I have mentioned sock puppets on my blog before and am bringing them up again now because we found one recently on the AndThenTheresPhysics blog. For those who do not know what a sock puppet is, I’ll recap. It’s a fake online identity created for the purpose of making comments or reviews online to give the impression that there are more people who agree or disagree with a particular point of view than there really or to circumvent a ban on a website. There’s a more detailed explanation on Wikipedia: Sockpuppet.
In the recent case, this particular person had been banned and wished to comment so they used an alternate handle and email address to make a comment about themselves while pretending to be someone else. I got into a bit of a disagreement with the person involved after the event which I found rather unpleasant and do not wish to repeat. He denied creating a sockpuppet and although I disagree with him, it did challenge my views on what a sock puppet actually is. Just to be clear, my view is as I’ve defined it in the first paragraph.
Which gets me to the point of this post. My handle is Rachel which happens to be my name. I use this handle to comment on every other WordPress blog I’ve ever commented on. But, and here’s the but, I haven’t always used it when commenting on blogs that user Blogger. This is not because I don’t want to. I really do want to use my name to comment. It’s just that if I comment using my WordPress account on Blogger, it uses the name of my blog as my handle which is quakerattled. I find this annoying and would rather it use my name, Rachel. So I’ve tried instead commenting using my google account but then it links to my google circles profile which I really don’t want it to do. So then once I tried commenting as anonymous thinking that I would just sign my name at the end but by the time I’d finished writing my comment, I completely forgot so then I was forced to make a second comment immediately afterwards clarifying that it was me, Rachel and feeling a bit silly about it all. So this experience did put me off commenting on blogs that use Blogger. Plus I don’t like the captcha that Blogger requires commenters to enter. I know that the purpose of the captcha is to distinguish machines from humans but I’m a human and I sometimes find them hard to read. I realise there’s now an option on Blogger to enter a name and URL and I will do that from now on but I suspect it will not display my usual avatar but I guess that does not matter.
I’m not saying that I am guilty of sock puppetry here. It has always been clear from my comments, regardless of whether my handle is Rachel or quakerattled, that I’m the same person and the links go to the same place which is this blog. But nor am I absolving the sock puppet we found on the AndThenTheresPhysicsBlog of any responsibility. If there is any disagreement as to the definition of a sock puppet, then it would be up to the Administrator of the blog in question to make a judgement and in this case, the answer is clear: a banned member used a different handle and email address in order to circumvent the ban and make a comment. This is sock puppetry.