Well, through no fault of my own, I have found myself in the middle of the Huppenthal maelstrom. I've been getting a lot of off line questions about his comments on my site and about anonymous comments generally. First, let me say that I had no idea that Falcon9 was Huppenthal. Second, it's considered poor form to identify anonymous commenters. So even if I had figured it out, I wouldn't have identified him. Third....yes, I have a lot of information from the administrative side of the blog. So even though people use fake names and fake email addresses, I can sort them by IP address--and I often do.
Most large businesses have the same IP address. That's how they busted Huppenthal. I presume that they got a comment that they knew was from the Department of Education, (either from Huppenthal or not) and then they sorted by that IP address and got Falcon9. That's actually pretty easy.
Let me show you how it works using the Arizona Republic's IP address as an example.
First, I have to start by figuring out the Republic's IP address. Fortunately, several reporters have posted comments on Espresso Pundit from work while using their real names. That's completely honest and legitimate and I welcome the input. For example, I wrote a post about an article that Daniel Gonzalez wrote about African American candidates and Gonzalez commented.
When I click on the IP address that Gonzalez used, I get a list that includes all the comments from Republic Reporters who have commented on my site from that IP address. Those comments are here.
Most of those comments include the name of the Reporter, but many of them are anonymous. I've known for years that I had reporters making anonymous comments on my site. I'm fine with that.
So we know that "Guy" "CJ" "Jdleslie1" "Another Trib Guy" and "nicetry" are commenting from the Arizona Republic. Some of them might not consider this to be anonymous. For example, "editor" left the email address "PhxEditor@yahoo.com" CJ is email@example.com Guy is "firstname.lastname@example.org" nicetry left an obvious fake address "email@example.com" Jdleslie and Jdleslie1 are "firstname.lastname@example.org"
Those may be real email addresses and "Jdleslie" may be the full name of someone whom I simply don't know. Again, I don't have a problem with anonymous comments, so I only police them for profanity and defamation of private individuals.
The next step is more interesting. Just like Huppenthal stuck with "Falcon9" the Republic commenters used the same alias from other IP addresses. That means that I can now search by name. So if I click on "Editor" I can see all of his or her comments...many of which were made from another IP address which I presume is home. Here are the other comments from "Editor."
Here are the other comments from "jdleslie1" Download "Jdleslie1 said"
And here are his/her comments as "jdleslie" (without the "1" on the end.) Download Jdleslie said
Here are all of "CJ" comments. Download CJ said
Here are all of the "guy" comments. Download Guy said
OK, pay attention, because here is where it gets fun. Oftentimes one person has a several aliases. So the next step is to click on the IP address of a Republic Employee who is now at home....and like magic, all of the postings from that address show up and we have all the other aliases (or he has gone to another place that also has a lot of people who comment, but that would seem to be a bit strange.)
So, using "guy" as an example, I get all these aliases Download Guy said from home
In another interesting twist, "guy" and "editor" also share an IP address that's not at the Republic. Download Editor and Guy are the same Now it's possible that this is the starbucks next to the Republic and they both blog from there, or it could be the press room at the capitol and they both work there, or they could be the same person. So if "editor" gave his real email address above, and if there's a good chance that he or she is also not only "guy" but all the other aliases that "guy" uses--well, then we know who all those people are too.
That's how they caught Huppenthal. The next step is to look for writing style. Do "guy" "editor" "jack" and "cathy" share the same writing style as well as occasionally use the same non-Republic IP address? If so, and if "Editor" left his correct email address then we know who they are.
None of this matters to me. I don't care how much time Republic employees spend commenting on my site. I also have no idea what the Republic's policy is about anonymous comments. So just as I didn't bother to trace Huppenthal, I don't really care who jdleslie, CJ or Guy are.
But I bet Huppenthal is looking for something to do late at night. Maybe he will want to follow up.
(Speaking of comments, I'm going to leave them open for a little while in case you guys want to compare notes.)