Chasing Bee's Across 40,000 Payphones

On July 16th 2004, a number of popular website owners received mysterious packages at their doorstep (Szulborski 2005). The package were ostensibly from a company named "Margaret's Honey" and included a sample bottle of honey from the company. Also included in the package were a series of cutout letters, including the letters "B", "I", "L", "O", "S", "V" and three of the letter "E". After playing with the letters, a number of the recipients noticed that the letters could be arranged to form the sentence "I Love Bees", which prompted them to then try looking up "" Upon reaching the website, which displayed a page for Margaret's Honey, the site appeared as though it had been hacked with strange messages appearing:

Control has been yielded to the
This medium is classified, and has a
In 5 days, network throttling will erode.
In 19 days this medium will metastasize.
Make your decisions accordingly.

At the end was an appeal from Dana, Margaret's niece, asking visitors to help her figure out what was wrong with the website. Many of the recipients then posted notes on their websites asking others to help them trace down the cause of the hacks to Dana's website. As their friends looked over the website, some noticed the images were scrambled in systematic ways which ultimately held encoded messages within them. Rather than answers, however, those messages contained even more perplexing messages bringing viewers even deeper into the game world of I Love Bee's and requiring them to bring in even more friends to help. Ultimately, I Love Bee's swelled to include over 600,000 players world wide, comprising one of the largest pools of collective intelligence assembled for history's most challenging scavenger hunt.

Throughout the course of the game, clues would lead players to a series of GPS coordinates and time codes. Each of the GPS coordinates would correspond to one of a series of 40,000 payphones scattered across all 50 U.S. states and 8 countries which would ring at the specified time. By intelligently networking between the 600,000 players and effectively using technologies such as SMS, players were able to identify and relay instructions to players nearby key payphones scattered across vast geographic distances, within 20 seconds of notification. At the payphones, players would receive 15 second fragments of a 6 hour radio drama they then reconstructed on the web.