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You and Your Socks

Sannse March 16, 2016 User blog:Sannse Google

Allow me to introduce to you User:Sanns sock. She's a pleasant enough sort of user, not very active on Wikia, but she's been around for a while. She's useful when something goes wrong and there's a need for some non-staff testing.

Then there's User:Sanns bot. She's retired now, but used to do some work around Wikia every now and then. Just routine spelling corrections and other simple changes.

There's also User:A user name with spaces, User:Sannsetestingagainandagain and, for some reason, User:APrettyPinkPotofPreciousPetunias.

As you might have guessed, these are just some of the accounts I've made on Wikia over the years, my "sockpuppets". Most of them were made to test various features and verify bugs. Although, as an old Uncyclopedian, there are probably a couple of joke accounts in there somewhere.

Which brings us to the question: when is it okay to have more than one account, and when is it a problem?

The main question to ask yourself is, are you making another account for a good reason. That reason might be as simple as "I want to be a different name for a while". But what it shouldn't be is deceptive or malicious.

Some good reasons I have seen include:

  • Wanting to make a new start (but see below for more on socking while blocked)
  • Wanting a new name but your current account has already been renamed once.
  • Having different accounts for different wikias. For example, you might not want an account with a My Little Pony themed name to be the account you use on a wikia with a very serious topic.
  • Having an account (or several) for a role-playing wikia, with names reflecting the characters you are playing.
  • Having an account to edit a wikia where you want some general privacy. Perhaps a wikia about a condition that affects you or a topic that you have private reasons to care about.
  • Needing to test something on your wikia. For example making sure your CSS looks right to non-admin users too.

But, of course, there are bad uses of sockpuppets too. The examples below aren't the only ways to misuse multiple accounts, but they are the ones we see most.

Probably the most common of all, is to evade blocks. It's understandable really, you are blocked from a wikia (or even globally). You think that block is unfair or mistaken, so you want to talk to the blocker about it. So what seems more obvious than making a new account that's not blocked to challenge the ban?

Of course, that's not the right way to go about it. It's understandable that you want to talk to the admin or staffer who has blocked you. But it's like breaking back into a house to explain that you really didn't mean to trespass.

So instead, have a read of one of my past blogs: How to Get Unblocked. You are much more likely to be successful following those suggestions than making a sock. Socking is more likely to increase your ban!

The other reason people sometimes make a new account when blocked, is that they think that it's the account that's blocked, rather than them. So they simply make a new account, and carry on where they left off. Of course, blocking doesn't just mean your account is blocked, it means you, the person at the keyboard, are not allowed on that wikia - not with any account, or even without an account.

Then there are socks that are used to deceive others into thinking they are two people. I've seen accounts owned by the same person talking to each other, agreeing with each other's ideas, even voting for each other in admin elections! Of course, When I say "each other" I really mean "themselves". This is not an ethical use of multiple accounts.

I've also seen people who have a "good" account and a "bad" account. They edit well with one, and may have a good reputation in the community. But all the while they are causing problems with the other. Sometimes they even vandalize with one account, and clean up with the other. Of course, what we are really looking at isn't a good and a bad account, but one person who is behaving badly and deceiving the community. That's a nasty situation that always deserves a ban - for all their accounts.

Jokes with sockpuppet accounts are a tricky area. Sometimes they are harmless and fun, but they are very easily misunderstood. People playing all the nasty tricks above have been known to claim they were "only joking", so it's easy for people to be suspicious. I'd say the key is in having a good intent, not trying to gain anything, and only joking with people who know you well. Overall, if it's a cruel or mean joke, then it'll quite likely cause problems. If it's a light comment that is clearly not meant to deceive, it's more likely to go well. My favorite example is when User:Santa Claus gave me some socks :)

One thing to remember is that each community may have its own rules about sockpuppet accounts. In some cases, even a totally well-intentioned second account can be considered a problem. So if you are using more than one account for any reason, check the wikia’s rules and policies first.

I hope this has made a tricky topic a bit clearer. Please ask any questions below, or share your experiences with the good and bad of sockpuppet accounts.

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