The Habitat JAM finished yesterday afternoon. I still don't know if it was worth it, but it was certainly an interesting experiment.
On an email discussion group I'm in with a bunch of e-democracy folks, there was some feedback on the Habitat JAM forum this weekend. A few of us served as volunteer facilitators, so we have some detailed experiences from the event.
I perhaps have been spoiled by other discussion board software, but I expected some basic functionality that wasn't there. Namely:
_ ability to easily send to the moderator a message
_ IM interaction with the moderators as a facilitator
_ ability to flag a message as problematic, or as needed to be moved to another forum
_ ability to post an URL that would actually resolve as a clickable link
_ some kind of ranking system for posts
_ the ability to indicate your interest in a particular discussion so you were alerted when new responses were posted.
The IMB-designed interface did little to encourage actual conversation, and as a facilitator there was little I could do to get people to actual respond to each others messages, rather than just start new threads.
Reportedly there were 20,000 people registered for the JAM. I assume that most of the 20,000 had to do with the iPod Nano giveaway that was widely advertised. It's a nice gimmick to get lots of registrants, but I wonder how many actually bothered to log-in and participate? My guess is very few.
Supposedly there were registrants from all 191 countries of the world. That's impressive in itself. Most of the discussions that I was involved in were dominated by Canadians, which is understandable I guess, since the government of Canada was the main sponsor. It was great to see all the Kenyans and South Asians participating, as well as folks living in slum areas and grassroots activists. I would like to see a detailed breakdown on who participated from where.
All-in-all I found the level of conversations quite superficial. Getting people to share their experiences and perspectives with each other, to debate issues, explore common themes, and common to new conclusions is a tough job to in person. Doing it online is exponentially harder.