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

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A Superbowl Message on Governance of .nyc?

“Green Bay Packers, Inc., has been a publicly owned, nonprofit corporation since Aug. 18, 1923, when original articles of incorporation were filed with Wisconsin’s secretary of state.

A total of 4,750,937 shares is owned by 112,158 stockholders — none of whom receives any dividend on the initial investment.

The corporation is governed by a board of directors and a seven member executive committee.

One of the more  remarkable business stories in American history, the team is kept viable by its shareholders — its unselfish fans. Even more incredible, the Packers have survived during the current era, permeated by free agency and the NFL salary cap. And, thanks in large part to Brown County’s passage of the 2000 Lambeau Field referendum, the club will remain solvent and highly competitive well into the future due to its redeveloped stadium.

Fans have come to the team’s financial rescue on several occasions, including four previous stock sales: 1923, 1935, 1950 and 1997. That’s stability.

To protect against someone taking control of the team, the articles of incorporation prohibit any person from owning more than  200,000 shares.”

Hummm? Who owns the .nyc TLD?

For related info, see our Common Pool Resource page. Image and text from Green Bay website.

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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,, and 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,, and 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 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.)

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

UK-online-neighbourhood-study-2010.jpgJackson Hts., New York, December 19, 2010 - The London based Networked Neighbourhoods Group today published its long awaited Online Neighbourhood Networks Study. The research, by Hugh Flouch and Kevin Harris, provides insight into the impact neighborhood networks have had in 3 UK towns. The report concluded that they have:

  • stimulated social capital and strengthened cohesion
  • contributed to citizen empowerment and engagement, and
  • build citizens’ capacity and willingness to work alongside public services. 

While much of the information is supportive of neighborhood networks, one finding screams for additional attention:

“Data from Hitwise Experian suggests that affluent people, with high educational attainment, are over-represented in the population that uses the websites. This appears to be confirmed in the socio-demographic profile of our survey respondents.”

In other words, the digital divide continues. The Study focuses our attention on the need for education, training, and access projects to broaden awareness and use of these new local governance tools as they are introduced at the neighborhood level. Follow our response to this research on our Education Programs page.

The Online Neighbourhood Networks Study is available at

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

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

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

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­The-Prize-nyc-2010b.jpgConey Island, ­July 25, 2010 - ­­­­­The 2010 Hippodamus of Miletus has been awarded to Ethan Jucovy, manager of the CoActivate platform that powers our wiki and blog. CoActivate is a not-for-profit venture that views its platform as a force for social activism.

The Prize .nyc, named after the father of planning Hippodamus of Miletus, is given annually to the person or organization that has contributed most to the concept or technology that facilitated the .nyc TLD’s advancement over the past year. Inc.’s wiki and blog run on the open-source CoActivate software originally developed by The Open Planning Project, now OpenPlans. Ethan worked on CoActivate for several years while at OpenPlans. In May 2010 OpenPlans transferred management control of CoActivate to Ethan. Whether your group is mobilizing voters, planning a protest, or growing a garden, CoActivate can help you become more effective. CoActivate is about greasing the wheels of democracy.

The photo above shows the award dinner at the original Nathans in Coney Island. Shown are Ethan Jucovy, honored guest Jackie Arasi, and Inc.’s founding director Tom Lowenhaupt. The consensus among the celebrants was that the hot dogs were best, followed by a close tie by the fries and beer.

See the for previous winners and for the process to submit a nomination for 2011.(Photo by Patti Lowenhaupt)

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Filed August 16th, 2010 under Prize .nyc, Innovation, Partner, Civics

sustainable-dot-nyc-with-daisys.JPG­­ New York, June 27, 2010 - When the .nyc TLD arrives it will provide a seemingly endless set of domain names to draw upon. But while virtually unlimited in number, we’re mostly interested in good domain names - those that are short, descriptive, and me­morable - and those that serve the residents and their city. And the supply of these can diminish very rapidly if consumption oriented domain name distribution policies are adopted.

New York is a young city, founded 400 years ago. We need to take a “city view” of the .nyc TLD, planning for how it will serve the needs of residents 10, 20, and 100 years from now.  ­How do we plan and create policies that will assure that the .nyc TLD serves us for the life of the TLD? Doing so takes us into the realm of sustainability.

The desirability and necessity of creating sustainable cities and a sustainable planet are acknowledged by everyone these days. While we’ve given some thought to the role of a .city TLD in sustaining a city, we now need to think about how we might create a sustainable city TLD. The .com TLD, stretched to the breaking point, provides excellent examples of  “recycling” that enables limited name reuse via pricing (non-renewals), wait lists, auctions, and of course, the magic of the market.  But are these mechanisms adequate for a city view?

Join us as we begin a conversation about developing policies to assure .nyc effectively serves our city for the life of the DNS. (Image courtesy of Patti Lowenhaupt.)

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Scylla-and-Charybdis.JPG New York, June 24, 2010 - Within the next few years the Internet is going to change in a fundamental way - it is going to become more intuitive.

This will happen as the ICANN, the entity that issues new Top Level Domains such as .com, .org, and .gov finalizes the application process for new TLDs. There will initially be hundreds and then thousands of New  TLDs, with names such as .bank, .sport, and .news.

So the future holds Chase and Citibank moving from and to and ESPN will move to ESPN.sports and the Wall Street Journal will find advantage in moving to

With this transition people will come to see the Internet as far more intuitive than today and will begin entering their domain name requests directly. So for example, if you’re looking for a bank you might enter or Or if you’re looking for news you might try And information about baseball might be best found from baseball.sports. It’s going to be a different Internet, one where our dependence of search engines will be diminished.

In addition to the forementioned .sport, .news, and .bank, there will be city TLDs such as .paris, .berlin, .tokyo and our favorite .nyc.

Let’s imagine the .nyc Top Level Domain name is fully functional in 5 years. And people have begun to recognize the benefit of directly entering domain names rather than always relying on Google. And people learn that it’s faster and more direct to enter,,, and

The .nyc TLD’s name server (a specialized computer) will connect each of these queries to the appropriate website and create an entry in a Query Log. This Query Log will contain valuable information from a marketing, governance, and civic life perspective.

Let me give an example. Imagine in 1985 we had the intuitive Internet as I’ve described above, i.e., baseball.sports,… And imagine the residents of Greenpoint, Brooklyn started entering inquiries into their search boxes such as:


What happens to these queries? If they’re for an existing website, people will be directly connected to the site. (Let’s skip for the moment the privacy issues associated with that database of successful connections - the basis for the Sylla & Charybdis graphic.)

But imagine it’s a time like 1985 when the Asian Longhorn Beetle had just arrived on our shores. And residents of Greenpoint are entering intuitive inquiries like the above seeking information about the strange developments going on with their trees. And let’s assume that none of these intuitive inquiries had existing websites. What happens to these erroneous queries?

We advocate that this information go to an Error Query Log Database, and be made available to all for inspection. This will enable some clever researcher to begin exploring these entries and initiate a proper response. In 1985 that would have been to inform the Parks Department that something odd was going on with the trees in Greenpoint, and to dispatch an inspector to investigate. In reality, it took 10 years before that happened and America now faces the prospect of 1,200,000,000 trees being lost to the Asian Longhorn Beetle. ­

So what will the Error Query Log show in the future?

We don’t have that crystal ball, but it could be the central location for sensing change in our city, a twitteresque database controlled by the city. As such, we recommended in testimony before the city council Technology Committee on June 19, 2010 considering Intro. 29, OpenData, that the Error Query Log Database be made available to researchers and programmers on a minute by minute or minimally, hourly basis.

Read our testimony and help imagine the development of this twitteresque feature. (Commons image courtesy of Wikimedia.)

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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 (Massively Multiplayer Online Role-Playing Game) presentation described  the game development effort he leads at, 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 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.

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

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

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

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

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

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