Endorsed: The CrowdLaw Manifesto

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With a clear awareness of the need and role for public participation at the most local level of governance, The CrowdLaw Manifesto’s 12 principles promote the use of CrowdLaw (see principle 2 below) by all. They call for legislatures, technologists and the public to participate in creating more open and participatory lawmaking practices. Seeing broad agreement, and immediate application for the principles in our JacksonHeights.nyc Initiative, we endorse them.

The 12 principles:

  1. To improve public trust in democratic institutions, we must improve how we govern in the 21st century.
  2. CrowdLaw is any law, policy-making or public decision-making that offers a meaningful opportunity for the public to participate in one or multiples stages of decision-making, including but not limited to the processes of problem identification, solution identification, proposal drafting, ratification, implementation or evaluation.
  3. CrowdLaw draws on innovative processes and technologies and encompasses diverse forms of engagement among elected representatives, public officials, and those they represent.
  4. When designed well, CrowdLaw may help governing institutions obtain more relevant facts and knowledge as well as more diverse perspectives, opinions and ideas to inform governing at each stage and may help the public exercise political will.
  5. When designed well, CrowdLaw may help democratic institutions build trust and the public to play a more active role in their communities and strengthen both active citizenship and democratic culture.
  6. When designed well, CrowdLaw may enable engagement that is thoughtful, inclusive, informed but also efficient, manageable and sustainable.
  7. Therefore, governing institutions at every level should experiment and iterate with CrowdLaw initiatives in order to create formal processes for diverse members of society to participate in order to improve the legitimacy of decision-making, strengthen public trust and produce better outcomes.
  8. Governing institutions at every level should encourage research and learning about CrowdLaw and its impact on individuals, on institutions and on society.
  9. The public also has a responsibility to improve our democracy by demanding and creating opportunities to engage and then actively contributing expertise, experience, data and opinions.
  10. Technologists should work collaboratively across disciplines to develop, evaluate and iterate varied, ethical and secure CrowdLaw platforms and tools, keeping in mind that different participation mechanisms will achieve different goals.
  11. Governing institutions at every level should encourage collaboration across organizations and sectors to test what works and share good practices.
  12. Governing institutions at every level should create the legal and regulatory frameworks necessary to promote CrowdLaw and better forms of public engagement and usher in a new era of more open, participatory and effective governing.

Tom Lowenhaupt, Director, Connecting.nyc Inc.

For more on the Manifesto see http://manifesto.crowd.law/.


Tabling At Travers Park

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September 2017 – We’ve been neglecting this Connecting.nyc site, putting virtually all our attention into the JacksonHeights.nyc Initiative. To catch you up a bit, here’s an email Tom sent last month updating our neighbors on progress with JacksonHeights.nyc.

The Editor

 *       *       *       *


Next Sunday (August 13) the Jackson Heights Wiki will be hosting an outreach table at Travers Park during the Greenmarket. Tell us your thoughts about what we’ve done and what you’d like to see.

For those of you unfamiliar with The Jackson Heights Wiki, it is a Wikipedia specifically for the Jackson Heights neighborhood. It has over 200 pages which includes information about popular places in the neighborhood such as Restaurants and Parks and even Bathroom Facilities, as well as historical information about Jackson Heights.

But don’t let that number fool you, many of the pages in the Jackson Heights Wiki are incomplete (aka Stubs) and we need YOUR help and knowledge in completing those pages.

For comparison the Davis Wiki, which represents the town of Davis in California has over 16,000 pages, so the Jackson Heights Wiki has a long way to go and we need YOUR help in doing so.

Resource-wise, we’ve had a good summer.

  • We have a full-time summer intern from the city-funded Ladders For Leaders program, Syed Rahman.  A recent graduate from the High School of Technology in Long island City, Syed will be heading to Vanderbilt University on a full scholarship in a few weeks. He’s doing fantastic work.

  • And we received a $1,000 donation from a local veterans organization. (Hints on how to spend it are welcomed.)

While it’s helpful and fun adding to the information layer represented by the wiki, adding our next layer – decision-making and organizing – is the possible mold breaker.

Forty years ago I got an early peak at the potential of advanced connectivity – what we call today the Internet – and concluded that it would lead to a vast realignment in the operation of our governance systems. With their having been developed for a horse and buggy era, how could it not?

But to date, nothing much has changed in this foundational area. We hope to have something operating in late winter in the decision-making and organizing realm that sheds light on whether a neighborhood is a workable civic entity in our increasingly digital era.

Finally, putting on my panglossian hat and anticipating success, it’s time we get more formal with the governance of the Jackson Heights Initiative, with a first meeting on that topic to happen in September. Let me know if you’d like an invite and help steer the Initiative.

For now, SHARE WHAT YOU KNOW on the wiki.


Tom Lowenhaupt, Overseer Pro Tem


Announcing The Jackson Heights Wiki

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The following letter inviting residents of Jackson Heights to share their knowledge of the neighborhood on the Jackson heights wiki was sent today.

May 23, 2017

Fellow Jackson Heights Residents,

This is a somewhat long message, so I’m going to summarize it here for those who’ve been awaiting this email and know what to do: wiki.JacksonHeights.nyc is now ready and waiting for you to share what you know about the neighborhood. (For reasons explained below, the Home page is not editable, all others are.)

The Somewhat Long Message.

The Jackson Heights wiki exists. It’s in the earliest of days – in biblical terms, a tad past separating the light from the dark. So far there’s not a whole lot to see, maybe 50 pages or so, some of which are stubs – starter pages needing polish and additional detail  before they possess real meaning. To give a feel for what’s there now, I’ll describe two existing pages.

  • Holmes Airport – I’ve lived in JH for 38 years and had never heard of Holmes Airport until I did a Wikipedia search for Jackson Heights. I learned that Holmes took up almost a quarter of the neighborhood from 1929 to 1940, when LaGuardia Airport opened and ran it out of business. Beyond the page’s raw information, take a look at the Questions, Resources & Possibilities section where several article additions and an Augmented Reality project are described. The page is an example of how our past can be fodder for our future, or put another way, how to build a mountain out of a molehill. (Is your home on the same spot where Amelia Earhart christened the Goodyear blimp Resolute at Holmes in 1932 ?)

  • The wiki’s Home Page is here. As noted above, this is the only page that can not be edited by the general public. The existence of this solitary “no changes” page provides an opportunity to bring up the need for a formal governance process. For the wiki (I’ll talk about the JacksonHeights.nyc website below), we’re starting out using similar editorial policies and processes to those used on Wikipedia. But because its a neighborhood wiki and not an encyclopedia, we’re going to need to make some changes. There are a lot of sensitive questions about “appropriate content” that need to be answered. Our governance page looks at that and how we make decisions about the wiki policies.

Why The Wiki?

We began our effort with the belief that Jackson Heights is built upon the shoulders of those who preceded us. And we see the wiki as an information archive of where we’ve come from, what we’ve done, and what’s here now. As well, a neighborhood wiki should detail resources and stories on how things got and get done.

We hope to get all meaningful neighborhood information together in one place and arrange for permanent availability. And there’s no realistic way to do that other than through a massive neighborhood-wide collaboration using wiki software.

Wikipedia’s managed to get over 5 million pages in the English language encyclopedia. How many contributors do we need to capture the detail of our neighborhood is unknown. But there are 100,000 residents here to help with the task – plus former residents, visitors, and well wishers – and our wiki software is a most powerful tool.

What can you do today? Here are some suggestions, some easy some difficult.

  • Start a page for an organization you belong to, or improve an existing page about it. Got a memory about a store you loved that is no longer with us (Caffe Greco!), start a page. Write about your building and perhaps some famous past residents (but before writing about current residents, we need to have a conversation about privacy – see the Governance and Appropriate content pages). I recall hearing that former Assembly member Ivan Lafayette had a proposal for an improved local transportation system – if you know anything about it, create a wiki page for it. Are you Cuban, Thai, Indian, or Nepalese? Create a page about your culture’s arrival and impact on Jackson Heights.

  • Simpler is to copy and past a page from Wikipedia. There are lots. Take a look at the Fifth Avenue Bus Company page. This page was clipped from Wikipedia and posted as a new page on our wiki. It needs to be reorganized and refocused about its role here. Eventually the page might have local photos and remembrances of its impact on JH. It will be a slow build process. Every wiki page is a collaboration that will change over time. For now, just get something started.

  • Fixing up existing pages is also quite worthwhile (that’s what most Wikipedians (Wikipedia editors) do. Correct spelling, choose a better word, find a reference, update, reorganize, these are all necessary and worthwhile tasks.

  • If you’re ambitious, follow up on a theme. For example, I started with a copy and paste from Wikipedia of Travers Park. Next I created a page for Thomas Travers from that page and a bit of googling. Next I added pages for Rory Staunton Field and the Staunton Foundation. Added links to other parks, and have stopped “parking” for now.

  • If you’re not interested in pagemaking, perhaps the policy area is of interest. Take a look at the Governance process and Appropriate content pages. These require a good deal of help. They are key to the wiki’s success. If we get these areas right, there’s a good likelihood we’ll succeed.

  • Finally, if you’ve got an idea or a gripe, I’m reachable via the below.

  • Final, final. If none of this appeals to you, forward this to a friend who might be interested.

The Future

The wiki is part of the Jackson Heights Initiative. It was begun by Connecting.nyc Inc., a NYS nonprofit that emerged from a resolution passed from our local community board in 2001. Connecting.nyc applied for and received the city’s license to operate the JacksonHeights.nyc domain. Our goal is to get the wiki and related digital resources in operation, (e.g., the JacksonHeights.nyc website), and transition control to a locally controlled nonprofit within the next couple of years.

The JacksonHeights.nyc website is not ready for viewing yet, remaining in the unimproved state we received it in from the city. Our next message will focus on plans for it. Until then, share your knowledge on the wiki.


Tom Lowenhaupt


Director, Connecting.nyc Inc.

Interim Director, JacksonHeights.nyc

[email protected]


Jackson Hts., NYC


Responding To Wannacrypt: The Road Toward A More Reliable Digital Environment

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We’ve never reposted an email before, but upon receiving the below from Brandt Dainow, we decided that because of its simplicity and clarity, it should be passed on uncut.


From:] On Behalf Of Brandt Dainow
Sent: Tuesday, May 16, 2017 13:20
Subject: Re: Wannacrypt and Digital Geneva Convention: should ISOC take a position?

Perhaps the comment wasn’t meant to be insulting, but it is, in my opinion, outrageous to call the average computer user “clueless.”  I have observed such a contemptuous attitude amongst IT professionals towards the non-technical since I began working in IT in the 1970’s.  It is unreasonable to expect the average consumer, or even company, to be technically competent in IT.  We do not expect every company, no matter how small, to be able to maintain their own electricity supply, their cars, their plumbing, etc.  Why should IT professionals expect computing to be different?  If it was just an internal attitude, it would do no harm.  But the reality is this expectation of expertise permeates IT design.  Interfaces are hard for the average user because they come with many expectations from IT professionals, even basic skills like how to visually divide up the screen and identify commonalities in icons are not natural.  There’s nothing “natural” about a mouse, it also takes practice and skill.  The result of this expectation coupled with contempt is that computer systems are needlessly complicated, technical documentation is poor or completely lacking, and IT support costs are too high.  No effort is made to simplify maintenance or use, all effort is focused on building new features, adding complexity, and trying to lock users into proprietary systems, against their own interest.  We build the systems, we design the standards.  If IT systems are too complicated for the average user, it’s not their fault, it’s ours.

The market structure then reinforces this.  Why was Microsoft allowed to cease support for WinXP?  Where do they get the right to dictate to the world what we do with products we have purchased and now own?  Did Microsoft drop XP because it was trying to improve consumer conditions?  No – they did it to force people to buy more products.  If Microsoft desired to cease XP support, why did they prevent an industry of XP support developing by restricting access to the necessary code?  If significant numbers of hospitals and government agencies depend on XP, Microsoft’s commercial selfishness endangered lives.  Why does Microsoft prevent other companies issuing security patches for any version of Windows?  They don’t restrict for the common good of society, they do it to make money, and the rest of society can rot as far as they are concerned.  I completely understand Microsoft’s decision to cease XP support – I used to work in Microsoft support and know what it costs.  But that doesn’t mean they couldn’t have licenced it out to others, and there certainly would have been an opportunity to make money doing so.  IP and any other issues could have been easily handled – it happens all the time.  If I had been given the opportunity to start a business running XP patching, with the existing user base out there, I could have obtained millions in start-up funding overnight – such a business is a no-brainer.

We have to stop treating OS’s and other software like optional consumer products and recognise that they are now essential services.  We cannot allow software vendors to do whatever they like – force upgrades, withdraw support, etc.  Free market ideas do NOT have any place here – there is no free market – who is my alternative supplier for Windows?  A free market would have meant people could have shifted to another patch supplier when Microsoft dropped support for XP.  When we will wake up and recognise that we are living under monopoly domination by selfish mega-corps who will act against our interests in order to make more profit?  Companies like Microsoft are simply anti-capitalist.  This pattern has been seen over and over in every new tech industry of the modern ear, going back at least to rail.  The problem is always the same – consolidation into abusive monopolies, and the solution is always the same – government intervention, licencing and regulation.


Brandt Dainow


Wiki Seed Planted

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Map showing borders of Greater Jackson HeightsJackson Heights, NY, April 18, 2017 – Here’s a “just for the very interested” notice: We’ve started a key element of the JacksonHeights.nyc initiative by activating the wiki.JacksonHeights.nyc.

The wiki’s goal is to be a repository of information about the neighborhood. During the germination period access is limited to those with a tolerance for imperfection. For example, you’ll find that only the highly transitory home page is visible to those without a member account. And to establish a member account you’ll need to weave your way through a three step process – create an account, wait for an email ok’ing your member access, then login.

Ease of access and the quality of content will improve over time. The very interested are invited to help set the road.

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