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Habitat Jam
Alex Steffen, 11 Nov 05

We are an increasingly urban planet.

We also increasingly depend on distributed, online, collaborative efforts to come up with solutions to our most dire problems.

Habitat Jam is a chocolate-and-peanut-butter-like combination of the two: two previously unconnected ideas that needed to be linked:

Imagine tens of thousands of people around the world just like you connecting in real time over the internet to discuss and debate some of the most urgent and controversial issues that face a rapidly urbanizing planet. Imagine world-class thinkers leading the discussions. Imagine the results that could be achieved by this unprecedented global conversation and collaboration. This is Habitat JAM.

The Habitat JAM is about adding your voice into the global conversation about the future of our cities. It's about having your say on important issues that affect you. It's about building new global networks of people who wouldn't have connected before. It's about working together across the globe to agree on solutions.

Many Worldchangers will find this online discussion of solutions to the problems of emerging megacities (like improving the lives of slum-dwellers, creating sustainable access to water, building sustainable cities, extending safety and security, reforming finance and government and looking at the future of our cities in human terms) both familiar and compelling.

Big important problems, collaboratively confronted.

In short, we think Habitat Jam is worth a visit.

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How is this going to work? Is this just a plug for IBM technology? I registered and most of the cute areas of the site are "coming soon - any day now". How does one filter the noise and the disconnected thoughts of "thousands" participating in the same conversation? I will be curious to see the 72 hour Jam in action starting on December 1, 2005.

Why not try shorter jams as test cases?

At least the intentions are good. So good luck.

Posted by: Subbarao on 11 Nov 05

Subbarao you have very good questions. Let me say up front that I'm a PR rep for IBM, but I will answer them in a straightforward manner. While IBM technology is being used, there will be no plugs for that technology during the JAM. This is all about letting people have their say and developing actions based upon the collective feedback from participants.

As you suggest, the trick to all of this will be in separating good, actionable ideas from the rest. Subject-matter experts and moderators will guide participants to build on each other’s ideas, and an "eClassifier" text-mining tool is used behind the scenes to surface themes across the Jam and in each of the forums. eClassifier integrates technologies for classification, taxonomy management, trend detection, document feature understanding and visualization into an interactive tool for exploring large collections of unstructured information.

The theme analysis and qualitative research conducted after the Jam are combined to produce action plans and insight about the perceptions and priorities of the event participants.

So, for example, IBM's internal "World Jam 2004" had 56,000 participants who posted 33,000 comments. Tens of thousands of ideas were generated but the eClassifier tool surfaced 191 major themes/ideas. There was a 7-day rating period, with 65 ideas receiving 5,000 or more votes. IBM's senior management committed to implement the top 35 — as rated by employees.

While it will be up to the World Urban Forum III organizers to decide for themselve which ideas from Habitat JAM should be included in the WUF3 conference agenda in June, the process to filter out the best ideas will be the same as IBM has used internally.

As for holding smaller "test" jams, IBM has already hosted 6 internal jams of various participation levels since 2001. We think this form of collaborative communication is ready to be used outside IBM's firewall.

By the way, it's hard to explain something that no one has seen before. But there's a good podcast that's just been posted at to help do just that. It features a discussion between Charles Kelly, commissioner general of the World Urban Forum III, and Mike Wing of IBM Strategic Communications, who leads IBM’s jamming activities internally.

Posted by: Michael Maloney on 16 Nov 05

Please find emerging scientific data on the human population at the link below:

Posted by: Steven Earl Salmony, Ph.D., M.P.A. on 19 Nov 05

I am exited because 1. I have a program that I beleive will help transform many of our young people that have resorted to gang activity into productive world citizens.
2. I beleive the global environment is at such a tipping stage, that it requires global action and there is a way of synergizing some of the sulutions for our current social problems to simultaneously resolve our evironmental issues....I just need to figure out how to sign up!!!

Posted by: Raymond Davis on 22 Nov 05

I certainly hope that people on other continents and in other countries will not choose the North American 20th C. model as a pattern for this new century. Now, there are so many innovations in the works that will be able to reduce or eliminate the energy and environmental wastage that has characterized us. New cities can be built that will leapfrog what has been accomplished in the "developed world" and spare their inhabitants the perplexities of the existing urban environment. Let us not forget the spiritual aspect of man, either.

Posted by: Ron Swaren on 24 Nov 05

Building a new landscape for man,is such a huge opportunuty for us to tackle the huge global environmental mess we have right now.This provides an opportunity for the individual to begin with a basic respect for the environment, to see nature as sacrosanct.The slums of our world have stayed too long and same for the complexities our huge cities expanding daily have spawned.We can start small, in our remote corners of the earth to show the big cities how life and nature can co-habit

Posted by: Oluseyi on 4 Dec 05



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