Lewis Packwood at Kokatu recounts an amusing and unusual tale of an online community rising up and thriving unexpectedly. Although considering the involvement of Douglas Adams perhaps the improbable should have been considered routine. The story comes from the early days of the internet (late 90's) and the building of a promotional website for a video game based on Starlight Titanic, a lesser known entry in the Douglas Adams universe:
Yoz was busy adding content to the nascent website, and one such feature was an employee forum for the fictional company Starlight Lines, the owners of the Starship Titanic.
"The idea was to present a read-only Senior Management forum in which you'd see some of the key backstory characters getting on each others' nerves. But we figured there should probably be a writeable forum for the lower-level employees, so I spent half a day hacking up a stupidly basic forum system."
Fans who had signed up for the mailing list received a cryptic email granting them password access to "the restricted Titanic Project Intranet Website" and then a follow up email apologizing for "the accidental email leakage." All of this in character of starship management of course, in the obtuse bureaucratic language Adams was famous for.
Satisfied with their humorous promotion, the team moved on.
Yoz then quickly forgot all about the employee forum, but six months later he happened to take a quick peek. And there were ten thousand posts in there.
Bearing in mind that the forum was buried deep within the website and was (just about) password secured, this was a phenomenal result. But even more fascinatingly, the forum had evolved into an extension of the game itself.
Visitors to the forum had created fictional employees and passengers on the Starship Titanic and begun role playing as them. Someone would make up an implausible, Adams-esque scenario, and everyone else would react to it in character, resulting in some enormously complex storylines and in-jokes that developed and diversified over years. And this strange fictional world had appeared entirely spontaneously, without any input from Douglas Adams or The Digital Village. Indeed, Yoz was as surprised as anyone when he stumbled across it: "It was like ignoring the vegetable drawer of your fridge for a year, then opening it to find a bunch of very grateful sentient tomatoesbusily working on their third opera," he says.