“I have to say that he was the best professor that I ever had.”
– “Mary Rosh” on John Lott
I don’t have a problem in principle with nyms, but sock puppets are another matter. I think it’s quite acceptable to post arguments and information anonymously when the material does not depend on the identity of the poster. Personally I don’t do it; I don’t conceal my identity online. I have kept private the identity of three contributors to No Treason whose identities I know. (One of these is no longer with NT, the other two have not been active recently.) I’ve also honored the request of an identified contributor to remove his real name from the site. There is an anonymous poster on Usenet I’ve invited to join No Treason whose identity I don’t know at all, and I wouldn’t require him to divulge his identity to me as a condition for posting here.
No conflict of interest issue has ever arisen, the identities of these writers has never been relevant to their contributions at NT.
John Lott on the other hand has made a fool of himself by using a sock puppet to back himself up on the net. It doesn’t invalidate legitimate work he’s done, but obviously this is an embarrassment that will follow him for years. His judgment was just terrible and it hasn’t gotten a whole lot better since the story broke. For instance his son posted on Amazon a review of his book using the Mary Rosh sock puppet ID:
He said his son wrote it, with some help from his wife. “They told me they had done it. They showed it to me. I wasn’t going to tell them not to do it. Should I have?”
Earth To Lott: Did it occur to you to suggest that your son publish his review under his name? That does seem a tad relevant to his judgment of your book. If you had made such a suggestion it might have occurred to both of you what a silly idea it was to post such a review in the first place. If he wanted to go ahead and post it under his own name that would be fine, but yes Mr. Lott, you should certainly have advised him not to publish it via a sock puppet! By not doing so you’ve managed to draw your family into an embarrassing spectacle of your own making.