search.JPGJackson Heights, New York, April 12, 2014 - Vital to the operation of a livable city are its public spaces: parks, plazas, streets, schools, libraries, etc. Over the centuries we’ve established standards for such spaces, including where they are best located and how they are used and governed. 

Today we’re faced with identifying public spaces within the .nyc TLD. According to .nyc’s Launch Program, we’ve only until 11 AM on August 4th to identify and set aside our digital public spaces. At that moment the Landrush period begins and within a few minutes all names of public spaces that have not been set aside will be purchased for private purposes. Thereafter their public use will be through condemnation and eviction procedures.

Why is this important? Some background will help.

38 cities applied for their TLDs in 2012, including 4 from the U.S. - New York, Boston, Miami and Vegas. In 2018, when the next window of opportunity to acquire a city-TLD will arise, we expect several hundred to apply for the capacity to develop this digital infrastructure. 

New York City has been a leader is development this resource. And just last month, after a 13 year gestation, it was delegated the .nyc TLD by ICANN a global licensing entity. The city is now in the process of deciding who gets what name for what purpose and when. (See http://nic.nyc for highlights on .nyc’s rollout or Launch Policies for a detailed look.)

One of the challenges the city faces is looking over the horizon and discerning digital spaces (domain names) that should be reserved for public use. There’s little guidance on this as traditional TLDs (think .com and .org) don’t have public spaces.

The last time the city faced such a challenge was in the early 1800’s when it set about carving up Manhattan into real estate parcels. What became known as “The Commissioners’ Plan of 1811″ created our street grid that has served our city well. But one of the “over the horizon” needs we missed back then was parks. And in the 1840s, when the need for public recreation spaces became apparent, the city was forced to evict several thousand people who were living in what is now Central Park. (According to Wikipedia “The earliest purpose built public park, although financed privately, was Princes Park in the Liverpool suburb of Toxteth” in 1842. So prior to that humanity lived in a world without public parks!)

Today’s challenge is identifying public spaces within the .nyc TLD, be they for public assembly, discourse, recreation, or some new “digital” purpose. Hopefully we’ll avoid the need to resort to eviction to create a more livable city.

In addition to acquiring the digital property, one of the advantages that will arise from this exercise is the development of a descriptive vocabulary. So today, if I visit any U.S. city and feel the need for a moment of restful meditation, I can ask anyone “Where’s the nearest park?” with my need being easily understood.

So my question dear reader is, What needs and opportunities are there within a city, be it the digital or traditional, that a city-TLD can address? What are these public spaces called? And how are they funded, governed, and operated? This last question need not be answered immediately - we only figured out how to properly fund Central Park in the 1980, 140 years after setting it aside. 

So… what are our digital public spaces?

Learn more about the opportunities provided by the .nyc TLD on our wiki pages.

Jackson Hts., New York, January 15, 2014 - Last November activist and author David Bollier blogged  The Silent Giveaway of New York City’s Internet Domain: Will De Blasio Step Up?  about our initiative. It summarized some key aspects of our effort quite well and with Bill de Blasio now sworn in as New York City’s 109th Mayor, we thought it worth a reprint.

Guest Post by David Bollier

The election of Bill de Blasio as Mayor of New York City suddenly presents a rich opportunity to reclaim a commons-based resource that the Bloomberg administration was on the verge of giving away. I’m talking about the pending introduction of a new Internet “Top Level Domain” for New York City, .nyc.   

Top Level Domains, better known as TLDs, are the regions of the Internet denoted by .com, .org and .edu.  They amount to Internet “zones” dedicated to specific purposes or countries.  Over the past few years, far beyond the radar screen of ordinary mortals, the little-known Internet Corporation for Assigned Names and Numbers (ICANN) – which manages TLDs — has been pushing the idea of TLDs for cities.  If Paris wants to have its own Internet domain — .paris – it can apply for it and get it.  Rome could have its own .rome and London could have .london. 

New Yorker Thomas Lowenhaupt of Connectingnyc.org – a long-time advocate for treating the TLD as a shared resource – has written, “I’ve often thought of the .nyc TLD in its entirety as a commons — that the .nyc TLD is a digital commons that we all need to protect as we today (seek to) protect our physical streets and sidewalks by not littering, and provide clean air, parks, schools, health care, fire and police protection, and the like, to our built environment so that it best serves 8,200,000 of us.”

Here are some examples that Lowenhaupt has come up with for how .nyc could make New York City more accessible and navigable:

                

 

 

 

 

 

The idea is that Internet users could use the TLDs to access various aspects of city life by using them in creative ways.  Instead of having to rely on Google to search for museums in New York (which would yield thousands of not-very-well-organized listings), you could use museums.nyc and find everything laid out more intelligently.  Or if you were new to Brooklyn Heights, you could go to brooklynheights.nyc and find all sorts of civic, community and commercial website listings for that neighborhood – the library, recycling resources, parking rules, links to relevant city officials.  And yes, the businesses. The possibilities are endless — and potentially enlivening for a city.

Under Mayor Bloomberg, the city was going to let a private vendor sell off the domain names with minimal city oversight.  Anyone could buy up “restaurants.nyc” and any hotel chain could buy “hotels.nyc.”  These would amount to privately made, market-driven choices about the future of New York City.  They amount to urban planning decisions. Unfortunately, the implications of the Bloomberg plan has received scant attention. However, the final contract between the City and ICANN for .nyc TLDs has not yet been consummated, so the De Blasio administration could plausibly step in and take correction action.

It should.  The current plan is crazy and short-sighted.  Infrastructure should be used to serve the needs of everyone, not just the highest bidder.  And TLDs are surely a form of civic infrastructure that belongs to all of us.

As Tom Lowenhaupt recently noted, if the current plans for .nyc go through, “we’ll not have a guiding framework like the Commissioners’ Plan of 1811 which mapped Manhattan’s street grid.  Instead of a thoughtfully organized digital grid, .nyc will bring a chaotic mean-streets, a digital reincarnation of the 1980’s Times Square.”  This is the logical result of the Bloomberg administration’s choice to let the management contract for the .nyc TLD to a vendor who wrote the RFP [request for proposal].  Imagine if city planners had surrendered the grid-layout of Manhattan streets to road-builders or General Motors. 

Monetizing the TLDs by selling them to the highest bidders achieves little of lasting value.  It simply surrenders equity control (forever) of a key piece of city infrastructure and planning authority to private parties.  This has sweeping global ramifications. Why should the City willingly give up its priceless .nyc TLD to some philistine investor, possibly a non-New Yorker, whose only goal will be to host a motley strip mall of .nyc domain-names and milk their leasees for all they’re worth? Why not use this infrastructure more creatively and deliberatively to advance the larger, collective interests of New Yorkers?

It is unclear if Mayor De Blasio cares enough about this issue (or understands its implications sufficiently) to intervene.  Does he understand how this seemingly arcane technical matter will have enormous, far-reaching implications for the future of the city?  Does he and his staff appreciate how the .nyc TLD could be a rich tool for empowering the City’s 352 neighborhoods and helping people around the world to interact more intelligibly with the City’s people and resources?  (For the latest official thinking on the .nyc TLDs, here’s an account of the October 17 advisory committee meeting on the .nyc TLD.)

A commenter on Lowenhaupt’s blog, Eric Brunner-Williams, notes that New York City is a global city, a premier cultural venue and a thought leader.  It should act accordingly.  It should not simply outsource control over this vital city planning resource (the TLD) with little thought to the larger public and long-term implications.  There is too much at stake for the “little people” and non-commercial interests who have been marginalized for the past twelve years.

Fortunately, according to Brunner-Williams, the administrative plans for the .nyc TLD can be “easily redressed within the existing contract and/or reasonably redressed within a competitive rebid process to a much larger universe of capable contractors, and improved substantively by sources of informed and interested policy advisory offerings to the implementing agency.” 

Mayor-Elect De Blasio, you’ve invited the people to make suggestions for your new administration. You’ve made the beautiful point that “we all rise together.”  Here’s an issue that will directly affect our ability to do that.  How you choose to deploy the .nyc TLD will have far-reaching implications for many generations of New Yorkers.

Reprinted from author and activist David Bollier’s blog post of November 7, 2013. 

Learn more about the opportunities provided by the .nyc TLD on our wiki pages.

General-Update-b.pngNovember 23, 2013

Hello All,

First, note that next week’s regular Thursday meeting falls on Thanksgiving and is cancelled. December 5th is our next Open Board Meeting.  (For those of you who’ve not been following closely, our weekly meetings are Google Hangouts.)

Good news arrived in author and activist David Bollier’s post The Silent Giveaway of New York City’s Internet Domain: Will De Blasio  Step Up? summarizing the many commons features of the .nyc TLD and urging Mayor-elect de Blasio to examine the possibilities. Here’s a sample:

It is unclear if Mayor De Blasio cares enough about this issue (or understands its implications sufficiently) to intervene.  Does he understand how this seemingly arcane technical matter will have enormous, far-reaching implications for the future of the city?  Does he and his staff appreciate how the .nyc TLD could be a rich tool for empowering the City’s 352 neighborhoods and helping people around the world to interact more intelligibly with the City’s people and resources?

Then, if you missed it, take a look at our Hope.nyc? post (below). It discusses the status of the .nyc TLD application before ICANN. It’s a somewhat bleak report. But several other recent developments might be of interest and cumulatively are good news (in an algebraic, two minuses equal a plus kind of way.)

  • Ken Hanson, the contractor’s lead employee for .nyc, has departed NeuStar for sunnier grounds. The .NYC Advisory Board heard from Ken at its second meeting. He is temporarily being replaced with his boss, Jeff Neuman. I’ve met Jeff on several occasions and he’s competent fellow. But he runs NeuStar’s Registry Team that is managing 300+ TLD applications - one of which is ours. It would be good if Ken’s replacement was a New Yorker, familiar with the needs of our city. (Maybe there’s a job there for a departing Bloomberger or one of our supporters. Contact Jeff Neuman if interested.)
  • At our second meeting Ken reported on a Collision Report about names that are used multiple times within the DNS (domain name system) and may not be used until cleared via an ICANN review. The report listed 17,539 .nyc domain names. While the vast majority of these are of little consequence, some are important to the effective operation of our city, for example, mayor.nyc, council.nyc, youth.nyc, and restaurants.nyc.
  • Because of the Rights Protection Mechanism - developed to protect the rights of Trademark holders - the city will need an “Approved Launch Program” prior to activating .nyc. This program will need to explain that our use of mayor.nyc is vital to our city’s operation, and that we will not use the domain name to sell cigars (the trademark holder for “mayor” is a cigar company). Same for the Corona neighborhood vs. Corona the beer. And on and on. Perhaps a hackathon and/or some social collaboration software might have a role here. Ideas welcome.
  • But there’s good news too. I’ve met with fellow .NYC Advisory Board member Seth Taylor and we’re working toward a “clean” list of domain names for the 100 or so businesses within the 82nd Street Partnership, the BID where Seth’s serves as Executive Director. We’ll look to address problems such as ineligible characters, e.g., spaces and &, and corporate vs. trade names. We hope to work this pilot list through the .nyc/ICANN review processes and spread the experience to the city’s other 80+ BIDs.

Have a great Thanksgiving and hope to see you at our December 5th Hangout. (Oh yes, and apologies for the Generally lame joke.)

Tom Lowenhaupt, Director

Learn more about the opportunities provided by the .nyc TLD on our wiki pages.

Jackson Hts., New York, October 13, 2013 - Here’s a quick treatment we did for a friend living in Manhattan who asked us for an example of how the concept of a digital grid - a concept borrowed from the Manhattan’s street grid - might contribute to the creation of a more intuitive and navigable city. Note: Our apologies to Staten Islanders with their wonderful borough getting cut off here - nothing personal, the software and the alphabet conspired against you. You can see the missing Staten Island names and learn more on the use of third level domain names on our wiki’s TLD Architecture page.

The Intuitive City

arts.manhattan.nyc
arts.brooklyn.nyc arts.bronx.nyc arts.queens.nyc arts.StatenIsland.nyc
bars.manhattan.nyc bars.brooklyn.nyc bars.bronx.nyc bars.queens.nyc bars.StatenIsland.nyc
culture.manhattan.nyc culture.brooklyn.nyc culture.bronx.nyc culture.queens.nyc culture.StatenIsland.nyc
dining.manhattan.nyc dining.brooklyn.nyc dining.bronx.nyc dining.queens.nyc dining.StatenIsland.nyc
education.manhattan.nyc education.brooklyn.nyc education.bronx.nyc education.queens.nyc education.StatenIsland.nyc
free.manhattan.nyc free.brooklyn.nyc free.bronx.nyc free.queens.nyc free.StatenIsland.nyc
GreenwichVillage.manhattan.nyc Gowanus.brooklyn.nyc Gottafakethisone.bronx.nyc Glendale.queens.nyc Granitville.StatenIsland.nyc
hotels.manhattan.nyc hotels.brooklyn.nyc hotels.bronx.nyc hotels.queens.nyc hotels.StatenIsland.nyc
icecream.manhattan.nyc icecream.brooklyn.nyc icecream.bronx.nyc icecream.queens.nyc icecream.StatenIsland.nyc
jewelrystores.manhattan.nyc jewelrystores.brooklyn.nyc jewelrystores.bronx.nyc jewelrystores.queens.nyc jewelrystores.StatenIsland.nyc

See if you can find the equivalent of Lexington Avenue - one of several grid breakers in the Commissioners’ Plan of 1811 - in the above. 

Learn more about the opportunities provided by the .nyc TLD on our wiki pages.

Filed October 11th, 2013 under Infrastructure, Domain Names, COPIC

icann-logo.pngJackson Hts., New York, September 3, 2013 - Connecting.nyc Inc. filed comments with ICANN on its inquiry into trademark rights protection mechanisms and the new TLDs on August 27. The comments, “On TLDs & Building A Great City,” spoke of the role TLDs can play in creating great cities, and of the limitations expansive trademark rights can have of their realization. The comments began: 

Historically, cities were places where people gathered for safety and opportunity. Today cities are increasingly communication centers that facilitate and harness creativity for economic and social development.

Cities harbor the entire range of competing and collaborating cultural actors in tight proximity. To manage these congested spaces, complex administrative and social orders are agreed upon and enforced by residents in cooperation with their governments.

The Internet’s arrival in cities was unplanned. It grew organically to connect and advantage some, but disconnected others. Today it’s recognized that universal service and education are needed to effectively deliver city services. Here in New York those without access and training are increasingly outcasts, unable to find work or gain access to city services.

The first opportunity that cities will have to thoughtfully utilize the Net to address the plethora of issues they confront arrives with their TLDs. Here in New York City the Bloomberg Administration appointed an 11 member advisory board to sort through the opportunities presented… See the full comment here.

Thirty other comments were filed with ICANN on the “Rights Protection Mechanism” issue. (See them here.) Two used New York City domain names to make their point. CORE, the leading European registry and registrar, noted the impact a tobacco company’s trademark on “mayor” might have on the operation of city government if it acquired the mayor.nyc domain name. And Google made note of the rights to the subway.nyc domain name: sandwich shop or underground railroad?

      Learn more about the opportunities provided by the .nyc TLD on our wiki pages.

    Filed September 3rd, 2013 under Infrastructure, City-TLDs, Domain Names, Oversight, ICANN

    horizontal-vertical-TLD-a.png

    Jackson Hts., New York City, July 27, 2013 - The architectural design of the .nyc TLD will have a significant impact on its economic viability and its capacity to serve city residents, organizations, and visitors. To help explain that impact we’ve created a wiki page using a  “TLD is land” analogy to discuss the plus and minus of several TLD architectures.

    Two elements of city-TLD architecture - name structure and useability - are discussed in detail. Name structure is presented as the TLD’s supporting steel and concrete. And useability the features that facilitate access: finding tools - index.nyc, contents.nyc, search.nyc, etc., Trust Buttons, and the consistency of the TLD’s look and feel. Building upon the experience with the United Kingdom’s .uk TLD, we’ve suggested a first draft of a generic second level name-set.

    In discussing usability we note the advantages that arise with an intuitive city-TLD, enabling New Yorkers to cut through search engine clutter, using domain names such as:

    • search.french.restaurants.nyc
    • reviews.schools.nyc
    • map.hardware.stores.nyc

      Finally, we discuss the opportunities a vertical TLD provides to circumvent the exclusions necessitated by a strict nexus policy.

      See the TLD Architecture wiki page and let us know what you think. 

      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.

      apple-and-orange.jpgJackson Hts., New York, September 14, 2012 - With the 2013 election for mayor and city council 14 months away, civic watchdogs have started identifying issues that will help voters decide those candidate names worth a click (e.g.).

      To date the .nyc TLD has been viewed as arcane, complex, and difficult to grasp, with benefits that could be achieved by other means. But with 38 other cities having submitted TLD application this past June, and the probability that all global cities will acquire their TLDs in the coming years, it’s becoming increasingly clear that New York no longer competes with Jersey City and Stanford; and that in a global marketplace, and in a digital age, how we use our TLD could be a defining factor in our city’s future. 

      So here we offer 10 reasons the .nyc Top Level Domain’s development should be a factor in making those 2013 election clicks. The first several contrast effective and weak uses of city TLDs, making clear .nyc’s importance in enabling New York to remain a leading global city. So…

      • imagine .Paris optimizes its premier domain names, for example, creating a fashion.paris that guides visitors to that city’s fashion sector. And that New York City sells fashion.nyc to the highest bidder, say Macy’s. Which city has the Fashion advantage? Or,
      • imagine visiting .Istanbul and entering english.Istambul and finding a curated guide to everything you need. And that turkish.nyc takes you to a hookah in Astoria. Which is a more visitor friendly city? Next,
      • imagine .Paris issues domain names for city street to entities that are required to provide several layers of information. So for example, when someone enters Champs-Elysees into a search engine, or directly type in Champs-Elysees.paris, a page with a map linked to retail and other establishments on that boulevard is presented. And that in New York GreenwichAvenue.nyc remains undeveloped with a message saying “Want to buy this page?” And,
      • imagine .Milano institutes a thorough Internet of Things protocol, giving a domain name to every place and object in the city (in addition to people, ideas, and organizations). And that the resulting digital infrastructure provide operational efficiencies for city government; and they enable programmers to use these digital shortcuts for new media ventures. So imagine a developer dragging all the parking.milano domain names into an app that facilitates shopping. But that New York has sold off its library of “directory names” without civic content and accessibility responsibilities. Then,
      • imagine search.barcelona as a curated collaborative resource that provides residents and visitors with accurate and timely information about that city. And that search.nyc is owned by Microsoft and subject to the competitive forces of the search market. Finally,
      • imagine that 20 years down the road we’ve run out of good .nyc domain names - those that are short, descriptive, and memorable. That pricing policy dictating minimal annual renewal fees encourages the inefficient use of these limited resources. But that .Amsterdam has high renewal fees dedicated to Net education; that these higher fees encourage resource optimization, with a turnover in names that empowers future generations, and thereby creating a sustainable .Amsterdam TLD. Woe be to us.

      And beyond these global considerations, a thoughtfully planned and equitably developed TLD will impact residents’ quality of life.

        • Imagine that neighborhood domain names are allocated under terms that require that they be used to serve the residents of their respective neighborhoods. Assuring that the Corona.nyc address serves the civic, resident, and business needs of that neighborhood’s 55,000 residents, rather than those of the global beer conglomerate.
        • Imagine Voter.nyc as as place where money doesn’t matter. Where candidates for public office present their case for office, robust discussion takes place, and our city’s Netizens vote candidate ideas up or down.
        • Imagine a regional city unencumbered by today’s plethora of governance structures - 800 within the 90 mile radius of the Empire State Building - simplifying and reducing institutional barriers to business and the cost of government.
        • Finally,  when dog owners are issued their fido.dog.nyc domain name along with their dog license, New York City will have disproved the adage “no one knows you’re a dog on the Internet,” optimized the .nyc TLD, and secured our transition into a digital era.  :)

            So if we’re talking about our city’s competitive position amongst global cities, and a digital infrastructure capable of providing an increasingly livable city, how we develop our TLD is an important issue for the 2013 election. And candidates for office should declare  their vision for the .nyc TLD in name allocation, pricing, governance, and access. (Creative Commons image courtesy of dimland.blogspot.com.)

            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.

            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.

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