When I was on iLounge I found a new word, “astroturfing”. I sort of thought I knew what it meant, but didn’t look it up. Whatever it was, it was forbidden in the discussion areas. While doing some research on different iPod battery packs, I found one that had glowing reviews on iLounge. But a closer look revealed the person had only made one comment on iLounge ever. While reading some other sites, I found a very similar review. In fact it had exactly the same misspelling in it. I thought this must be astroturfing. But, according to Wikipedia what I was seeing was shilling, where a person claiming to be independent of the company pretends to be a satisfied customer. This technique is used in street cons like 3-card Monty and other places.
Astroturfing is when someone poses as multiple people who discuss the great qualities of some product trying to make it look like it has great grass roots support, when everything is fake (fake grass!). Wikipedia had a great example of this from the Iraq war in 2003 where a number of soldiers had written letters to the editor of their hometown papers saying how great everything was going in the war and how the media distorted everything. Apparently a number of these letters made it into newspapers before an editor who had gotten the same letter from two different people started poking around. A few quick Google searches turned up the exact same letter in other newspapers. In the end it all came down to an ambitious Lt. Colonel in the army who wanted to drum up support for the war.