It was brought to my attention over the weekend that a new mysterious and rather vigorous commenter on BoycottNovell was doing the "perception management" rounds. Intrigued, I ran a few of his posts through one of my Slashdot acquaintances that have a more intimate knowledge of his posting patterns and what do you know, it seems we have a good match.
Background, of course ¶
For those who are not familiar with this unique phenomena, William Hill started out doing some rather nasty  "advocacy" on Slashdot many years ago using the handle "twitter" (no relation to the microblogging service). Eventually the community got fed up with him, sending his two main accounts (as in you know, you gotta have two accounts) down to the karma doldrums, which he promptly blamed on "M$" and black helicopters. His response was to organize a 16+ sockpuppet shilling feast, at which he failed completely, becoming the funniest meme since "FIRST POST" on Taco's turf, and even transcending Slashdot itself.  Eventually laughed out of there (and a few other places, including the Baton Rouge LUG for posting things like these), Hill then skidded — perhaps predictably — right into the only place where he could pour his grief out and find a few like-minded extremists like him, and he's been there ever since, helping Schestowitz out with perception management.
One has to wonder what propels people like Hill into spiraling down this kind of self-destructive vicious cycle. Hill is apparently so far gone that he believes Microsoft threatens his life, he thinks riding on the same train as Microsoft employees must be "sickening", that people in Seattle are "confrontational" (because, you know, that's where Microsoft is at), recounts how he went into an Apple store to demand they make "GNU/Linux" run on their hardware, calls 11-year old kids "paytards" because they happen to use Microsoft software... Is this FOSS advocacy? Is this the kind of person the FSF wants out there making their points for them? I mean, seriously?
It's irritating that M$ perpetuates the "on line predator" myth after studies have conclusively show it's bullshit except for bullying, which M$ knows all about.
And this jewel:
... "all non-free software, regardless of quality, is immoral"
Hill is disliked even among Schestowitz' friends, some of whom he has repeatedly attacked for not being "pure" enough.  And when his shenanigans come up, he tends to get defensive — hilariously even whining when they suggest that perhaps his OCD-like use of the "M$" thing is counter-productive at best and possibly the reason his submissions to Slashdot are rarely accepted, and have to be edited when they are. In response to that Hill claims the Slashdot editors are "tamed", of all things.  He has "ignored" so many people so many times (isn't that funny?) there that eventually he'll end up talking to himself and Schestowitz.
All this predictably came to a head last October 15th, when during the course of a FLOSS Weekly program where Jono Bacon interviewed Schestowitz, the matter of massive spamming on behalf of BoycottNovell came up, along with poor twitter:
"... a guy with 16 accounts that used to troll Slashdot and hangs out on your IRC channel"
Four days later Hill comes into Schestowitz' IRC channel and lets it rip:
Hi, jono ... I saw where you called me a spammer ... Fuck you.
The rest of that conversation is bizarre at best. To quote a comment here:
Fascinating. "twitter" goes apeshit and demands an apology from Jono for Jono's not having accused him of what he already admitted to. The mind boggles.
In reality though, I believe (and this is just my opinion of course) that Hill was essentially engaging in damage control vis-a-vis being associated with Schestowitz. Eventually I suppose these things do come back to bite you in the ass.
And getting to the point ¶
So anyway, someone alerted me to this brand-new but seemingly well-informed poster on BoycottNovell that goes by the handle your_friend. According to my secret contact , the probability that Hill is behind those posts is very high. Quoting (with permission, thanks!) from the response to my email, which referred to comments I copied from here as well as this one:
From: [edited]<[edited]@gmail.com> To: Verofakto Blog <firstname.lastname@example.org> Subject: Re: Second opinion needed Date: Sat, 24 Oct 2009 23:33:13 -0800 [my snippage] There's no science to this, really, though maybe I just think it's easy because [edited] also made it look easy. The "cadence" of people's comments rarely change. That pattern of Halting. Phraeses. Separated. By. Periods. is easy enough to spot, and if you add the usual hyperbole claims [snip] Key phrases like "intentional waste", "non-free software", "name calling", "big dumb companies", "malicious" and consistent misspellings like "coppies", "dissasters" [snip] and the constant butchering of it's/its are usually dead givaways as long as they show up consistently. That's how all his [Slashdot] sockpuppets were identified. [snippage] Here's one: "It is a toy at best and a malicious spy at it's worst." [comment is on the first link] It's/its as usual. You would need ideally a few more posts but I'm pretty sure that's [him]. Again, it's the *totality* of the thing :) [snip] ROFL, but you'll know for sure when he slips up and actually types "M$" inst ead of "Microsoft". He used to do that with new socks and eventually he would give it up. I think he feels personally diminished somehow whenever he uses the correct name.
More importantly, if that is indeed him, he is now engaged in arguing with people who are defending themselves from attacks by Schestowitz, a pattern that has been seen many times before.
I loathe nymshifters! ¶
The question here, I think, would be whether or not this is being done with some kind of blessing by Schestowitz. I find it hard to believe that he would pay so much attention to certain accounts that are troublesome to him and must be monitored and eliminated, yet he would manage to completely miss this new and mysterious one. Is there an agreement whereby Hill adopts yet another identity now that he's managed to insult pretty much everyone in sight and embarrass Schestowitz? And if that's the case then why is he even allowed to post?
I'm not counting on Schestowitz to respond to this of course, that's not the point. But perhaps someone among his crowd of regulars can bring up the topic and ask if, since he has the IP address and email for that account, Hill, twitter and your_friend are the same person. I could even go into a formal corpus comparison between Hill's known accounts and this fresh new identity if need be.
Because, after all, Schestowitz has claimed time and time again that these "nymshifters" have damaged him beyond repair... wouldn't it make sense to apply the same moral standards to his crew? §
- ^ See also this. There are thousands more like those.
- ^ See this or this for example. There are a few more on that SockDisclosure article.
- ^ Comment by "Will Hill", look at the URL he used.
- ^ Not only in the sticky Uriah Heep sense, but collaboration-wise as well: , , , , , . Here for example we see some of his wisdom quoted, as here and here. Schestowitz even delegates some of the clever GIMP'ing to his pal.
- ^ It's a long and boring read, but see the threads here, here, here, here, here and many, many others. The overriding theme in all these is if you suggest that GNU/Linux and free software and Richard Stallman are anything other than perfect, you must be employed by Microsoft and you should burn.
- ^ In an amusing twist, Schestowitz quotes Hill's musings on IRC liberally in this article, yet also manages to replace all the instances of "M$" with "Microsoft". Should one assume then that Schestowitz has also been tamed?
- ^ God, I'm so funny (see crossed-out text there).