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Thursday, October 4, 2007

Duke Case — Orin Starn's Wikipedia Biography

Orin Starn
The Duke case post from earlier today noted that the "Group of 88 sympathizer, Nifong enabler, and lacrosse hater," Orin Starn had his own Wikipedia bio-page. We wondered how did this guy rate a Wikipedia entry. Now we have some clues.

Starn is a professor of cultural anthropology at Duke University. Orin Starn is also a vain and arrogant man.

So, who at Duke University is editing and scrubbing Prof. Orin Starn's Wikipedia biography in order to make it sound more flattering?

As background, remember that Prof. Starn sent his former student, indicted lacrosse player Reade Seligmann, an email, "saying how badly he felt and offering support." He then proceeded to become one of the most vocal Nifong enablers on the Duke campus as he supported Nifong's efforts to send Mr. Seligmann away to jail for 30 years. Thank you very much for your support, professor.

Editing your own biography or creating an autobiography is not approved by Wikipedia. The official Wikipedia Autobiography policy states:

Writing an autobiography on Wikipedia is strongly discouraged, unless your writing has been approved by other editors in the community. Editing a biography about yourself should only be done in clear-cut cases.

Wikipedia has gone through many prolonged disputes about the significance, factual accuracy, and neutrality of such articles.[1] Avoiding such editing keeps Wikipedia neutral and helps avoid pushing a particular point-of-view.

Writing autobiographies is discouraged because it is difficult to write a neutral, verifiable autobiography and there are many pitfalls.

If you want to contribute to your own personal bio the approved method is:
Contributing material or making suggestions on the article's talk page is considered proper—let independent editors write it into the article itself or approve it if you still want to make the changes yourself.
More background, in August it was revealed that CIA, FBI computers were used for Wikipedia edits:
People using CIA and FBI computers have edited entries in the online encyclopedia Wikipedia on topics including the Iraq war and the Guantanamo prison, according to a new tracing program.

The changes may violate Wikipedia's conflict-of-interest guidelines, a spokeswoman for the site said on Thursday.

The program, WikiScanner, was developed by Virgil Griffith of the Santa Fe Institute in New Mexico and posted this month on a Web site that was quickly overwhelmed with searches.

The program allows users to track the source of computers used to make changes to the popular Internet encyclopedia where anyone can submit and edit entries.

When you use WikiScanner to analyze Orin Starn's Wikipedia biography you see that someone at Duke University has kept busy making the most edits to his Wikipedia page. Again, who could that be?

A few of the edits made by someone at Duke University on Orin Starn's Wikipedia bio:

October 4, 2006 revision (book & blog reference added):
Starn won Duke University’s Robert B. Cox Distinguished Teaching Award in 2004. He is currently writing a book about the history and politics of golf in America, and maintains a related blog at www.golfpolitics.blogspot.com with more information about his other research at www.orinstarn.com
October 20, 2006 revision (Playboy reference deleted):
and writes for newspapers including for Playboy, the Los Angeles Times and Chronicle of Higher Education.
January 30, 2007 revision (Book added):
+ ''Indigenous Experience Today''(co-editor)
March 18, 2007 revision (paragraph deleted):
On his blog, Starn half-jokingly calls himself a "left-leaning, politically correct professor who happens to like golf." Starn has been sympathetic to the prosecution in the 2006 [[Duke rape case]] and has cited the incident in his columns as evidence of racism in campus sports.
March 24, 2007 revision (paragraph deleted again):
The above paragraph was removed again after it was put back.
March 28, 2007 revision (paragraph deleted):
====2006 Duke Rape Case====

Starn's public profile was raised during 2006 [[Duke rape case]], on which he wrote several columns and letters in North Carolina newspapers. Starn has been sympathetic to [[Crystal Gail Mangum]], the accuser in the case, and has attended a candlelight vigil on her behalf. In a September 15, 2006 column, Starn criticized [[Mike Krzyzewski]], saying the Duke coach "stubbornly refused to learn the lessons of these last months. An arrogant sense of victimization and entitlement seems to have replaced any semblance of clear-thinking or self-reflection in Duke sports circles." Starn has cited the incident in his criticism of Duke's participation in [[Division I]] athletics. Furthermore, he has attacked bloggers such as [[K.C. Johnson]] who are skeptical about the prosecution's account, calling them "strident, self-righteous". Despite allegations of misconduct against prosecutor [[Mike Nifong]], Starn has advocated that the case go to trial. (Starn mocked Johnson's readers as people who think Nifong is "one of world history's most evil men.")
Note that most of the last paragraph was added back into the current version of the biography. The truth has a way of coming out.

update #1:
The above paragraph deletions probably fall under the vandalism category; Wikipedia:Vandalism:
Vandalism is any addition, removal, or change of content made in a deliberate attempt to compromise the integrity of Wikipedia.
WikiBios - Wikipedia for Your Biography -- WikiBios is a new site that lets you create an editable biography. The catch? You can’t edit your own page - only your friends, family and complete strangers can do that.

The WikiBios service was created by three recent graduates of Duke University: John Erickson, Jeff Sheely and Ajay Kori. It allows you to create your own bio that can be edited by anyone, and the idea is to let you see your life through the eyes of the people who know you. Friends can post stories, quotes and messages, and you’re encouraged not to edit your own page. Obviously there’s the potential for wiki vandalism here, but the WikiBios team have addressed that with IP logging and a rollbacks feature - you can revert your bio to a previous version and the site owners will ban the IPs of repeat offenders.

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