Astroturfing is the new advertising. These days, information and opinions are bartered in public fora, such as Slashdot. Large companies such as Microsoft recognize the power these fora have, and go to great lengths to manipulate them for their own gain. This usually takes the form of apparently random posters to a forum who just happen to say positive things about the company in question, or negative things about that company's competitors. While astroturfing is in no way restricted to the IT world or to Microsoft itself, Microsoft astroturfing on Slashdot is going to be my primary concern here.
How do you know if someone is an astroturfer?
That's the whole beauty of astroturfing. You don't. You never really can. My general criterion is if a poster has a pattern of posting comments that appear to be astroturfing, I will consider that person to be a suspect astroturfer.
How do you know that I/they aren't just a legitimate Microsoft adherent?
I've been in the IT business professionally since 1995. Outside of those who have a direct financial interest in Microsoft, I have yet to meet a real IT professional who is a Microsoft adherent on purely technological grounds. I've spent 11 years trying to find one, and haven't met one yet. Every single IT professional I have come into contact with disregards Microsoft, if not absolutely despises them. It will be difficult to convince me that the population of the online world, where anonymity and deceit are infinitely more possible, differs materially from the world where I can look someone in the eye and see where they really stand on things.
Why don't you use your foes list for this?
The foes list is used by almost everyone else as a means to ignore those whom they don't like. Quite the contrary, I want to be in a position to hear what these people have to say. I also want a way to document WHY I believe someone to be an astroturfer; something a little yellow dot would not be able to accomplish.
On to the list!
Obtuse shot at Novell switching to Linux desktop. Used the non-sequitor "emerge -u world" Gentoo update process in reference to Suse.
Media Center plug