Auren Hoffman is one of the Silicon Valley’s most connected people. For a while, he made his living with his Rolodex, hooking people up through his firm Stonebrick.
Last year, he started a company called RapLeaf, designed to keep track of your reputation for reliability as you buy and sell things online. It works across Web sites, and so takes eBay’s reputation system and extends it universally (our story here).
So it is ironic that Hoffman has been attempting to tidy up his own online reputation, by signing onto Wikipedia under the name “MLK Hamilton” to make changes to his profile there.
Someone first noticed that “MLK Hamilton,” the alias of the person making changes to Hoffman’s Wikipedia entry, seemed a strong coincidence, given that Hoffman lists Martin Luther King and Alexander Hamilton as two of his personal heroes. When, in turn, that person noted the coincidence at Wikipedia, another anonymous person, with the same IP address of MLK Hamilton, came along and removed the reference. Was Hoffman secretly trying to clean up his online profile and then, additionally, trying to protect himself when he was found out? Valleywag, Silicon Valley’s gossip site, began asking questions, though didn’t get confirmation from Hoffman himself.
We called up Hoffman, and he told VentureBeat that he had gone in to change his profile because a friend, Jonathan Abram (of Friendster fame) had added “silly” things to his profile like how his San Francisco loft is decorated with pictures of prominent Rebublican politicians, and that he was a good dancer. Hoffman said he is not a good dancer, and that pictures on his wall aren’t relevant. Since Abrams had added the entries as a prank, Hoffman said, he felt justified using pranksterish means to make the changes. “I didn’t change anything relevant,” he told VentureBeat. “I didn’t put anything up there that makes me sound good.” When we asked whether his actions might contradict the spirit his own efforts to create a reliable online reputation company, he said he didn’t think so.
Another reported deletion request was about his connection to a public relations firm that took Pentagon money to bribe Iraqi journalists.