nyc-Neustar-Phased-Launch-12-09-13.pngJackson Hts., New York, December 12, 2013 - On Monday evening I attended the city’s first public meeting on the .nyc TLD. The “.NYC Public Workshop”  provided New Yorkers with their first peek at the soon to arrive TLD. Fifty or so people showed for the event, held at Brooklyn Law School. A recording of the event by the New York Internet Society’s Joly MacFie is now available.

News from the workshop concerned the time frame for its arrival and a first look at pricing. If the the new administration follows the current path, and there are no surprises from ICANN or other fronts, .nyc domain names will become active in October 2014. More detail on timing is available on our Timeline page.

Wholesale prices are announced as $20 for Government Affiliated names; $15 per name for Trademark holders; $30 for names acquired during Landrush; and $20 during General Availability. 

During the workshop several people raised questions about plans for the allocation of neighborhood names. The city responded that, while not finalized, the neighborhood names (as well as the premier names such as news.nyc and sports.nyc) will likely be auctioned off. And that “fairness” precluded showing preference to parties offering to provide city focused values in the operation of these domain names.

Shaping .NYC’s Future

After the presentation and a brief Q&A, three breakout sessions were held. I was invited to moderate one entitled Shaping .NYC’s Future.

                                           “machines, once made, make men” Ralph Waldo Emerson

By way of introduction, I quoted Emerson and raised the specter of the Internet, the largest machine ever built, shaping us in unintended ways. And faced with a complex shaping assignment, I suggested we approach the TLD’s development by keeping our city’s values in mind. For Mayor Bloomberg, these were recently expressed as:

“Personal freedom, economic opportunity, technological innovation, artistic expression: for centuries, these four values defined our city – and for 12 years, they have guided our Administration. But they are not alone. A fifth core value is no less important: We invest in the future.”

Our new administration might want to add other values such as justice and opportunity.

Procedurally, after determining the values, we must assess how .nyc can be shaped to meet the needs of the young, the old, the rich, the poor, the handicapped, immigrants, etc. And how we might shape it to reduce crime and homelessness, improve education and health, and provide business and artistic opportunities.

Robert Pollard did the breakout session report. We were not able to make much progress in the 20 minutes allotted to the session. But if the .nyc TLD is to be shaped to meet the city’s values, these questions await the de Blasio Administration. (Graphic courtesy of Neustar Inc. For all presentation graphics and a video of the Workshop see Slideshare.)

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

Filed December 12th, 2013 under .NYC Advisory Board, At Large, Neighborhoods

Low-Hanging-Fruit.0.png

Jackson Hts., New York, December 8, 2013 - I recently met with a fellow looking to take his talents in a new direction who inquired about opportunities presented by the .nyc TLD. I blabbered for a bit and then, with the time allotted for our meeting running out, I promised to give the question some thought and do a post. Here goes. (Expect additions to this list over time.)

  • Trust For Neighborhood Names - As of last count the city has 355 neighborhoods. Someone needs to start a Trust for Neighborhood Names to oversee the allocation, development, and oversight of the neighborhood domain names, e.g., Harlem.nyc. See dotNeighborhoods for more on this.
  • Regional Consolidation - From an outpost to a village to a city to 5 boroughs, New York has been growing for over 400 years. The TLD provides the opportunity for a second regional consolidation. We need a giant to lead this effort. See here.
  • Data Query Log -  Every request to be connected to a .nyc website results in a notation in a Data Query Log, part of the Internet’s Domain Name System or DNS. These log entries provide raw data for creating a “twitteresque” pulse of the city. Someone needs to make this widely available resource. See more here.
  • Chief Trust Officer - Success with .nyc will involve creating a City of Trust, a place where people locally and globally will feel confident that the .nyc sites they are visiting are trustworthy, respectful of their privacy, and that should something go wrong, there’s recourse. The city needs to appoint a Chief Trust Officer to align the city’s government, civic sector, and residents to achieve a concerted state of awareness and responsiveness. See Chief Trust Officer.      
  • Primary Names - Sports.nyc, news.nyc, weather.nyc, tours.nyc, hotels.nyc, and a few dozen other names will provide opportunities to create significant city resources, and make a decent living in the process.
  • Local Registrars - There’s a need for local name sellers, or registrars, that help residents and organizations learn how to best use .nyc domain names. These registrars might focus on direct sale of names, or as agents that assist web developers, law and accounting firms with name sales. 
  • The Voter Project -  This involves providing every registered voter with a web page that connects them to their neighborhood and the political process. It allows them to feel the pulse of the city and to vote (express an opinion) on the issues before their legislative bodies. See voter.nyc.

All of these opportunities will not necessarily arise. But if you focus on one, develop a plan, and encourage city hall to do its part, success might follow. (P.S. Helping residents transform these possibilities into reality is a key reason for our existence, so don’t hesitate to ask for our assistance.)

This list is by no means comprehensive. Peruse our wiki and blog for others and keep watching as we detail the development of our TLD. Our thanks to Wiki Commons for the Low Hanging Fruit graphic.

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

Filed December 7th, 2013 under Neighborhoods, social network, Domain Names, Education

neighborhood-with-dollar-signs.0.JPGJackson Hts., New York, May 31, 2013 - New Yorkers select their neighborhoods with care. I chose mine based on its proximity to the big city, the cultural diversity of its residents, and housing prices. One gripe I have is the quality of local communication. For reasons that a include a lack of local TV, radio, and daily newspapers it’s difficult to find out what’s going on around here. I’ll grant that it’s a bit easier today than before the Net arrived, but checking 12 or so digital sites has its own drawbacks.

That’s the reason I’ve looked forward to activating the neighborhood name-set: Astoria.nyc, Harlem.nyc, ConeyIsland.nyc, SoHo.nyc… and my favorite, JacksonHeights.nyc. Imagine, one site that will connect me with my neighbors, local events, civic issues, and opportunities. That’s been a dream of mine since my first days on the local community board (1992).

Paving the road for this, a few years back we entered into a collaboration with Wikimedia-NY and the New York Internet Society to test out the idea, creating the NYCwiki.org. By checking community board registers we identified 352 city neighborhoods and began advocating for the reservation of these “dotNeighborhood” domain names (see our dotNeighborhoods home page).

One of our plan’s limits was financing the operation of all these dotNeighborhoods. While ‘hoods such as SoHo.nyc and GreenwichVillage.nyc have institutions and lots of retail that can generate huge advertising and sponsorship revenues (or so we hope), others are tiny, poor, or lacking sufficient revenue sources. We included some general thoughts in a Trust for dotNeighborhoods plan.

This past week Senator Daniel L. Squadron proposed in a New York Times Op-ed, Can a Tree Grow in the Bronx, a solution to financing maintenance of the city’s parks that seems apropos for the dotNeighborhoods. Here’s the way good senator put it:

How can we level the playing field and help ensure that every neighborhood gets the parks it so desperately needs?

One solution is to provide more financing for parks in the annual city and state budgets.

This can and should be done, but it should be supplemented by an ambitious new program: the creation of a Neighborhood Parks Alliance, which would form partnerships between a well-financed conservancy, a “contributing park” and “member parks” in need of more money and support.

A contributing park would commit 20 percent of its conservancy’s budget to member parks with which it is partnered. A park in need would become a member park by gathering signatures from local residents, establishing its own conservancy group and receiving a city commitment, from the Parks Department and local council members, to maintain current government financing levels.

In addition to money, the “contributing park” conservancies would provide continuing oversight, expertise and programmatic support.

As well, the need for the Alliances adds clarity to the intuitive name set for our city’s parks - trust.park.nyc.

Swapping ‘dotNeighborhood’ for ‘park’ makes this sound like a workable solution to me. Thank you Senator Squadron.

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.

barcoded-NYC.0.JPGJackson Hts., New York, November 16, 2012 - On April 19, 2001 Queens Community Board 3, a local planning agency of the City of New York, passed an Internet Empowerment Resolution calling for the acquisition and development of the .nyc TLD as a public interest resource (it’s like .com, .org, .edu and .gov but just for New York City).

Last night, 11 years later, on the eve of that resolution’s fruition, and with 38 other global cities following the city’s lead - .paris, .london, .tokyo, .barcelona, etc., the board passed another resolution supportive of the original saying in essence: “Hey, we started this thing. Don’t forget us.”

The new resolution calls for City Hall to activate and fund a promised .nyc Community Advisory Board and assure that good domain names - those that are short, descriptive and memorable - are provided to the “city’s neighborhoods, community organizations, not-for-profit institutions, and local small businesses.” It also called for the city to coordinate the development of the.nyc TLD with the 38 other global cities, and it requested that a process be developed for recycling domain names that would assure their availability for future generations. The resolution:


A Resolution in Support of the .nyc Top Level Domain

- by Queens Community Board 3, the City of New York, November 15, 2012 -

Whereas, on April 19, 2001 Queens Community Board 3 passed an Internet Empowerment Resolution calling for the acquisition and development of the .nyc Top Level Domain (TLD) as a public interest resource, and

Whereas, the City of New York submitted an application to the Internet Corporation for Assigned Names and Numbers (ICANN) for the .nyc TLD on June 12, 2012, and

Whereas, the City of New York plans to create a Community Advisory Board to “encourage meaningful input into the development of the .nyc strategy” and

Whereas, 38 other cities have followed New York City’s initiative and applied for their TLDs,

Queens Community Board 3 hereby endorses the following resolution:

We congratulate Mayor Bloomberg and the City Council for filing an application for the .nyc TLD.

To contribute to its success, Community Board 3 recommends:

  • that the .nyc TLD’s Community Advisory Board take a careful view of this most important resource, and that it be provided with adequate resources to assure its effective operation.
  • that Community Boards, civic organizations, not-for-profit entities, and local small businesses be represented on the Community Advisory Board.
  • that domain names that support civic life should be thoughtfully reserved for use by the city’s neighborhoods, community organizations, not-for-profit institutions, and local small businesses.
  • that civic not-for-profit organizations, and small businesses be provided with adequate notification of domain name selection periods, and the opportunity to select a good domain name.
  • that the city carefully coordinate the development of its Top Level Domain with the other cities that have applied for their TLDs, seeking opportunities for standardization and the sharing of good TLD governance practices.
  • that a plan be formulated to assure that the .nyc TLD is a sustainable resource: that domain names are recycled so they are available to New Yorkers today and tomorrow.

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.

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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.

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

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

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

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

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

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