On Matters Relating to the InterNet

1st TAXI-L Convention?

John Lanigan, in flying his kite suggesting that TAXI-L participants participate in a world class Convention of its own somewhere, has demonstrated very much of what TAXI-L is all about. My objective, in founding TAXI-L, was to encourage open positive discussion relative to all aspects of this unique industry. I freely concede that I never perceived that one day it might evolve into a physical, rather than electronic, gathering of eagles from around the world. Perhaps our group might want to wrap their minds around the following considerations, which I would hope will lead to something quite tangible.

TAXI-L is not *for* the industry, is not *for* the regulators, is not for any one particular individual segment. We are composed of a widely diverse group of drivers, owners, managers, dispatchers, regulators, researchers, economists, journalists, suppliers, manufacturers, interested persons, et al. All with an equal voice and an equal interest. TAXI-L is *for* all of us equally in our quest for excellence in personalized transportation.

Some of us could possibly make the trip on an expense account, and some as an expense against earned income for tax purposes. For them, I suggest that such an event be clearly labelled a "Conference". In the eyes of the tax folks, a conference is clearly of an educational nature, having a fighting chance of acceptance of qualifying as a legitimate expense. And notwithstanding the plaintive plea for cold beer on hot sand, such an event really is a true educational experience.

Another very real consideration is that many potential participants are at the mercy of external bureaucratic decision makers controlling budgetary purse strings. They know nothing about TAXI-L, its Charter, its paid-up membership, its credibility, et al. TAXI-L is an intangible creature of the electronic wired world, something bureaucrats with sharp pencils have difficulty dealing with.

Some of us, retired, perhaps arm's length interest, perhaps even unemployed, would have considerable difficulty raising, justifying and rationalizing to our respective spouses, the necessary funds to make it happen. Within this group, it may well boil down to "Too bad, how sad, would have been nice."

There are already in place, other related events organized by well established organizations such as the ITLA, the IATR, and a number of related organizations in a host of countries around the world. I have no doubt that Wim Faber could easily name quite a few such events on the world scene; and probably yearn for the day when all might one day hold a single event for all at same time in same place.

In first blush of enthusiasm for an International TAXI-L Conference, a number of topics have emerged, all valid, and all beneficial. In keeping with the goals and objectives of TAXI-L, perhaps we might brain storm a bit for a program that would not be duplicated within the agenda of other organizational options. Something also that might not be possible through real-time InterNet communications.

Personal attendance at an International TAXI-L Conference does carry with it something quite intangible that cannot be achieved by real-time InterNet communications, and that is the personal eyeball contact, the opportunity to talk shop freely, to press the flesh with equals, with peers, with colleagues, all in a non-threatening environment. No amount of long distance communication can ever replicate this experience.

We do have a huge opportunity to bring together mammoth brain power and experience from all elements of this unique industry. Consider for a moment how this awesome energy and enthusiasm could be focused on some terrific opportunities to effect positive change not only in the way we do our business, but also how the world around us perceives us. Think "vision" rather than specifics, think "concepts" rather than techniques, apply creativity and resourcefulness. I believe we will be astonished at what will emerge.

There is widespread agreement that taxicabs form a critical important part of a typical urban transportation infrastructure. However, that is where it tends to stop. In practice, taxicabs are not dealt with within an overall urban transportation management plan. They are not only managed and regulated separately, but in far too many cases, are actually excluded. That taxicab drivers are often the unsung heroes of urban transportation is overlooked. Not a healthy situation.

In contrast with the historical characterization of taxicab drivers as important, respected members of society, contemporary media attention tends to forget the positive past, focusing on the negative present. I don't recall seeing airline pilots, bus drivers, or even limousine drivers on the receiving end of so much bad press in recent years.

The industry over the years, perhaps out of tax changes of early 70's, has evolved in such a way that a strong adversarial relationship has emerged between important segments of the industry. Again not a particularly healthy relationship.

Perhaps the knowledge, experience, brainpower, energy and enthusiasm present in an International TAXI-L Conference could be focused on these more fundamental great opportunities for positive change. There is something intangible, almost magical, about face to face brainstorming that can provoke and nourish great achievements.

Perhaps I may be accused of being a little naive, but I sincerely believe that given the right set of circumstances, and the right environment, such a Conference could be a huge success.

I invite all to think of it from a visionary sense, focus thoughts and energy on fundamental opportunities facing this industry in its rightful place within an urban transportation infrastructure, and its image and status.

From an InterNet discussion 20 February 1997


"Flaming" is a phenomena that originated way back in the early days of BBS's. I first noticed it in 1982 when I set up a BBS [Bulletin Board System] here in Winnipeg for the Muddy Water Computer Society and ran it in my home for 9 years as a volunteer sysop. BBS systems were characterized as typically serving a local urban area, but they eventually evolved into what we generally think of today as the InterNet. BBS system are still in local operation, still serving a local area, but most now have links to the InterNet.

In those early days, for whatever reason, a small group of users would, for whatever reason, find fault with the contributions of others. Statements began to emerge as if the authors of these highly critical observations somehow felt protected by an invisible, invincible barrier, and often very nasty things emerged from folks who would ordinarily never ever say such things in an open public setting.

It came to be known as "flaming", and if you check out most any of the 18,000 newsgroups and 4,000 mailing lists out there, you are certain to find such highly critical exchanges. It is not unique to any one newsgroup or mailing list, but a regretably widespread phenomena. It is most unfortunate for it often leads to disappearance of serious contributors from otherwise healthy discussions. It has already happened several times to TAXI-L participants.

When I founded TAXI-L, I established and published a set of guidelines that included the following statements:


The purpose of TAXI-L is to simplify communication and positive discussion between and among like-minded people worldwide. The objectives are growth and enhancement of this industry.

TAXI-L is not a public newsgroup. It is a private special interest group aimed at serious discussion relative to the major issues facing this industry in its quest for enhancement and market growth.


As you have likely noticed, I do try to keep the discussions focused in a serious way if at all possible. I'm in an unusual position as both an equal participant, and as its moderator. As moderator I have the authority and the ability to remove repetitive offenders from the list. That has happened only once in 10 months of operations, and is something I do not take lightly. I am very grateful that other participants lend a helping hand when it becomes obvious a cooling off period is needed relative to some sensitive discussions. I far prefer the role of an equal participant, seeing the list as a fine learning experience, for which I'm delighted.

"Flaming" is a negative, destructive influence. We all have a fundamental right to have and express our ideas in dignity. Our ideas and contributions need not necessarily be correct nor consistent with current thinking and beliefs. But that is what the learning experience is all about. None of us are infallible, and on this list we have a fine opportunity to refine our knowledge and thinking in a non-threatening environment. Let's try to keep it that way.

As we respond to a discussion, and feel overwhelmed by a sense of negative criticism, stop right there. Go have a cup of coffee, read a book, play a computer game, or just set it aside for a few hours. Then come back to your computer in a positive frame of mind and respond accordingly. Your positive contribution will be very much appreciated.

I recall learning a little gem of wisdom some 40 years ago. "If you have something nice to say about someone, shout it from the rooftops; but if something unpleasant, do it behind closed doors, one on one, and take no longer than 1 minute to do it." This list is the whole world from the viewpoint of the rooftop. Personal email is the one-on-one option.

From an InterNet discussion 21 October 1996

TAXI-L - Whose Life is it?

TAXI-L is not copyrighted, nor patented in any way. The entire package is fundamentally in public domain. That includes all discussions and whatever else appears from time to time. The only care we have to take is copyrighted significant documents.

All that is on our site at this time is either a public document, or there with the permission of the author. I do have several documents I would like to post, and have requested permission from the author, but so far it has not emerged.

Curiously I received a phone call from a prematurely irate journalist requesting that I remove a copyrighted document from our site, or pay $500 annually for the privilege. Trouble is, I had never heard of the document and it is not up on our site, nor any where else on the 'Net that I'm aware of...... Strange.........

I built TAXI-L for the world to use as it sees fit, with no thought of revenues or profit of any kind. It is constantly evolving and no doubt it will spawn other related sites, such as those suggested by others. And it is probable that one day TAXI-L as we now know it may well slip into the background and ultimately evaporate. But it is the network of linked sites that will survive, grow, and become ever more useful.

I am neither omnipotent nor immortal. TAXI-L is serving a useful purpose now, and likely will for a reasonable period of time to come. But we do know with absolute certainty that something better will one day emerge. I do not have a crystal ball, but when it does come along, it will be recognized for what it is.

The InterNet, and TAXI-L by simple association, is a great equalizer providing a wonderful unique opportunity for people in this industry to reach out and touch one another, share experience and advice, offer caution and encouragement, express opposing viewpoints in dignity, and keep us all aware of what's going on of significance wherever.

For example, Prop J in San Francisco may appear at first blush to be a situation unique to that community, but what is happening there may well resurface elsewhere with a different image and cast of characters. Quite frankly, I see the Prop J discussions on TAXI-l to be quite appropriate. It's all part of what the InterNet does best - help and inform all, real quick!

So, in response to expressed caution, thank you for the vote of confidence, but I say let TAXI-L evolve all by itself, consistent with its objectives and guidelines. It's not mine, it's our's. I was nothing more than a catalyst to help make it happen initially. If not me, then someone else somewhere else. The members of this fine group are who make it all possible today. I hope one day to meet some of you in person, if that can ever be arranged on a modest retirement income. :)

From an InterNet discussion 24 September 1996

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