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.

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From:] On Behalf Of Brandt Dainow
Sent: Tuesday, May 16, 2017 13:20
To:
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.

Regards,

Brandt Dainow

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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.

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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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JacksonHeights.nyc – The Application

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Jackson Heights map for .nyc application 1aAugust 19, 2016 – Connecting.nyc Inc. today announced that it had submitted its application to the city of New York for the license to develop the JacksonHeights.nyc domain name. Accompanying the application were over 30 affidavits of support from neighborhood businesses, civic organizations, and residents. The application may be viewed here.

The application and affidavits were the result of a weeks long outreach effort aimed at informing neighborhood residents about the organization’s Jackson Heights Project and incorporating their ideas in the application.

In submitting its application Connecting.nyc explained its decision to support the project:

After extensive contact with residents and organizations of our neighborhood and careful consideration of our capabilities, we have concluded that developing a neighborhood domain name provides us with a spectacular opportunity to advance our education mission and improve the quality of life here in Jackson Heights.

Tom Lowenhaupt, founder of Connecting.nyc Inc., noted that while the comment period for the application has ended, the design for JacksonHeights.nyc will be an ongoing, open, and transparent process to which all neighborhood residents were welcome.

NOTE: Our application was approved and we’ve acquired the right to develop the JacksonHeights.nyc domain. We will hold public meetings on the development process beginning in January 2017, expecting to transition to active use in mid-2017 (The current info on the site is placeholder info entered by the city and does not reflect our plans.) Should you have questions, ideas, or an interest in engaging with the endeavor, contact [email protected]

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Keep Our Data Local!

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IoT graphic - data out of cityMay 20, 2016, Jackson Hts., New York – Connecting.nyc Inc.’s founding director Thomas Lowenhaupt is to make a  presentation on June 8 at NYC Media Lab’s IoT Media Mash. Having seen the city play catch-up with domain names – it took 30 years for the city to get .nyc, its own TLD – he’s wondering if there’s a way Internet of Things data could be localized, and used to benefit city agencies, neighborhoods, start-ups…

Current models have IoT data flowing out of our homes, businesses, and neighborhoods to the (potential) benefit of device manufacturers and third parties such as advertisers and data brokers the chief beneficiaries of the flow. Under this model there’s little macro scale benefit for local entities.

Thomas wonders, “Must we surrender control of this data, or is there a way to keep a copy local, perhaps in a city big data cache of some sort, to be shared and developed with neighborhoods and other local interests in mind?”

Thomas’s presentation will urge the start of a “New York City Opt-in Program” that would encourage residents to share/donate their IoT data, perhaps identified by a “NYC IoT Opt-In” logo on city-friendly devices.

Localization supporters are only now gathering thoughts on specific IoT data sources which might fruitfully contributing data; and exploring for architectures that could facilitate its being copied and shared locally. Early ideas on collecting heterogeneous data from multiple contexts/devices/technologies/vendors/etc. are looking at the Hub of All Things and The Things Network as a promising points.

The value inequity of one-way flow of IoT data is characteristic of the information age, a digital equivalent to trickle-down tax policies. But at this early stage we might still have the opportunity to advocate for a city-friendly architecture that keeps it local. Looking at the June 8 event and beyond (the IoT Media Mash is still soliciting speakers), we’re soliciting ideas on how this development might take place. Luckily, in New York City we’re blessed with lots of local expertise, Beta-NY and other civic friendly entities. Let’s keep it local!

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Workshop: Empowering New York City’s Neighborhoods

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Neighborhood Preservation Center

This event’s report is now available.

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March 8, 2016, Jackson Hts., New York – The de Blasio administration has initiated a program to license operators of the 385 neighborhood domain names: Astoria.nyc, Bensonhurst.nyc, Corona.nyc, Ditmars.nyc, Egbertville.nyc, Flatbush.nyc, GreenwichVillage.nyc, Harlem.nyc…

On Tuesday, March 22 at 7 PM we’re sponsoring a workshop to review that licensing program and explore ways to connect the independent operators of these civic media centers. Here’s the agenda:

  • Update on the city’s neighborhood domain name licensing program.
  • Share experiences and expectations of license applicants.
  • Structure and Voice: What organizational structure will best enable operators of these “dotNeighborhoods” to share best practices and be represented before city and other regulatory entities? How can these operations collaborate to create open-source modules such as ad collaboratives, bulletin boards, calendars, DNS allocators, etc?

One outcome might include the formation of an Alliance of of Neighborhood Media Centers to develop principles, policy positions, and best practices.

Where: The Neighborhood Preservation Center, 232 East 11th Street
When: Tuesday, March 22, 7:00 – 8:30 PM

Light refreshments will be provided. Reserve a seat by emailing [email protected] or using our Meetup reservation page.

Can’t make it? The meeting will be recorded by our co-sponsor, the New York Internet Society.

Note: Interested in operating a neighborhood name? Begin your exploration on our beginners guide Adding Internet Mojo To Neighborhoods.

This event’s report is now available.

 

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