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Important: New Commenting Policy on Dear Author

I’m implementing a new commenting policy at Dear Author.  While we have always welcomed (and sometimes tolerated) anonymous commenters, there is an increasing tendency of a few people (mostly newbies) to engage in bad commenting behavior.  Thus, in the future, if a commenter engages in sock puppeting as defined below, I will note that in a follow up comment.

Sock puppeting for the purposes of this policy is creating a secondary identity to agree with your first posted comment. For instance, you come to Dear Author and comment as Anon1 “I believe grass is blue and this is the scientific evidence that proves grass is blue.” A number of comments disagree and you come back as ScientistA and say “I totally agree with Anon1.  She is so right that the grass is blue and all of the rest of you are wrong.”

Sock puppeting is determined by a) email addresses and/or b) IP address matches.

If the above example occurs, I will comment that I can tell Anon1 and ScientistA are posting from the same IP address. I will not reveal the email address or the specific IP address, observing the commenter’s anonymity.

Another thing that will not be tolerated is commenting several times using different handles.  This is a different, but just as irritating form of sock puppeting.  If you do this repeatedly, I will warn you privately.  If you continue to abuse this after a warning, I will interject in the comments that you are sock puppeting.

From the desk of the slightly irritated Jane

Jane Litte is the founder of Dear Author, a lawyer, and a lover of pencil skirts. She spends her downtime reading romances and writing about them. Her TBR pile is much larger than the one shown in the picture and not as pretty. You can reach Jane by email at jane @ dearauthor dot com

49 Comments

  1. Maili
    Mar 02, 2012 @ 15:17:17

    No more sockpuppeting? Aw. Look! –> P(‘_’)P <– my pretty sock puppets!

    Seriously, how often do commenters engage in sock puppet shows?

    ReplyReply

  2. Iliam
    Mar 02, 2012 @ 15:18:54

    @Maili: What she said. P(‘_’)P

    /silliness

    (I do feel stupid doing this, actually. How on earth did people do it without feeling so silly?)

    ReplyReply

  3. Laura Vivanco
    Mar 02, 2012 @ 15:35:26

    Maili/Iliam, would everybody’s sockpuppets show up with a duplicate gravatar icon the way yours did? Or did that just happen to you because you weren’t serious about your sockpuppeting?

    ReplyReply

  4. Danielle D
    Mar 02, 2012 @ 15:41:58

    I have to admit that I learned a new phrase today — sock puppeting. I never heard of it before.

    ReplyReply

  5. SonomaLass
    Mar 02, 2012 @ 15:42:59

    You go, Jane! It should be a fun game — I often read comments and wonder, “hmm, sock puppet?” and now I will get confirmation if I am right!

    Seriously, this is the right thing to do.

    ReplyReply

  6. Maili
    Mar 02, 2012 @ 15:43:13

    @Laura Vivanco: It didn’t occur to me to sort out the gravatar icon issue. I didn’t even notice I had one, in fact. I suspect this illustrates the difference between me and veteran sockpuppet masters, damn it.

    ReplyReply

  7. Estara
    Mar 02, 2012 @ 15:43:24

    @Laura Vivanco: If she still identified with the same e-mail it should show the same gravatar, I think… It does on C.J. Cherryh’s Wave without a Shore blog, for example.

    ReplyReply

  8. MaryK
    Mar 02, 2012 @ 15:51:10

    Can you do it retroactively? It would make some of the recent comment threads so much more interesting. (Kidding. About the retroactively bit.)

    ReplyReply

  9. HelenMac
    Mar 02, 2012 @ 15:56:11

    ROFL, Maili, I think you’re my favouritest sock puppeteer in the history of ever.

    Jane: sorry you’re having to do this.

    ReplyReply

  10. meoskop
    Mar 02, 2012 @ 16:02:38

    DA totally needs interns. Because I think MaryK should absolutely not be kidding. That would be epic.

    ReplyReply

  11. Sirius
    Mar 02, 2012 @ 16:04:47

    Would you believe that while I definitely heard the word sock puppeting I never understood how it works exactly. Thanks for explanation Jane :) (I am serious despite the smiley face). I mean, I think I thought that “sock puppeting” means several people coming to support each other arguing the same POV, I never realized that it means same person doing lol.

    ReplyReply

  12. Carolyn
    Mar 02, 2012 @ 16:10:03

    @Sirius: I didn’t either. Just goes to prove you’re never too old to learn. :-)

    ReplyReply

  13. Shiloh Walker
    Mar 02, 2012 @ 16:10:24

    Rock on, slightly irritated Jane. I dunno how you managed to not get irritated BEFORE this… eesh. People. Grow. Up.

    ReplyReply

  14. joanne
    Mar 02, 2012 @ 16:11:26

    @Sirius: Me too. I thought they had a clubhouse not that they lived in the same body. That’s even more disturbing, lol!

    ReplyReply

  15. Darlynne
    Mar 02, 2012 @ 17:46:11

    I have no words. It’s a verb! It’s a noun! Apparently it’s the latest in internet apparel for the terminally childish. My fuzzy slippers and jammies seem so frumpy now.

    ReplyReply

  16. Wahoo Suze
    Mar 02, 2012 @ 18:13:26

    Rock on, Jane! This seems to have been the week for people with a huge sense of entitlement to come out of the woodwork. I’m entitled to a job that someone else is better qualified for! I’m entitled to get into that class that I’m not eligible for! I’m entitled to a refund for this product that I didn’t even buy from you! I’m entitled to make decisions about how you have sex, even though I’m not in any way involved! I’m entitled to insult you in your own space! I’m entitled to go to ridiculous ends to get back on your blog after you banned me for not following the rules of common courtesy! People are really, really irking me this week, and you have all my sympathy, and my respect for dealing with all the shyte so calmly and reasonably.

    ReplyReply

  17. Sirius
    Mar 02, 2012 @ 18:13:31

    Okay I just realized that I have another but totally related question . I swear I am not trying to sound too naive, I guess I still somewhat am, so my inquiring mind needs to know. How does the first form of sockpuppetting that Jane described differs from second one? In both you clone yourself and pretend to be different people agreeing with each other, right? Or when you do the second part, you can also disagree with each other? Thanks.

    ReplyReply

  18. DS
    Mar 02, 2012 @ 18:27:59

    @Sirius: Oh, Sirius, I’ve seen whole threads that are mainly one person with several handles flaming each other and trying to lure in other posters.

    It’s easier here than on usenet or some of the social sites because you don’t have to log out and log back in as another account user. .

    ReplyReply

  19. Ridley
    Mar 02, 2012 @ 18:35:56

    Baby likes!

    ReplyReply

  20. Lucy Francis
    Mar 02, 2012 @ 19:29:58

    @DS: Seriously? Holy cow, do people have nothing better to do with their time?

    I’d suggest they need a hobby, but perhaps sock puppeting IS their hobby.

    Sorry that it’s spilled over to DA, but I’m glad Jane is confronting it head-on.

    ReplyReply

  21. Lori Green
    Mar 02, 2012 @ 19:31:04

    I think Ridley is really me but the part I never let out. Or maybe I’m Ridley and not really me at all. Or maybe it’s not too late to start drinking.

    ReplyReply

  22. Edward
    Mar 02, 2012 @ 19:43:32

    Jane, you ignorant slut! How dare you ruin my evil plan! Grrr, you have not heard the last from me. I will return in Cyber Wars Episode II: Attack of the Sockpuppets!

    LOL

    Kidding aside, I am surprised you have not outed the sockpuppets already. You have incredible patience and tolerance.

    ReplyReply

  23. Jane
    Mar 02, 2012 @ 20:02:40

    @Edward I don’t know. Usually I just privately vent about it but I guess I was just in a bad mood today and I was done with the shenanigans.

    ReplyReply

  24. Sirius
    Mar 02, 2012 @ 20:21:02

    DS please be patient with me for a little bit longer? :) My goodness I am getting an educational course in Internet craziness today that I did not receive during all the years I had been on it. That’s what can happen when one sticks to very limited Internet corner ( before I even got into mm romance debates, I was only a member of two Yahoo groupe for years – nothing else). So why do people play sock puppets? I mean I dont mean the obvious answer – they are engaging in wierd childish behavior, I get that. But is there a rational purpose for such behavior that I don’t see? Like pretending that you are winning the debate by numbers? But it is still not exactly ratio al because you ( the one who clones himself) knows that it is all farce. Anyway thank you :)

    ReplyReply

  25. theo
    Mar 02, 2012 @ 21:10:14

    I’d never even heard the term ‘sock puppeting’ in regards to comments on threads. It’s such a shame I had to learn it here. And what a non-life if that’s all someone has to do with their time.

    I do agree with Shiloh though. Jane, you have the patience of a saint! I can’t believe you haven’t blown up before about some of the stuff that goes on in the comments.

    You go, girl!

    ReplyReply

  26. nasanta
    Mar 02, 2012 @ 21:13:00

    @Iliam:

    Apparently, I am very oblivious to sock puppetry. I didn’t even realize that this was Maili until I read the comments below…

    But I have the same question. How do people sock puppet without feeling silly? Also, isn’t it like talking to yourself?

    ReplyReply

  27. Courtney Milan
    Mar 02, 2012 @ 21:42:57

    Jane, on the commenting with different handles thing: there are times when I think this serves a useful and legitimate function that is entirely separate from sock puppetry.

    For instance, one place where I think there may be a … need…? for it is on threads that deal with some industry news. There may be people who need to comment on a thread anonymously to share information without fear of reprisal. I’m particularly thinking of things like the Red Rose Publishing (or whatever it was called) debacle where people were getting threatened with breach of contract suits for violating nondisclosure agreements, but where there is substantial public interest in providing the information.

    There are also times when someone may wish to comment anonymously on a thread about something personal or sensitive. That person may regularly comment as part of the community, but may not want that comment attached to their real name (or regular handle). I’m particularly thinking of the user who commented on Smart Bitches once about the effect that reading J.D. Robb had on her being able to emotionally come to grips with her own abuse, but there are other times–many other times–this may come up.

    I hope that you’re going to continue to allow people to use different handles under circumstances such as the above. I think it would really chill a certain amount of expression if people believed that they’d get called out for posting something anonymously.

    ReplyReply

  28. Jane
    Mar 02, 2012 @ 21:46:41

    @Courtney Milan The policy is in place primarily to prevent people from using different handles from agreeing with each other which has happened and to prevent those who abuse the anonymity policy. As I said the latter situation would require several abuses and would receive a warning from me prior to any pointing it out.

    I do realize that anonymity is important in many contexts and I don’t intend to prohibit that nor do I really care that people comment anonymously. It is only irksome when commenters abuse it.

    Edited: I should add I rarely look at people’s IPs unless the posts are suspicious to me.

    ReplyReply

  29. Merrian
    Mar 02, 2012 @ 22:08:17

    @ Jane
    I think your two step strategy of speaking first with the dual-identity-folk AKA is a good one. While we have all seen the recent angry/crazy sock puppeting and know it needs to be managed the points Courtney raises are really important to consider as well.

    @ Sirius
    Friends and family can sock puppet on your behalf as well because they are often encouraged to speak a party-line in support of the author/situation.

    Amongst many things I am taken with in the long threads when new to DA posters arrive to comment (not just in the latest epic thread) is their tone. There are the men folk who come to school the little women, then there are the ones who don’t get either the history of this particular blog or of romancelandia generally and who seem to talk in parallel at DA readers because they miss the nuances and shared understandings.

    Through all of this it seems to me that the boundaries of a distinctive DA persona is defined as commenters, reviewers and Jane chime in/set a scope in response, defence, purpose or comment. That is DA is what it is through the actions and behaviours of a community. I actually think that community was on good show because with all the sock puppeting, trolling and differences of opinion it was a reasonably civil discourse. This is one of the things I really like about DA.

    ReplyReply

  30. Roslyn Holcomb
    Mar 02, 2012 @ 22:09:18

    A friend of mine has a blog where she doesn’t allow anonymous comments, but people sometimes talk about sensitive subjects and ask for advice. They usually contact her and tell her they want to use an anonymous name. I realize this might not work in all circumstances. Some people might not want Jane to know eho they are either.

    ReplyReply

  31. Ridley
    Mar 02, 2012 @ 22:28:52

    @Merrian:

    Amongst many things I am taken with in the long threads when new to DA posters arrive to comment (not just in the latest epic thread) is their tone.

    I try to troll the trolls, to be honest. I know a lot of people here and elsewhere aren’t quite as bold as I am, so I like to try to redirect the attentions of new posters who charge in thinking they’re going to get people to stop talking about some touchy subject. Better they get into a protracted flame war with me than to scare someone else off the thread.

    That’s the goal, anyway.

    ReplyReply

  32. Merrian
    Mar 02, 2012 @ 23:10:59

    @Ridley: And that’s how I take your good work. You are brave in a way that I am not. You are also funny and I think humour helps a lot in managing these threads.

    ReplyReply

  33. SAO
    Mar 02, 2012 @ 23:35:08

    What does the IP address mean? Would two computers in one house, sharing a router apply? Because my daughter reads DA. I don’t think she comments, but her opinions would be hers, and, at least sometimes, mirror mine. Since we share an overseas life, I could see her fervently concurring with my opinions on regional restrictions and wanting her voice heard.

    ReplyReply

  34. Limecello
    Mar 02, 2012 @ 23:56:35

    Ok – now see? Thank you Jane – this would be the perfect place for me to sockpuppet and try out my whole circus of sockpuppet names.
    I think the most fun part of it would be if anyone thinks it’s for real.

    If only I could be arsed to do it.

    ReplyReply

  35. MaryK
    Mar 02, 2012 @ 23:59:12

    @Sirius: It’s sometimes used as a bluff I think – “Give up now. We have you surrounded.” – when really, it’s just me, my right hand, and my left hand. I’m not great at detecting sockpuppets which is one reason I like this policy. Puppeting isn’t fair to honest commenters. If several people agree on something it starts to look like an idea with merit and it could just be one kook.

    ReplyReply

  36. Sleuth
    Mar 03, 2012 @ 00:40:00

    When I was in high school, that happened to me and my mum on a religious forum. We were both posting from the same computer. Someone accused her of sock-puppeting (not in those words, but it’s clear she “knew” we were the same person). Ahaha. :)

    ReplyReply

  37. Jane
    Mar 03, 2012 @ 00:42:04

    @Sleuth and @SAO: Generally speaking, regulars don’t engage in sock puppetry. Generally. And again, I am looking for abuses not two people from the same IP making sincere (even if they are joking) contributions.

    ReplyReply

  38. Sleuth
    Mar 03, 2012 @ 00:56:49

    Oh, I’m not worried. I’m the only one with this IP on this website. I just thought it was funny.

    ReplyReply

  39. Michelle
    Mar 03, 2012 @ 06:44:28

    You mean it wasn’t a compliment when we were all called Harpies? It does seem rather obvious that a rallying cry must have gone out when an influx comes in, all stating in varying degrees: mean girls, the slander/libel confusion, and you have an agenda against varying publishers, and no its not plagiarism-you iz wrong.

    I think Jane needs to find a LOL cat picture stating “slander is spoken dumbass”

    ReplyReply

  40. Sirius
    Mar 03, 2012 @ 22:20:32

    Merrian, thank you, so I guess my first partial understanding of what sock puppeteering is was half correct – it could be other people rallying to support you as well, not just you supporting yourself :).

    MaryK, thank you as well :)

    ReplyReply

  41. Darlynne
    Mar 03, 2012 @ 22:21:03

    Ridley, how about an “I slayed 600″ medallion or notation to your gravatar? Or “Troll Slayer?” ‘Cause I think that milestone needs to be memorialized for all to see. You rock.

    ReplyReply

  42. Mary G
    Mar 03, 2012 @ 22:22:25

    In the words of John McEnroe – You Cannot Be Serious! I can’t believe people try to sneak in that way knowing the IP address is visible to you. Good on you Jane.

    ReplyReply

  43. Merrian
    Mar 03, 2012 @ 22:23:40

    @Sirius: The ones rallying are usually part of a planned response you can tell from the phrases they use and points raised being similar – it is that sense of organisation that makes them sock puppets.

    ReplyReply

  44. Mireya
    Mar 04, 2012 @ 12:15:36

    @Mary G: Actually a LOT of people don’t even know what an IP is, there are still lots of people that only know how to turn on their computers, open up a browser … and that’s pretty much it. Additionally, sock puppet fans usually react without stopping to think first. It’s not the same as being a plain “trololos” whose only aim in life is to try and screw around for shits and giggles.

    ReplyReply

  45. Author on Vacation
    Mar 04, 2012 @ 12:15:43

    I think this is an excellent idea.

    ReplyReply

  46. B. Sullivan
    Mar 04, 2012 @ 18:25:16

    Why do people sockpuppet? It is weird – online it’s mostly so they can support their own cause without admitting they have a vested interest.

    Example time! On the forum MetaFilter Scott Adams, the guy who creates Dilbert, did this.
    http://www.metafilter.com/102472/How-to-Get-a-Real-Education-by-Scott-Adams
    It’s long, so here’s the link where the community linked to media coverage of Adams’ comments and how he was outed. Some people felt it was extremely unethical to out Scott’s anonymous comments, but the moderators (there are about 4-5 and it’s a full time job to moderate comments and threads) had corresponded with him behind the scenes until he came out and admitted he was sockpuppeting. Obviously (from how I’m presenting this) I agree with the moderators, because I feel that Adams wasn’t being up front with his comments, and was obviously getting his snark on in the annoying way that people do when they’re safely anonymous.

    To me it’s all about background. If someone says they’re completely impartial and states something but they actually have a vested interest to get a certain point across – well, that’s important in being able to judge how you, personally, are going to take that information and judge its merit. Knowing the background – like it’s the author of a creation telling you how excellent the creation is and how silly you are to disagree – well, sometimes context is extremely important. Actually more often than sometimes.

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  47. B. Sullivan
    Mar 04, 2012 @ 18:31:14

    So I said here’s the second link but didn’t paste it, sorry:
    http://metatalk.metafilter.com/20558/UnplannedChaos

    ReplyReply

  48. Joanna K.
    Mar 04, 2012 @ 20:09:58

    I have no issues whatsoever with this change :)

    It is DearAuthor’s site, so what you want to implement should be up to you ladies (and gents?John?) here.

    ReplyReply

  49. Patrice
    Mar 05, 2012 @ 11:18:23

    Huh. Learn something every day. Sock puppet shennanigans. Wow. Absurd. It could be a drinking game. Like on awards shows when Melissa McCarthy & another actress from Bridesmaids heard “Scorcese” and chugged a shot every time. “Sock Puppets” DRINK! lol After all it is St Patricks Day soon.

    ReplyReply

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