urban-screen-in-public-area.jpg

Jackson Hts., New York, January 12, 2012 - Urbanflow, a Finish joint effort with Nordkapp, envisions an operating system for cities. The scenario explored in the 5 minute video revolves around situated urban screens and their potential uses (right). Worth a look. It concludes with “It’s going to happen somewhere, let’s make it happen here” with the “here” being Helsinki.

This is something that should be an integral part of a city-TLD’s development process. But few in the traditional registry-registrar industry that controls the ICANN environment have an inkling as to the potentials, with the possible exception of the Swiss registrar CORE. The industry’s business model, more names = more money, skews creative thinking about urban TLDs.

But with the rise of the Internet of Things and growing awareness of the value of trusted TLDs to decision-making machines like IBM’s Watson, some cities are beginning to look into the possibilities of city-TLDs as the platform. Here in New York we have the initiative of Pachube (meeting tonight!) that offers hope for the home team.

Learn more about our overall effort from our Wiki Home Page

Hyper-Public-conference-logo.0.jpgJackson Heights, New York, May 25, 2011 - On June 10 we’ll be participating in a most important conference: Hyper-Public: A Symposium on Designing Privacy and Public Space in the Connected World. For a glimmer into the corporate world’s concerns about the issues to be addressed, read this email  responding to an inquiry by Google’s founder Larry Page:

“I cannot stress enough how important Google’s wifi location database is to our Android and mobile product strategy,” Google location service product manager Steve Lee wrote. “We absolutely do care about this … because we need wifi data collection in order to maintain and improve our wifi location service.”

Or imagine - as Google and Apple and Microsoft and Verizon and AT&T and VISA and Master Card are doing - what it will be like as we are identified in public spaces, with our mobile buzzing and beeping us about nearby marketing “deals.” And beyond marketing, there are a multitude of civic and livability issues necessitating our corralling this new technology, as hinted at in the event’s official description:

Hyper-Public: A Symposium on Designing Privacy and Public Space, hosted by the Berkman Center for Internet & Society at Harvard University, will bring together computer scientists, ethnographers, architects, historians, artists and legal scholars to discuss how design influences privacy and public space, how it shapes and is shaped by human behavior and experience, and how it can cultivate norms such as tolerance and diversity. (See conference details here.)

One can fantasize about rejecting the new tech, but to do so will have consequence equivalent to rejecting credit cards or EZPass. (See Opt-Out Google.) But the reality is that our primary communication device is moving into our pockets, and if we don’t get involved with that object’s design, we’ll be little more than an audience.

There’s no indication the conference will be streamed, but if you’ve got questions or suggestions, post them below or email our director. In the days after the conference we’ll conduct a long overdue update of our wiki’s privacy and security and community and trust pages. Stay connected.

[NOTE: Circumstances precluded our attendance at the event.]

Learn more about our overall effort from our Wiki Pages

MIT.jpgCambridge, Massachusetts, April 8, 2011 - Thomas Lowenhaupt, Connecting.nyc Inc.’s founding director, presented a paper at the April 8, 2011 UrbanTech Conference at MIT. The conference was sponsored by the Department of Urban Studies as Planning (DUSP). The paper, City Top Level Domains as Urban Infrastructure, reviewed the ways a thoughtfully developed city-TLD can be instituted as digital infrastructure. See the presentation report.

Learn more about our overall effort from our Wiki Pages

Commissioners-Plan-of-1811-map-portion.jpgJackson Hts., New York, March 22, 2011 - Two hundred years ago today the “Commissioners of Streets and Roads” adopted what’s come to be known as the Commissioners’ Plan of 1811. By establishing the basis for Manhattan’s street grid, the Plan served the city well, providing a basis for the city’s safe, organized, and prosperous development. See this great New York Times article for a recounting of the real estate values and transportation and health benefits realized by investing in going through hills and swamps rather than around them.

Today, the .nyc TLD presents us with a decision of similar scope: Do we create a user-friendly city whose resources are available via a variety of intuitive digital pathways? Or do we sell off a key digital resource willy-nilly to satisfy short term interests?

How we resolve the issues surrounding the .nyc TLD’s division and allocation, its integration with traditional systems and resources, how we assure its sustainability (perhaps for generations), and its ongoing governance will determine the city’s capacity to effectively function as a economic and social engine for its residents. As well, our response to these questions will determine our competitive position with other global cities with which we increasingly compete.

Additionally, in deciding on the .nyc TLD’s scope we will be marking our borders. In both the digital and real worlds, strong borders make good neighbors. Should our digital borders be coterminous with existing ones, or do they demand a rethinking to a regional or perhaps a hybrid geovirtual configuration? Only when we’ve established those borders can we can begin to build a governance system within.

Will New York be Ready?

At its recent meeting in San Francisco, ICANN, the entity with primary responsibility for issuing new TLDs, took steps that bode well for the development of its long awaited New TLD Application Guidebook that will enable .nyc’s acquisition. It approved the .xxx TLD thereby unnerving some nation-states, and it confronted ICANN’s Government Advisory Committee, the body representing nation-state interests before ICANN, demanding clarity as to its concerns about the new TLD process. In doing so ICANN expressed its intent not to be subservient to the existing nation-state system. (Indeed, its CEO has expressed a desire to see ICANN recognized as a new nation-state with U.N. membership.) As a result, it now seems that 2012 might see ICANN finalizing its Guidebook and receiving applications for city TLDs. Is New York prepared?

Since the city council tacitly passed oversight to the mayor’s office in February 2009, the administration has taken two steps. In March 2009 it issued a Request for Information, or RFI, seeking ideas on the utility and operation of a city-TLD. It sent the RFI to the Old Boys Network of businesses that made their fortunes by operating organic TLDs such as .com and .org. It didn’t invite the public to imagine the TLDs role in creating a digital city. Not did it invite civic organizations, planning entities, libraries, or our computer science, engineering, and business schools to chime in. Our origin, arising from Queens Community Board 3’s April 2001 Internet Empowerment Resolution, did result in a copy of an RFI coming our way, with our RFI response available here.

Based on the RFI responses, in October 2009 the city issued a Request for Proposals for an entity to assist it with the TLD’s acquisition. In it, the city described the Old Boys Network as the qualified proposers, with their ability to run computers that efficiently sell domain names apparently qualifying them as the city’s architects for a digital era.

Today it is believed that a handful of RFP responses sit at the city’s Department of Information Technology and Telecommunication (DoITT). Last month we asked DoITT’s Commissioner Carol Post if the city had made a fundamental decision as to the TLD’s operation: Does the city see .nyc operating as a Standard TLD such as .com and .org, or as a planned, community TLD as we’ve proposed? Or putting the question in 1811 terms: does the city propose going around the hills, gullies, and swamps or through them?  As per Commissioner Post, no decision has been made, but there’s been “much discussion” at DoITT. (See the video of that Q&A here.)

Toward A New Commissioners’ Plan

But DoITT’s decision is being made without any public participation, with city hall apparently ready to forgo the messiness of a democratic discussion. This is understandable as a city TLD is a new issue with little home grown expertise and much misunderstanding ahead. But it we’re to have a world class city-TLD, we’ll need the engagement of all to plan and support its development. 

Councilmember Gale Brewer has advocated modifying the city charter to move oversight of digital resources in line with that of land use, modeled perhaps on the Uniform Land Use Review Procedure or ULURP. We applaud that agenda and note that a TLD, access to a fast and inexpensive Net, and appropriate training are all critical to creating a prosperous and livable city in a digital era. In exploring those Charter enhancements we urge that note be taken of the democratic potentials offered by the Net, including our voters.nyc.

Today’s 200th anniversary of the Commissioners’ Plan offers a propitious moment to begin a multistakeholder exploration by city government, academia, civic organizations, industry, and the public to plan the architecture of our digital city. In early 2009 we had the basis for such an exploration with CUNY and other institutions set to join. But DoITT’s issuance of an RFI convinced those interested that things were moving too fast for reasoned thought. That was two years ago. Each day it becomes clearer that our future will be determined by the availability of critical resources such as domain names, fast and ubiquitous access to the Net, and an aware and trained populace. It’s not too late to begin a thoughtful examination of our digital future. Let’s begin today.

Comment below, email your thoughts to Tom@connectingnyc.org, or help write the study’s charter on our DARPA to CARPA wiki page where we’ve begun to lay out the scope of a reasoned study.

Learn more about our overall effort from our Wiki Pages

dotNYC-CB-3-Presentation-1-20-11-Tom-Lowenhaupt.jpgEast Elmhurst, New York, January 21, 2011 - Connecting.nyc Inc.’s director Tom Lowenhaupt last night provided a progress report to Queens Community Board 3 on its Internet Empowerment Resolution. He touched on highlights from the ten years since the Board adopted the Resolution on April 19, 2001: the early progress, the 9/11 down years, the formation of the not-for-profit he leads, ICANN’s adoption of a New TLD Policy that included cities, and city government’s partial acceptance of the board’s recommendation for .nyc’s operation as a public interest resource.

Mr. Lowenhaupt explained that his organization’s focus today is on gaining the city administration’s full support for treating the .nyc TLD as the city’s digital infrastructure, and for its development in the public interest. To highlight the benefits from this approach, his organization recently entered into a collaboration with Wikimedia-NY and the Internet Society-NY on a NYCwiki.org website that will highlight the possibilities by developing the neighborhoods name-set. “By demonstrating the benefits of this one name-set we expect the full utility of our approach will become apparent” he stated. 

The NYCwiki.org site’s goal is the creation of a neighborhood information resource through crowdsourcing, wherein residents contribute their memories and hopes for their neighborhoods to a Wikipedia-like site. Later, when the .nyc TLD becomes active, this information will be moved to its permanent website: Corona.nyc, EastElmhurst.nyc, and JacksonHeights.nyc. Calling it a “once in a lifetime opportunity,” he concluded the update stating that “together with communication, outreach, decision-making, and organization layers, these sites offer the promise of providing good local communications to our neighborhoods for the first time ever.” 

After the update Mr. Lowenhaupt introduced Richard Knipel, President of Wikimedia-NY, the local affiliate of the Wikimedia Foundation, the people that bring us Wikipedia. Richard invited experienced wiki editors to begin updating their local neighborhood sites now - see Corona, East Elmhurst, and Jackson Heights - and invited those desiring training to sign up for free NYCwiki.org page editing sessions to be held at the Langston Hughes Library beginning in February. To sign up for training sessions, email info@connectingnyc.org.

Pictured are Tom Lowenhaupt (standing left) and Richard Knipel, with Board Chair Grace Lawrence seated. (Photo by Eugene Atkins.)

Learn more about our overall effort from our Wiki Pages

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Vilnius, Lithuania, September 17, 2010 - At the 5th Internet Governance Forum in Vilnius, Lithuania, leaders from government, civil society, and business gathered to discuss the design, development, and operation of city-TLDs. Participants at the City-TLD Governance and Best Practices workshop made the following recommendations:

  • City-TLD proponents should prepare a preliminary definition of public interest TLDs, using resources such as the Paris Understanding.
  • An organization of proponents of public interest city-TLDs be formed.
  • Literature should be prepared to inform mayors of the world of the utility of city-TLDs, and that it be distributed through their best practices organizations.
  • Via petition and other mechanisms, the thoughtful and rapid approval of city-TLDs should be presented to the ICANN.
  • Such petition to the ICANN should note that the operation of city government, the quality of city life, and the sustainability of cities will be improved by the thoughtful issuance and development of city-TLDs.
  • Such petition should also note the unsuitability of the proposed filing fees, technology requirements, and registry/registrar separation for city-TLDs proposed in the Draft Application Guidebook, especially for less developed areas.
  • The petition should note that the acceptance of city-TLDs as a distinct category of TLDs, governed under the existing laws of nation-states; unencumbered by traditional concerns about trademark stress; and governed by responsible entities will free the ICANN to focus on more problematic TLD categories.
  • That nation-states be contacted through the members of the ICANN’s Government Advisory Committee (GAC) and other channels and requested to assemble a list of cities with an existing interest in TLDs.
  • That a list of cities proposing public interest TLDs be submitted to ICANN.
  • That a dedicated unit within ICANN be created to process public interest city-TLD applications.
  • That cities on such a list be processed and approved in an expedited manner.
  • That trademark issues be closely considered. 
  • That the city-TLD advocacy organization create city-to-city processes and communication channels to share best practices.

    See City-TLD Governance and Best Practices - Report for the full workshop details and the follow-up page for responses under consideration. (Photo courtesy of Patti Shubitz.)

    Learn more about our overall effort from our Wiki Home Page

    ­

    CityofWaterDay.jpgGovernors Island, New York, July 24, 2010 - Connecting.nyc Inc. hosted a table at the City of Water Day Festival on Governors Island today. The event, organized by the Metropolitan Waterfront Alliance, is “a day of entertainment, education, and adventure for all to celebrate the potential of our waterfront.”

    Our decision to participate in City of Water Day was influenced by two “name” events. The first was reading a New York Times story about a woman complaining that the Bronx River and other city water bodies were either not identified accurately or at all on the new subway map.

    The Times story brought to mind a comment that Assembly Member Jeffrion Aubry of East Elmhurst made several years ago at a public hearing. A developer had requested the community board’s OK to remove a huge boulder that stood in the way of a proposed new hotel near LaGuardia Airport. Jeffrion, nearly three score at that point, noted that a stream passed the beloved boulder when he was a kid (Killy Pond they called it) into which he and his friends would jump.

    These two water-name events led us to think about how city water bodies could be further identified and developed with good domain names, like BronxRiver.nyc. So we set up our table on a most glorious day and asked City of Water Day celebrants on Governors Island to provide names of  city water resources that we might reserve. See our City of Water Names wiki page for the responses we received and where you enter other water names. Of the many names offered, everyone’s favorite was Dead Horse Cove.

    If we can think of a more engaging presentation we might again table next year. But it was a gem of an event and those manning the table agreed that more-fun less-work should be the rule for City of Water Day 2011. For example, did you ever think about riding on a fire boat while it shoots its water cannons? City of Water Day provides the opportunity to fulfill such youthful dreams. Look for me on the fire boat next summer.

    Filed August 16th, 2010 under GIS, Domain Names, Sustainable Cities, Education

    ­­­­­­

    ­Top Selling .com Names
    ­­­­­­­ 1.  sex.com $14,000,000
     2.  fund.com     9,999,950
     3.  ­porn.com     9,500,000
     4.  business.com     7,500,000
     5.  diamonds.com     7,500,000
     6.  beer.com     7,000,000
     7.  AsSeenOnTV.com 
        5,100,000
     8.  Korea.com     5,000,000
     9.  casino.com     5,000,000
     10.  seo.com     5,000,000­

    ­­­­­­New York, April 19, 2010 - 9 years ago ­today Queens Community Board 3 passed the Internet Empowerment Resolution calling for the acquisition of the .nyc TLD and its development as a public interest resource. Back then, the world was aware of the value of domain names as marketing tools. Our Resolution initiated thinking about the potential of city-TLDs within the realms of community building, civic governance, and economic development.

    Today, in the commercial realm, the value of good marketing names - those that are short, descriptive, and memorable - continues to rise. There’s no S.E.C. overseeing name sales, and many question the “truthiness” of some claimed prices, but the Top 10 List at right, from shoutmeloud.com, is representative of similar domain name sale lists. The lottery-like increase in name sale prices, from an original $10 to $100 paid in the mid-1990s to millions today, have speculators drooling over city-TLDs. And I’m often asked about the prices I expect to see for .nyc names: Will there be big winners like in .com?

    When and how much?­

    Within the realm of city-TLDs we’re just on the cusp of learning their utility and value and will only know for sure when city-TLDs go live. The issuance process has moved at the speed of a pitch drop, but we’re getting close. My estimate is that ICANN finalizes the new TLD application process by year’s end, receives new TLD applications in 2011, with some city-TLDs going live in 2012.

    So what will .nyc names be worth? There’s potentially bad news for the gambling types in that our Domain Name Allocation Plan points the way to a name distribution process that might avoid a .com-like speculative boom, and put most speculative wins into education and other digital inclusion projects. And there’s growing recognition amongst city leaders of its utility.

    But there is reason to believe that some quite valuable domain names will arrive with the .nyc TLD. We stumbled upon the first of these through an odd turn of events that led us to participate in the Minds in the Gutter competition. To understand this, I need to provide some background.

    The Clean Water Act of 1972

    Every time it rains in New York City, our combined sewer system gobbles up stormwater running off hard surfaces - roadways, sidewalks, rooftops, and parking lots - and directs it into the same network of pipes that carry our raw (toilet) sewage. When it rains the processing plants quickly reach capacity and the stormwater and raw sewage flow untreated into local waterways on the order of 27 billion gallons per year. This limits how New Yorkers can safely access the waterfront, and impairs our estuary ecosystem. The Clean Water Act of 1972 solidified the nation’s commitment to clean its river, bay, and ocean waters and New York has sought to comply with the law and find solutions to its stormwater problem ever since.

    But while we’ve made progress, we’ve not been able to meet the Act’s requirements and the city faces stiff fines and the prospect of building two huge stormwater holding tanks to meet the clean water standards. Minds in the Gutter was one of many efforts seeking  civil engineering solutions to this problem. Its focus was on ways to stop stormwater from reaching the sewers via solutions like porous streets that would enable rain to become ground water.

    In my years on Community Board 3 I’d participated on its Flushing Bay Committee which sought solutions to the stormwater and other bay problems. When I saw the Minds in the Gutter announcement the gray matter bubbled and I thought - Might the .nyc TLD play a role in solving this problem? Is there a software engineering solution that might match or better traditional civil engineering solutions?

    So I tried to imagine a solution that would use the Net and civic spirit - the core of the advances we hope to achieve with a city-TLD. What we submitted was a proposal that uses crowdsourcing to connect residents, their toilets, and the weather to stop this pollution at its source. It was built around a mundane domain name that describes something universal in our city: toilets.nyc. For the proposal’s raw details see The Flushing Community wiki page. And to get a first look at the summary presentation of our software / social / community engineering plan, come to its unveiling at the Museum of the City of New York on Thursday, April 22, 6:30 PM.

    About that $2.3 billion

    If our Flushing Community proposal proves totally successful, that is, residents city-wide participate in the “Flushing Community,” and this succeeds cleansing our sewerage system enough to comply with Clean Water Act standards, constructing those two huge stormwater retention tanks would not be necessary. And thus, the toilets.nyc domain name would save the city the expense of building them - that’s a $2,300,000,000 saving. See the city’s Stormwater Management Plan here.

    The challenge is creating a city-wide Flushing Community. How do we do that?

    Shift Day

    There are many instances where city residents have joined to make significant change. In the past few decades I’ve joined and/or cheered my fellow residents in picking up after our dogs, recycling garbage, and most recently, not smoking in bars and restaurants. In the instance of the Flushing Community, the rewards are money in our pockets (that $2.3 billion) and clean swimmable waters. And the cost are negligible. If it’s beneficial and relatively easy to do, precedent says we’ll do it.

    The trick is creating awareness, simplicity of participation,  and community. (And a down side is that in this instance we won’t have an effective force of law behind the effort, as we did in the developments cited above.) We can’t do it without creating a voluntary and broad community of Flushing New Yorkers who recognize and act in the common interest.

    The beauty of toilets.nyc is that it would be part of Shift Day - that glorious day when we switch from the old .com Net to the new local .nyc Net. It will be a day when there’s universal awareness of the great change. On that day neighborhood names, small business names, subway station names, street names, government service names, and hundreds of other aspects of our existence will suddenly shift into digital accessibility via our more organized and intuitive .nyc Internet. Within that Shift, New Yorkers will be enlightened to the size and connectivity of our .nyc community (we’re only 1/10th of 1% of the world’s population and we need to work together to thrive). If the .nyc TLD is thoughtfully introduced, on Shift Day we’ll be able to generate civic pride, awareness, and a willingness to participate in a common sacrifice and common good, such as the Flushing Community.

    [Alternately, we might just buy a name like toilets.com for a few hundred K and build the Flushing Community upon it. But the cost of building civic spirit around that single effort would be substantial, and drawn out. And it would eliminate one building block of Shift Day, which will happen for better or for worse. The more and firmer the blocks the better the foundation.]

    If toilets.nyc is worth $2.3 billion, what’s the value of the .nyc TLD?

    Within the realm of Internet of Things there are a few hundred possibilities for other valuable names. However, the value is only realized when woven into the city’s social or infrastructure fabric, and no one’s yet evaluated these names.

    And the value realized from using .nyc to create a trusted economic zone, where the world feels safe doing business, is totally unknown. So too is the value of the neighborhood names, which will provide good local communication for the first time; and my favorite, voters.nyc. How do you put a dollar value on improved community and governance? I’ve not calculated that, other than to say - a whole lot. But I promise to return 9 years from now (Pitchdrop is my middle name) with a more definitive answer.

    The key point we’d like to make on this 9th anniversary of the Internet Empowerment Resolution is that toilets.nyc is just one domain name. Let’s ponder, dream, think, study, explore, and research about the entire set of domain names that will arrive with the .nyc TLD and make sure Shift Day is one we will all benefit from in a thousand ways.

    Learn more about our overall effort. Start at our Wiki Home Page.

    ­­­­­­­­

    ­toilet-with-phone-and-bird.JPGNew York, February 22­, 2010 - We submitted a somewhat indelicate proposal to the Minds in the Gutter competition on February 15, 2010. The competition was predicated on the following statement:

    “Every time it rains in New York City, our combined sewer system gobbles up stormwater running off all hard surfaces - roadways, sidewalks, rooftops and parking lots - into the same network of pipes that carry our sewage. This system quickly reaches capacity, and the stormwater and sewage overflow into local waterways on the order of 27 billion gallons per year. This limits how New Yorkers can safely access the waterfront, and impairs our estuary ecosystem.”

    While the competition was looking for solutions to the sewerage overflow problem from the field of civil engineering (e.g., enabling rain water to seep into the gutter and become groundwater), we saw an opportunity to point out how computer engineering could address the problem. Our solution combined a careful Internet of Things development of the toilets.nyc domain name with civic crowdsourcing. With our test project focused on cleaning Flushing Bay, we entitled our proposal The Flushing Community, see it here.

    Being non-compliant with a strict reading of the guidelines, we’re hoping for an “outsider” or “best effort” award from S.W.I.M. judges. (Commons images courtesy of Patti Lowenhaupt and S.W.I.M.)

    Learn more about our overall effort from our Wiki Home Page.

    ­­­google-in-parade.JPGNew York, December 29, 2009 - Adam Raff’s recent  New York Times Op-Ed Search, But You May Not Find paralleled an issue we have been concerned about for some time - search transparency. While Adam focused on the damage from corporate shenanigans, our concerns have centered more on the impact the Google search engine’s lack of transparency might have on civic affairs. For example, we’re likely to see Google confronting city zoning regula­tions for a variance to build inspirational office space for its expanding enterprises: How would Google rank the activities of organizations leading the opposition? Would individual opponents be able to locate the opposition? Or would the opposition be custom coded to screen land on page 13? Transparency = trust.

    And imagine if Google “winner$” begin running for public office, how are we to trust its opaque search algorithm during the rough and tumble of an election campaign? Then we’d clearly see the relationship between link and ballot voting.

    Transparent search - a far easier metric than Raff’s search neutrality - is vital to our city’s having level commercial and civic playing fields. We’re looking for resources that foster the creation and assessment of transparent search engines for the .nyc TLD. Follow developments on this via our Transparent Search wiki page. ­ ­(Commons photo courtesy of http://aiblsuki.blog122.fc2.com/blog-entry-95.html.)

    Learn about .nyc on our wiki pages.

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