I was half asleep when I heard this story this morning on the radio, but awake enough to realise that it was a significant sighting of what I've always called "pyjama-men".
Pyjama-men (and women) are professional Web 2.0/PR 2.0 opinion formers or guiders. Their job is to present the 'company line', and seed the 'right' ideas in forums, in blog comments, and in social networks.
I named them after those old style pyjama bottoms with the thick string that gets pulled out of balance in the washing machine. To get the missing end back out of its hole you have to slowly & gently coax, massage, cajoal, prod, pull, push and persuade it back towards the daylight. That's what pyjama-men do online.
Up until now their existance has been semi-theoretical, but because the influence of the Internet is so great, I can't imagine they don't exist. This medium is simply too important to just leave opinion-forming to the great unwashed.
I've always supposed that lobby groups, political parties, government and corporations have shadowy PR people performing this sort of role, and sometimes thought I've spotted their posts.
After all, if for example you were an airline who had suffered a spate of airborne incidents. Wouldn't you want to have an anonymous poster on the aviation forums posing the balanced or counter view to all the "their maintenance sucks" postings springing up where the mainstream media journalists are reading them?
It's a job that requires a knowledge of the net, subtlety, patience and good writing skills (nobody will read bad stuff)...hmm.....I wonder what the pay is like....? ;)