The Lost Weeks

“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:

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.

“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!