Tuesday, March 06, 2001

The Cyber Scene in San Diego ~ by Lilia Phleger Benjamin

Last week I received an invitation to attend the San Diego Craigslist Open House, taking place at a private loft in downtown San Diego. The theme for the night was "art/food/drink + chat/friends/posts = our community."
Craigslist is one of those interesting places on the internet that encourages free speech, builds community and facilitates the free exchange of information. Started in 1995 in San Francisco by Craig Newmark, the site has grown to nine other cities in the US and two in Australia. Last fall, Craigslist's Patricia Kovara relocated from San Francisco to San Diego to start the San Diego and Los Angeles lists. In an effort to boost visibility in SoCal, Patricia decided to host an event with Craig as the special guest. That said, it was sure interesting to see the "community" that the SD Craigslist is building!

We arrived at the open house at 6:30 p.m., and already the room was filling up with people sampling the appetizers by Lilo's Restaurant and looking at the artwork on the walls (more on that later). The eclectic attendees included people in suits, people in hardly more than tattoos, lots of people in black, artists, poets, and geeks, and at the center of it all, the Craig of craigslist, who looks a little like a very young Santa Claus because of his very twinkly blue eyes.

And now about the artwork...the walls were covered with art from participants in the ARC East County Art Program, the organization that benefited from Patricia's event. What amazed me was hearing that the ARC was started fifty years ago by four parents in San Diego who wanted their own developmentally disabled children to have opportunities that were both fun and educational. Now the ARC program is nationwide, with the East County center serving about 110 people a day, some of whom were at the Craigslist open house to help sell their art! The money from the cash bar went directly to the ARC as well, so this was yet another concerted effort by Patricia and craigslist to give back to the community while creating community.

I met a lot of interesting people...but for me the high points were meeting ManBoy of the Technomania Circus... and of course, the infamous Craig.

I had a chance to talk with Craig about his latest philanthropic project called the Wishlist, a program for schools and non-profits. Basically, when Craig found out that teachers spend $500 to $1500 per year out of their own pockets, he says, "I was really pissed off!" After much planning, he launched what he calls "the bridal registry for teachers and non-profits," where needs and gifts are matched. "For a lot of us in this business, $25, even $50 is nothing," says Craig, and helped by recent coverage in USA Today, he sees this project turning into a successful venture.

I also met reps from Cox Interactive Media, who put out the site San Diego Insider. Great resource for finding out what is happening in SD...

Speaking of what is happening in SD-the Big eSchmooze is coming! This swanky schmoozefest is put on by the San Diego Regional Technology Alliance and the San Diego Venture Group, and this year, it takes place at the El Cortez Hotel. More information on the Big eSchmooze on March 1st can be found at http://www.sdrta.org/.

Also on the calendar is "An Evening with Aliza Sherman...the Original Cybergrrl" taking place on Friday March 9th. This event takes place at the Sushi Performance and Visual Art building, and is hosted by Techniquelle and WITI. Sherman is regarded as an Internet thought leader, and is a popular online marketing expert and passionate evangelist for the Internet, particularly as a valuable and useful tool for women's lives. She built the first three websites for women on the World Wide Web in 1995 (Cybergrrl.com, Webgrrls.com, Femina.com) and is considered a pioneer who helped pave the way on the Web for women. More information on this event can be found at http://www.techniquelle.com/aliza/. Until next time!

(Disclaimer du jour: The writer is a co-founder and managing partner of Techniquelle)