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What? It's Not About the Money?

Posted by davidvc on November 20, 2006 at 3:07 PM PST

I've had a lot to say about the Web 2.0 Forum, but the most wonderful moment was during a panel with a number of folks running collective intelligence sites.

Jim Buckmaster, CEO of craigslist was on the panel. In case you don't know, craigslist is regularly listed as one of the
top ten web sites
, with only 20 employees.

For the most part Jim was silent, quietly sitting and listening. But at one point during a discussion about "monetizing" (a horrible word if I've ever heard one), he mentioned that many people had suggested to him that craigslist place context-sensitive ads on their pages, telling him how much money they could make. Tim O'Reilly (the moderator for the panel) asked him why they hadn't done that, and Jim very calmly said "it's not something our users ever asked us for."

There was this stunned silence from both Tim and the panel. After a few moments the audience broke into spontaneous applause.

It reminds me of a story I heard once about a southern fisherman sleeping on the bank of a river. A northern industrialist came by and said "hey, why aren't you out there catching fish?" The fisherman said "oh, I've caught enough fish for today."

The industrialist said "but you could catch more fish!".

The fisherman said, "why would I want to do that?"

"Well, you could sell them and make more money!"

"Why would I want to do that?"

"You could buy a bigger boat!"

"Why would I want to do that?"

"Well, you could catch more fish!"

"But why would I want to do that?"

"You could sell more fish and make more money!"

"But why would I want to do that?"

"Why it's obvious, with more money, you could retire and then you could relax and enjoy yourself!"

The fisherman looked around and said, "but I'm already doing that!"

It's something I think about a lot...