I have a meeting with some developers coming up and wanted to put my thoughts together. Welcoming feedback
First, let me give some background to Shared Experience Art Machine (SEAM) to provide context.
SEAM supports all things related to mass collaboration. Back in the early 2000’s, we followed the trend of community-generated creative which appeared in various forms: user generated content in games, fan-fiction, hive-mind knowledge repositories (Wikipedia), UGC marketplaces, transmedia, crowd sourcing and crowd funding. However, it really was the open source movement (that was an undercurrent to all of this) which had the biggest impact on our thinking. It is often said that “software is eating the world” and open source supports this and makes it unstoppable.
My small contribution to this trend was to set up an intellectual property cooperative in the UK (the first in the world!) to explore new forms of IP collaboration and ownership. That was the legal origin of SEAM. The focus was on storytelling IP that might lend itself to franchise. Having worked on a film franchise most of my life, I had a lot of ideas on how to do this.
The plan was to run storytelling workshops, put writers in teams and have them co-create and ultimately jointly own everything that they developed. It was meant to be a virtuous circle of aligned incentives to create something bigger than the sum of its parts. Writers would not only profit from their individual work but from their contribution to the greater collective as a whole. The coop would license and negotiate on the writers’ behalf, gaining leverage over the industry with each success over time, allowing all the stakeholders to share in the upside. Because it was a co-op with one person, one vote, everyone was duly vested.
Unfortunately, nobody was interested in this at the time (this was in back in 2010). Fast forward to now and DAOs are everywhere; essentially, digital cooperatives that collectively produce, own and license their own intellectual property. That’s the price we paid for being a decade too early!
Nevertheless, we persisted
Speaking of unstoppable, decentralized networks coupled with smart contracts on open and immutable ledgers are the epitome of ‘unstoppable’. I don’t think the world has yet grasped the implications of this but the speed of development within the crypto universe - the likes of which we’ve never seen before in our lifetimes - demonstrates that somebody does. As time goes on, we should see a number of industries face serious disintermediation. The first of which is likely anything to do with intellectual property curation, especially patents. But I’ll save that discussion for another time.
Community managed and collectively owned activities have since proliferated: community-driven design & production (e.g. Kickstarter), community governance (DAOs), community ownership (crypto), etc. Web3 blurs the distinction between developers, users, creatives and shareholders. The distinction being that now everyone is a stakeholder. Everyone owns a share of the platform or the network. And everyone is responsible for it.
The trend now, in our view, is towards mass collaboration. The ‘mass’ part of which has unique challenges. Coordinating large, decentralized, global, temp workers within a radically transparent, online community is hard when you use traditional hierarchical methods or try to use familiar organizational structures. The top-down approach is a great way to stifle innovation. Furthermore, good tools appear to be lacking. That’s where Jamit comes in.
Jamit.io is a mass collaboration tool. It uses creative games (aka, “Jams”) to channel the cognitive diversity of a crowd to develop knowledge and spur innovation. Our motto is, “Play, Create”.
Jamit fills a gap when it comes to collaborative utilities. Much of what we see in the marketplace - Discord, Miro, Slack, etc - focuses on communication. What is missing is a methodology for that communication. Providing structure to communication increases productivity because it focuses the activity on something meaningful and actionable.
To give an example, imagine you are faced with blank sheet of paper and told to write anything you want. Compare that to a writing assignment in which you are given a bunch of disparate ideas, strange characters, and key plot points that you must work with - and only thirty minutes in which to do it! Which is going to result in the more interesting outcome?
There’s a reason why Shakespeare wrote in iambic pentameter and it’s not because it was super fun to do. Basically, the brain likes problem-solving more than it likes staring at a blank page. It’s the same reason why unstructured brainstorming sessions at work are often less productive than creative competitions, like a hackathon. You can’t think outside of the box unless there’s a box to begin with.
While some tools provide automation to facilitate collaboration - such as Bots in Discord - Jamit goes further. It creates time-sensitive, highly structured and process-driven activities from the get-go. We believe this will increase community productivity and innovation.
Jams work best when they are well-defined, fun to play, and specify the result. All of which feature in gaming. Hence why we call Jams, creative games.
First, there rules to follow. The rules define the turn-taking, timeframe and goal of the game. Second, there is a playspace that is conducive to the rules and which we hope will be delightful to play in. Third, there is the final result of the game. This might be a simple win/lose condition or a more complex requirement, such as a decision (debate, vote, consensus) or a collaboration document.
If the goal of the Jam is well-defined, the playspace highly productive, and the outcome well-tailored to the goal then the Jam has high utility; it provides something meaningful and actionable to the community.
Furthermore, the output from one Jam can serve as the input to another, allowing for increasingly complex tasks to be built up over time and for the constituent parts to be easily re-used in other creative games.
Design, Play, Create
Jamit tackles these three essential components by (1) offering a Builder tool for writing the rules of the game, (2) a playspace that orchestrates collaboration by following the rules, and (3) a standardized output format that captures all the gameplay (as a log) as well as the output requirements (the result) as defined by the goal of the game.
At the moment, we have built very rudimentary versions of all three components. I must stress the ‘very rudimentary’ part. In particular, the Builder is very complex and not super user-friendly. The playspace is buggy and not as delightful as we want. The result of the game is currently hidden from the user but it’s essentially a YAML document that captures the state of the play space as structured data.