It’s called iSpy Mission, and it’s been around for less than a week. It aims to be the hyperlocal version of Missed Connections, the Craigslist clearinghouse where people can approach someone that they were too shy to approach in person.

Why? The site’s founder, Benjamin Stein-Lobovits, was kind enough to answer a few of our questions. 

Mission Loc@l: So why Missed Connections?

Benjamin Stein-Lobovits: When I first moved to the Mission, I met a woman while I was waiting in line for a sandwich at Rhea’s Deli. I recommended the Korean steak sandwich. I was with a friend. She was with another guy. We chatted for awhile, but I never got her number. I posted a Missed Connection.

I got a lot of responses — mostly spam — but she actually replied. We’re good friends now.

It was incredible. To just put this thing up there, and then in a few days actually have the person you’re writing to find you.

ML: Which leads us to our next question. Why should people use you instead of Craigslist?

BSL: Well, that’s all we are. Craigslist to me, just looking at all those links – it’s daunting. We have better usability. When people post, a lot of [them] don’t tag the neighborhood properly. We’re nicer to look at.

It hasn’t been seriously tested yet, but I think we’ll have less spam. My roommate built the email system. There are a lot of different levels of security. There’s a captcha. Everything throttles, so that a single user can’t reply or post more than three times a day. So far, the spam has been nonexistent.

ML: Are you going to expand to other neighborhoods?

BSL: Ideally. We almost started in the Castro — there, and the Mission, have the most Missed Connections. But I like the idea of having a localized market, and keeping it that way.

ML: And why now?

BSL: I’m a freelance web designer and I had a few weeks between jobs. So I just built it. In two weeks.

ML: How long has the site been live?

BSL: Three days.

ML: So wait — did you just round up every friend you have and make them post Missed Connections?

BSL: No. All the ones up now are scraped off of Craigslist. That’s what we’re doing for now. Though we obviously can’t be doing that forever.

I’m trying to get the word out. I’ve got stencils. The stickers are being printed. I’ve been responding to people’s Missed Connections too — like “Hey, I’m not that guy from Tartine, but I’ve got this project….”

ML: Sounds tricky. Has anyone gotten mad at you for not being that guy from Tartine? 

BSL: Not yet.

ML: Why do you think people like Missed Connections so much?

BSL: People love to read them. And where I went to college in Vermont, there was this thing in the paper called iSpy, which was exactly the same thing. It’s not like a dating profile — it’s nothing to do with the music you listen to, or who you say you are. It’s just about the connection.

But also, people are hanging out with friends all the time here. So if you see someone, you don’t know who’s with who. You don’t know which way anyone swings. Especially in this town.

People get a kick out of knowing someone saw them, took the trouble to find them. I think people — they are obsessed with themselves, to be honest.

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Heather Smith covers a beat that spans health, food, and the environment, as well as shootings, stabbings, various small fires, and shouting matches at public meetings. She is a 2007 Middlebury Fellow in Environmental Journalism and a contributor to the book Infinite City.

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