Even a player who chased after a red herring had a good story to tell. One guy got the idea in his head that he was supposed to find a clue at The Couch Potato, a furniture warehouse in Santa Cruz, California. Team Meat learned about this by monitoring the IRC channel, so Edmund McMillan of Super Meat Boy fame intercepted him at the warehouse and surprised him with a signed copy of Super Meat Boy.And also:
The second big mistake we made was pulling the ARG champions away from their communities too early. Based on contributions in various games, on the fan wiki and in the IRC channels, we hand-selected a few individuals who had contributed disproportionately to the ARG and offered to fly them to Valve.
In order to give sufficient time to notify them and make travel arrangements, Valve contacted them a few days before the start of the crescendo. We didn't require them to sign any NDAs, but to maintain the fiction, we encouraged them to take a step back from the ARG and claim that they had been kidnapped by minions of GLaDOS.
We failed to realize just how influential these few individuals had been in keeping the ARG running like clockwork. The wiki stopped getting updated, leaving other players confused as to what was going on.