metrics.pngJackson Hts., New York, March 16, 2013 - With the .nyc TLD on course to be activated in the next year, we are exploring ways to judge if it’s a success. The standard metric for TLDs is quite simple: number sold. Thus the more .com or .org names sold, the more revenue to the registry, and success. But with a city-TLD we need another metric.

We might adopt qualitative indicators such as “it improves access to city resources.” But if were to set goals, assess progress, and assure accountability some quantitative measures are required.

In our role as an At Large Structure we’ll soon begin working to identify these metrics as a member of an ICANN Consumer Metrics GNSO Working Group, now in formation. The Working Group is committed to creating metrics to address what some consider to be deficiencies in the initial GNSO new TLDs guidelines. While the Working Group will focus on a broad range of gTLDs, we’ll look to identify metrics that pertain especially to city-TLDs.  

The results of this ICANN effort will be of interest to the .NYC Advisory Board, a new entity created by the city administration to provide strategic guidance on the operation of the .nyc TLD. (Note: Our founding director is a member of the Board - stay tuned for details.) The exploration and outcome should also be of interest to the other 38 cities developing their TLDs. See the City-TLD Checklist wiki page for more. (Commons graphic courtesy of GrapeCity.)

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

Jackson-Heights-balcanized.pngJackson Hts., New York, January 1, 2013 - What impact might our new digital infrastructure have upon our city’s neighborhoods? For the past few years we’ve cataloged some of the benefits that might arise from thoughtfully allocated and locally controlled neighborhood websites on our dotNeighborhoods wiki pages.

But over the past few months, with the city having submitted an application and begun moving toward the activation of the .nyc TLD, we’ve not received the assurances we expected about city hall’s plans for neighborhood networks, i.e., give residents the opportunity to self govern their neighborhoods as they have historically. Indeed, unofficially, we’ve been told that they will not be following our recommendations and the neighborhood domain names will be sold off with a bottom line perspective, not civic betterment.

So let’s explore the impact that action might have on my favorite neighborhood, Jackson Heights. Today there are a dozen or so sites that currently serve our neighborhood’s needs, have served them and are reorganizing, or are preparing to enter the fracas of local media.

The Many Jackson Heights’
 JacksonHeightsLife.com  JHBG.org
 JHGreen.org  jhdogs.ning.com/
 Queens7.com  JacksonHeights.NYDailyNews.com
 NYTimes.com/JacksonHeights  JacksonHeights.Patch.com
 JacksonHeights.Neighborly.com  Google.com/JacksonHeights
 JacksonHeights.EveryBlock.com  JacksonHeights.NewYork.craigslist.com
 YP.com/JacksonHeights  iwantmorefood.com/the-jackson-heights-food-group/

And under the current “unofficial” plan we could add JacksonHeights.nyc to that list, along with sites such as WesternJacksonHeights.nyc, NorthJacksonHeights.nyc, The BetterJacksonHeights.nyc, TouristJacksonHeights.nyc, MyJacksonHeights.nyc, DiversityPlaza.nyc, HistoricJacksonHeights.nyc, etc.

How do residents locate and communicate with one another in such a digitally balkanized neighborhood? Where is the center of our neighborhood when there’s an emergency, an opportunity, or a joyous event we want to share? How do we network over dozens of sites?

It’s long been my view that a central point of contact was critical to the existence of an inclusive and livable neighborhood. Especially in an ethnically and culturally diverse place like Jackson Heights, its vital that we avoid cubbyholes that fester about problems that “they” are causing. We need a central local, a town hall, a public square, a forum, a bulletin board where information is posted and important ideas exchanged.

This is not to imply that all these current sites should not continue as the .nyc TLD comes to life. Indeed, there’s no way to prevent a plethora of sites. And perhaps most importantly, it’s vital that we have a multiplicity of sites to serve our needs. One solution might be a simple blogroll on an “official” JacksonHeights.nyc.

So let me start 2013 with a plea to our officials in city hall: We’re reaching out to the 38 other global cities that have applied for their TLDs to determine how they are using their historic neighborhood names. We suspect our research will steer the city toward empowering our historic neighborhoods, making them a key building block of our new digital civic infrastructure. City hall should wait for our research results before adopting an allocation policy for our dotNeighborhoods.

CAB-October-meeting.0.png

Jackson Hts., NY, October 3, 2012 - We’ve scheduled a first discussion about an effective governance model for the .nyc TLD for Thursday, from 10 to 11 AM. While the city’s signing a contractor agreement to operate and market the TLD has limited the city’s oversight options, there are a number of open issues, e.g., the name set-asides for civic and government domain names. As well, over the life of the TLD, changing circumstances will best be addressed with broad public input.

Following up on earlier statements about engaging the public in developing plans for the .nyc TLD, the city announced some initial steps for public engagement steps in its Digital Roadmap,

“…the City of New York will establish a community advisory board and convene public listening sessions to encourage meaningful input into the development of the .nyc strategy.” 

Our initial thoughts on the proper structure for the community advisory board (CAB) were presented in a recent wiki post, which said about CAB membership:

“Reflecting the multistakeholder model, CAB members should be selected by government (the city council and mayor), business, and civil society.”

Some have suggested that the Multistakeholder model is flawed, placing it outside the scope of democracy’s evolution. The following is adopted from writings of Parminder Jeet Singh of ITforChange, and describes the stages of that evolution.

  • Version 1.0 was when elected officials assumed full authority to legislate and execute, once they were elected, without any reliance on any auxiliary democratic processes of public consultations. Ministries were steeped in deep secrecy and considerable aloofness from the public.
  • Version 2.0 begun when elected officials started to employ some processes of democracy beyond elections, like undertaking public consultation on various legislative proposals, stakeholder consultations with those directly affected by any governmental measure, forming ad hoc or standing committees with civil society and outside expert participation, instituting right to information legislation  etc….. However, at this stage, public participation was still largely ad hoc, mostly on the terms of the government, and largely not institutionalized.
  • Version 3.0 of democracy … is about strong institutionalization of means and processes of participation (outside of elections) in an ongoing manner, whereby the agenda of such participation can be set with a greatly curtailed influence of the government, if any, the processes are largely out of control of governments… It is independently institutionalized, funded, legitimized, etc. However, there is never a doubt that actual policy making authority remains with representative democratic bodies… There has always to be sufficiently clear difference between institutions of participation, while they have to made as strong and inclusive as possible,  and those of legislation and execution.

Thursday’s discussion will begin a search for an appropriate model for New York’s TLD. [Sorry if you missed the discussion. See this wiki post to see the follow up.] (Commons graphic courtesy of avistadecerdo.)

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

Filed October 2nd, 2012 under Domain Name, City-TLDs, Civics, Governance

Wikimedia-DC-July-2012a.jpg Washington D.C., July 12, 2012 - Connecting.nyc Inc. (CnI) today announced the start of a pilot project supporting the organization’s dotNeighborhoods initiative. The pilot will focus on the development of a local media center serving the Jackson Heights neighborhood of New York City. With an active, civicly engaged population, perhaps the most culturally diverse population in the city, as well as the location of the organization’s home, the neighborhood is seen as providing a rich opportunity to discover the capacity of a locally controlled and operated media center to address the needs of a typical city neighborhood.

The announcement was made on a Local Wikis panel at Wikimania 2012, the annual meeting of the Wikimedia Foundation, publisher of Wikipedia, Wiktionary and other collaborative resources. The panel, organized and moderated by the U.S. Department of State, had representatives from several innovative local wiki projects: CnI’s director, Thomas Lowenhaupt, John Cummings of the U.K.’s Monmouthpedia, Richard Knipel of Wikimedia-NY, Philip Neustrom of Local Wiki, and Frank Muraca of Fairfaxpedia.

During his presentation Mr. Lowenhaupt described the experience gained from the NYCwiki.org project, a collaboration with the New York Internet Society and Wikimedia-NY. He described how 322 of the city’s 354 neighborhoods had been activated by users entering local information, wiki style.  

Mr. Lowenhaupt’s presentation outlined a pilot project for the Jackson Heights neighborhood that would offer four resource layers:  

  • Wiki - The great lesson from NYCwiki.org, the collaboration between CnI, Wikimedia-NY, and the New York Internet Society was that the public can be a willing contributor to local media projects. The neighborhood wiki will provide residents with the opportunity to preserve a community memory of events, resources, problems, opportunities, etc., providing a history to guide discussions about the neighborhood’s future.
  • Official Information - Information about the physical and institutional neighborhood: population, government services, places, maps, education and cultural resources, etc.
  • Communications - Providing a capacity to reach out and connect with neighbors using the latest digital media. In addition to an evolving stat-of-the-art Internet presence, this is to include outreach, education on the use of the wiki, computer recycling, and the location of public access points at libraries, schools, Wi-Fi hotspots, etc.
  • Decision Making - A capacity to facilitate discussions, guide decisions and engagement with the neighborhood’s future.

The project’s initial outreach effort will take place on Sunday, July 22, 2012 at a Town Hall Meeting on 78th Street in Jackson Heights (between Northern Boulevard and 34th Avenue). Staff and volunteers from Connecting.nyc will explain the goals and purposes of the project to Town Hall participants, and request that residents begin to load information on the projects site.

Over the next several months CnI will be selecting resources, including a domain name, to facilitate a transition from the NYCwiki.org site to the JacksonHeights.nyc address, expected to be released in 2014. Information about the dotNeighborhood initiative is available on our wiki. Those interested in following or contributing to the minute by minute development of the JacksonHeights.nyc pilot should watch here.  (Image by Patti: L to R, John Cummings, Richard Knipel, Thomas Lowenhaupt, Philip Neustrom, and Frank Muraca.)

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

pizza-nyc-with-hat-1.jpgJackson Hts., New York, June 27, 2012 - The formal announcement of city hall’s support for the .nyc TLD was made by City Council Speaker Chris Quinn in her 2009 State-Of-The-City address:

“A local business won’t have to outbid a guy in Kansas to get Tony’s Pizza dot com. They’ll be able to get Tony’s Pizza dot NYC, a name associated with the greatest city – and home of the greatest pizza – in the world.”

With .nyc’s arrival expected in 2014, we’d like to take a look at where Tony and the city’s other pizza parlors might end up when the city’s digital grid is activated.

NYC’s Pizza Industry

For starters, let’s take a tour of the city’s pizza industry. According to a search of the Department of Health’s database, there are 1,644 restaurants with the words Pizza or Pizzeria in their name. And a sampling in our immediate vicinity found as many stores selling pizza without either “P” word in their name as with it. So, using round numbers, we estimate there are about 3,000 city establishments selling pizza. Or we can take Answers.com’s  estimate on the number of pizza parlors - kajillions!

Beyond providing a healthful, tasty, and affordable meal, these restaurants provide lots of jobs. A tiny shop in our neighborhood, Pizza Boy, employs 4. And based on our local sampling, we’ll assume that the average shop has twice that, so we have 3,000 restaurants @ 8 jobs per = 24,000 jobs.

And most important, they provide some of that uniqueness that visitors love about our city, and they provide residents with the gist for the never settled question: Who’s got the best pizza in the neighborhood?

Pizza.nyc - going once… going twice… sold to the company with the cheese filled crust.

The city’s current plan for allocating primary intuitive domain names - names such as Hotels.nyc, News.nyc, Sports.nyc, and Pizza.nyc - is via high-bid auction or a negotiated arrangement that has its guiding directive “optimizing revenues.”

Projecting from interest shown in the .pizza TLD, where 4 companies each paid an $185,000 application fee to ICANN for the opportunity to control .pizza, we anticipate a good deal of interest in pizza.nyc. And if there’s an auction for the name, we presume that Pizza Hut, or another industry giant, would outbid the likes of Tony’s Pizza (with a few thousand dollars and flyers their principle marketing tool) and purchase the right to use the pizza.nyc domain name.

Top U.S. Pizza Chains and Revenue 2011
 Pizza Hut 13,432 $11,000,000,000
 Domino’s Pizza   9,400   $6,700,000,000
 Papa John’s   3,646   $2,390,172,000
 Little Caesars Pizza   2,960   $1,345,000,000

If that’s its outcome, we fear that Tony’s Pizza and the city’s other mom and pop pizza stores will see a decline in their business, especially those located in tourist areas. Because if you’re a tourist in Times Square, and you’re getting hungry, and you type into Google or you ask Siri, “Where’s pizza?,” search engines like Google are likely to direct you Pizza Hut, not mom and pop operations. Here’s why.

  • Google’s search rules (its ‘algorithm’) say things like: “If the request is for information about a scientific issue, give preference to websites ending with the .edu TLD.” And, “If the search is for a U.S. government document, give preference to documents listed in .gov sites.” So the tourist’s cell phone will send its location, “I’m located in New York City” and the search engine will give preference to websites located within the .nyc TLD.
  • Other search rules say: “Give preference in the results listing to domain names with the key word in a prominent position.” In this instance the key word is pizza, so a good domain name like pizza.nyc will receive preference in the listing to http://www.rjcaffe.com/ and numero28.com, web addresses of fine pizza restaurants but without pizza in their domain name.
  • It’s estimated there are 400+ rules governing the decisions of Google’s search engine (see here). And firms such as Pizza Hut pay Search Engine Optimization experts $100,000+ per year to match wits with Google’s rule writers to keep their stores at the top of the search results. Our city’s mom and pop pizzerias stand little chance of being found within the increasingly advertiser controlled Internet.

Our Transparent Search page presents more on the importance of creating a level playing field for local business, including the mom and pop businesses.

What About Tony?

Speaker Quinn was rightly concerned about Tony being thrown into a global pool and requiring him “to outbid a guy in Kansas to get Tony’s Pizza dot com.” And the arrival of the .nyc TLD will presents some good news for the city’s many Tonys. According to the Health Department, there are at least 8 of them: 

TONY’S FAMOUS PIZZA 547 FULTON STREET BROOKLYN, 11201
TONY’S ORIGINAL 11 CORSON AVENUE STATEN ISLAND, 10301
TONY’S PIZZA II 1107 RUTLAND ROAD BROOKLYN, 11212
TONY’S PIZZERIA 336 KNICKERBOCKER AVE BROOKLYN, 11237
TONY’S PIZZERIA 1412 ST JOHNS PLACE BROOKLYN, 11213
TONY’S PIZZERIA & RESTAURANT 1622 RALPH AVENUE BROOKLYN, 11236
TONYS PIZZERIA AND RESTAUARANT 443 KNICKERBOCKER AVENUE BROOKLYN, 11237
TONY’S PIZZERIA & RESTAURANT 45-18 104 STREET QUEENS, 11368

 

During .nyc’s Launch, all will have an early opportunity to claim a good domain name. (A “good domain name” is short, descriptive, and memorable.)

Phase 1 of the names distribution process provides 45 days for the city’s Food Service Licensees to make a name selection. While there are sure to be some hurdles, each Tony should find a good domain name available. [Hurdles: (a) It’s a first-come, first-served registration, so if there are two identically named Tonys, the first to claim a name gets to use it. (b) Before a name is activated, the city will check the claimant’s eligibility (e.g., “Got a license?”), and (c) that the selected domain name matches the business name of record.]

I’m sure Speaker Quinn will be surprised that there’s no licensed “Tonys Pizza” in the city. So what happens to TonysPizza.nyc if an eligible entity can’t claim it during Launch’s Phase 1? It becomes available during Phase 2’s Landrush Process. During Landrush, anyone can make a claim to it on a first-come, first-served basis, and use the domain name for whatever purpose they choose - no mozzarella needed.

TonysPizza.nyc

This can all get a bit complex, so let me try to recap by providing a concrete example. (I present the following knowing Speaker Quinn has a good sense of humor.)

Let’s imagine that City Council Speaker Chris Quinn wakes up on New Year’s Day 2013 and decides that she doesn’t want to be mayor, “No more politics for me, I’m a married lady and need to earn an honest living.” She decides on a career change that will have her open a fancy Irish/Italian restaurant, Tony’s Pizza - with Guinness on tap. She knows the .nyc Launch process from sitting in on city council hearings, and rushes off to the Department of Health to secure her license to operate Tonys Pizza.

As she’s searching out a chef, designer, and that ideal location, DoITT and ICANN continue on their paths toward activating the .nyc TLD. Phase 1 of .nyc’s launch arrives in January 2014 and the now former-Speaker, Health Department license for Tonys in hand, claims the TonysPizza.nyc domain name. And she aims for TonysPizza.nyc’s opening to coincide with the .nyc TLD’s activation in January 2015.

Mid-year she hires a chef, locates a storefront in Hell’s Kitchen, and turns her attention to a digital marketing strategy. She recalls that the council’s public hearings had drawn out the city’s mom and pop shop owners who demanded that the city’s primary intuitive domain names - bars.nyc, bookstores.nyc, cleaners.nyc, drugstores.nyc, hotels.nyc, news.nyc, restaurants.nyc, pizza.nyc, etc. - provide an opportunity for their establishments to be found. She checks on the roll-out process for these names and learns that a start-up media company from the Bronx, PizzaServices.nyc, had negotiated the rights to the pizza.nyc domain name, based in part on their commitment to provide a level playing field for all the city’s pizza restaurants. She calls PizzaServices to ask where her place will be found in pizza.nyc.

Mario answers the phone and delights her by saying that, as the owner of a second level pizza domain name - TonysPizza.nyc, she’s entitled to:

  • A free listing in the alpha, neighborhoods, and map directories on the Pizza.nyc site.
  • And that she’s entitled to a free listing under restaurants in the HellsKitchen.nyc neighborhood site.

She’s starting to feel good about her time spent as a civil servant. She’s about to hang up when Mario asks if she’d like to advertize on the site. She inquires about the rates and learns that they’re within her budget. But she’s concerned about the difficulty and cost of creating the ad. “No problem,” says Mario, “My partner can create the ad for you. She’s a whiz, an ITP graduate.” adding “And if you want, she’ll do your restaurant’s entire website. At a reasonable rate.”

Mario’s got Chris’ ear at this point and adds “And the third level domain name - TonysPizza.HellsKitchen.nyc  - is available or $20 per year. “It’ll make you distinct from the other Tonys around the city.” And he finishes off with “And if you buy it, you’ll get a free listing in Pizza.HellsKitchen.nyc.”

With that, she hangs up, her head spinning at the many possibilities. But it rings again and its Mario, “And don’t forget, check with restaurants.nyc, you’re entitled to a free listing there too. Ask for Danny, he runs that commons.” After hanging up she thinks “Wow, this is going to a lot more edgy than being mayor. Maybe I can be the Princess of Pizza? Better yet, The Pizza Queen?” (Image by Patti.)

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

jefferson-citizen-vs-subject.jpg

Jackson Hts., New York, June 13, 2012 - I recently requested the support of a bright young urban planner in identifying and developing engagement and collaboration tools for use by the city’s dotNeighborhoods. He declined my invite saying that Google was getting better every day at finding things, that good domain names were unimportant in locating resources; and if one needed local information, or to file a complaint, sites such as EveryBlock and 311 were available. Therefore the dotNeighborhood names were probably unnecessary.

With Google’s near-magical ability to locate information, I can appreciate the “If you need something, just ask Google” viewpoint. And if the need is to buy a book, auto, or find a movie, then most certainly it does. But living within a world of civic activism, I question the extent to which finding things helps us do things - other than in some atomized, subject-to-master complaint filing manner. Indeed, for the consumer, Google is God. But how well does it support the needs of civil society, citizens, and the cultivation of livable neighborhoods? 

Subject ~ Citizen ~ Consumer 

At the recent Freedom To Connect conference, author Barry C. Lynn spoke about a transition of residents of what’s now the United States of America from “subjects” to “citizens” during the colonial days. The above graphic from the draft of the Declaration of Independence, shows the hand of Thomas Jefferson changing residents from being “subjects” to “citizens.” (Hyperspectral imaging by the Library of Congress enabled the discovery in 2010.) That change in viewpoint had a huge impact on residents’ view of their role and responsibilities in society. For example, the “subject” exists under government and petitions power, the citizen grants the use of power to government. According to Lynn, “The subject passively consumes, the citizen produces goods, and ideas, and work.”

In the later part of the 20th century another change in attitude occurred when citizens became “consumers.” Lynn placed the origin of this shift with an agreement by the hard right and hard left to change government’s role from protecting markets to protecting the consumer. The significance of this change is becoming increasingly apparent as the Net eases consolidation and fosters efficiency. Lynn stated that this change toward efficiency will foster bigger scale and efficiency, and that the drive for efficiency has historically led to autocratic rule. He used as examples the efficiency Rockefeller heralded to defend his oil monopoly, and Stalin’s defense of his monstrous reign on the basis of the need for efficiency.

Lynn didn’t draw a parallel between the googles and Stalin, but he cited Justice Brandies to the effect that “the preachers of efficiency are always aiming at autocracy.” And speaking of the desirability of aware and responsible citizens, he spoke of the “liberty of the citizen to make a community with one’s own neighbors,” and quoted Justice Marshall on one of the benefits of inefficiency: the friction that sustains democratic society. (See Barry Lynn’s 30 minute talk.)

Neighborhood Consumer or Citizen?

Since about 1950 there’s been a growing abundance of information about the world in which we live, indeed, the late decades of the 20th century were frequently referred to as the Information Age. And for the last decade or so, as the Net and Google-like entities have evolved, it’s been increasingly easy to find that information.

Getting back to my discussion with that urban planner and his view that the power of search and 311-like complaint services provided suitable tools for addressing local needs, let me raise some concerns with some recent experiences. 

My hands-on experience with civic issues, solutions, challenges, opportunities, tasks, and the like has largely been at the local level. Having a 30 or so years involvement with making more livable neighborhoods, I can say that the information abundance has not helped me to a significant degree. Let me provide three examples from this past week.

homeless-man-1.jpg

  • Sleeping Beauty - My apartment is conveniently located near a well stocked neighborhood retail street with a great supermarket separating my building from the street. At the supermarket’s rear are two bottle recycling machines. The machines are turned off at night but with their accoutrements, they sometimes provide shelter for a homeless fellow (see picture right). Yesterday a neighbor saw him “relieving himself” on a parked car and called the police. While awaiting their arrival another neighbor urged him to go to a park or the local pedestrian plaza. When the police arrived they joined the residents and, using their power of intimidation, suggested he “go home” and “leave this place” - which he did. A Google search of “homeless services in new york city” provides any number of institutional remedies - NYC department of Homeless Services, New York City Homeless Shelters, Coalition for the Homeless - that I’m certain provide a variety of worthwhile services. But the beat cop did just what they’ve done for generations. And the availability of the Google links (46,040,000 listings for “homeless services in NYC”) did not adequately engage what I know to be caring residents.
  • The Transportation Study - Living just off a busy retail street I’ve been quite aware of the traffic snarls that have afflicted our neighborhood for the 20 years I’ve lived in my current residence. The horn honking that is the penultimate expression of that traffic was for years just far enough away that I was able to say to myself - “how can the people living there bear it.” That traffic problem was taken up in a significant way two times in the 14 years I was a member of the local community board, to no avail. But in 2009 our congress member addressed the issue with a 500K traffic remediation study. This began a year or so of car counting, public meetings, and engineering studies seeking a solution. A digital feature of the study was a website provided by the city’s Department of Transportation, and my Google search of “Jackson Heights traffic study” returned 204,000 results. And halfway down the first page of results was DoT’s portal to facilitate public participation in the planning process - http://a841-tfpweb.nyc.gov/jackson-heights/. Not a good domain name, but google did a reasonable job of finding it.
  • Queens World Film Festival - This past week my wife met with a co-worker in Astoria, a neighborhood or two away from us, and mentioned a Queens World Film Festival in which she had participated. The co-worker expressed regret that she’d missed the event and asked “How can I find out what’s going on in Jackson Heights.”

Google made it easy to find the available services for the homeless, and if you knew there was a traffic study underway, Google would help you find it. And the co-worker could sign up for a Google Alert and learn about a plethora of events taking place in Jackson Heights. But a missing factor in these situations was a geographic center point for identifying these needs and the means for acting on them.

The Empowered Citizen

Which brings me back to the dotNeighborhoods. Imagine we cultivate these names, creating digital commons where local issues and opportunities could be found, a place of permanence that utilized an existing intellectual resource - the neighborhood name. And imagine if these dotNeighborhoods - Astoria.nyc, BrooklynHeights.nyc, Corona.nyc, Ditmars.nyc, EastHarlem.nyc, Flushing.nyc, GreenwichVillage.nyc, etc. - had alert capabilities, and provided state-of-the-art engagement, organizing, and coordination tools that linked residents to one another and the existing civic infrastructure.

It seems to me that placing these tools in the hands of residents might re-enthrone Jefferson’s citizens, empowering them to improve their neighborhoods and their world. And that the alternative is an increasingly atomized population of consumers that petition distant masters through invisible channels, channels that were not designed to foster civic life.

What do you think? (Images: top, from Library of Congress, bottom the CnI library.) 

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

Flagg-House-Neighborhood-Preservation-Center.jpg

Jackson Hts., New York, May 4, 2012 - The city has committed to making the .nyc TLD a reality and the wheels of government are starting to turn. Our attention is returning to the neighborhood domain names - Astoria.nyc, Chelsea.nyc, BrooklynHeights.nyc, etc. - and how they are developed.

We’ve several wiki pages on our dotNeighborhoods initiative, one of which links to an informative Case Study by the Hunter College Graduate School of Urban Affairs. As well, we’ve an ongoing research collaboration with the New York Internet Society and Wikimedia-NY, see NYCwiki.org.

On Thursday, May 17, 6-8 PM, we’re meeting at the Neighborhood Preservation Center to scrutinize our musings and move toward engaging neighborhood activists city-wide and creating a viable governance and business model for the neighborhood name-set. The Center is at 232 E. 11th St, New York, NY (map). The draft agenda is available. Register or email your intention to attend to info@connectingnyc.org.

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.

notes-from-DoITT-visit-on-NeuStar-contract-b.jpgJackson Hts., New York, March 22, 2012 - I’ve got to start with a gripe. I was forced to spend the morning at DoITT’s office at 75 Park Place looking at the parts of the proposed contract for the .nyc TLD that have been completed. Forced because they refused to email me a copy. Also, I was forced to make hand notes - see picture - because they wouldn’t allow me to take pictures with my cell. Why? It’s a draft document and not complete. (Perhaps a reason they shouldn’t be having a hearing on a incomplete document!)

Separately I was informed that the one public hearing - Friday, 2 PM at 2 Metrotech Center, 4th Floor, Brooklyn - meets the letter of the law, and that’s probably true. But clearly it’s not the spirit of the law. It’s an odious situation. And with the mayor and his staff quoted in this morning’s New York Times as saying he’s opposed to the “daily referendum” of social media and that people should focus on long term planning - OMFG.

OK, got that off my chest. So what did I learn from my 2 hours at DoITT? I can say I was at some points pleased, for example, in its handling of the Nexus question. But even here close scrutiny is required and was not possible as I was relegated to a noise lunchroom to view the materials. (OK, last gripe, promise.)

But vital pieces had not yet been completed, for example, Appendixes F and G dealing with reserved domain names. G deals with “names reserved for marketing and business development.” Is that the neighborhood names? How is it possible to testify on that?

I didn’t see anything about creating a sustainable TLD. There was nothing about how the funds, from auctions of some names, were to be used: to help small business? for education/training? moderate the digital divide? - not a word. At least none that I was able to find in the lunch room. (Fact, not gripe.)

I asked about the contract development process: Was an independent industry expert brought in to advise the city? No. So apparently the proposed contractor, and the overworked city employee drafting the contract, worked out (or rather, are working out) the details.

I’ll be in Brooklyn tomorrow at the “public hearing” (first announced on the last page of Tuesday’s City Record, an arcane insider paper). Hope to see some supporters of good government and long term planning at 2 Metrotech Center, 4th Floor, at 2 PM tomorrow. The A,C, F, and R trains will take you there.

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

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

City-Hall.JPG Jackson Hts., New York, March 15, 2012 - With city government having decided to submit an application for the .nyc TLD without any prior public consultation - either by the administration or the city council - the below looks at 2 of the 50 questions it will be answering in that application, and raises some questions. (See the New TLD Guidebook for all 50 questions.) 

A city official has stated,

“Once the City is awarded [.nyc], we’ll fully develop all applicable policies concerning name acquisition on the TLD. We plan to gather feedback from stakeholders across the city as part of that process.”

So here we offer a helping hand, examining two of the questions it must answer [ with our questions and thoughts in brackets ]. As you’ll see, the answers to ICANN’s questions will frame our city’s digital existence. We’re keeping our fingers crossed and hoping that effective outreach is ultimately conducted and that answers submitted in April do not bind the city to a digital doghouse.

 #18. Mission/Purpose

18. (a) Describe the mission/purpose of your proposed gTLD [ This is the pivotal question, is it: To improve the quality of life for residents? To create a robust business climate? To facilitate improved delivery of government services? To create a more programmer-friendly city? To facilitate civic communication? To enable the creation of a self governing culture using the latest digital tools? To foster local Net businesses and keep Internet revenue here? To raise money by selling domain names? … ]

(b) How do you expect that your proposed gTLD will benefit registrants [ people who acquire a .nyc domain name ], Internet users [ everyone and anyone using the Internet ], and others [ non-Internet users, tourists, pedestrians, bikers, etc. ]? Answers should address the following points:

i. What is the goal of your proposed gTLD in terms of areas of specialty, service levels, or reputation? [ Answers here depend on the response to #18. (a) - Mission/Purpose. But one answer might be “To create a trusted digital space where the people of the world feel they can safely conduct business.” ]

ii. What do you anticipate your proposed gTLD will add to the current space, in terms of competition, differentiation, or innovation? [ Will it put us on a par or exceed the offerings of other global cities? Are there privacy or security offerings that will make .nyc a trusted TLD, where businesses will move to from a wild and insecure .com world? ]

iii. What goals does your proposed gTLD have in terms of user experience? [ For example, are help and emergency buttons going to be provided and required - 311 and 911? Will it embrace the Internet of Things, and create a pedestrian-friendly city? Will it have public spaces such as the parks, streets, and sidewalks in the traditional city? ]

iv. Provide a complete description of the applicant’s intended registration policies in support of the goals listed above. [ How is this question answered if public outreach is to be done after submitting the application? ]

v. Will your proposed gTLD impose any measures for protecting the privacy or confidential information of registrants or users? If so, please describe any such  measures. [ Are there measures to facilitate anonymous but responsible speech? And what about security? ]

vi. Describe whether and in what ways outreach and communications will help to achieve your projected benefits. [ We’d hope to see an answer pointing to our city’s democratic ideals and an intent to fully explore the potentials of a city-TLD, educate the public as to the options, and use consensus tools to set a policy and path. ]

(c) What operating rules will you adopt to eliminate or minimize social costs (e.g., time or financial resource costs, as well as various types of consumer vulnerabilities)? [ Will the city’s Consumer Affairs Department work to protect the registrants of .nyc domain names? ] What other steps will you take to minimize negative consequences/costs imposed upon consumers?  [ Will the city encourage the development of free or inexpensive 3rd level domain names for civic organizations, schools, churches, local businesses? ] Answers should address the following points:

i. How will multiple applications for a particular domain name be resolved, for example, by auction or on a first-come/ firstserve basis? [ So party #1 wants news.nyc for a collaborative news service to which New Yorkers contribute on a peer-rated basis. And party #2 wants news.nyc as an outlet for Associated Press and New Corporation stories. What is the process for deciding? ]  Or [ Party #1 wants Corona.nyc to build a collaborative publishing and decision making hub serving the 55,000 residents of the Corona neighborhood. And party #2 wants Corona.nyc to help it sell beer. What is the process for deciding? ]

ii. Explain any cost benefits for registrants you intend to implement (e.g., advantageous pricing, introductory discounts, bulk registration discounts).[ Do civic organizations, neighborhoods, schools, and churches pay the same rate as multinational corporations? Will there be free third level civic domain names, e.g., fix-that-light.civic.nyc? What about subsidized domain names that facilitate electoral speech? ]

iii. Note that the Registry Agreement requires that registrars [ registrars are the retailers of domain names, for example, GoDaddy.com ] be offered the option to obtain initial domain name registrations for periods of one to ten years at the discretion of the registrar, but no greater than ten years. Additionally, the Registry Agreement requires advance written notice of price increases. Do you intend to make contractual commitments to registrants regarding the magnitude of price escalation? [ So can GoDaddy.com sell a name for a discounted $9.99 and raise the price to $99.99 in year 2? ] If so, please describe your plans.

#20.

20. (a) Provide the name and full description of the community that the applicant is committing to serve. … The name of the community does not have to be formally adopted for the application to be designated as community-based. [ Does .nyc serve just the five boroughs or is it a force for regionalization? See our Regional Consolidation and Nexus pages on this.]

Descriptions should include: • How the community is delineated from Internet users generally. [ Is the .nyc TLD a rallying point for the New York City community, as a civic entity focused on the creation of a more livable city? ] Such descriptions may include, but are not limited to, the following: membership, registration, or licensing processes, operation in a particular industry, use of a language. • How the community is structured and organized. For a community consisting of an alliance of groups, details about the constituent parts are required. • When the community was established, including the date(s) of formal organization, if any, as well as a description of community activities to date. • The current estimated size of the community, both as to membership and geographic extent.

(b) Explain the applicant’s relationship to the community identified in #20(a) [ This a very revealing question as it shows that ICANN thinks there’s little difference between .paris, .newyork, and .banjo or .car ] .

Explanations should clearly state: • Relations to any community organizations. • Relations to the community and its constituent parts/groups. • Accountability mechanisms of the applicant to the community.

(c) Provide a description of the community-based purpose of the applied-for gTLD.  [ Dear ICANN, we’ve not spoken to the community yet. We’ll get back to you on this. Sincerely, The City of New York. ]

Descriptions should include: • Intended registrants in the TLD. [ Residents, small businesses, anybody with the cash? ] • Intended end-users of the TLD. • Related activities the applicant has carried out or intends to carry out in service of this purpose. [ With the “intends” there the city can provide an extended answer to this question, I suppose. ] • Explanation of how the purpose is of a lasting nature. [ Will the city “recycle” names and make good names available for generations to come? See our page on a sustainable TLD for some insight on this one. ]

(d) Explain the relationship between the applied for gTLD string and the community identified in #20(a). [ If it’s .nyc, will there be a New York State sponsored TLD servicing the likes of NiagraFalls.newyork? Casinos.newyork? ]

Explanations should clearly state: • relationship to the established name, if any, of the community. • relationship to the identification of community members. • any connotations the string may have beyond the community.

(e) Provide a complete description of the applicant’s intended registration policies in support of the community-based purpose of the applied-for gTLD. Policies and enforcement mechanisms are expected to constitute a coherent set. [ Based on the Mission/Purpose ]

Descriptions should include proposed policies, if any, on the following: • Eligibility: who is eligible to register a second-level name in the gTLD, and how will eligibility be determined. [ See our Nexus page for background. ] • Name selection: what types of second-level names may be registered in the gTLD. • Content/Use: what restrictions, if any, the registry operator will impose on how a registrant may use its registered name. [ Can a .nyc domain name serve as the basis of a non-New York business? If a business, must it follow New York’s Consumer laws? ] • Enforcement: what investigation practices and mechanisms exist to enforce the policies above, what resources are allocated for enforcement, and what appeal mechanisms are available to registrants. [ Will the city’s existing agencies be tied into the operation of the .nyc TLD? ]

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

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