sockpuppeting

And Yet More Sockpuppets Outed…

And now for more on sockpuppets. It’s dismal, I know. I don’t even want to comment much about it because I get such a sick feeling in my gut when I think about authors…or people…doing things like this. So I’ll concentrate more on the link I found.

According to this link, what I’ve been saying about sockpuppeting and Internet fraud all along is now coming true.

The fakery often does not stop at Amazon book reviews. Accounts sometimes are created to modify Wikipedia entries – either the author’s, in order to make it more effusive, or other authors’, to slam their work. Forums find themselves submerged with threads raving about certain books, while others are inundated in insults about competitors. But all of these methods are being exposed with ever-increasing regularity.

I honestly didn’t realize wikipedia entries were being abused. But frankly, I have wondered how some not so famous authors have wiki pages and they don’t seem to have done anything important enough to warrant them. It’s like this endless aggressive push for self-promotion is getting so out of hand, and so obnoxious it’s turning people off more than it’s helping. And yet they have such thick blinders “they” don’t see this themselves. And, more and more are going to be exposed in time. It just stands to reason.

This part about author Stephen Leather is where is really gets dismal:

“The second controversy arose when Leather admitted, on stage, to creating online fake identities to promote, talk about, and praise his own books. He even admitted to arranging discussions between these different personas to make the whole thing look a little more genuine.”

Of course we’re hearing a lot about this happening with authors because it’s still too soon for the mainstream to understand that a lot of what they read online may have been planted by fake accounts and sockpuppets. I have one good friend who will often e-mail me with political information and ask me to find out if it’s true before she sends it out to her friends. In other words, I don’t think this nasty business is isolated to the publishing world. I think it’s everywhere, and all online businesses, from auto repair shops to furniture design, are becoming subjected to it.

And my prediction for the future stands as is. This is going to continue, these people are going to be exposed eventually, and I think we’ll be seeing more legal issues arise where people will start to be prosecuted. I posted about one guy a few weeks ago who began an online campaign to defame his peers with e-mails…by accusing them of being pedophiles no less. He not only got caught, but is being prosecuted as well. I’m hoping things like this start to set an example for others who are doing it.

You can read more about the Stephen Leather issues here. It’s a fascinating post that really explains it far better than I can.

For those who think I’m not right about the future, check out this web site that is designed to help people manage their online reputations. A lot of reputations have been damaged because of sockpuppets (and nasty bloggers) and people are becoming aware of how important it is to have a good online reputation. We’ll be seeing more of these web sites in the future as well.

For Five Bucks She’ll Comment on your Blog Up to Twenty Times…

I’ve posted about fiver.com before. It’s that web site where people will do basically anything for five bucks.I have read that you can hire them to write book reviews for you on Amazon (some actually do read the books from what I’ve heard) in order to boost your sales. While I’ve never done anything like this, and never will do anything like this, I do think it’s an interesting thing to know…that all reviews might not be reliable. Anyone could argue that the person who left the review actually read the book. The problem is how do we know the person really liked the book, and for that matter how to we know the person really did read the book. You can blame that on living all my life in either the NY area or the Philadelphia area. We aren’t the most trusting people. And the Internet is a breeding ground for all things questionable.

And now I see bloggers can actually hire people to comment on their blogs:

I will comment on your blog posts in any way that you want as long as the limit will be 200 words. You could have 10 comments in 20 words or whatsoever. The comments that you will get won’t appear spammy and they will certainly be related to the topic of your blog post. I will also cater to those who are looking to boost their forum’s posts.

So what this seems to be saying is the person offering this blog comment service will not only be leaving questionable comments, but they will also be sockpuppeting on your comment thread. It’s not the first time I’ve seen sockpuppeting, but it’s the first time I’ve ever seen anyone admit to it without a hint of shame. It’s not something I’ve ever thought of doing, not in the seven years I’ve been blogging. And now I’m starting to wonder if people actually do things like this on blogs.

Unfortunately, this all leads back to one basic rule of the Internet: never trust anything you read unless there is a reliable source willing to back it up because the chances are it’s false. I allow anonymous comments here on this blog because I do think there are times when people need to comment anonymously for various reasons. Some of my past posts on book pirating are good examples. The reasons for anonymity in some cases are valid. But I also have comment moderation on at all times, if you notice, and there’s a reason for that. I’ve had everything from nasty comments to death threats. And while I can take those things fairly well (I’m a very strong person) I would rather not subject my readers to things like that.

So if you’re interested in taking sockpuppeting to new levels you can check out fiver. I’m not linking for two reasons: one, I’m not going to help promote anyone who does this. Two, I’m not sure I’ll ever be able to read a comment thread again without wondering whether or not the blogger did something like this. And that’s sad.

But until there are rules for things like this on the Internet, and I’m including Amazon and all web sites with all products where people leave personal opinions that can’t be backed up, it’s hard to take anything seriously anymore. Just imagine how nice life would be if we knew, for certain, that every single review/comment we ever saw on Amazon or any web site could be backed by a name and an identity. Or if every single comment we saw on a blog comment thread was legit and could be backed up with a name and identity. But then I also wonder how many comments and reviews would magically disappear from the Internet never to be seen again. I could be wrong. But it would be interesting to find out.

Tomorrow I’ll post something about web sites where I do think reviews and comments can be trusted…at least trusted more in the sense that they look real.

A Word of Advice for Authors…

Of course I can’t tell anyone what to do. And I’m not trying to do this in this post. I’m just stating what I do, and how I deal with my own personal accounts.

I’ve seen more than a few blog posts and articles about disgruntled authors going off the deep end and ranting about bad reviews. It seems to be happening more and more these days in all genres. And the only thing these rants really do is provide fodder for snarky, ambitious bloggers who will do anything to get more hits and comments.

But sometimes, as Lucy and Ethel as these bloggers are, they do have a point. Ranting diminishes all authors, it provides perverse entertainment, and it takes the fun out of reading and reviewing for readers. And I hate to see that happen to readers. I also do believe that most reviews are authentic, good or bad.

I know there is a certain amount of subterfuge in reviewing these days in all directions. It’s the way things are set up now. But that’s not what this post is about. There’s no viable way to stop the subterfuge, especially by ranting.

Authors need to be aware of ethics, like all professionals in every walk of life. The way I do it is to NOT have multiple accounts on goodreads or amazon, or anywhere else. I have one Amazon account I use for everything, with “Ryan Field.” I have one Goodreads account I use for everything, with “Ryan Field.”

This way when I leave a review or a rating it can be traced back to me and I have nothing to worry about. No one can accuse me of sockpuppeting or faking reviews, and it gives me peace of mind to know that I can prove this beyond a reasonable doubt. My goal as an author is to write, not play games. I hope people will like what I write, but I also know I’m not going to be loved by everyone. And there’s nothing wrong with that.

So think ethics, not emotion. Don’t sockpuppet or maintain multiple accounts anywhere. The next time you feel the urge to rant write an e-mail, send it to yourself, and read it the next day before you do anything in public. I can promise you that what you wrote in the e-mail the day before will be something you’ll be glad you kept to yourself.