Monday, June 20, 2011

Okay, we need to work together to avoid this in the future.

Dear fellow photographer/videographer/DJ/caterer in the LA market of Craigslist...
Approximately since June 3rd or 4th a lot of us, in the above professions are systematically being flagged down in the Los Angeles>services>event section of CL, to the point that we can no longer effectively advertise our services. Most of us are low-cost to medium priced professionals, trying to make a living and feed our families, and do not have money to spend on online advertising. We rely on CL’s free ads to get a good portion of our business.
Even though a lot of us had been flagged intermittently at one time or another in the past, since the 3rd or 4th of June, the flagging has been systematic and in most cases very fast. Most of us get flagged within 5 to 10 minutes of posting. This does not seem to happen in any of the adjacent markets, like OC, etc, but only in LA. What we are certain of, is that whoever is doing it, is not doing it randomly. It is DELIBERATE, CALCULATED and SYSTEMATIC. Whoever is doing it is staying online for very long hours, and must be using software, because to flag someone randomly takes time (as many different people must flag an ad from different IP addresses, in order to be removed) and most of us are getting flagged within minutes. He/she may be even be using some web service that alert him/her to keyword changes in the page (Los Angeles>Services>Event) where we post.
At the beginning it was mostly videographers and photographers who were getting flagged, so most of us assumed it was a competitor videographer or photographer. Then we noticed some DJs were asking for the flagger to stop. Then some caterers. And a couple of days ago we noticed somebody from a band complaining about the flagging. We don’t know who is doing this, i.e. if it is a photographer or videographer who is also flagging DJs and caterers just to throw people of his/her trail or somebody else. It has also been suggested it may be an outsider, someone connected with selling online advertising, trying to force people off of Craigslist and back to paid advertising. At this point we are looking into every scenario, however far-fetched.
The fist logical step, of course, is to go and complain to Craigslist. A lot of us –if not all of us—have already done that, and we encourage everyone to go and register a complaint at Craigslist abuse dept. But as you know, Craigslist has hundreds of thousands of posts every day, and it is run by a small staff of programmers out of SF. Past history shows they don’t get involved in individual disputes, especially since this situation happens in the free ads sections which does not affect their income.  If we manage to get CL’s attention, we are not sure how they can help us either.  A few years ago, when you were flagged you could repost, which is no longer the case. Maybe that would help us, as the flagger, even with using software, would have to be constantly flagging the people who would be constantly reposting and it would be much more difficult for him/her to succeed.
This has affected our bookings, so we will not sit idle by and let one stupid person make it harder for us to make a living. Unless we find a fair solution for all of us, the only remaining option will be the “nuclear option.” Everybody flagging everyone.  So, if this affects your business, join us to find a fair solution, because the option to have some people post and most getting flagged is not acceptable to those getting flagged.
Keep in mind that the flagger will probably also read this. It doesn’t matter. We cannot let one greedy, stupid individual terrorize the rest of us and take money out of our pockets, at a time where most of us are struggling to survive. We will find a solution. Inaction is not an option.  The livelihoods of a lot of us are at stake. Hell, the internet brought down the government of Egypt and sparked revolutions in half of Africa. We should be able to take care of this one stupid person.
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