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Successful Sockpuppetry: A Practical Guide
Successful Sockpuppetry: A Practical Guide
The Apple Dopplin' Gang
Published by The Apple Dopplin' Gang
01-07-2007
Default Strategies for Consistency and Continuity


Strategies for Consistency and Continuity

Continuity is, in a way, a thankless task: nobody notices it when it’s successfully accomplished (how many times have you read a movie review that praises a film’s fantastic continuity?), but when it’s lacking, it often stands out like a glowing neon sign. Even worse, all it takes is one person to notice a gap. Then that person tells others, often in a public post, and the whole game is off. This can be obvious, such as starting a character out as a married man and suddenly making a post as an unmarried female, or forgetting what city you claimed to be from. There are other, subtler errors, such as objecting to someone’s use of profanity and later making a post with the word “fuck” in it. Sure, maybe your character is just a hypocrite, but if so, then deliberately make the character consistently hypocritical, rather than allowing the hypocrisy to creep in haphazardly.

Biography. Even before you register the account, you should have some idea of who the character is. Some outlining is advisable, and the same principles that apply to good writing apply to sockpuppetry. One principle that I’ve found quite useful is depth of background: the character should have more background than you actually reveal. That way, you run less risk of appearing to make it up as you go along, and the character looks more like a real person than a cardboard cut-out. What sex is the character? What age, race, religion? Where does he/she live? What does his/her family look like? What is important to the character, and what is not? What makes him/her angry, and what would make him/her laugh?

Voice. A consistent “voice” is probably the most difficult aspect to incorporate into a sock-puppet, and is one of the hallmarks of a truly well-formed character. Even with a consistent biography, a sock-puppet can often be ferreted out because he/she has a posting style that’s identical to someone else’s. Not everyone will notice, but if you post from two accounts enough, someone will. Decide whether he will be curt and abrupt, or loquacious. Perhaps your character is a poor speller, or has bad grammar. Perhaps he tends to be redundant, or preachy, or self-important. The Voice is particularly important for the next technique.

Differentiation: If you have one primary account that is essentially “you,” it will be useful to make some deliberate choices on how the sock-puppet differs from you. This requires that you engage in some self-examination. Go back and reread your posts, and try to make an honest assessment of your posting style. Then, make a conscious effort to post as your character in a different manner. Do you constantly use curse words? Consider making your sock-puppet more prudish – either don’t let it swear at all, or consistently censor its swearing: “f***,” “sh*t,” “s*mpr*ni,” etc. Do you use “lazy” formatting techniques, such as using *asterisks* to emphasize words, or perhaps ALL CAPS? Then let the sock-puppet be more diligent, always using formatting code. These are fairly obvious examples of the differentiation technique. If you can draw subtler distinctions, you will make the subterfuge much more difficult to detect. As I mentioned under Voice, if you tend toward being wordy, you might make a careful effort toward making your alter-ego more abrupt. Obviously, some idiosyncrasies of posting style and voice are more difficult to overcome (and notice) than others. If you can’t deconstruct it, move on to aspects that you can.

Another trick of differentiation is username choice. The name I’ve chosen here is too obvious for most uses, other than the one-off I’ve employed, or perhaps for a Guess Who game. Obviously, the username is part of the planning/biography process, and the character should dictate a suitable name. One way to differentiate is to use opposing styles: one using capitals and spacing, mimicking a first and last name (“Jack Sprat”), the other using no capitals or spaces (“georgieporgie”); or, one using spacing, the other using underscores (jack sprat vs. georgie_porgie). I’ve noticed that most users tend to pick the same naming style every time, so this could be an effective differentiation technique. I haven’t used it much myself, preferring to rely upon purely character-driven naming.

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