Once upon a time there lived an environmentalist named Woody. His business provided a forestry management website called www.treesRus.de. Woody's creative team consisted of Gretel, a savvy computer programmer, and a graphic artist named Hansel who excelled in flash animation.
One day, Woody hired a creative consultant who suggested the site was too busy, too noisy and too heavy due to the unrestrained usage of flash. This was back in the old days of dialup connections, long before ADSL had penetrated the remote German forests. Both Hansel and Gretel were told to leave.
They soon formed their own website - YummyGraphics.com. In an attempt to maintain continuity and establish credibility, Hansel created a hypertexted link back to a folder on treesRus.de that would allow users to view their earlier work. But some unfortunate things happened that caused a tragic break.
Firstly, Woody's new consultant updated the web site, changing the domain name, and deleting the subfolder that yummygraphics was linked to, Thus, the breadcrumb trail was lost. And secondly, some complaints against treesRus.de were made by a Greenpeace related site, accusing Woody of excessive tree depletion. Google decided to blacklist treesRUs.de and the site was now unfindable.
Hansel and Gretel were desperate for new customers and new ideas. After scouring the net for cool graphics, he stumbled on a site named HouseofGingerbread.de. Not seeing any copyright symbols, or a Creative Commons reusability statement, Hansel assumed he could take one of the tasty looking graphics without infringing on the artists work. He took a jpeg image from the site and posted it his own, without an honor link or any form of attribution.
Unbeknownst to Hansel, if indeed unbeknownst is a word, the webmaster at Houseof gingerbread had somehow, as if my magic, watermarked the image with a tracker and a link to a nasty virus. Hansel's computer was now infected. The image tracked back to its host site, and Hansel was told that a fix would only be given if he would hand over a CD of every flash animation he had ever made, as well as adding a permanant banner add for HouseofGingerbread.de on his front page.
"When your site is bigger, with more graphics and more hits", she said, "you will give me your files and i will send you the fix for your virus."
"How big?", Hansel replied
"I will watch the site meter every day, and when it reaches 1000 hits a day, then I will make you burn the CD."
Hansel had an idea to fool the webmistress. He found a small site called with only a few hits a day. It was called DeadWood.com and was basically a web-catalogue of pens made from sticks. Hansel found a way to point his site tracker to DeadWood.com rather than track his own stats. The webmistress, being somewhat blind to the intricacies of the internet, could not tell the difference. Hansel's site was growing rapidly, and yet and every day it registered that it had only received a dozen hits. This gave Hansel and Gretel more time to come up with a plan.
Meanwhile, Gretel had been watching the domain name registry, and noticed that the one year subscription to the name HouseofGingerbread.de had just expired. As soon as she could, she purchased the domain name and pointed it to their own site, YummyGraphics.com. And that was the end of HouseofGingerBread.de. But the story doesn't end there.
One day, Woody was building a new site after he had fired his incompetent consultant. He was looking for gum related images for the page on tree resin. When he typed "gummy, graphics" into the search engine, the results included a link to YummyGraphics.com. Woody followed the link and when he landed on the YummyGrahpicsBlog, he then realized that he had found his old creative team. After leaving an apology in the comments section, and concluding with a yellow tear-filled smilie, he invited Hansel and Gretel to link back to his home page, and join him in a collaboratvie partnership. They accepted, of course, setting up a cosy little banner on the home page, and all lived happily ever after.
This story was written by Andrew Jones on Jan 29th, 2005 and presented to the 4-Square Missions Conference in Germany. We were discussing the idea of trails and emergent behaviour of organizations. I was criticized the day before for not telling the story of Hansel and Gretel to the Germans, who feel that they know the story better than anyone else. I hope the faithful retelling of this great story will serve future generations.
Jan 30, 2004