2015 – The Year of the dotNeighborhoods

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neighborhoodJackson Hts., New York, January 18, 2015 – One of the unheralded achievements of the de Blasio administration’s first year was saving the neighborhood domain names – Astoria.nyc, Bensonhurst.nyc, Chelsea.nyc, etc. from the auction block. Under Bloomberg, these historic names were slotted to be sold off during the Landrush period to whoever had the biggest bank account. But under the guidance of Mayor de Blasio’s Sr. Adviser Jeff Merritt, the names were reserved:

The City of New York has reserved roughly 400 neighborhood names for use by community groups to develop new online hubs for civic engagement, online organizing and information-sharing. Neighborhood names will be available beginning in Fall 2014 and will be licensed to community groups through a competitive application process.

In order to be eligible for a .nyc neighborhood name, the lead organization must meet the following minimum qualifications: (a) registered as a not-for-profit, public benefit corporation or local development corporation, and (b) located within the neighborhood for which a .nyc domain name is sought.

Neighborhoods have been a long-time focus of ours. (See our dotNeighborhood wiki pages.) We’ve imagined vast unrealized social and civic potential, hamstrung by inadequate communication. Our most noticeable involvements with them was a collaboration with the New York Internet Society and Wikimedia-NY that explored the potential of neighborhood wikis. (See NYCwiki.org). So we were delighted by this development.

Over the next year a considerable part of our efforts will focus on making the most of these dotNeighborhoods. We hope to plan a pilot project with the following components:

  • Organizing – Write an on the ground plan for ways to engage local residents and organizations to support the venture. This will include ways to determine local training needs and integration with existing entities – digital and traditional.
  • Technology – Create a system with five components:
    • Centrally gathered neighborhood data: demographics, maps, economic info, government programs and grant information. Here we will look to collaborate with the city administration and entities such as Beta-NY.
    • A host system that includes a wiki component enabling everyone to record and publish a neighborhood’s memory. (For example, see Davis Wiki.)
    • Features that support discussion, decision making, and organizing.
    • An app for engagement while roaming the streets, with 311, service reviews, and peer connections.
    • A business model.
  • Best Practices – Establish a process for sharing ideas with other neighborhoods.

We invite the many who’ve indicated supported for our dotNeighborhoods initiative to limber up their minds and/or fingers and get ready for a most exciting year. Those who do not receive our dotNeighborhood notices should sign-up using the form at the lower left below.

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Report: Public Interest Commitments & Premium .nyc Domain Names

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Jackson Hts., New York, January 3, 2014 – The New York Internet Society and Connecting.nyc Inc. convened a panel on December 18 to explore the prospect and impact of requiring Public Interest Commitments (PICs) for some of the unallocated .nyc domain names – names such as news.nyc, sports.nyc, and hotels.nyc.

Internet thought leader Avri Doria kicked off the panel with a most informative and reflective history on the origin of ICANN’s new TLD program and the evolving role of PICs. She expressed a mixed viewpoint on the role of PICs, but was dubious about domain names being considered “magic words” – leaning toward the “there’s always a viable alternative” viewpoint.

Avri was followed by Thomas Lowenhaupt, founding director of Connecting.nyc Inc., who suggested that 21,000 unallocated .nyc domain names be mined for those that might be shaped to benefit the public interest; and that those names have PICs attached to their development rights. To achieve this goal he suggested city hall establish a PIC Oversight Board to facilitate the identification and development of names that might benefit the public interest.

  • The Board should create guidelines for identifying public interest names and administer a process for their selection. That process should maximize opportunities for public engagement.
  • The Board should identify PIC features that might aide the development of markets and quality of life: maps, searchable alpha and geographic listings, public rankings, comments, reviews, etc. Names should be assigned appropriate PICs.
  • The Board should devise policies that maximize opportunities for the creative development of public interest names. These policies should enable for a broad spectrum of society to avail themselves of the opportunities provides by this new resource (not just current market leaders). These might include innovation credits, subsidies, stretched payment schedules, and other incentives.
  • The Board should advise on suitable means of distributing PIC names: high-bid auction, request for proposals, or other processes.
  • On an ongoing basis the Board should monitor the efficacy of the PIC program.

Finally, Gabriel Levitt, commenting on the .pharmacy TLD, provided insight into the role domain names can play in shaping a market and the public’s interest. Timothy McGinnis provided additional commentary on that topic. A full report on the presentations, a Q&A, and links to panelist videos and slides can be found on the meeting report page.

[Subsequent to the panel, member Thomas Lowenhaupt realized that he’d neglected to mention an important policy consideration relating to premium names and PICs – equity. His concern is that with high-bid auctions the sole criteria determining premium name allocation, new New Yorkers with new visions will find it difficult to participate in the .nyc marketplace. He requested that equity be noted here for inclusion in the ongoing conversation.]

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A Governance Model For the .nyc TLD

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of by for the people

Jackson Hts., New York, December 3, 2014 – The existing term of the members of the mayor’s .NYC Community Advisory Board expires on December 31. What’s next?

At a recent New York meeting before key participants in the city’s Internet industry, ICANN’s CEO Fadi Chehade suggested that CGI.br, the Brazilian governance body overseeing the .br TLD, might provide a good lesson for cities looking at governance models. For background on CGI.br we put this page together. Additionally, our wiki has several background pages on the Internet Governance Ecology.

To address the issue, a December 17 meeting of the .NYC Community Advisory Board has been scheduled. The preliminary call set the following parameters:

We would like to propose a facilitated discussion on best practices in internet governance. The hope is that this discussion will provide us with a clear set of priorities and goals for 2015, thereby allowing us to set a specific course of action for the coming year.

 Sounds like the right move.

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Fadi’s Chehade’s Advice for “The Reference City”

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ICANN's Fadi Chehade at NYC's Municipal Building November 24, 2014Jackson Hts., New York, November 27, 2014  – ICANN’s CEO Fadi Chehade met Monday with a group of New Yorkers from city government, civil society, and business in the offices of Manhattan Borough President Gale Brewer.

After introductions and an update on .nyc’s status, Fadi told the attendees that in his travels he is often asked by mayors “What is New York doing about .nyc?” To the mayors, he noted, “New York is the reference city.”

(The inside joke is that most new things are tried and tested elsewhere and then adopted in New York. But they receive their first wide publicity only after the city’s mass of media gives notice. The city’s pols sometimes shine their innovator credentials with new developments and feed the originality myth. In this instance however, the idea of a city-TLD did originate here. And now, as Fadi said, the whole world is watching.)

So how do we make .nyc a positive reference for the hundreds of cities that will be be acquiring their TLDs over the next few years? Fadi was very interested in the city’s nexus policy and suggested it fit with one of the unique development’s he’s seen for new TLDs – authentication. As an example he noted that the Catholic Church has a 10 year plan to replace its centuries old Red Book, the current authoritative listing of Catholic organizations, with the .catholic TLD. Message #1, make nexus work and build upon it.

Fadi also encouraged the city to find a good model for public participation in our TLD’s governance. He pointed to the success Brazil has experienced with its “multistakeholder” governance structure for the .br TLD. Most interesting, the governance entity has 21 members with the government appointing 9 – a minority. Fadi, turning to the government officials present suggested that “ceding a little bit of the city’s power creates a community which is very powerful.” As a resident it seems a gamble worth taking. But government loosening its grip on power is indeed a rare event. More on the .br oversight by CGI.br can be found here.

For the meeting’s full recording which, in addition to the above, touched on global Internet governance issues, see here. Commons Graphic shows Manhattan Borough President Gale Brewer and ICANN CEO Fadi Chehade.

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Of Master Plans & GreeneStreet.nyc

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Jackson Hts., New York, November 23, 2014 – While the language spoken was economics and the focus on ways to plan for further urbanization, last week’s Cities and Development: Urban Determinants of Success conference at New York University provided a salient message for cities planning their TLDs: create a master plan but use a marketing oriented development process.

The conferences’ premise was that urbanization willCommissioners Plan of 1811 continue as our planet’s population increases from 7 to 10 billion, requiring the building of cities for 5 billion additional residents. Paul Romer started things off with The Power of the Grid, a talk that put New York’s Commissioners’ Plan of 1811 at the center of our city’s successful development. Noting the grid’s development utility, its ease for packaging land parcels, and its reservation of 30% of the land for public use (mostly streets and sidewalks), Professor Romer urged that similar grids be central to planning for the 5 billion new residents that will move to cities over the next century.

In making this pitch Romer emphasized the utility the 1811 Plan’s public space, providing the opportunity for 200 years worth of city enhancements: water, gas, electric, and communication utilities below the streets. And transportation below (subways) and on the streets.

As Romer spoke I wondered how well we’d done planning our city’s TLD. Have we provided the capacity to build and evolve over the coming decades? If the Neustar contract is our TLD’s equivalent to the Commissioners’ Plan of 1811, what is the quality of our planning effort? The elements that come to mind are the reserved names – the 800 neighborhood, BID, function, and institution names; the blocked/nuisance names; and the 2,000 premium names set for high-bid auction next year. Have we matched the thoroughness and thoughtfulness of the 1811 city builders? Are there changes we might still make, e.g., would capacity improve if we attached public interest commitments to the premium names?

Romer concluded his presentation noting that in these globalized times the efficiency of a city’s operations was key to corporate decisions on locating their resources. If our digital plan is measured in this regard how will our city fare? Will the hundreds of cities soon to acquire their TLDs learn from our experiences and best us?

Moving from telescope to microscope, next up were Bill Easterly and Laura Freschi who gave a 400 year history of one city block – Greene Street between Prince and Houston. The ups and downs of the block were presented in fine detail, from the days of its first European owners – when it was farmland owned and cultivated by slaves – to today’s sheik stores and multi-million dollar residences. The message was that the details of ownership and use are best taken care of by the market.

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Most interesting from a city-TLD perspective was the presentation’s concluding slide showing that the good professors had acquired development rights for the GreeneStreet.nyc domain name – see graphic. After the presentation I introduced myself to Bill Easterly and, noting my interest in city-TLDs, asked what the future held for greenestreet.nyc. A jovial fellow, he indicated their intent to use it to present and further their research on Greene Street, and that it was intended for public use.

Later I wondered about governance and access rights by residents of the other 10 blocks of Greene Street, and if perhaps our city would have been better served if our street names had public interest commitments attached.

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