Interview with drmk of “You Suck at Craigslist”

I discovered the You Suck at Craigslist blog about six months ago, and have been reading and commenting on it pretty frequently since. The premise is fairly simple–find awful, painful (for whatever reason) Craigslist postings and hold them up to public scorn and ridicule. Like all successful blogs that have been based on similar ideas, the author’s commentary and the comments left by its regular readers are what really make it. As was the case with Mom’s blog, I knew next to nothing about YSaC‘s author (drmk), to the extent that I even weirdly assumed (apropos of I-don’t-know-what) that she was a he.

Fortunately, she let my embarrassing faux pas slide with good grace and agreed to do an interview. Read on!

Hey there, mysterious “You Suck At Craigslist” guy. I read and comment on your blog nearly every day, and yet I know next to nothing about you as a person. Are you involved with humor writing in the wider world? Are there any details of your life and history outside the website that you feel comfortable sharing? Do you think it helps or hurts your blog that you donโ€™t reveal much about yourself to your readers?

The first thing I think I’d like people to know about me is that I’m female, not male. For some reason everyone assumes there’s a guy behind YSaC; I’m not sure why that is! (I’m not offended by it — I just think it’s interesting.)

I’ve shared little bits in the comments about myself, but I’m pretty careful about what I say. The reason is that I teach at a university, and since this is ‘extracurricular’ work I’m not sure I want the whole world (and especially my tenure committee!) knowing I’m behind it. Part of what I’m expected to do for my job is writing and research — the “publish or perish” model — and I don’t want the committee to look at this site and think, “Well, she had enough time to do THIS, why didn’t she publish more articles?”

I’ve mentioned my husband, Dan, on the site; he’s helped me brainstorm commentary for posts in the past, and he recently offered to write some as well. I’m hoping he’ll keep doing so, as it’s time-consuming and my day job keeps me busy.

I hadn’t thought about it, but it probably hurts the blog that I don’t reveal much about myself — it probably makes it harder for people to relate to me as a person. It’s just what I’m comfortable with right now, though, and what I think is best for my real career.

If you were magically to be made CEO of craigslist, what changes would you make to it, and why?

Mandatory spellcheck and electric shocks via built-in cattle prods.

Ack, that’s actually a really good question. I’m fortunate enough to remember Craigslist back when you had to chisel your ads on stone tablets in San Francisco. Back then, Craigslist was a small and select group of people — basically, if someone had heard of Craigslist, they were someone you could trust. Now it’s full of scams and spambots, and that makes me sad.

I don’t know what changes I would make to it, other than getting rid of the scammers and spambots. I think that Craigslist, Inc. do a great job of providing the service they intend to provide. It’s a shame that there have been so many negative things happening recently (“Craigslist killer”, etc.), but I think that comes with the territory and popularity of the service.

Do you have trouble getting enough submissions? Do you still trawl for listings yourself? Why do you think your site is so popular? What about it do you think has made it successful?

As the blog’s become more popular, I get lots of submissions, which I really appreciate (and need, so don’t stop!). The more submissions I get, the more I can pick the best/worst of them. Things almost seem cyclic — there will be periods where nothing coming in will hit me quite right, and I’ll start getting worried, and then there will be a run of some really good ones and I’ll be rushing to get them up on the site.

The site started because last summer I was checking Craigslist regularly for furniture in my local area, and I came across SO many poorly written listings that I started collecting them on a personal blog aimed at my friends. I realized it was a potential blog, found out that nobody else was doing it, and started it. I had to look for listings for the posts towards the beginning; some are from my local area, and I would branch out to major metropolitan areas to find other posts.

I don’t have to look for listings that much anymore, although sometimes I’ll search for ones to accompany other ads. For example, the post with the multiple misspellings of the foosball table started because someone had sent me two or three links to ads in their local area, and I decided to see what other misspellings I could find out there. Ditto for the “ottoman” posts and the “papasan chair” posts. I do search for “French Prudential” or “Prevential” furniture listings occasionally, as that’s one of the running gags of the site.

I think part of why it’s popular has to do with schadenfreude; I think it’s the same kind of thing that makes FailBlog or FMyLife popular, or even television shows like Maury Povich or Jerry Springer. I think we take a little bit of pleasure in the misfortune of others. Also, I think a lot of people have experienced reading Craigslist ads that are subpar, so it’s a sort of cultural touchstone at the moment.

I try to avoid posts that are TRULY unfortunate. There are so many desperate people right now, and I find no joy in making fun of people who are actually in trouble in their lives, because that’s not a situation that can be laughed at.

There was a recent post that caused a bit of controversy, and one of the things I realized as that post ran its course is that my intent for the site is to mock actions, not people. I also realized that I haven’t always been true to that intent, probably because it wasn’t necessarily a conscious realization on my part. As I said on that post, there’s a difference between saying, “Hey, this person did/said a stupid thing,” and “Hey, this person is stupid.” I really try to aim for the former, and that might be a reason that the site resonates with people; it’s snarky, but not mean. I think.

I also think the site is successful to the degree it is in large part because of the regular commenters. I’m routinely amazed at how smart, funny, and clever some of the regular commenters are. I can’t count the number of times I’ve found a link to the blog that says, “This post is funny, but be sure you read the comments.” Sometimes I feel like I’m just playing the straight man on the site, setting up the jokes so the commenters can knock them out of the proverbial park.

What’s with the sammich obsession? More importantly, what’s your favorite sammich filling?

Hah! I belong(ed) to a forum community where that was a private joke, and it sort of accidentally came out here, since the blog started as a friends thing. I think it’s good advice, though! Who doesn’t love a good sammich?

Favorite sammich filling? Duh. Bacon. With extra bacon.

Here’s an obvious one – among the craigslist postings you’ve featured, which is your personal favorite, and why?

I was afraid you were going to ask me this. It’s like a Sophie’s Choice! Do I really have to pick just one? One thing I’ve noticed is that the posts I think are hilarious usually aren’t the ones that others latch onto!

Okay, here’s just a couple favorites:

YSaC, Vol. III — this is the post that made me decide to start the blog in the first place. This one was local-ish to me, and since I was checking Craigslist every day I was able to see this ad come up each day with the changes, each more ridiculous than the last.

YSaC, Vol. 321: Meta-hilarity ensues: I love this one because it required two different levels of sucking at Craigslist to occur.

YSaC, Vol. 333 and the recent video update: I thought this one was pretty funny when it first appeared as Vol. 333, but then someone took the ad and made it into a video. I’m stunned that I’m inspiring people to make their own creative works.

In general, my favorite posts are the ones that took some work, or some sleuthing, or some time & effort on either my part or the part of the submitter. (I also like the one recently about the guy who continuously posts in Missed Connections, because it shows a pattern of behavior that makes it all the more mockworthy/creepy.)

What are your future hopes/plans for the blog? Anything else youโ€™d like to add or mention in closing?

My hopes are that I can keep it going! It’s time consuming, and I spend more time on the site than I should. As far as plans go … as much as I hate to admit it, I’m trying to figure out a way to make a little money from the site. I’ve just added a “Donation” button, and I’m looking into ways to incorporate ads into the site without it being obnoxious and intrusive. I’m also trying to come up with some t-shirt designs and some fun things. I’m a complete novice at all of this, though, and so I have no idea what I’m doing. It’s not like this was some grand business plan; it was a hobby that somehow or another became kind of popular, and I’m routinely amazed that anyone reads it in the first place.

And now for my Oscar speech: I’d like to thank everyone that has ever submitted anything, even if I didn’t use it — the entire blog depends upon people submitting ads they’ve found, so that is the most important thing. I wish I could take the time to reply to each person who submits something, but if I did I’d never get anything done. And again, a huge thank you to the regular readers and commenters; the site wouldn’t be what it is without them.

Keep reading, and keep submitting! Thanks!

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21 Responses to “Interview with drmk of “You Suck at Craigslist””

  1. Monica Hamburg
    August 1, 2009 at 1:55 pm #

    My favorite blog – awesomely hilarious comments from the author & great ones from the readers as well. Neat to learn (slightly) more about the author and about the blog.

    E.g.

    http://www.yousuckatcraigslist.com/?p=1439

    • Monica Hamburg
      August 4, 2009 at 10:00 pm #

      I phrased the above oddly. The e.g. was meant to refer to the hilarious post + audience commentary.

  2. Amaia
    August 2, 2009 at 8:01 pm #

    I also love the YSAC blog and the commentary. For the record, I totally assumed drmk was a woman and was kinda disappointed when folks were referring to her as a man. AND it’s cool to find out that she’s a fellow academic. It all makes sense now!

    • admin
      August 2, 2009 at 8:48 pm #

      Yeah, mea culpa. I have no idea why I assumed she was a man; I feel like such an idiot. Some kind of weird textual hallucination caused by an excess of lulz?

      • D / DM
        August 3, 2009 at 8:53 pm #

        I’ve always, or almost always, felt that drmk is a woman, but I don’t know why. It must have been something she wrote a while back… maybe something about her husband.

        • drmk
          August 4, 2009 at 10:11 am #

          *snort*

          There were a few posts early on where I mentioned being female, either in the posts or in the comments, but I don’t expect anyone to have read the site exhaustively and memorized everything about it. (And if they have, that’s kind of creepy.)

      • Monica Hamburg
        August 4, 2009 at 9:57 pm #

        Actually, until drmk referred in a post to being a gal, I completely assumed she was a guy. It’s the dry, evil sense of humor – not that many women allow themselves to go there.

        • admin
          August 4, 2009 at 10:37 pm #

          You know I really think that’s what it was for me, too. It’s just so rare (for whatever reason–I’m no gender politicking sociologist!) to encounter that kind of humor coming from a woman that I (subconsciously?) leapt to the wrong conclusion.

  3. Poker face
    August 2, 2009 at 9:30 pm #

    I’m a fan of his blog. His words are hilarious and can’t wait for another day to read his entry. Good luck man!

    • admin
      August 4, 2009 at 4:39 pm #

      Did you even READ the interview, Poker face? Is this a troll?

  4. Martha
    August 2, 2009 at 10:06 pm #

    I’m a little sad I wasn’t mentioned by name, but not entirely surprised. ๐Ÿ˜‰

    Love the site, have been visiting and contributing since the beginning. Oddly, the majority of my submissions elicit the response of ‘what is wrong with people in your state???’

    Keep up the good work my friend!

    • admin
      August 3, 2009 at 12:26 am #

      Dedication to lulz, that’s what I like to see. Rock it.

  5. PFCZippo
    August 29, 2009 at 4:09 pm #

    Wow, I just stumbled on your Website, And I must bow down to you, your stuff is awsome! And If you ever read this, What Forum were you on with the sammich’s?

    • drmk
      October 18, 2009 at 1:11 pm #

      So I’m a little late to answer this one, sorry — but it was a private forum run by a friend of mine that generated an awful lot of in-jokes.

  6. Bill Bartmann
    September 2, 2009 at 5:28 am #

    Great site…keep up the good work.

  7. Seattle events
    September 3, 2009 at 8:52 pm #

    Found you on Twitter. I like your article, as I’ve been a reader of the You Suck posts for a little while now as well. Good to see a little interaction on your part. Nice read… ๐Ÿ™‚

  8. Daniel Paul Young Hitler
    April 4, 2010 at 6:46 am #

    This is off the topic but it is for the Tarizar project on behalf of China and the planet Saturn.
    If you wear to fill ones head full of fibre optic string, and attach a radio transmiter from, lets say he or she, preferable a he, could this then do you think, creat a ”double act”?

    • Daniel Paul Young Hitler
      April 4, 2010 at 6:48 am #

      In example being, one could quite happily dye, and be that of a Tarizar.

  9. Buy Unique Articles
    June 2, 2012 at 3:32 pm #

    Do you mind if I cite a couple of your posts only if I provide credit and origins returning to your blog? My blog site is in the very same niche as the one you have and my readers would undoubtedly benefit from some of the information you displayed on this page. Please let me know if it fine with you. Warm regards!

    • admin
      June 4, 2012 at 7:27 pm #

      Sure, no problem.

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