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Craig's Dead, Baby

And nothing is real anymore

By Annalee Newitz

APPARENTLY, Craig Newmark--the naughty geek boy founder of community network Craigslist.org--is actually a figment of our collective imagination. It had to happen eventually, right? I mean, so much of what goes on in webspace seems like a fantasy anyway--it makes sense that a web community guru we thought was real would turn out to be just an elaborate PR gimmick.

At least the Craigslist people who invented "Craig" are apologizing for the hoax, unlike the guys at Yahoo who invented "Jerry Yang" just to make us think a real guy was behind all the logos. I got a PR tearsheet from a flak at Craigslist the other day which admitted--sorrowfully--that Craig was actually an icon, not a person. For those of us who believed the Craig myth because we met the guy at various functions, it turns out we were fooled mightily. "Craig" was being played by former Seinfeld star Jason Alexander, who took a hunk of cash in exchange for prettying himself up and meeting the public as "Craig." At least Alexander isn't doing credit card ads.

Hit hardest by the news of Craig's fictional status is a group of women who call themselves "Craigheads." Hailing from all over the country, these women started following Craig's career in 1998, when several of them met Craig at a web professionals' networking event (at that time he was being played by an unknown local actor who--even after repeated requests--refuses to reveal his name). Struck by Craig's winsome combination of rakishness and shy fanboy charm, these women started an informal "craigporn" email list.

Over the past three years, the craigporn list has grown from eight women to over 3,000. Each day, dozens of emails are exchanged by these Craig-smitten gals, who write erotic stories about Craig's sexual adventures in a Babylon 5-style universe populated by telepathic aliens and curvaceous spaceship captains. Sometimes, the Craigheads exchange photoshopped GIFs of Craig as well, imaginatively adding all kinds of high-tech devices to his body: for these women, Craig is the ultimate pleasure-giving sex machine, capable of inducing orgasms via wireless PDA.

When they discovered that Craig was merely an invention of the Craigslist.org cabal, the women of the craigporn list were outraged and filled with despair. " I can't believe it's all been a lie," an anonymous writer said in a recent post. "Writing fanfic about Craig has been the only thing that kept me going after I got downsized out of Pets.com." Craigheads are currently organizing a candlelight vigil, to be held outside the shiny new Craigslist office in San Francisco's Inner Sunset district.

The depressing prospect of a Craigless universe only compounded my agony over having to miss the Apache Hackathon at Apple on April 2 and 3. Instead of hanging out with some guy who was obsessed with threading in BSD, or learning more about why the Apache server kicks ass, I had to stay at home and work. It didn't help that dozens of my friends (OK, two) called to complain about Collab.net shutting down Sourceexchange.com, a site where developers could get together to work on open source software projects. At least we still have Andover.net, right? Oops, I mean OSDN.com. Sigh.

While Craiglist sheds its hero, and open source closes up, I've been entertaining myself with one of the most geeky porn videos I've ever had the pleasure of getting for free in the mail. It's from Blowfish.com, and bears the auspicious title "Our Friend the Volt." In between long shots of people having sex with dildos connected to little signal generators covered in switches and dials, this video provides us with a veritable infomercial for electrical sex toys. No, these are not sex toys that merely plug in; they actually run current through your body and cause your muscles to tense up in response. (This is a technique often used in physical therapy, although probably on slightly different parts of the body.) My favorite moment in the video is when a woman says, "I've always been turned on by mad scientists, and I get hot playing around with wires and dials." Ah, the notorious mad scientist fetish. I wonder if this explains the craigporn list?

Annalee Newitz, [email protected], is a surly media nerd who recently ran into a mysteriously Craig-esque individual on 10th Avenue in San Francisco.

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From the April 12-18, 2001 issue of Metro, Silicon Valley's Weekly Newspaper.

Copyright © 2001 Metro Publishing Inc. Metroactive is affiliated with the Boulevards Network.

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