A sockpuppet is an online identity used for purposes of deception within an Internet community. In its earliest usage, a sockpuppet was a false identity through which a member of an Internet community speaks while pretending not to, like a puppeteer manipulating a hand puppet.
In current usage, the perception of the term has been extended beyond second identities of people who already post in a forum to include other uses of misleading online identities. For example, a NY Times article claims that "sock-puppeting" is defined as "the act of creating a fake online identity to praise, defend or create the illusion of support for one’s self, allies or company."
The key difference between a sockpuppet and a regular pseudonym is the active exploitation of the pretense that the puppet is a third party who is not affiliated with the puppeteer.
I was an early member of Kimkins (June 2006) but soon lost interest and didn't return to the board until the controversy started in July 2007. I immediately was surprised by the large number of "success in progress" stories that seemed unbelievable. The more I read, the more unbelievable it became.
Unbelievable is really the keyword here. Yes, I know that you see huge, quick losses on a low carb diet in the beginning, especially if the starting weight is high. But these people were happily posting for weeks while they survived on 400 - 500 calories, never had a stall, never had any problems sticking to the diet, never had craving, never were hungry, never complained about not feeling well. Unbelievable. I have been posting daily on lowcarb boards for 4 years, and I have never seen anything like it.
These posters also lacked personality. They were just reporting on their menu, their weight loss and how happy they were with the diet. Again, a characteristic I did not recognize from other boards where you get to know your fellow posters pretty quickly, or at least get some sense of the person behind the keyboard.
I'm sure the majority of these successful posters were Kimmer sockpuppets. Her admins at the time of the big inrush of new members when the WW magazine came out report that Kimmer hardly posted at the time. I think she did, just not using the name Kimmer. She was busy inventing fictional characters and posting as all these sockpuppets that created a happy and positive atmosphere.
I can just imagine how the members felt about themselves when they read those posts with their shiny lies -- "Other people are doing so well, what's wrong with me? I need to try harder, I need to eat less, I must be the only one who's failing, or the only one who's feeling so ill..."
I'm not sure the use of sockpuppets constitute fraud in the legal sense, but it is certainly unethical. Kimmer is using sockpuppets to promote her business, for her own gain.
In addition to the success stories, there recently has been a large number of a different type of sockpuppets. These are "newbies", not all new members but all with few posts. They seem to be used as "fillers" to promote the sense of more active members on the site. They are characterized by either having a generic avatar or a distorted one, similar to this:
Now, this could be due to technical difficulties, similar to what Tippy Toes once had:
Well we are having some kind of tech problem. Don't laugh but I had changed my avitor from the bikini pic to one in a black dress. This morning when I logged on the pic was all stretched out like a fun mirror at the circus. I looked like I gained all 112 lbs back overnight, RFLMAO! Now I have this flower till I figure out what happened. Still laughing!
This is a weight loss board. Would you post a picture that shows you a lot heavier than you are? Tippy didn't. She replaced the picture until tech support had helped her post it so it showed up in right proportions. So why are these distorted avatars so common on Kimkins? It's obvious that they originally were 3x5 pictures that got posted as 5x5. Here is the original of the above picture:
Is Kimmer starting to be sloppy? Doesn't care anymore to keep up appearances? The remaining members don't care, or all they all sockpuppets? I think it's a combination of all of these.