The 2009 Creativity 50: Virgil Griffith

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It's been almost six years since Virgil Griffith and fellow hacker Billy Hoffman were sued for "economic espionage" by software firm Blackboard Inc., for revealing security flaws in the company's tech for student ID cards used on college campuses across the country. Eventually settling with the company out of court, the 25-year-old CalTech grad student has directed his computer acumen toward more a positive endeavor, WikiScanner. The software tool is a publicly searchable database that links Wikipedia edits to its editors' IP addresses and was originally conceived by Griffith during his undergrad days at Indiana University in 2006. "Some Indiana Congressmen were exposed for hiring staffers to whitewash their Wikipedia pages to paint them in a more flattering light," he says. "We all know that's bad, but I think it's just ridiculous. I wanted to try and mitigate this rampant and blatant manipulation of Wikipedia. It's a staple of our information diet."

Griffith claims the software took approximately two and a half weeks to develop. After its launch in August 2007, it was an instant hit in the blogosphere and quickly garnered him attention in Wired, Forbes and even "The Colbert Report." Griffith, who's soon launching Wikiscanner 2, has also developed fun programs like Booksthatmakeyoudumb, an evolving color-coded chart that defines "dumbitude" of various books by cross-referencing the most popular titles at colleges with average SAT scores. After all the negative press from his hacker past, the cherubic Griffith has a simple plan these days: "I go way out of my way to be as angelic as possible."

Griffith, on having Wikiscanner discussed on 'The Colbert Report': "Colbert was really nice. [His show] was the one I really wanted. It gives the most credibility with the 18-24 demographic. I was really glad that I got to refuse 'Good Morning America.' 'Good Morning America' is supposed to be higher-rated than 'Colbert,' but among my age group, that would be lame because that makes you more mainstream."

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