Archive for February, 2011

CL-wannabe-sponsored “research” backfires

February 24, 2011

Site-scraper seeks to undermine Internet safety by instructing users to ignore safety guidelines

Classified listings scraper/aggregator and CL wannabe Oodle has paid AIM Group to falsely portray craigslist as fraught with criminal activity.

If you strip away the false (and defamatory) paid-for editorial however, and look at the numbers AIM uses, a very different story emerges.

AIM group “documents” 330 crimes that it says occurred in connection with use of CL in the US over a 12 month period. Sounds scary until you compare that  number to the 570 million classified ads posted by 100 million or more US craigslist users during that same time span, generating literally BILLIONS of human interactions, many involving face-to-face meetings between users who do not know one another.

AIM Group facetiously writes “we understand thousands or even tens of thousands of transactions happen safely between Craigslist aficionados.”

THOUSANDS??? Shame on you AIM Group (and Oodle). You know better. Try hundreds of millions or billions of safe transactions. How does the self-proclaimed “bible of the classifieds industry” arrive at a range that underestimates the transaction volume of CL by 5 or more orders of magnitude (and declines to correct it) ? Well, when you’re paid to reach false conclusions about crime incidence, you’ve got little choice. If you accurately describe the transaction volume, you then have to admit that the incidence of crime is extremely low, and that’s not what those sponsor dollars were about.  As Techdirt has noted, this “research” calls into question AIM Group’s entire value proposition:

As for the actual “research,” it seems laughable, at best, and should immediately raise questions about any AIM Group research. The “research” basically scoured news reports and found a grand total of 330 “crimes” in the past year that have some sort of loose connection to Craigslist. I have a hard time seeing how that makes it a “cesspool” of crime. That’s a very small number, especially considering the hundreds of millions of posts and transactions that take place via Craigslist.

James Temple at the SF Chronicle is reporting that, in terms of crime rate,  or incidence of crime, craigslist is roughly 11,000 times safer than the city of Oakland. And as he has now updated, there is no reason to pick on his hometown of Oakland, the 11,000x incidence ratio would likely apply to any major city in the US. The point he is making is not the dangerousness of any given city, but the relative safety of craigslist.

Crime is rare on craigslist in part because criminals know that the electronic trail they leave there helps ensure their capture, and CL is unusually helpful and cooperative with law enforcement. The risk is not zero of course, andcommon sense precautions are in order when using craigslist, just as you would do at other venues or offline (where risks are arguably higher).

Since few have heard of it, its worth mentioning that Oodle is a classified ad scraper or aggregator, meaning it acquires its listings by  scraping them or aggregating them from other sites. In fact we had to send them a cease-and-desist notice when they started scraping listings from craigslist in 2005.

AIM omits to mention craigslist is likely also safer than Oodle in terms of crime rate, or incidence of crime, when you compare the usage between the two sites. Spot checking of categories such as furniture,  roommates, collectibles, baby/kid stuff, and bicycles for January showed craigslist having roughly 1000x times Oodle’s listings (and CL listings are posted by its users, not scraped from other sites). Some Oodle categories have more listings, but those are dominated by data feeds from a few large commercial entities.

Compete.com web traffic stats show CL with 550x Oodle’s page views.

Such that if so much as ONE (1) crime was connected with an Oodle listing over the past 12 months, the crime rate for Oodle would exceed by almost two times the crime rate that AIM Group claims for CL.

It’s kind of like comparing Pine Bluff Arkansas (pop 100,000) to the state of California (population 30 million) — yeah, California has far more TOTAL crime, but the INCIDENCE of crime (crimes per 100,000 people) is actually lower in California (522) than in Pine Bluff (946).

But of course, you don’t include such findings or perspective when your “research” is being bought and paid for by a client looking to tar an industry leader whose position it covets and envies.

Not content with defaming craigslist, AIM/Oodle recklessly misadvises that “the old rules — “meet in public;” “always tell someone where you’re going;” “know who you’re dealing with” — often don’t work on Craigslist.” This wildly false and irresponsible guidance is reinforced in a related press release, which says that “the old rules of ‘meeting in public’ and ‘knowing whom you’re dealing with’ no longer apply.”

Kind of like advising motorists that, because accidents are happening despite precautions, that the old rules about “observing speed limits” and “wearing your seat belt” and “don’t drink and drive” no longer apply.


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