Chris Anderson of Wired Speaks at Media Bistro 3

Anderson Discusses Wired’s New Social Networking Site (Kind Of) and Then Tries to Defends His Practice of Banning PR People

By George

Chris Anderson, the editor of Wired, was the keynote speaker at the Media Bistro Circus in New York City yesterday. Anderson was supposed to announce a new social networking project being sponsored by the magazine, but the deal isn’t completed so his lawyers ordered him not to talk directly about it.

But he did give the audience of mostly journalists some hints. He said social networking isn’t a “destination” site in and of itself (like Facebook and MySpace), but should be part of any thriving online community. He said social networks need to be less about “friending” and more about everyone having an identity.

“MySpace and Facebook aren’t about anything except themselves,” Anderson said. “They are generic sites. That’s why they have proven to be difficult to monetize.”

He predicted that micro-social networks – those networks that target extremely specific topics – would be the winners. He said social networks need a laser-focus because “they need to be about something.”

“If you get the right ad with the right content, the ad feels like part of the content,” he said.

It should be interesting to learn in the next few days what Wired has up its sleeve. Anderson runs a social networking site on robotic airplanes (known as unmanned aerial vehicles) called DIY Drones. The site is dedicated to “amateur UAVs, contests, resources, and more.”

Anderson, who moderates the site, explained his methods for thwarting bad behavior on the site (which he said fell into two categories: profanity and personal attacks).

First offense, Anderson said he left polite public comments under a violator’s post explaining the rules. Second offense, Anderson set them a private message and pointed them to the section of the DIY Drones site explaining the rules of the site. Third offense, he would ban them – but privately because he didn’t want to embarrass them in public. Why?

He said it was important for social networks to be civil and to “just be nice” to people — even those using bad behavior.

I was in the front row of the audience and during the Q&A, I challenged Anderson on his civility comments and how he reconciled his kindness mantra on the DIY Drone site against his very public banning of PR people on his Wired blog – where he blocked PR people from his email account and then publicly reprimanded them (calling them lazy flacks) by publishing their email addresses.

“I was waiting for this question,” he said. “”I would do it again in a second (ban the PR people). I did this after years of abuse.”

By “abuse,” I think he meant PR people sending him emails. And then he made the rather startling statement: “We will publicly execute people if we need to.”

Now Anderson wasn’t being literal – he meant that some people displaying bad behavior deserve to be punished and/or banned from sites — even publicly. It was an odd answer after his rant on being civil and nice. It certainly leaves Anderson wide open for being called a hypocrite.

It seemed to me that Anderson advocated being civil and polite – but only if he wasn’t personally involved. Do as I say not as a do? For example, why didn’t he just block the PR people and send them private messages as to why? Did he really need to be so publicly vindictive?

Because I agree with what he said at Media Bistro. We could all be more civil and nice. Too bad that, in this instance, Anderson didn’t follow his own advice.

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