This blog is for everyone who uses words.

The ordinary-sized words are for everyone, but the big ones are especially for children.

Thursday, 6 September 2012

Sockpuppets: a rant.

Well, I'm not a sockpuppet.

Are you?

No, it's all right, I never for one moment thought you were made out of a sock, of course not; but a sockpuppet can be an online identity used to deceive people.

A sockpuppet may be created to avoid a website ban, or for the purposes of praising, defending or attacking someone or something.

The difference between a sockpuppet and any other pseudonym is that a sockpuppet pretends to be someone who's independent of the subject under discussion.

The British writer RJ Ellory has just come out as a sockpuppet. He isn't the first. John Lott was being a sockpuppet as far back as 2000, and the historian (and sockpuppet) Orlando Figes, like the others, posted glowing reviews of his own works, and bad reviews of his rivals' works, on the internet.

There are a couple of other versions of sockpuppets: the strawman sockpuppet posts very obviously stupid comments in the hope other people will criticise them; and the meat sockpuppet is a supporter recruited for the purpose of...well, supporting.

Does it matter?

Yes, of course it does. Sockpuppets are dishonest, and being dishonest is wrong.  It is also bad for society (and business), makes people hate you, and makes you hate other people.

But...doesn't everyone do it?

No. I don't.

How can we tell who the sockpuppets are?

It's not always easy, but five-star reviews posted before a book is published are to be treated with suspicion.

Oh, and while I'm here: everything I've posted on the internet is posted under my own name.

I commend this technique to the world.

Word To Use Today: sockpuppet. The term sockpuppet was used as early as 1993 by Dana Rollins, but it didn't begin to become commonly used until a few years later.

The word puppet probably comes from the French poupette, a little doll, from the Latin pūpa, girl or doll. The word sock comes from the Old English socc, a light shoe, from the Greek sukkhos.

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