Alice In InternetLand – A Holiday Fable

(loosely inspired by Alice’s Adventures in Wonderland, commonly called Alice in Wonderland. This was written by Lewis Carroll in 1865.)

Alice Liddell has now taken over as CEO of the mid-sized company her father founded over 25 years ago. The company is LewCar and it provides automobile leasing services for corporations. She’s still in the office on Friday evening. As is often the case, she’s the last to leave. The company’s sales are satisfactory but she feels they could do so much better. They now have a website, as was recommended by a consultant, Charles Lutwidge, but it still doesn’t seem to be doing much for them. What more can they do? She closes her eyes and tries to focus on the possibilities.

Down the Rabbit-Hole

Suddenly she feels as if she is LewCar, the virtual being of the website, and she is floating through space. She sees a distinguished business man who is struggling to see her clearly. Miraculously she expands without knowing quite how. She feels a little distorted but realizes that he can see her better. Hopefully, she has made a good impression.

Suddenly, she floats onward. Someone is looking at her through some small hand-held device, apparently called a Raspberry. She finds it tough to compress herself into that small screen but she somehow manages. The Raspberry’s owner seems to see her just fine and they seem to have communicated. This (cyber)space is very challenging with different folk wanting her to expand or contract. How can she handle these challenges? What else may be lurking in this unfamiliar space?

Advice from a Caterpillar

With no one to ask, she floats onwards, apparently at light speed. Suddenly she sees a huge caterpillar sitting on an enormous mushroom. The caterpillar asks, “Who are you?”
“LewCar”, Alice replies, “Who are you?”
The caterpillar says his name is Jakob.
“What’s the best way of communicating with people here?” asks Alice.
Jakob replies, “You’ve got to make sure that people find it easy to know what you’re about and then can easily find the information they’re looking for. It’s called being user-friendly.”
Alice wonders whether a caterpillar can really know anything about communication but she says thank-you anyway and zooms onwards.

Meet the White Rabbit

Suddenly she sees a White Rabbit moving at great speed and with great purpose. Alice catches up with the White Rabbit and asks him how she should meet people in this strange and immense space. The White Rabbit says that, unless the Queen knows her, it’s unlikely other people will find her.
“Which Queen is that?” asks Alice.
Queen GOOG“, says the White Rabbit.
“Isn’t there a king? Wouldn’t he be important too?” says Alice.
“There is King MSFT” replies the White Rabbit. “He is important but the Queen is more important.”
“So where do I find the Queen?” asks Alice.
“You don’t.” replies the White Rabbit. “She finds you.”
“I can’t wait for that. Can you take me to where she lives?”
“She lives at the top of that mountain.” says the White Rabbit. “Follow me” .. and he races off.

The Queen’s Croquet-Ground

The White Rabbit and Alice dash to the top of the mountain. There is quite a view from here over the whole surrounding plains. Incredibly there are hosts of people involved in all sorts of interesting pastimes. They find Queen GOOG on a croquet-ground playing the strangest croquet-game imaginable. However what really gets Alice’s attention are the hundreds and hundreds of small furry animals rushing around.
“What are those furry animals?” asks Alice.
“They’re called BoTs.” replies the White Rabbit.
“That’s a funny name.”
“Well it’s short for Badgers of Text.” says the White Rabbit.
“So how can I get the Queen to notice me?” asks Alice.
“You don’t. That’s what the BoTs do. They’re quite amazing. They zoom around all over the place looking for websites like your LewCar website. When they find one, they badger it. They’re really looking for information so that’s why they’ve been specially bred to rapidly absorb any text that they see on a website. Surprisingly they ignore any images that may be there so their ‘view’ of a website is very different from how human beings would see it. However that’s how Queen GOOG likes it. If enough BoTs report back favourably on the LewCar website, then Queen GOOG will recognize LewCar. Once Queen GOOG knows about you, then she has ways of spreading the word. You’ll soon find that lots of other people feel that Queen GOOG knows what she’s talking about.”
“Well that’s all very well.” replies Alice. “However I don’t have time for that. Let’s go over and you can introduce me.”
As she heads towards Queen GOOG, suddenly everything goes black.

Back To Earth

Alice wakes with a start. Has she been asleep? Here she is: still at her desk. Has it all been a dream? Was cyberspace really like that? It was almost as crazy and unworldly as that Wonderland she once visited when she was a small girl.

Alice thinks again about the website they made. They had instructed the graphic designer to just make an electronic version of their attractive sales brochure. If cyberspace was really so different, how could she be sure that this sales brochure would work well.

Would it work with people viewing it in different ways? Would people easily find the information they were looking for? How would the BoTs view it? What would they take back to Queen GOOG? What would the Queen think? Would she let people know about it? Monday morning first thing, she’ll begin to get her people checking out all these questions. Perhaps this will be the way to get the sales growth she so much wants.

Footnotes: For those who may have missed the significance of some of the imagery. Jakob Nielsen is a renowned world expert on Usability. MSFT is the SEC symbol for Microsoft and GOOG is the symbol for Google. The Google Head Office is situated at Mountain View CA in the heart of Silicon Valley. Search engines use robots or spiders to collect information on websites and this name is sometimes shortened to bots.

Those who prefer the original version can find the full Alice In Wonderland book published as part of Project Gutenberg.

“Alice’s Adventures in Wonderland” was written by Lewis Carroll. This was the pen-name of Charles Lutwidge Dodgson, who wrote the book in 1865. He based the character, Alice, on Alice Liddell, one of the daughters of the Dean of Christchurch College, Oxford. Dodgson was a Mathematics Lecturer at this College.

May we wish Happy Holidays to all our readers and Best Wishes for 2006.

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