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Lost Fans Find Internet Thrills Via Wikis, Games, Second Life

Fans and producers of the hit TV show Lost are taking to the Internet, building a wiki, alternate reality games, communities, and a virtual island in Second Life to explore the world of the ABC show.

Fans of the TV show Lost don't need to limit their thrills to TV. They can turn to the Internet to hang out with fellow fans, solve puzzles, and speculate about the mysteries of the show.

Campetin Hoorenbeek is one of the leaders of SL-Lost, a reproduction of the Lost Island in Second Life.
(click for image gallery)

Lostpedia is a fan-built encyclopedia where fans create detailed episode guides, biographies of the major and minor characters, articles speculating about where the series is going, and more.

Fans in Second Life can join SL-Lost to hang out with other fans, chew over previous episodes, play games based on the show, and explore a recreation of the Lost island in the virtual world.

And ABC, the network that airs the show, is getting into the act, too, posting tongue-in-cheek Web sites for the fictional airline Oceanic Air, the enigmatic Hanso Foundation behind many of the shows mysteries, and more.

Finding Answers On Lostpedia

Kevin Croy, a programmer consultant in San Jose, Calif., got hooked on Lost through his girlfriend. He went to the Internet to learn more about the show, thinking that there had to be a wiki that would provide information for fans looking to learn more. Croy was startled to find there was no Lost wiki. So he made one.

"Within 20 minutes, I installed MediaWiki, registered the domain, and we were running," he said. MediaWiki is the software platform underlying Wikipedia; he chose that software because he's "amazed and fascinated" with both Wikipedia and the software underlying it, he said. He wanted to learn more about building wikis, and thought Lostpedia was a good place to start.

The site took off quickly, which Croy attributes in part to his hands-off management style. "I try to let the community figure out answers to their own questions," Croy said. "Some of the users like to give my opinion on content more weight than the average user." He added, "Lostpedia has grown the most when I'm sitting on my hands."

A recent example was the use of a vulgar slang term -- starts with "mind" and rhymes with "fire truck" -- to describe the misdirection used on the show. Some thought the word was inappropriate to use on Lostpedia, others thought that changing the word would be censorship. Croy let the community find its own answer, and they eventually settled on redirecting searches using the vulgar term to a page for plot twists.

The Lostpedia statistics page shows that the site has grown to nearly 33,000 pages. The site has received 141 million page views. It has 26,000 registered users, of whom 10 have sysop rights, for increased authority to edit and manage the site.

Croy said the site has brought him professional benefit in that it's connected him with many interesting people. The Palo Alto Research Center (formerly Xerox PARC) contacted him about two years ago to study Lostpedia. "Basically, they wanted to study the way that a group of users collects intelligence, brings it back to a central place, and processes that intelligence, categorizes it and analyzes it and decides what's good and bad." PARC looks at each new episode as a big new batch of intelligence dumped on the Lostpedia community. "They want to see how they can apply that to the national defense projects they're working on," Croy said.

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