An Open Letter to Josh and CollectiveDetective.org

As you know, I have supported the idea of the collectivedetective.org site and service since I first learned of it as a member of the community focus group that you assembled in order to solicit feedback from ARG players. I am excited about the possibilities that you are bringing to this nascent genre known as alternate reality gaming, massively multiuser online entertainment, immersive media, or (rarely) beasting.

I've contributed a great deal to collectivedetective.org. I provided input and ideas that were incorporated into the site as a member of the focus group. Once you had announced the concept to the Cloudmakers List, I promoted the site in a variety of venues from the Yahoo! Groups to the IRC channels, and even managed to post about it on MetaFilter once or twice. During its development, I provided my services as a beta-tester. I bought a six month subscription and became #23 of the "Brute Force Charter Members" with a $25 payment (including tip), and I assisted in the promotion puzzle game you produced by hosting one of the clues on my site.

I am committed to promoting this genre and helping it to build the audience which I believe is its due. I enjoy the games and the communities that form around them, and I'd like to support both to the best of my ability. I started unfiction.com to create an informational resource for players and puppetmasters, and to help introduce newbies to the genre. I did this in order to give something back to the community that I've come to love, and in the spirit of cooperation and volunteerism that this community seems to engender. I intend to continue to provide whatever resources are important to that community to the best of my ability and I'll continue to promote collectivedetective.org, as long as it benefits that community, and as long as there is a demand for it.

Lately, it has appeared as if you and I have some philosophical differences about just what is best for the community, and it would help me greatly to be able to clear the air about some issues so that I may proceed to make informed decisions with the benefit of as much information and input from you and the community as is possible.

An issue has been raised on ARGN about member content that is posted to the CD site. Specifically, people are wondering exactly how member content that is posted to CD may be used in other venues. As you may recall, I brought this issue up during the site beta-test, however I was never provided with a clear resolution. I understand that there is value to CD in keeping any discoveries made and posted to CD proprietary, in that it would encourage players to continue to play on CD and to help draw new players to the service, since it would be the only service that could provide that specific information. However, I question whether this benefits the community at large and the development of the audience, since a large component of the genre is the ability of any individual to participate in it.

Perhaps it would help if you could clarify exactly what you mean by 'derivative work.' I do not advocate the wholesale reprinting or redistribution of copyrighted information or content but I think we both agree that creating an original work that is based on the ideas put forth by others, even in a copyrighted form, should be and is considered 'fair use' of those ideas. For example, you used the unfiction.com glossary as a template to create many of the definitions in the cd.org glossary (in fact you left one in verbatim). As you will remember, you originally were going to reprint those definitions and asked me for a release in writing to do so, since the content on my site is copyrighted. I and my attorney spent considerable time drafting a license but instead you chose to prepare your own glossary definitions. Nevertheless, I will continue to offer that same license to you and to anyone else who would like to republish or syndicate anything found on my site, and also encourage anyone to use the information found there in the same way that you did, as I think the proliferation and availability of knowledge can only benefit the ARG community as a whole.

I firmly believe cd.org would also benefit by taking the same position, as it will encourage those who may be recalcitrant to pay to join a closed forum to use your service. Your stated goal on the "About" page of cd.org is to "provide a forum for the community to engage in real-time human information filtering through group discussion and the opportunity to share information and solve complex puzzles together." Will you allow that "sharing of information" or rather just allow sharing information with CD? Are we subscribers paying for the service that cd.org will provide, are we paying for access to the information that we collectively contribute, or is it both?

Lately you have given the impression, even if it were not your intent to do so, that cd.org should be the only place for people to participate in the genre. At the same time, you have made it impossible for newbies to actually participate, although they can observe to an extent, without subscribing. Subscription to cd.org requires that the member supply real and correct personal information upon signing up. Why is this necessary?

In the "About" page mentioned above, you state that "the future of the genre relies on high caliber campaigns" and imply that "high caliber campaigns" will only be achieved through the use of your exclusive system that allows the sharing of players' personal information with campaign puppetmasters, alleviating any legal liability they might encounter in otherwise using that information without express permission. Notwithstanding the fact that there have been several successful campaigns since the Beast – including LockJaw, SecondState, Exocog, and Change Agents: Out of Control – your "exclusive system" allowing the sharing of players' personal information with campaign puppetmasters could offer real value to any campaign, but could it offer more value to your campaign?

On that "About" page you mention that you are "dedicated to the expansion of Immersive Media." You also state on the same page that cd.org is a division of "Quixotic Bravado, Inc." On taxicafe.com, you list "Immersive Engineering™" as a service that TaxiCafe Media is at the forefront of, and indeed with little effort the quixoticbravado.com site can be found and the Whois info accessed showing that it is owned by TaxiCafe Media. Some of the meta tags ("immersive engineering, campaign, online development") on the "coming soon" front of that quixoticbravado.com site then lead me to the conclusion that you intend to produce your own ARGs (or "Immersive Media Campaigns" if you prefer).

You state in your "Privacy Policy" that the personal information collected by cd.org will only be provided to third parties with member consent. However, since cd.org is a division of "Quixotic Bravado, Inc." you have placed yourself in a position to use that information for your own campaigns without the express consent of your members, but with their implicit consent by merely signing up for the service. This leads me to three important questions: Do you in fact plan to produce your own campaigns? If so, will you use that personal information without first obtaining the express consent of the members? And do you intend to charge third-party campaign developers for their access to that information that has been released for use by PMs through the permission settings in the player profiles?

Josh, I invite you to consider all of these issues and questions, keeping in mind your goal of expanding this genre, and to provide me and the community with some clear and unequivocal answers to assuage our collective fears. I hope that I can continue to be able to promote cd.org as the most useful player service extant, and as an important gathering place for the dedicated ARG player community.

Sincerely,

SpaceBass