use Craigconnects, you need to be patient. It's a good thing Craig's got that 20-year commitment.
— Nicole Ferraro , Executive Editor, Internet Evolution