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CHRISTOPHER TAYLOR'S BOOKS

Friday, April 21, 2006

Comment Type #6

THE SOCK PUPPET

Recent events on the internet have pushed this up the list before I planned to get to it, but it is relevant and timely.

The Sock Puppet is a term that was coined over a decade ago on Usenet message boards. A Sock Puppet comment is when someone creates a new name or even an entire account on a message board or comment section for the sole purpose of agreeing with previous comments or defending himself. Sometimes this is done by commenters who want to bring attention to what they've said, or to push a message to the top of the list (some message boards scroll down as new messages are posted, and jump to the top again when new comments are made on an old topic). Sometimes it is done to defend or approve of something they have said before in the past.

There is a distinction here between joke posts and a Sock Puppet post. Sometimes people will, as is often done on the Ace of Spades Headquarters for instance, post with a different name for comedic effect. This is distinct from the Sock Puppet comment because it is not meant to be serious or deceptive, and is not used for personal gain beyond amusement.

EXAMPLE:
The Los Angeles Times has the Golden State Blog which is run by a fellow with the Myzlplkian name of Michael Hyltzik. Pulitzer Prize winner Michael Hyltzik has apparently been using alternate accounts and names to post on message boards and blogs - including his own - to promote or defend his ideas and comments on the Golden State Blog. He especially has had a recent feud with another blog , Patterico's Pontifications, with both blogs arguing over various issues and debating each other. Patterico takes up the story:

In an early post on his L.A. Times-sponsored Golden State blog, Times columnist Michael Hiltzik was criticized by a couple of commenters calling themselves “Chad” and “Booker.” These commenters left juvenile comments mocking Hiltzik for explaining blogs to his readers. A commenter named “Mikekoshi” rose to Hiltzik’s defense, scolding the commenters for criticizing Hiltzik’s column:
To Chad and Booker:

Nice way to uphold the inclusiveness of the web--by ridiculing an attempt to introduce any of its features to people who may yet be behind the curve. So you knew about blogging, or the web, or some other new technology before someone else? Big whoop. Here's news: Some people undoubtedly knew about blogs before you did. And they probably considered you to be a pathetic newbie.
-by Mikekoshi
“Mikekoshi” has defended Hiltzik before. For example, in April 2004, L.A. Observed’s Kevin Roderick posted an item about one of Hiltzik’s Golden State columns. In comments to that post, someone named David Poland posted a comment critical of Hiltzik, wondering: “who is whispering in Hiltzik’s ear and what are their motives?” Commenter “Mikekoshi” left a comment ridiculing Poland, asking: “Where has Mr. Poland been the last three years?” In a later comment, Mikekoshi echoed the point made in Hiltzik’s column: that Reuters, The New York Times, and the Wall Street Journal had fallen for a ploy by Kirk Kerkorian to artificially inflate the value of MGM stock.

“Mikekoshi” has commented on various blogs over the past two or three years, including L.A. Observed, Brad DeLong, Washington Monthly — and most recently, at Hiltzik’s blog, and at my own blog. Mikekoshi and Hiltzik appear to get along quite well. In comments on his blog, Hiltzik has praised Mikekoshi’s arguments. For his part, Mikekoshi has lobbed rude insults at folks known to be disliked by Hiltzik, such as Cathy Seipp, Hugh Hewitt, and myself. Mikekoshi is also a fan of the Los Angeles Times, and often rushes to defend the paper when I attack it in posts on my blog — his comments dripping with venom and inaccuracies alike.

If Mikekoshi sounds a lot like Michael Hiltzik, that’s no coincidence. Because “Mikekoshi” is, in fact, Michael Hiltzik.

Since 2004, Patterico points out, Hiltzik has been posting Sock Puppet comments with several different accounts. Hiltzik has responded that this is, in fact, true, but that posting anonymously on the internet is no new thing, and if everyone who posted anonymously on the internet was drummed out, there would be few left. While this is factually accurate, it is beside the point.

A Sock Puppet is disliked not because it is anonymous, that is rather common. It is disliked because it is deliberately deceptive. Posting as someone else to support one's own arguments and pat one's self on the back is not considered very honest and has the air of desperation and sad need for attention about it. A Sock Puppet is a sad, weak way of making a point, as if one's argument is not sufficiently potent and convincing that you need to add a few add a few fake "hear hear's" and "he's right, you know" like the Monty Python Mr Hilter sketch.

Posting as Ludwig Van Beethoven to make a joke about hearing modern music is one thing, posting as someone else for self aggrandizement or agreement is just pathetic. Don't make Sock Puppets.

*UPDATE: Rebuilt entire post after errors in reformatting to allow expanded posts.


2 Comments:

Anonymous Anonymous said...

Моя история из жизни: мы как-то с мамой ехали в маршрутке,( мама спец по всем видам мяса на глаз определяет что это), на остановке залазит подвипывший мужик с куском свежака в одноразовом пакете. Едем. Маршрутка резко тормозит,мужик по инерции бежит вперед и пакет рвется ,оттуда выпадет свежак ,дальше мамины слова- " Мужчина,у вас вымя выпало!" я медленно сползаю под сиденье , пассажиры ржут, мужик красный - выбегает на следующей остановке :)))

8:19 AM, January 14, 2010  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Вообще да, мне это напоминает ситуацию с выборами призидента Украины. Выборы прошли, а не факт, кто призедентом будет. Да, блин, демократия. Хех, простите за флуд небольшой, навеяло просто.

11:50 AM, February 12, 2010  

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