Tabling At Travers Park

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We’ve really 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

 *       *       *       *

Neighbors,

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.

Best,

Tom Lowenhaupt, Overseer Pro Tem

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High-Bid Auctions Deflate the .nyc TLD

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stoptheauctionsJackson Hts., New York, October 27, 2016 – Our hope for an intuitive and trusted .nyc TLD took a hit today when 20 domain names were sold to 10 bidders in city’s first high-bid auction. While the city refers to these as “premium” names, we think of them as heritage names. With our city-TLD’s success predicated on its utility and predictability, this first of perhaps 25 auctions bodes poorly on its chances. More on that in a bit, but first some details on the auction.

The big winners (using their bidder names, the only ones available), were nameinvest and motionx with 4 properties each. Top dollar was spent by changejobs who purchased apartments.nyc, condos.nyc, and realestate.nyc laying out a total of $42,065. The bargain of the day went to hoofhearted who purchased roommates.nyc for $69. In total, more than $68,000 was bid. Here are the auction results:

  • Apartments.nyc
  • 58 bidders
  • winner: changejobs
  • $16,155
  • Construction.nyc
  • 28 bidders
  • winner: anasacebaruzzi
  • $500
  • Kitchen.nyc
  • 23 bidders
  • winner: motionx
  • $2,000
  • Renovation.nyc
  • 22 bidders
  • winner: nameinvest
  • $690
  • Brokers.nyc
  • 32 bidders
  • winner: nameinvest
  • $1,908
  • Furniture.nyc
  • 24 bidders
  • winner: motionx
  • $2,508
  • Lease.nyc
  • 24 bidders
  • winner; breadsticlk
  • $4,100
  • Roommates.nyc
  • 23 bidders
  • winner: hoofhearted
  • $69
  • Brownstones.nyc
  • 23 bidders
  • winner: luckbealady
  • $530
  • Garden.nyc
  • 22 bidders
  • winner:: motionx
  • $1,021
  • Living.nyc
  • 24 bidders
  • winner: greenappletree
  • $2,650
  • Rentals.nyc
  • 48 bidders
  • winner: guyg
  • $5,700
  • Condos.nyc
  • 41 bidders
  • winner: changejobs
  • $4,610
  • Homes.nyc
  • 37 bidders
  • winner: motionx
  • $3,200
  • Lofts.nyc
  • 29 bidders
  • winner: odash
  • $1,200
  • Studios.nyc
  • 27 bidders
  • winner: nameinvest
  • $1,008
  • CoOps.nyc
  • 23 bidders
  • winner: hoofhearted
  • $520
  • Interiors.nyc
  • 22 bidders
  • winner: nameinvest
  • $500
  • RealEstate.nyc
  • 60 bidders
  • winner: changejobs
  • $21,300
  • Sublet.nyc
  • 24 bidders
  • winner: guyg
  • $560

Using market metrics, the city can point to some positive results…

  • The auction winners now have the opportunity to develop these 20 domain names.
  • Someday soon some new websites might emerge and improve our lives. And if they are successful, add some jobs and taxes to our economy.
  • The city and several intermediaries will receive some revenue.

But the negative impacts are far more numerous and consequential…

Let’s explore this proposition by looking at this auction’s effects on a developer shopping for a domain name, and a typical New York internet user. From a developers perspective, with more than 1,000 TLDs to choose from, why choose one from the .nyc TLD? What makes it a better choice than a .com? Or selecting a descriptive TLD: a .lawyer for someone starting a law practice? And from a New Yorker’s perspective, what difference does it make if s/he receives predictable results from our city’s TLD?

The answer to all these questions is trust. While there are several factors that engender trust, to a large degree, it emerges organically from an intuitive TLD. Trust is engendered when one types a domain name and arrives at the expected resource. The simplest and quickest way for the .nyc TLD is to become trusted, is by setting standards that encourage an intuitive name space.

Let me detail the ways the high-bid auctions damage an intuitive and trusted TLD.

  • First, these are heritage names with a meaning that exists in the heads of New Yorkers. They should be providing the base for a more intuitive Internet both for New Yorkers and those seeking our resources. To the extent that they’re not part of an intuitive guidance system, they diminish the reliability of our city’s TLD.
  • Without public interest commitments guiding their use, city residents may utilize these names only at the whim and will of the auction winners.
  • Without public interest commitments, the winning bidders may use them for non-conforming use. The winner of Brownstones.nyc can use the name for a bar, a band, or whatever. If Brownstones.nyc doesn’t tell tourists about our brownstones, it reduces consistency and damages the TLD.
  • Without public interest commitments, selling development rights to our heritage names is like giving control of our street signs to an advertising agency.
  • Without public interest commitments, the winners may leave the names idle, or “parked” in industry parlance. More than 1/2 of .nyc names are currently parked or without content.

Having established public interest commitments for the neighborhood names, and benefited from its 200 year experience with street grids – predictability and ease of navigation – I find it disheartening that the city government has not chosen to follow the winning pattern.

If the auctions continue as is, they will discourage direct, intuitive (type-in) access, making New York’s resources less accessible – finding them will require a search engine. This will diminish our capacity to shape our city and shift it into the hands of Google-like entities.

Beyond its impact on the viability of our TLD, the de Blasio Administration is missing the opportunity to fulfill its commitment to foster opportunities for minorities and women. While the city has indicated a willingness to make some reserved names available for public interest uses, its resource commitment to advance the idea has been inadequate. Similarly, the promised 30 day notification for these heritage auctions doesn’t provide an adequate opportunity to organize hackathons and other networking events that might enable innovative ideas to emerge from our disparate communities.

#StopTheAuctions

This was the first of what might be 25 high-bid auctions for 500 heritage names. The city should stop the auctions and take steps to improve this phase of the name allocation process. Allocating 500 heritage names without associated Public Interest Commitments will cripple .nyc’s intuitive operation, diminish public trust, and reduce the utility and usage of our city’s TLD.

We’ve made several improvement recommendations in a previous post. Today we’re recommending that the city cancel the auctions, and negotiate a settlement with the contractor for its expected revenue. Auction #1 has provided a basis for estimating that settlement.

—–
Thomas Lowenhaupt is the founding director of Connecting.nyc Inc., a NYS nonprofit education organization advancing the operation of the .nyc TLD as a public interest resource. His 2001 Internet Empowerment Resolution sparked the city’s acquisition of the .nyc TLD. Two years ago the Internet Society of New York and Connecting.nyc sponsored a panel on the allocation of these “premium” domain names. See a report on that meeting here.

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#StopTheAuctions

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stoptheauctionsJackson Hts., New York, October 5, 2016 –  There were highs and lows in city hall’s rollout of the .nyc TLD last month. Early on we were cheered when we received notification that our application for the JacksonHeights.nyc domain name had been approved. And with the de Blasio Administration committed to putting the city’s 350+ neighborhood domain names under the control of local residents, we began to imagine that our decade-old vision of an “intuitive” city Internet might materialize; where one would find informative presentations of our city’s art galleries at artgalleries.nyc, find banks at banks.nyc, and locate a church at churches.nyc. And with each such directory a bonus would arrive: the opportunity for a New Yorker to form a new small business.

But our confidence plummeted when the city’s contractor announced that a high-bid auction was to be held on October 24 for 20 domain names:

  • Apartments.nyc
  • Construction.nyc
  • Kitchen.nyc
  • Renovation.nyc
  • Brokers.nyc
  • Furniture.nyc
  • Lease.nyc
  • Roommates.nyc
  • Brownstones.nyc
  • Garden.nyc
  • Living.nyc
  • Rentals.nyc
  • Condos.nyc
  • Homes.nyc
  • Lofts.nyc
  • Studios.nyc
  • CoOps.nyc
  • Interiors.nyc
  • RealEstate.nyc
  • Sublet.nyc

These are the first of what might ultimately be 3,000 auctioned names, many of which are vital to the realization of that intuitive city and the utility of the TLD.

The basis of our disappointment is epitomized by the hotels.nyc domain name. It’s reasonable to assume that, in a high-bid auction, an entity such as the Hilton Corporation, with deep pockets and 30 hotels in or near the city, will win. When this occurs two associated outcomes can be predicted with reasonable certainty: a traveler looking to hotels.nyc for a city hotel would assuredly be provided with a highly skewed view of the city’s 250+ hotels (a Hilton perhaps?). And a comprehensive listing of hotels, perhaps creatively mixed to include an AirBnB-like listing, fashioned by a local entrepreneur will never materialize.

With our being awarded the license for JacksonHeights.nyc, we have a big stake in this development: If people come to believe that hotels.nyc and other such civic infrastructure names are in essence offering “biased directories,” what hope is there that they will come to trust that JacksonHeights.nyc presents the considered and collaborative intelligence of its neighborhood namesake?

To summarize, the city has established a workable model to guide the allocation of the neighborhood names, requiring detailed public interest commitments (PICs) from those interested in the rights to their development. Further, those awarded neighborhood name must return every three years to demonstrate they’ve met their PICs. In contrast, the plan for auctioning hundreds, perhaps thousands of these civicly important names does not require any PICs from the auction winners. And there’s no review process whatsoever, with the names issued virtually forever.

#StopTheAuctions

If the city sticks with the high-bid auction (a holdover from the Bloomberg Administration), several negatives will result.

  • Our opportunity to establish .nyc as a managed and trusted TLD, a safe port if you will, will be severely diminished.
  • We’ll loose the opportunity to provide access to these new resources to capital starved entities. The local flavor and creativity will suffer.
  • We’ll loose an opportunity to bolster our digital self reliance. We’ll remain dependent on distant search engines to filter and present our digital resources.

The city should stop the auctions and follow these steps to improve the name allocation process.

  • City Hall should establish a public policy that facilitates the identification and development of civicly valuable domain names.
  • Considering the economic and aggregation benefits that arise with a well managed and trusted digital resource, it should categorize the 3,000 names: those that can be auctioned immediately, names for negotiated allocation (like the neighborhood names), and names that have PICs and are destined for high-bid auction. (Here’s a start.)
  • The city’s Department of Small Business Services should do outreach to small and minority businesses and empower them to participate in these auctions by sponsoring hackathons, networking events, loans, credits…

The city should begin governing the .nyc TLD as a common that belongs to all New Yorkers. While Mayor de Blasio has taken some commendable steps, e.g., the neighborhood names and a nexus policy that restricts ownership to New Yorkers, success requires an investment. The city should immediately re-establish its .NYC Community Advisory Board and enable meaningful public engagement in the auctions, and deal with issues such as abandoned names, idle names, WHOIS, rates, and consumer protections.

Longer term, the city charter needs to be revised to reflect the Internet’s existence.

—–
Thomas Lowenhaupt is the founding director of Connecting.nyc Inc., a NYS nonprofit education organization advancing the operation of the .nyc TLD as a public interest resource. His 2001 Internet Empowerment Resolution sparked the city’s acquisition of the .nyc TLD. Two years ago the Internet Society of New York and Connecting.nyc sponsored a panel on the allocation of these “premium” domain names. See a report on that meeting here.

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25 Things I Want For My Neighborhood.nyc

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neighborhood cartoon picturesNovember 30, 2015, Jackson Hts., NYC – My neighborhood is the place where most all my needs are me. It’s where I eat, I work, I sleep, I play – where I live. Not all the time – my work and vacations draw me away, and Manhattan’s wonders tempt me all too often – but most of the time. And as I’m getting up there in years, I’m beginning to think (hope?) that it’s the place where I’ll end my days (more on this below).

Next to my health, my family and my friends, my neighborhood is probably the most important thing in my life. And I’m blessed to live in a wonderful one – Jackson Heights.

In two days (now passed) I’m heading to a meeting at Queens Borough Hall to discuss what could be an important addition to my neighborhood, JacksonHeights.nyc and the vast potential it offers. It’s something I’ve thought about for 15 yeas, and now it’s just around the corner. Here’s what “I want” to happen to my neighborhood as a consequence of the development of the neighborhood domain name.

  • I want JacksonHeights.nyc to add more community to my neighborhood. (For background, a neighborhood is a geographic area and a community is connections, friendships, shared interests, and support. It can be local or global.)
  • I want “adding more community” to be a priority requirement for any entity that’s given the license to run JacksonHeights.nyc.
  • I want JacksonHeights.nyc to help create a more collaborative and caring neighborhood – both on and offline.
  • I want it to expose and highlight needs and opportunities and facilitate collaborations. .
  • I want it to empower residents to organize and address these needs.
  • I want it to facilitate the creation of caring communities that focus on the needs of have nots.
  • I want it to offer a great decision-making tool, one that helps form a majority without crushing the minority.
  • I want a JacksonHeights.nyc that’s organized and governed as a common, with a collaborative decision making process engaging all the neighborhood’s stakeholders.
  • I want JacksonHeights.nyc to help existing organizations (for and nonprofits) achieve their missions.
  • I want JacksonHeights.nyc to pay its way and create a local job or two.
  • I want JacksonHeights.nyc to be the first choice for local businesses online advertising dollars.
  • I want JacksonHeights.nyc to be the place where residents turn for recommendations for dentists, doctors, electricians, plumbers, restaurants…
  • I want it to have a neighborhood calendar I can plan my life around, with a calendar having a check box that allows me “Invite the world” or “Just for the neighborhood.”
  • I want it to show 311 and 911 calls, showing respect for privacy of course.
  • I want it to help residents organize to resolve issues raised by these calls.
  • I want Jackson Heights.nyc to create a neighborhood where residents respond and adapt to climate change.
  • I want JacksonHeights.nyc to be a safe place to conduct my online life. That means it must have DNSSEC and DANE (technical protocols) and be part of a citywide security and privacy effort.
  • I want JacksonHeights.nyc to present all the information about the neighborhood that I or any visitor might want. This is information we  know collectively and should be presented by wiki-style.
  • I want the operator of JacksonHeights.nyc to serve residents via desktops, phones, tablets, etc.
  • I want all the software used on JacksonHeights.nyc to be open source.
  • I want JacksonHeights.nyc to share its riches with other city neighborhoods.
  • And I want our neighborhood’s residents and institutions to train everyone interested in effectively using JacksonHeights.nyc.

The city’s extensive and well thought out application for the neighborhood domain names leads me to think the administration shares these thoughts. But it will surely take the engagement and support of many to make them a reality. I hope many of you will be in Borough Hall, Room 200 on Wednesday morning at 9:30 (see invite post here) to add your Wants to this list.

Best,

Tom Lowenhaupt

 

For more on the city’s dotNeighborhoods, see here.

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On Becoming An NGO

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New York, September 10, 2015 – In early 2014 we applied to the United Nations requesting that we be granted Special Consultative Status. A tad over a year later, on April 20, 2015, we received a message from the Committee on Non-Governmental Organizations saying “your organization’s application for consultative status by the Committee on Non-Governmental Organizations will take place during its 2015 Resumed Session in New York, scheduled for 26 May – 3 June 2015.”

UN Resumed Session May 2015The email went on to say “Your presence is not mandatory and will not in any way affect the consideration of your application” and that “given the large volume of new and deferred applications for the Committee’s consideration, it is not possible to determine the exact date at which your application will be reviewed during the session.”

Despite the indefinite review date, we thought that, being located in New York, I’d attend the meeting in the hope that I might be available to contribute to the review process. Minimally I’d get to spend a day at the UN which always inspires me. So I wrote the NGO Committee that I’d be there for the afternoon session on May 28.

Everything worked out well that day and we’re now an NGO. But a friend thought the story of my experience on the 28th was amusing and suggested I share it. Here goes.

At about noon on the 28th, as I was preparing to depart for the UN, an email arrived from the NGO Committee inquiring about the response we’d submitted to question #11, which asked if Connecting.nyc Inc. was an international organization. I responded with some clarifying detail and headed out to the UN.

At the UN I found the Committee meeting in Conference Room 4, a very impressive room (pictured above). Near the entrance I found an official and explained my situation. She checked her computer and noted that my response to question #11 had already made its way through the review process and was available for the members for consideration. I asked if there was  anything further I could do to aide my application. She asked if I would be available for the Q&A which began at 5 PM. Not clear what that was, but eager to please, I said sure. She concluded with “5 PM no earlier.”

There was another meeting nearby that interested me and I left Conference Room 4 for about 1/2 an hour. Returning at 20 of 5, I took a seat at the rear. Seconds after settling into my seat the chair, speaking Spanish, said something that seemed to conclude with “Connecting.nyc.” Startled, I slowly stood, tried to imagine what he might have said, and listened intently a few seconds later when he repeated the statement that clearly included “Connecting.nyc.”

Unclear as to what to do, I looked around for guidance. The woman at the entry desk motioned to say “Yes it is related to you” and urged me to move toward a desk closer to the front. As I approached that desk the fellow there waved me on, to continue toward the front. Looking ahead I saw yet another desk just to the right of the dais, and felt sure my answer would be found there. But as I reached it the two occupants waved me forward. With no desks ahead I stood motionless. Then a woman just on the dais whispered that I was to “sit there” and motioned to the rightmost chair near her.

So within 30 seconds of hearing “Connecting.nyc” I found myself seated on the dais and wondering what was next.

Shortly the chair stated, in English, that I had 10 minutes to address the Committee’s 19 members. With nothing prepared I conjured an impromptu brief about our history and goals, and clarified our botched response to question #11. Q&A followed with the representative form Nicaragua asking how we expected to deliver our services to the member states. I indicated that our web presence would be primary, but that we hoped to reach nation states and their cities through our special consultative status. I then awaited another question. A few seconds passed and the chair said “Any more questions?” Receiving no response he nodded for me to leave.

As I rose and turned to depart the woman who had directed me to my seat said “Congratulations”. I must have looked perplexed, and she followed with “You’ve been approved.” And indeed, the Committee had recommended granting special consultative status to the organization. (Several weeks later Economic and Social Council formalized the approval.)

As I walked back to my seat in the rear I was stopped by two others who offered their congratulations and I began to realize what a remarkable few minutes I’d spent in good old Conference Room 4.

A few months later we received official confirmation of our acceptance as an NGO with special consultative status.

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