ALICE in DIGITALand
Date: Wed, 21 Jun 95 16:39:30 PDT
From: Peter Langston <psl>
Subject: ALICE in DIGITALand
Forwarded-by: bostic@CS.Berkeley.EDU (Keith Bostic)
Forwarded-By: Marcel Dubois <email@example.com>
ALICE in DIGITALand
"Where am I?" asked Alice, as she peered at the large 7-lettered sign
with the standard blue letters.
"You're in DIGITALand," replied the security guard, "May I see your
"I don't have a badge."
"Did you lose it?"
"No." answered Alice in a puzzled tone. "How could I lose something I
"If it's not lost then you must show it to me."
"I can't. I don't have one."
"Then you'll have to have a temporary."
"A temporary what?" asked Alice, more confused then ever.
"A temporary Badge. What's your badge number?" requested the guard.
"I don't have one"
"Of course not, Ken Olsen has 1. Give me your badge number, and your
"I'm so confused. I can't do this. I've already said 3 times why. Do I
have to tell you 4?"
"Ahhh. 3XY, badge number 4. You must be very important to have such
a low badge number. I should have immediately recognized how low by your
state of extreme confusion. Here's your temporary. Go right on in."
Alice pasted the sticky paper to her dress and headed down the hall. Not
10 feet ahead she saw a rather distressed looking rabbit coming toward
her. He was dressed in a pair of torn, faded jeans, and a dirty tee
"What's wrong?" Alice asked.
"I'm late! I'm late!" exclaimed the rabbit as he peered at the pert chart
dangling from his pocket protector.
"Late for what?" asked Alice.
"My date. I'm going to miss my date. I've got a deadline to meet and
I'm not going to make it."
"Well, if it's already dead, it probably won't mind. In fact it isn't
likely to be going too far in such a state. I'm sure that however long
you take will be just fine."
"You obviously don't understand. Everything takes longer than it really
does. It doesn't matter what you are doing, only that you meet your date,
and that's always impossible."
"Well if it's impossible, why would anyone expect you to meet it?" Almost
at once regretting that she had asked. Was this going to be as confusing
"It's really very simple. In order to move forward, you need a goal.
Any goal will do. It just has to be impossible to do. To motivate the
troops, you have to make goals very challenging. It's really only there
to get a stake in the ground, you know. After that we march in step until
we reach our objective. The date really doesn't mean anything. You
simply have to understand that we are going to do the right thing."
"But the if the goal is impossible, and really doesn't mean anything why
are you trying to go there? Wouldn't it be simpler to first figure out
what you are really going to do, then figure out how to get there?"
"You obviously don't understand the process. And as I said before I'm
late so there is obviously only one thing to do."
"Hurry up and rush off?" Alice asked, hoping it would sound more like a
suggestion than a question.
"No. No. No. A meeting. Let's find the Mad Manager and a number of
involved, interested, or warm bodies."
"That will obviously take a lot of time. I don't think you have any
"No it won't. All we have to do is find a conference room. There are
lots of them right over here."
"But," started Alice, "those rooms are all full of people. Don't we
need an empty conference room?"
"Silly thought. If we want to find the Mad Manager and some meeting
attendees, why would we look in an empty conference room? Anyway, it's
impossible to ever find an empty conference room."
The rabbit took Alice by the hand, and promptly lead her into the largest,
fullest conference room. Alice immediately noticed that the wastebasket
was quite full of foam cups, and overhead projector bulbs. These people
had obviously been here for a long time.
At the head of the table sat a man with a rather funny suit wearing a
"Why" whispered Alice to the rabbit, "is that man wearing that funny hat?
Who is he?"
"I'm the Mad Manager," answered the man at the end of the table,
obviously overhearing the question, "and I'll be happy to tell you why
I'm wearing this Hat, but that topic is not on the agenda."
"Why don't we change the agenda?" asked a person in the corner.
"Is that a topic for another meeting?" replied the manager.
"Is what a topic for another meeting?" voiced a third. "The reason for
the hat, or why we don't change the agenda?"
"Why don't we take this off-line?" queried another.
"Does everyone agree that these are all topics we should address?" asked
the mad manager.
"Possibly so." interjected the person in the corner. "Could it be that
we have a hidden agenda?"
"Oh no!" the Mad Manager began, the dismay obvious on his face, "someone
has hidden the agenda again! Let me put on my process hat and we'll see
if we can work this issue."
With that, he removed his rather amusing top hat, and place a big green
fedora on his head.
"Now, with my process hat on, I'd like to address the issue of the hidden
agenda. Since we can't have a productive meeting without an agenda, it
is up to all of us to find it."
"But," a voice from the corner piped in, "who is going to drive this
"Do we have an action item here?" asked another attendee.
"Does anyone here want to work this?" asked the mad manager.
"Who originally brought this up?" asked another.
"I believe that the woman who came in with the rabbit proposed this.
Shouldn't she own it?"
"Well," the Manager stated, pointing to Alice, "I'd say that this is your
"What issue. I don't have any issues." retorted Alice, nervously
fingering her temporary badge. "I only posed a simple question."
"I'm not sure we can accept that," the manager declared. "We need a
"But," Alice began, remembering what the rabbit told her about dates,
"a date is impossible."
From the back of the room another voice asked, "How about a date for a
"The least we can ask is that you give us a date when you will be able to
give us the date for the date." stated the person in the corner.
"I'm not sure I can do that," Alice opened, "since I don't know what I'm
supposed to give you a date for. I'm having a problem trying to figure
out what you want me to do."
"We don't have any problems here, only opportunities!" Piped a chorus of
"It's really quite obvious," the mad manager declared as he reached behind
him for a striped blue and gray beret, "let me put on my Digital hat for
a moment," he continued doffing the fedora and flipping on his latest
selection, "You must do the right thing."
"Yes, yes." chimed the chorus of attendees, "Do the right thing.
"Now, who is keeping the minutes?" the manager asked as he pitched the
beret and placed the fedora back on his head. "We need to record this
action item so we can come back to it later."
"We obviously can't deal with this issue until we can determine whose
meeting this is?"
"Should we schedule some time to cover that topic?" asked one of the
"Whose going to drive this?" asked another.
Just at the Mad Manager was pulling out a rather worn pith helmet, a
voice in the back suggested, "Let's take a break and work some of this
Being closest to the door Alice was the first to leave. She quickly
dashed down the hall, and ran up the first flight of stairs she
encountered, relieved to be free of the madness.
When she opened the door the scene that confronted her made her wonder if
returning to the meeting wasn't a bad idea. Seated around a large oval
table were what appeared to be playing cards, each dressed in a gray or
navy blue three piece suit. Around each neck was a rather oddly shaped
handle (or were they nooses?) made of silk, or polyester.
"Off with her head!" screamed the queen of hearts who was sitting at the
head of the table. Alice noticed that her tie was silk, and each card
seated near her was dressed in a suit and noose combination similar to
"Why would you want to remove my head?" Alice asked. By now she was
feeling beyond confused.
"It's not a modern, iconic, user friendly, menu driven, color, PC
compatible user interface," replied the queen, in a tone that would need
to come up two notches to be vaguely considered condescending.
"It happens to suit me just fine," retorted Alice.
"What are you, an engineer or something?" asked the 7 of spades.
"No, I'm Alice. Who are you?"
"Marketing." they replied in perfect fifty-two part harmony.
"And what is that?" asked Alice.
There was a brief interlude of silence as each of the cards fidgeted with
their ties, checked their watches and scribbled notes on the pads of paper
contained in a handsome genuine imitation leather folder embossed with
the company logo. Then one by one, as dominoes would do, they turned to
the person on the left until they all stared at the queen of hearts.
The queen cleared her throat, adjusted her tie a second time and stared
directly at Alice. "We provide the strategic thinking necessary to grow
"Oh," said Alice, "you figure out what products to build!"
"Heavens, no!" exclaimed the Queen, "That's too tactical. We feel it's
our job to develop the vision for the long term."
"You develop things," began Alice, "so you build the products?"
In unison each member of the table made a face reminiscent of the look a
small child gets upon tasting spoiled dead roaches for the first time.
"Uggggh, that's even more tactical," jeered the chorus.
"No! No!" shouted the Queen. "You still do not understand. We take the
pulse of the key market leaders demand curve."
"I see now." said Alice, "You sell the products."
By now the chorus of cards chanting "Tac-ti-cal! Tac-ti-cal!" was
becoming too much.
The queen was furious and repeated her original greeting. "Off with her
head! Off with her head"
"WAIT!" demanded Alice. "I believe I understand. You are all responsible
for driving the solution opportunities for the key client supply perceptions
through strategic vision management!"
Alice wondered if she should add something about the claws catching, and
frumious bandersnatches and thought that she'd best leave it at that
before she became ill.
"Yes," screamed the cards, "That's exactly right!"
"And how, might I ask, do you accomplish these lofty and important goals?"
"By calling a BOD," the queen responded.
"And what, pray tell, might that be?" inquired Alice as she looked for
the quickest escape route, hoping that this jabber would keep her head
attached long enough to get out.
"A Board of Directors", began the queen, just as Alice noticed the door
to the left of the table. "It's a type of high level meeting."
"A meeting????!!!!" exclaimed Alice. "Not another meeting!" With that
she bolted for the door, no longer fearing for her head. Her only hope
was that she make it through before the agenda hit the overhead. In a
dead run, she passed through the door just as the projector lamp flicked
on. The sound of the fan was the last sound to fade as the door closed.
Breathlessly she looked up to see a large open area. Directly in front
of her was an enclosed area lined on one side with triple chrome table.
A stack of plastic trays was at the foyer.
As she wandered through an assortment of sandwiches, prepared foods, soft
drinks and salad began their daily spiel. "Eat Me! Drink Me! Eat Me!"
"Oh no," answered Alice, "I may know nothing about dates, and problems
and meetings and agendas, and marketing and badges, but I do know food.
I'm not gonna touch any of you. After the morning I've had I deserve a
nice cheese steak (no lettuce)!"
With that, Alice opened the nearest exit door and left. A resounding
high pitched whine sang it's midday good-byes as Alice returned to the
© 1995 Peter Langston