Thursday, May 19, 2011

The Cheater's Guide to Winning Online Arguments

"Let's say you're having a conversation with some guy in a chat room. You're talking about something totally innocuous, like let's say, your favorite homemade enema recipes. But throughout this entire conversation, you've got no way of knowing whether you're talking to some old dude in a basement or a Tibetan monk or a room of third graders learning computer skills. This is just basic Internet anonymity, and we're usually pretty comfortable with it. And indeed, about 95 percent of the Internet hinges upon it. But what if you're talking with someone you already know, who's hiding their identity? That feels a little weird, doesn't it? Is this person using a second persona -- called a sock puppet -- to further some secret agenda of theirs? There's something a bit seedy about that. It's an act we're much less likely to condone.

"Wait," I hear you saying. "I have agendas! And I don't have any sock puppets at all! Help me Bucholz! Please, help show me what sock puppets can be used for, and also, if you can, please use this staged dialog to segue neatly into the body of your column."

Well. All right. Since you asked so nicely ..." ...continued: