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Last week, HaikuJAM ran a workshop on ‘Creativity and Innovation’ at IBM India in Noida, New Delhi! Through the 60-minute session, hundreds of JAMS (i.e. three-line collaborative poems) were created by IBM employees across multiple divisions. It was wonderful to see engineers, financial controllers, marketers, sales people and business developers come together and experience each other’s worlds, one simple line at a time! There were some brilliant collaborations around classic IBM themes such as “Watson”, “Think” and “Deep Blue”, as well as more unexpected topics such as “Relationships”, “Salman Khan” and “Make In India”.

At the end of the session, a judging panel shortlisted their favourite JAMS and then chose both an English and Hindi favourite. The winning JAM in English was titled “Passion” and co-authored by Sharad, Sanjeev and Shristi:

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Here are also some lovely testimonials from the event, as well as some more photos and video footage:

I was overwhelmed after attending this wonderful session. At large organisations like IBM we also JAM on a daily basis, except it’s with thousands of people across different teams and projects. Intimate, micro-JAMs in HaikuJAM foster a sense of belonging. This is not just about poetic ideas- HaikuJAM is an innovation that you can truly utilise in your daily life. Whenever you are stressed, you can JAM, and in the process connect to people in Australia, US and some really remote parts of the world. And once you connect with two others, you also find yourself connecting with yourself in a unique manner! At the HaikuJAM workshop, we all got a chance to write freely without limitations on the topics or themes. It has been one of the most different and amazing events to be held in IBM. Cheers to the founders of HaikuJAM!

– Nikhil Choudhary (Senior Delivery Manager, Global Business Services, IBM India)

The JAM session was excellent and thought provoking. HaikuJAM is an interesting and very interactive app which has no boundaries; you can think, write and capture any subject or feeling. Initially we were all a little hesitant, but once we started writing together on the JAM cards, creativity really flowed! It was fun and colleagues laughed. It brought back memories, cheerful bonding happened and tensions were released.

– Sanjeev Dhole (Global Finance Manager, IBM India)

I am so glad that I participated in the HaikuJAM session at IBM. I really liked the concept. In both personal and professional life, I find it very helpful to keep one’s imagination alive, and so I love creative exercises such as cooking and writing poetry! Often I find that my poems are left incomplete and the thoughts are gone, but now with the help of this wonderful concept and mobile app, I can easily crowdsource my creative efforts, collaborate and hold on to the ideas! Kudos to the founders!

– Gyanendra Verma (Delivery Manager, Global Business Services, IBM India)

It was an honour for me to help organize this amazing session in IBM. I have been using this app for some months, and it is actually very therapeutic! At the end of a busy day when you get to write something for yourself without being judged and connect with people globally through creative collaboration, it does make your day. This is why I choose HaikuJAM over any other app! 

– Shristi Dhole (Vodafone EPM & VIP Monitoring, IBM India)

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If you’re interested in organising a HaikuJAM workshop at your organisation, please do drop us a line on hj@haikujam.com for more information 🙂

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Some weeks ago, through HaikuJAM I was connected to Saad, a 21 year-old poet from Syria. Saad is currently seeking refuge in the Netherlands- he is living in a gym with 25 other refugees. His family are still in Syria… I am currently en route to the city of Rotterdam to meet Saad in person.

This is a very special trip for me. I cannot even begin to describe how much of an impact Saad’s story has had on my perspective. Saad was studying English Literature in Syria, but he was unable to graduate. Graduation is only permitted to those who joined the regime’s army but Saad refused to kill his own people; he believes that wars should be won through the take up of pens, not arms. His weapons are Art, Poetry and Education.

His resolve and belief truly restores one’s faith in the world. I have not experienced even a fraction of his hardships. I imagine that such struggles would cause disillusionment and depression in most men… But Saad is so full of light and life. He is an inspiration.

It is such an honour to know Saad and I am unbelievably excited to spend the next few days with him!

An edited version of this piece appeared in The Guardian

Humanity is creative by design, but as the pressures of life intensify, we often neglect our innate creative urges. Yet, it is during such stressful times, with few release outlets, that the need for expression increases…

A collaborative poem by jammers in Yorkshire, California and India

A collaborative poem by jammers in Yorkshire, California and India

My friends and I have set forth on a journey to democratise creativity. We founded HaikuJAM, a mobile app through which three people connect to create poetic expressions together (available for free on iOS and Android). With words and photos, folks can “jam” with friends or strangers, anywhere in the world. The framework is inspired by the ancient Japanese art of haiku. Through a method of co-creation, we want to facilitate genuine human interaction and derive meaning from moments, which would otherwise be lost to time or dismissed as ‘fleeting’.

The collaborative process involves three jammers and each contributes a line or photograph, turn-by-turn-by-turn. Jammers can then share the created content through social media and also earn Karma points for doing good in the community- ‘good’ deeds include loving jams, writing positive comments and a host of other hallowed acts! Each day, our team handpicks a number of inspiring collaborations, which are then featured on the app’s Home Screen.

The design of HaikuJAM is often described as ‘Zen’ and ‘elegant’- I actually practice meditation daily and I’m very much inspired by the concepts of stillness and channeling energy around the body. Such ideas have definitely played a role in the evolution of HaikuJAM’s aesthetic and user experience: the process of consuming content is still and deeply immersive, with beautiful full screen photographs and crisp typography. However, the underlying content creation mechanic is radically collaborative and dynamic.

Before officially launching the app in March 2015, our hypothesis was that HaikuJAM would be a space for time-poor, creatively inclined people, to engage in creative activities. Since launch however, fascinating use cases have emerged: a few people shared with us in confidence, that they were suffering from clinical depression- for them, HaikuJAM was a place for self-expression, and they saw the community as a support network, not just a group of content creators and consumers. Some jammers, especially in East Asia, have been using the app to improve their written English and vocabulary. A significant number of users are in fact working professionals, from Investment Bankers to Doctors, who view HaikuJAM as a tool for stress-relief, escapism and reflection.

Since March, we’ve featured in ForbesThe New York TimesBBCTechCrunchCNETYourStory and we were selected amongst the “50 BEST CREATIVE APPS” globally by The Guardian. The average active user spends up to 30 minutes in the app everyday, and nearly 50% of active users are also creating content. This year, we graduated from the Oxygen Accelerator Programme at Google Campus London, and raised seed funding from the lead investors in JustGiving. My co-founder, Neer Sharma, and I are currently in San Francisco meeting product mentors, investors and other incredible people working in technology.

So we’re off to a good start, but the road ahead is long and we have a lot to learn. For instance, a few weeks ago, in the process of ramping up our servers, we accidentally erased a portion of the database- we lost fourteen days worth of content created in the app. This was disastrous. Determined to make the best out of an otherwise sad situation, with the support of the wonderful HaikuJAM community, we recovered some of the lost jams from the period and curated a free eBook titled “The Lost Weeks”.

Other than the typical startup struggles around fundraising and traction, one of our biggest challenges is: how do we ‘focus’ the value proposition considering the multitude of use cases, or can they simply co-exist without detracting from the product’s core appeal? After reading “Hatching Twitter” by Nick Bilton, it seemed that the Twitter founders also struggled with this (albeit on a much grander scale), as Twitter became a proverbial Wild West with curiously nebulous sets of people and activities. The manner in which we leverage data, coupled with our own decision-making, will ultimately determine the future of HaikuJAM as a platform.

Moving forward this year, we are going to further contextualise the creative experience through campaigns for brands, charities and around trending news events. We also want to curate the fantastic content in the form of monthly book subscriptions and artistic merchandise. Furthermore, we aim to introduce new mediums into the app, such as sound and video.

Our vision is rooted in collaborative creativity, aka “The JAM”. We care deeply about connecting humans to make beauty happen… Down the rabbit hole we go.

“Dhru, we have a problem.”

It was 3:59 AM on 8th May 2015 in San Francisco. Groggy and disorientated, I awoke to find my co-founder, Neer Sharma, leaning over the top bunk. He had just been informed that all of the jams created over the past two weeks had disappeared from the HaikuJAM app. Desperately, I flicked through our Slack #web channel, pulled on some jeans and ran downstairs into the StartupHouse conference room.

After frantic calls with our server providers and technical advisors, it became apparent that the content was not recoverable. Our team had been working hard to ramp up the servers but, in the process, a portion of the database was erased- this was due to poor technical documentation and the fact that one of our cloud servers had been improperly backed up.

This was disastrous. Those fourteen days had given rise to such beautiful collaborations, especially after HaikuJAM was featured in The New York Times. We had messed up and our spirits were low.

However, we were determined to make the best out of an otherwise sad situation. In a Moleskine journal, we crafted this hand-written note to the HaikuJAM community:

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Our hand-written apology to the jammers


With the support of the wonderful jammers- in particular, Celena and Varunmayee- we embarked upon a wild quest for the lost jams that had been shared through social media, written in diaries or saved on phones, during the period.

The Lost Weeks is the result of that quest: a book of 94 jams by over 100 people around the world.

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“The Lost Weeks” is a book of collaborative poems and photo stories created by over 100 people through the HaikuJAM app

From this experience, we learnt a lot about cloud servers, the importance of technical documentation and even crisis-management! After speaking with our mentors and investors, it seems that such fiascoes are a rite of passage for all early-stage technology teams. The strong startups ensure that they reap the presented lessons; the weaker players do not and thus repeat the same mistakes. Ev Williams, the co-founder of Blogger, Twitter and Medium, once hung up a poster at Twitter’s HQ which read:

Let’s make better mistakes tomorrow

… This very much resonates!

Personally, this ordeal inspired a wave of thoughts and I’d like to share one in particular. The loss of fourteen days worth of content had an emotional impact on the HaikuJAM community, but not on the technology itself, for a MySQL server cannot feel. With advancements in artificial intelligence, natural language processing and machine learning however, it’s extremely probable that machines will develop a consciousness of their own.

Imagine if your memories from the previous few weeks were completely erased. You, a human, would probably react with confusion and insecurity. Now, consider your software as a sentient being, whose past and present were suddenly removed from existence…

Such evolution would affect our relationships with both technology and fellow human beings. For instance, HaikuJAM would no longer be an inanimate collaborative platform, but rather an intelligent entity capable of some quasi- or abstracted emotion. What if jammers stopped using their HaikuJAM accounts? How would an emotionally intelligent HaikuJAM respond to such an act? Would it (or she) feel the machine-equivalent of loneliness, isolation and jealousy? These questions truly fascinate me.

On a more worldly note, you can access the The Lost Weeks here in PDF, EPUB or MOBI formats. This project would not have been feasible without the belief, support and energy of our jammers across the globe- we’re eternally grateful. Without them, there would be no HaikuJAM. As we say around here:

They are the JAM, we are but Toast!

The fear of you has consumed my existence. I often lie, overwhelmed by the blood that flows through me. My mind is a tomb of locked impressions, periodically released through destruction. I tell myself excuses… That I’m collecting experiences for some glorious tomorrow, which I will soon chronicle. Or, that one can either live or write, and at this moment in time I am living, and as I live, my writing subconsciously evolves. I am no mathematician for I do not believe in derivation. Rather, I choose to realise my maximum. But thus far, I have lacked a method and I assumed that this was a problem, until quite recently. For there need not be a method. A method inspires process, sequence and linearity. Whilst these are all necessary for the the physical world to function, they offer no value to those in pursuit of the unattainable, as they condition us to be dual… If we toss a coin, we automatically assume this duality: the coin will land on either heads or tails, and in that moment, it assumes the persona of heads or tails… But what if we were to witness the event as opposed to engage in it? Suddenly, we experience totality… We are now the coin. And we no longer need to acquire the outcome, namely heads or tails… We simply realise it. I no longer fear you for I have nothing to acquire.

Tomorrow is the “International Day of Peace”, as observed by the General Assembly of the United Nations. To celebrate this beautiful event, a global synchronous meditation is being held between 3pm and 3.20pm (BST), through the “World Peace Meditation” mobile app. The guided meditation will be lead by Sri Sri Ravi Shankar.

I am reminded of the ‘butterfly effect’- the idea is that a single and seemingly fleeting occurrence, such as the flap of a butterfly’s wings, can change the course of the universe forever, for instance, through a tornado two continents away. This metaphor is relevant, for that simple act of individuals meditating together for just 20 minutes, could set a movement in motion; a whirlwind of stillness, positivity and peace which spreads through the entire planet.

So, I very much look forward to meditating with you at 3pm tomorrow. Simply download the “World Peace Meditation” app from the Google Play or Apple App Stores. The app costs £0.69 and this money will be donated to the International Association for Human Values (IAHV).

It was a saturday. I planned to visit a vegetarian restaurant, recommended to me by a Russian friend. Before leaving my apartment in central Omsk, I carefully examined the route on Google Maps. After setting off, I walked for almost two hours by which time I had reached the outskirts of the city.

Muddy paths replaced the concrete roads. Buildings grew simpler. There was a young Russian woman who sat outside her house with tea, and painted. Kazakhstani children played games in the afternoon sun. It was all charming. But I was lost. I seemed to have followed the directions, yet I was in the wilderness. I continued to explore, eventually reaching a barren region. Then I heard voices… They seemed to be chanting. I followed them and arrived at a very large building with no windows. It resembled an asylum. There were CCTV cameras and barbed wire.

Suddenly, the weather shifted. From sunny and warm, it became apocalyptic. The blue sky filled with cancerous dark clouds. There was magnificent thunder and lightning. And then, relentless rain. This elemental transition inspired me. I felt a dramatic and excited significance.

After more meandering, I approached a path, hidden by foliage. Again, I heard chanting. I followed the sounds and reached a large area enclosed by green fence. I peered through a gap. I saw a face.

Omsk