Transport for London shuns its fans

Flemming Funch talks about Transport for London’s cackhanded treatment of one of their enthusiastic fans. This guy made his own versions of the iconic tube map and TfL made him stop.

A while ago I mentioned a site that was showing an assortment of variations of the London tube map using anagrams and a bunch of other funny things. The original site was taken down, and is still down, because Transport of London’s lawyers contacted the owner of the site, and forced him to take it down because the Tube logo and the map is their “intellectual property”. Which is rather ridiculous for a public institution like that to spend money on lawyers to threaten people who love the tube, and who spend their time getting creative with its symbols.

Now, as a number of other people who thought it was stupid, I put up a mirror of that site. And, now, 3 months later, the lawyers for Transport of London have contacted me and asked that I take down that site.

It seems silly to apply “intellectual property” rights to piss off the one-percenters, those fans who are more excited about your product/service than most of your employees are.

Earl Mardle has a good post in response to this. He points out what a superfan Geoff actually is. Geoff‘s own site confirms this:

World Record Holders – Myself and my friend Neil are the official world record holders for traveling to all London Underground stations in the shortest time : 18 hours, 35 minutes and 43 seconds.   

It was on the seventh attempt at trying, back on the 5th May 2005 that we set this new record time. We since did it twice more for charity, including a mass-participant event, with over 60 people taking part for the official relief charity in the wake of the 7th July terrorist attacks on London.

Earl offers some great alternative ideas for Transport for London. Basically, instead of stamping on this sort of good-natured riffing, why not embrace it? He says celebrate Geoff and create some simple ways to encourage others to join in the creative fun. Instead, TfL ring the lawyers. Earl sums it up:

Right now we could be talking about what a clever bunch the London Underground people are, how they have figured out a way not only to refresh their brand but to engage with a new generation of tube users. Whoa, imagine what they could do with YouTube?

Instead of which, we are updating our lexicons with a new definition of dork.

There is so much talk in management circles about flexible, flattened, agile businesses rapidly adapting to the new opportunities offered by new technologies, Innovation and disruption being espoused and championed till their legs fall off. But when it comes down to it, this is how most of them behave.

4 thoughts on “Transport for London shuns its fans

  1. Nicolas Mirkovic

    This is totally ridiculous. Funch should have the right to keep his site up. These ‘one-percenters’ are vital to every brand (even if the brand happens to control a monopoly…) and instead of being fended off should be cajoled. Instead of making Funch tear his site down, Transportation of London should meet him and see what makes him so fond of the tube !!

  2. Bob Robinson

    “All bloggers like a good conspiracy theory for breakfast- (sic)”. In which case I would like to put it to you that it is not an evil plot by Transport for London to repress enthusiasts – quite frankly – they do not have the capacity to organise any plot, let alone an evil one. No the evil mastermind determined to suppress the wide spread publication of anagrams is the compiler of the Guardian crossword.

  3. Johnnie Moore

    Hi Bob, I don’t even attempt the Guardian crossword so I’ll take your word for it.

    I don’t see evil or conspiracy either and I’m not sure anyone else does. What I see is a lack of joined up thinking inside TfL. The opposite of a conspiracy in fact!


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