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The Honolulu Advertiser
Posted on: Monday, August 2, 2004

Online ties get real life

By Tanya Bricking Leach
Advertiser Staff Writer

Makiko Hata of Salt Lake, left, chats with Jon and Austen Cook of Waikiki at a martini party. The organizer, Shilpa Nair, sent invitations to her online network of friends. Sites such as Craig's List (www.craigslist.org) give young professionals a way to get connected.

Rebecca Breyer • The Honolulu Advertiser

In a yellow house in Honolulu last Saturday night, a "Martini Madness" party got shaken and stirred with a guest list that included mauigirl25, gl808, feradventure, quest4panic and dozens of people who had yet to meet face to face.

The organizer, dazed_confused (aka 25-year-old Shilpa Nair of Waikiki), was the virtual and real-life host, sending out invitations (from www.evite.com) that automatically tallied the R.S.V.P.s. She promised cocktails and conversation and surprised even herself when she looked at her 200 invitees and realized how large her Internet subculture had grown.

For the uninitiated, this is the new way to make friends and influence people: It's called Craig's List.

Craig's List (www.craigslist.org) was founded in 1995 as e-mail Craig Newmark sent to friends in the Bay Area. It has grown into one of the largest "community-based" sites online that has expanded to more than 40 cities. Readers in each metropolitan area can post messages about garage sales, politics, job openings, get-togethers and just about anything else.

"It's kind of an underground thing," said Rishell Jordan, 24, of Mo'ili'ili, an administrative assistant who discovered the list when she went to school on the Mainland. "I wish more people knew about it."

The local list (www.honolulu.craigslist.org) is beginning to catch on. Postings range from people looking for poker partners, Japanese tutors or tour guides to those wanting to find a job, sell their surfboards or swap houses when they go on vacation.

Luke Kirch of Makiki and Yuka Nishimoto of Waikiki converse over martinis at a party for folks who know each other online.

Rebecca Breyer • The Honolulu Advertiser

Nair moved to Hawai'i two years ago for her job as a clinical perfusionist (she keeps the heart-lung machine running during procedures such as open-heart surgery). She was looking for a way to get connected with other young professionals. So she turned to her computer.

Nair created a Yahoo group called "The Newcomer's Ohana," and she uses Craig's List's free online classifieds to promote it.

The site also has captured the attention of Minoo Elison, 27, of Kailua, a 1995 'Iolani grad who moved back to O'ahu last year after spending three years in San Francisco doing stock-option trading. She discovered a dinner group through the list when she lived in the Bay Area, and when she moved back here, her fingers naturally led her to Craig's List.

She liked that it gave her an audience of computer-literate 20- and 30-somethings who were also looking for a social scene in Hawai'i. So she posted messages about events and volunteer opportunities and started her own dining club, Dinner Girls and Boys Hawaii.

Members meet and mingle for cocktail hours, dinners, surfing and whatever activities they dream up.

Michael Kostin of Mililani mixes a martini at Shilpa Nair's party, showing how connections that start online move into real life.

Rebecca Breyer • The Honolulu Advertiser

"It's not just your typical personals section," Jordan said. She's used it to find roommates, recipes and running partners, and her word-of-mouth led her cousin to find a roommate that way as well.

Like any microcosm of society, the list has some unsavory elements, particularly rude comments in the "Rants and Raves" section.

But the raves about the site itself outweigh the rants.

"You can find an answer to anything," Elison said. "There's such an anonymity that people can be so honest. It's really kind of humorous."

Tanya Bricking Leach writes about relationships. Reach her at tleach@honoluluadvertiser.com or 525-8026.

• • •

Get the message?

You can create your own network of friends online at sites such as these:

www.craigslist.org (main Craig's List site)

www.honolulu.craigslist.org (Honolulu Craig's List)

www.ryze.com (geared to business networking)

www.friendster.com (geared to social networking)