old-bicycle.jpg Jackson Hts., New York, May 9, 2012 - Need some relaxation after Internet Week? We’ve got just what you need. So pump up your bike’s tires, grab you cell, and join us in Mapping City Neighborhoods on Saturday, May 19 between 8 AM and 4 PM - after a busy Internet Week.

To participate you need a neighborhood map, a bike, and a cell phone with the New York Times Labs’ OpenPaths app installed. With those in hand you’ll be ready to bike around the perimeter of your neighborhood and then send us the data file - while getting healthy. See the details here.

Our Mapping City Neighborhoods initiative is a key part of our effort to create media centers in New York City’s neighborhoods upon the arrival of the .nyc TLD in 2013. We’ve big dreams for the new dotNeighborhoods - Astoria.nyc, BrooklynHeights.nyc, Chelsea.nyc, DonganHills.nyc, Edgewater.nyc, Flushing.nyc, GreenwichVillage.nyc, Harlem.nyc and 346 others - and maps are a important part.

We thank Internet Week  for helping us promote the event and the OpenPaths project for helping us gather the digital data. Start here to a healthier you and city.

Learn more about The Campaign for .nyc on our wiki pages.

bloomborg-1.jpgJackson Hts., New York, March 24, 2012 - I’ve copied below a message I sent to Mayor Bloomberg earlier this evening. Its context is the sorry state of transparency and public engagement in the development of the city’s .nyc Top Level Domain. (See sidebar here.)

I’ve sent dozens of thoughtful and detailed emails and other communications to him over the years without success. Some have been delivered via scenarios worthy of a Spy vs. Spy episode, and I’ve grown increasingly frustrated trying to pierce his bubble. Not believing the mayor to be corrupt, just ignorant on this issue, penetrating that bubble has consumed an inordinate amount of my attention.

After describing the precarious situation of our city’s TLD (see sidebar here) to a group in Corona this afternoon, and detailing the secretive nature of the negotiations and documents that will guide the development of our city’s TLD, a participant commented, “It’s Capra Meets Kafka.” In desperation, with the official opportunity to participate in the process having ended,  I thought I’d try once again to pierce that bubble, hence the below Hail Mary to the mayor. Wish it luck.

[Also, a friend made the “BloomBORG” picture that I’ve been itching to use. I’ve long had a fantasy of sitting down with the mayor over a pot of Earl Grey, and the mayor, after a thoughtful discussion about the TLD’s potentials to foster our city’s greatness into the digital era, turning Picard-like to his staff and saying, “Make it so.” And thereby beginning a fruitful process for developing our city’s TLD.]

Here’s the receipt from the city for my Hail Mary to the mayor. I’ve highlighted my short message at the bottom.

The City of New York

The information you have provided is as follows:
Form: Customer Comment
Topic: CASE
Name:  THOMAS LOWENHAUPT
City, State Zip: JACKSON HTS, NY 11372
Country: United States
Company: Connecting.nyc Inc
Message: After a meeting this afternoon at which I described the
situation with regard to DoITT’s proposed contract with NeuStar
one of the participants said “they should make a movie and call
it Capra Meets Kafka.”

Please, don’t let them make the movie.

I await a response. (And don’t miss the details of the “public hearing.”)

Learn more about The Campaign for .nyc on our wiki pages.

Filed March 24th, 2012 under games, DoITT

rod-bergstoms-scream.jpgUPDATE: See details on the city’s application for the .nyc TLD as submitted to ICANN and its contract with vendor NeuStar here.

Jackson Hts., New York, March 23, 2012 - Below are the rough notes from my visit to DoITT’s office yesterday, March 22, 2012. Apologies for the lack of detail, but I was not provided with a copy of the document and was forbidden by city officials from using any recording devices, e.g., taking a picture of the pages with my cell phone. See details on this here.

The city’s Department of Information Technology and Telecommunications (DoITT) held a “public hearing” on the proposed contract today. See my written statement here.

[Note: The city’s “transparency period” ended on March 23 and City Hall’s door has slammed shut without any meaningful public engagement on the TLD development process. And the city’s application for the .nyc TLD will be submitted on April 12 without having received any meaningful public review. This sad situation is reflected in an imagined response of ICANN CEO Rod Beckstrom upon learning of the lack of public review.]

Editors Note: This report was originally made by CnI’s director, Thomas Lowenhaupt, based on  a brief viewing of city documents. With the arrival of a copy of some of the documents, we’ve provided this link to a more complete report on the .nyc TLD documents.

(Image of  ICANN’s CEO Rod Beckstrom reacting to practices that enabled cities to enter the complex realm of the TLD sans guidance.)

Learn more about The Campaign for .nyc on our wiki pages.

Jackson Hts., New York, November 11, 2011 - New Yorkers are receiving offers to “pre-register” .nyc and .newyork domain names. At this lucky moment (11.11.11.11.11) we’d like to pass on some advice - scammers are afoot “pre-registering” our domain names (New York’s). Neither the city of New York, Connecting.nyc Inc., nor any other entity has been authorized by ICANN, the global overseer of new TLDs, to engage with so called “pre-registrations.” Those issuing them are not in a position to honor them.

More important, if you think you have identified a game changer domain name, we suggest you keep it for yourself until the official registrations are open. It would be unwise to tell a stranger about it as s/he might register it before you have the opportunity to do so.

If these companies ask for a payment in exchange for this “pre-registration,” you might consider calling the local District Attorney.

Learn more about our overall effort from our Wiki Home Page

old-bicycle.jpgJackson Heights, New York, April 30, 2011 - We’re encouraging all neighborhood lovers to participate in our Mapping the Hood biking event on Saturday, May 21, 8 AM to 1 PM. See details.

Mapping the Hood was conceived as a healthful and fun mapping initiative to define and empower New York City’s neighborhoods. To participate, Bikers will activate the My Tracks app on their Android phones, slip the phone in their backpack, circumnavigate their neighborhood (perhaps adding some ID pins of landmarks), them email the My Tracks file to us. (Some other phone and GPS map files are acceptable, see the wiki for details.)

The maps will initially be displayed on NYCwiki.org, our dotNeighborhoods development site. Later, with the activation of the .nyc TLD, they will be used in support of the city’s neighborhoods in sites such as Astoria.nyc, BrooklynHeights.nyc, Chelsea.nyc, Douglaston.nyc, Egbertville, Flatbush.nyc, GreenwichVillage.nyc, HighBridge.nyc…

Bikers are to email their map files to maps@connectingnyc.org and to tweet their accomplishment to @MappingTheHood. You might also invite others and comment on your desired ‘hood on the the Mapping the Hood Facebook page.

For the latest news and details, see our Mapping the Hood wiki page.

Mapping the Hood is part of Transportation Alternatives’ 2011 Bikemonth. See our announcement there as well as other great riding opportunities.

Learn more about our overall effort from our Wiki Pages

Filed April 29th, 2011 under Neighborhoods, games, GIS, Civics, Volunteers

news-sports-weather-nyc-c.jpgJackson Hts., New York, January 1, 2011 - This first post of 2011 proposes a process for distributing key .nyc names such as news.nyc, weather.nyc, and sports.nyc. But for insight into the experience behind the suggested process, let me tell a story about how a neighborhood school got built.

In June 1992 I was part of a civic campaign advocating that a new school be built in our neighborhood. There was a clear path to success: our schools were massively overcrowded, a local teacher cohort had developed an innovative curriculum for a new school, and best of all, the city had created a fund for new innovative schools.

But the neighborhood was completely built, without a single vacant parcel of land. And when the teacher cohort began looking outside the neighborhood for a school venue, parents became frantic. Desperate, local parents focused on a seemingly underutilized department store in the center of the neighborhood’s commercial strip. But soon after advancing the venue we learned that the owner had refused an offer from the Board of Education.

To advance our cause, a group of parents met with the building owner to inform him of the many benefits the school would provide for both he and the neighborhood and to ask his support. We detailed the advantages of improved education, how it would increase the value of his nearby properties, and even how we’d advocate having the school named in his honor. But after listening politely Carlo became agitated, and after a deep breadth told us how the Board of Education had the temerity to offer him a measly $6 a square foot for his prime space. He was obviously insulted by the offer and stated that he would “not take a nickel less than $9.”

Thereafter we rallied the parents, pressured our elected representatives, and generally raised cane demanding that the city up its offer, condemn the property, do whatever it took to acquire the site. With the neighborhood in the dark as to the occasionally rumored “privileged negotiation,” a poisoned situation arose that had the neighborhood, in effect, working on behalf of the landlord, to the detriment of our school budget.

After a year an a half of rabble rousing the deal was sealed - for $21 a square foot! And two years later the Renaissance School opened to spectacular results. Today we have a wonderful school and a very happy landlord.

There are lessons from this experience that can be applied to the allocation of Primary Intuitive Names such as news.nyc, weather.nyc, and sports.nyc. Before detailing them, let me present a few axioms about them: 

  • Primary Intuitive Names have no obvious owner. Everyone would like to own them, but there are no actionable links for anyone. Perhaps they might be considered part of a common pool.
  • Primary Intuitive Names  are vital to the success of the .nyc TLD. They are the TLDs book covers, domain names people will visit first for a sample or preview. (Standard Portal Names and Navigation Names are also vital resources, but subjects for later posts.)
  • Primary Intuitive Names must be operational and provide a slick and effective information backbone from day one (Shift Day). If those entering a domain name such as news.nyc receive an advert or stale news, they will develop a negative view of the entire .nyc TLD.

Given these, how are we to allocate Primary Intuitive Names?

We can’t risk a simplistic high bid auction that might enable a speculator to acquire the name for resale a few years hence. Or put it into the hands of someone seeking to protect a competitive domain. And given the prospect that, thoughtfully developed, several Primary Intuitive Names can fund the entire .nyc TLD’s start-up budget and significant public education and access efforts, we must make the most of them. 

    So here’s a New Year’s proposal based on that Renaissance School experience. Let’s rouse the public, pressure our elected representatives, and raise cane to demand that we1  create a competitive field that maximizes advantage from these public resources through this four step project: 

      1. Create an open and transparent process for guiding the identification and distribution of the Primary Intuitive Names.
      2. Begin an awareness campaign providing all those interested in developing these names with the opportunity to get their eggs in a row, initially via communication through relevant trade press. Consider this post an initial step.
      3. Develop minimum standards about content requirements within each Primary Intuitive Name with crowdsourced input used to reward excellence of concept.
      4. Advocate for a Shift Day that begins only when the Primary Intuitive Names are fully functional. 

          How much “prosperity” might be raised from using our Renaissance experience to up the value of the Primary names? More than enough to finance the .nyc TLD’s planning and start-up, and to advance local control of this public interest resource. But its real potency lies in its ability to empower us all, providing for the all important Happy and Healthy referred to at top. But I’ve gone on too long here and will address these soon in a recommendation on ways we might use the initial and continuing .nyc TLD revenue streams. 

          Learn more about the Primary Intuitive Names and our Domain Name Allocation Plan which deals with all .nyc names. (Commons photo courtesy of Stock Photo.)

          Learn more about our overall effort from our Wiki Pages

          1. By “we” I refer to the residents and organizations of New York City.^

          money.jpg New York, April 5, 2010 - Anil Dash made a presentation at NYU’s Interactive Telecommunications Program (ITP) last Friday from which I fashioned this post’s title. Anil’s MMORPG.gov (Massively Multiplayer Online Role-Playing Game) presentation described  the game development effort he leads at ExpertLabs.org, a venture of the American Association for the Advancement of Science.   

          I’ve been interested in making the governance process more “game-ish” for nearly a decade - ever since we invited Community District 3’s 200,000 residents to our feature-rich website in 2001 and no one came. (Or more precisely, there was minuscule use of its interactive features.) I concluded then that only when more “fun” was built into the governance process could we expect to compete with the richness of life’s other offerings and engage more residents in public sector activities. So Anhil’s MMORPG.gov title had me running to the ITP.

          The project he outlined would broadcast technical or policy questions to the masses using Twitter, with games to be developed - by the likes of the smarties at ITP - to consolidate / appraise / rate the responses. It’s an interesting idea, and with the right interface, filters and manipulation gadgets, “players” might become engaged, follow up, and create civic value. We’ll follow this closely.

          Last year we discussed the features and advantages a game-friendly .nyc TLD platform might offer, but barely moved the ball up field. Today we throw the dice and reach out for players to help write the rules that will make our virgin .nyc TLD into a gaming platform. First up on April 27 is a preliminary planning session on SecondLife’s  Democracy Island, with a kickoff face2face during the May 24-27 Games for Change Festival.

          For details on the scheduling and substance of those meetings, see our Games and the .nyc TLD wiki page.

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

          Filed April 6th, 2010 under ITP, Innovation, games, Governance

          ­­­­­­­­­­­Appland, May 12, 2010 - The jumble at left represents a ­Word Cloud­ view of this blog in May 2010. On the right is the same from May 2009. The size of each word indicates the frequency with which it is used. Click on a cloud for a larger view and see how our emphasis changed over a year.

          blog-wordle-may-2010.JPG<   2010                              2009   >­The Connecting.nyc Blog - May 2009

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          Filed May 9th, 2009 under games, Presentation

          ­­money.jpg November 7, 2008, New York - The Columbia University Institute for Tele-Information sponsored a Play Theory Play Money seminar that attracted the city’s leading electronic game theorists and developers. The seminar’s goal was to explore ways the growing game industry might be attracted to, and cultivated, here in New York City.

          I’ve been a proponent of using games to engage the public in the governance process since 2002 when Queens Community Board 3 opened its website to an apathetic public. The dark realization of how dull and tedious 99% of the public found local governance issues led me first to SecondLife’s virtual world and then other explorations of ways to make “governance as engaging as baseball” as I like to say.

          At Play Money I presented 3 game related thoughts for the participants to ponder. First, I sought interest in developing a game that would use an environmental sustainability metaphor for selecting New York City’s important domain names. Dubbed Civic Hero, the premise is that certain civic domain names are vital to the city’s future, with some easily identified – gov.nyc, soho.nyc, mayor.nyc, schools.nyc – and others are more difficult, e.g., community events, monuments. Civic Hero imagines a game that makes uncovering these civic domain names into a contest. Two games were suggested for inspiration and example: MajorMinor which Michael Mandel designed to categorize songs, and Google Image Labeler which Luis von Ahn designed to label images.

          I also proffered that virtual.nyc, a map of the city as accessible as SecondLife, but linked into real life sensors – video cameras, cell phones, RFIDs (where’s Orwell?) - is being discussed, and that such a virtual city will provide the foundation for games that cross pollinate the real and the virtual worlds. And I challenged participants to think of games that might be developed using virtual.nyc as their foundation.

          Finally, I suggested that the  games.nyc domain name might provide a rallying point and  organizing force for the city’s games community and directed participants to a wiki page has been created to follow up on these possibilities.

          Tom Lowenhaupt­

          Learn more about The Campaign for .nyc on our wiki pages.

          Filed November 12th, 2008 under games, social network, Civics

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