WATPA: On the Web With Big Concepts for a Fragmented Long Island

From: Norm Jacknis <norm@jacknis.com>
Date: Mon Nov 19 2007 - 19:32:13 EST

Here's an interesting site that was developed for Long Island --
http://longislandideafactory.blogspot.com/. Would anyone want to see
something like this in Westchester?
(For background information, I've attached a NY Times article about this,

On the Web With Big Concepts for a Fragmented Long Island

Published: November 15, 2007, NY Times Metro Section


Those whose first thoughts about Long Island usually don't begin with
high-concept, big-think, high-tech regional planning analysis might be
surprised by some of the vapors emanating from there these days.

There's the Long Island Plasma Converter Project, the Long Island Innovation
Council and the Long Island 3.0 Open Code Library, which is not to be
confused with the Long Island Internet Public Library or the Long Island
Info Grid. There's the Long Island Idea Bank, the Long Island School of Meta
Interdisciplinary Studies, the One Long Island Virtual Constitution and
{hellip}well, you get the idea. There's a lot more.

Of course, to be technical, none of it actually exists outside the brain and
Web site of Louis G. Savinetti, an unpretentious Long Island native with
gray hair and glasses, and family roots in Sea Cliff, Locust Valley, Glen
Head and Glen Cove, who is a former member of the Oyster Bay Town Council
and now serves as the town's human resources commissioner.

But sitting at Taby's Burger House, with its antique map of the Long Island
that was - "Large Estates Here," "Good Swordfishing Here" - you quickly
realize that there's much to be learned about Mr. Savinetti, about Long
Island, and about the political potential of the wired world in his somewhat
quixotic Long Island Idea Factory Web site,

Mr. Savinetti, 52, came out of C. W. Post College thinking he wanted to
teach and compose music, but soon ditched that and later got degrees in
public administration and law. Along the way, he picked up the habit of
scribbling down ideas in notebooks, which piled up in the basement of his
house. About a year ago, he decided to do something with them online as an
abstract intellectual exercise - "sort of the way other people do crossword
puzzles" - and as something with public policy potential.

And so, in March the Long Island Idea Factory was introduced as a way to
throw ideas out into the public sphere and to offer online avenues for
people and institutions to share information, data and ideas about Long
Island, a place sorely lacking in unifying structures. Its catchphrase is
"One Long Island," and it reads like half eccentric fantasy baseball for
tech-savvy policy wonks and half serious virtual forum for tech-savvy policy

Asked to sum up on his blog what it's about, he wrote: "Simply stated, 'One
Long Island' is a series of interrelated projects designed to foster
productive collaboration on Long Island through the utilization of common
technology, interdisciplinary education, public participation and a shared
Long Island philosophy. In short it is a way to change the way we solve
problems on Long Island in a sustainable manner."

He figured he needed a reality check before he went too far. "I'm out there
writing this stuff, and maybe I'm insane. You don't know," he said. So he
sent it off to some serious people, who took it seriously.

John Murcott, a successful Long Island software entrepreneur, whose current
project, <http://411karma.com/> 411Karma.com, is a social networking site
for the nonprofit world, and Yacov Shamash, dean of the College of
Engineering and Applied Sciences at
niversity_of_new_york_at_stony_brook/index.html?inline=nyt-org> Stony Brook
University, both said the site filled a void and reflected a logical
intersection of technology and public policy.

Dr. Shamash, in fact, is meeting with Mr. Savinetti to forge a partnership
with Stony Brook that would build a Long Island virtual think tank with more
technological sophistication than Mr. Savinetti's homemade one. "There are
great ideas here, but the question is, what kind of controls are you going
to put on, and what kind of structure and organization do you put up around
it?" Dr. Shamash said.

With its label clouds and meta-charts and other buzzy features, Mr.
Savinetti's site might not be for everyone. He's quick to say the site
doesn't reinvent the wheel and instead uses many ideas from other sources.
But he likes to think that in its own way it still gets at something
intrinsic to Long Island, with its hundreds of towns, villages, special
districts, school districts and very little that ties them all together.

"When I was growing up, Long Island was open space, a clean environment,
small communities," he said. "Now it has an identity issue. What do you
think of when you see Long Island in the news? I don't know. Joey
Buttafuoco. The Hamptons. Now maybe illegal immigrants, the license issue.

"It doesn't seem like Long Island is something or a series of somethings
that add up to one thing. I guess that's why no one ever used One Long
Island before."

And, whether or not the site creates a useful virtual Long Island, he
figures maybe it will help him at home in the real one.

"I thought it would be nice for my son to see I wasn't a complete idiot and
that I had an idea every once in a while," he said. "You know how kids are."

E-mail: peappl@nytimes.com

Received on Mon Nov 19 19:32:16 2007

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