January 07, 2009

Mobile Healthcare Education

I just stumbled on an old message I had missed that mentioned this presentation. Entirely my fault that I hadn't seen this sooner!

This is a very intriguing approach to using Twitter, mobile technologies, cell phones and related tools to fill academic functions. This ranges from emergency callouts to managing class activities and assignments. Extremely interesting!

Posted by pfa at 07:26 PM | Comments (0)

January 05, 2009

What I Did On My Winter "Break"

Obama, Obama, Obama ....

Did anyone else get involved with local community meetings for the Obama-Biden Healthcare Transition Team? Oh, you didn't hear about them? When I tell folks what I did for the past couple weeks, I hear from a lot of folks who weren't aware of Daschle reaching out to the American people for thoughts on how to improve healthcare in the United States.

Obama Transition Team - Daschle Healthcare Reform

Join the Discussion: Former Sen. Daschle responds on health care: http://change.gov/newsroom/entry/join_the_discussion_daschles_healthcare_response/

This initial discussion in early December was a provocative and interesting event itself. Daschle answered questions about many leading healthcare policy concern, the video was made widely available online, and public discussion ensued.

Obama: Daschle Healthcare Reform Discussion

After about 3500 comments, they started to analyze the discussion (after five thousand or so, they closed comments). One of the tools used was Wordle, which distilled out the 100 top words used in the conversation. Notice the biggest one? Insurance. I don't think that is a surprise to anyone, but I am surprised by some of the words I don't see present -- access, transportation, information, choice, rural, seniors or elderly, and much more. Some words are present, but a lot smaller than I expected -- children, change, available, service/services, free, etc. Oops - etc was present in the Wordle as a word, which sort of skews the results -- this would have been more useful with a filter to exclude generic words like etc, enough, done, going, getting, and such.

Obama Transition Team - Daschle Healthcare Reform

Top 100 Words in Healthcare Discussion (from Wordle): http://change.gov/page/-/images/wc_healthcare_full.PNG

Well, the upshot of all this was that on December 5th, Daschle put out a call for USA citizens to partake in the discussion through small group discussion events hosted in your local community. These were all to take place between December 15th and December 31st. Personally, this put a big hole in my so-called "break", but it was important to happen and important to partake when possible. I just wish the timing had been a little different.

Daschle asks Americans to help reform health care: http://change.gov/newsroom/entry/daschle_asks_americans_to_help_reform_health_care/

Most of these took place in people's homes. Most of the events I heard about happened through personal networks - sort of work of mouth from friend to friend. They were not necessarily open to the general public or to walk-in visitors. As a single parent of a special needs kid (you've heard this before if you read this blog often), getting out and about town is hard for me. Basically, not likely to happen. I don't think I was invited to any of the events in people's home. Some of my friends were, but they had so many obligations relative to the holiday season that they did not participate. I was thrilled to hear about first one, and then later two more events that were happening through social media.

The first event was for the autism community and was held via Twitter. This wasn't the only event for the autism community - there was another on Staten Island and in Virginia (see comments), and probably more I didn't find out about. The Twitter one was organized through Causecast, a sort of a social network for "registered 501(c)(3) non-profit" organizations. But I couldn't go to Virginia or New York, and wouldn't have even if the events have been open nationally. In theory, I could have sponsored an event locally in Southeastern Michigan, and probably could have gotten some folks to come. Still, there are a lot of people on the spectrum who are not very comfortable in social situations and who would either have felt excluded by the venue or found it stressful to participate in real life. Having an event online made it possible to include a broader range of participants, with some interesting discussions that happened specifically about the geography of access to care for autism treatment. This type of discussion would have been unlikely or impossible in a face-to-face event. You can read more about the Autism & Healthcare Reform Twitter Day in another blog post.

Autism & Healthcare Reform - The Twitter Event for the Obama-Biden Transition Team: http://mblog.lib.umich.edu/etechlib/archives/2009/01/autism_healthca.html

Because the organizer of the autism event (@TannersDad) describes himself as a "paper and pencil" kind of guy, and because after several nudges no one else volunteered, and because I believed it was important, I ended up being kind of behind the scenes tech support to try to archive the tweets for the event (with help from @ajturner). I finished up everything for them on January 2nd.

In between, there were two more events, both in Second Life. The first one was held on December 29th in Port Spinoza, coordinated by Siri Vita (one of my neighbors in SL), and was an open general meeting about healthcare reform without a specific target audience. The event was held primarily in voice (audio over the internet within Second Life) and was videotaped. There is actaully going to be a really wonderful video of the event for the Obama Transition Team, which I will share when it becomes available.

SL: Port Spinoza: Obama Transition TeamSL: Port Spinoza: Obama-Daschle HC Transition Team
SL: Port Spinoza: Obama Transition TeamSL: Port Spinoza: Obama-Daschle HC Transition Team

For that event, I helped out by offering voice-to-chat transcription in order to make the even more accessible to people with disabilities, and Cotton Thorne (another neighbor) did the reverse -- read chat comments into the voice record for the event. This made it possible for people with a blend of sensory abilities to be able to attend as full participants and still have a complete record of the event. To make it even more fun, there were a lot of Justice League members who attended. After all, they work hard to help keep life smooth for people, both in fiction and in Second Life, and like all good hearted people are well aware of the importance of health and healthcare in making a good life possible. (My son was really excited to see the Green Lantern there, who shared with us that he has heard there will be a live-action Green Lantern movie coming out in the next 3 years.) They were back in for the final closeup shots for the video on Sunday for a couple hours, just for color, with the original event having lasted well over two hours. I was glad the Sunday event was in the afternoon, since the first SL Obama event was timed for the West Coast crowd, making it after 1am before I was able to go to bed.

The final event in which I participated was specifically for the large community of people with disabilities in Second Life and occurred on December 31st in the evening. The structure of the event was very different - they had small groups at several different tables, with a group of coordinators and facilitators -- they had a greeter, a couple guides, a facilitator at each table, and a timekeeper who clocked the discussion questions and kept the various groups on task and on target. The facilitator at my table old us she was deaf, and that this was why we needed to converse in chat (typing). My arms were still sore from all the typing the other night, which maybe slowed me down a bit. This was the first time for me that I was able to participate as a participant instead of as organizational help and background support.

I can honestly say I learned a lot from participating in all three events, and cannot imagine how the information from a nationwide clustering of these types of events will pull together for the transition team. Talk about an embarrassment of riches! I will be reporting out in future blogposts about some of my thoughts and observations from being part of these events. One of the biggest take-home points for me is what I've said about both accessibility and healthcare for years -- there is NO one-size-fits-all.

Posted by pfa at 12:19 PM | Comments (0)

December 27, 2008

The Big Collection of Advent Calendars 2008

Alright, folks, here is the full version, and now that it is done, here are all the links as well. Now, these will probably stay around through New year's Day, so don't wait - if something intrigues you, go look at it right away.

The collection includes a lot of activities, games, music, videos, recipes, comics, kid's stuff, educational stuff, and of course some resources and opportunities for doing good and learning about the history and meaning of the advent calendar. Would you believe there are even TWO Dr. Who Advent Calendars? I hope you enjoy the collection. Next on my seasonal to-do list is things to do when you are on the long winter holiday or stuck at home ill or on a snow day.

Oh - how did I find all these? Right, that would be nice to share, wouldn't it? For many of them, people shared them on Twitter or other social media. Searching Twitter helped find more, and the following Google search helped find a bunch more.

Google Search: ("advent calendar") (online OR interactive) (specials OR "every day" OR "come back"): http://www.google.com/search?hl=en&q=(%22advent+calendar%22)+(online+OR+interactive)+(specials+OR+%22every+day%22+OR+%22come+back%22)&start=0&sa=N

About Advent Calendars

USCCB: Christmas Season: http://www.usccb.org/advent/

Episcopalian Diocese of Washington: Advent Calendar 2008: http://www.edow.org/spirituality/advent/2008.html

Squidoo: Christmas Countdown: http://www.squidoo.com/Christmas_Countdown

Cooking Calendars

AllRecipes: Christmas Cookie Countdown:

The Toronto Star: Cookie a day until Christmas: http://www.thestar.com/living/Food/article/544174

Jamie Oliver: Countdown to Christmas: http://www.jamieoliver.com/christmas/calendar.php

Kid’s Calendars

Boowa & Kwala: Online Advent Calendar: http://www.boowakwala.com/calendar/online-advent-calendar.html

DFC: Advent Calendar: http://www.rhgdigital3.co.uk/thedfcadvent/

Help Kidz Learn: Advent Calendar: http://www.helpkidzlearn.com/advent_calendar/advent_calendar.swf

Woodlands Junior School (Tonbridge): http://www.woodlands-junior.kent.sch.uk/customs/Xmas/calendar/

KidThing: Free Countdown to Christmas, 25 surprises: http://store.kidthing.com/detail/?ID=MTI3Mw==

KidZone Finland: Christmas Calendar: http://www.kidzonefinland.org.uk/christmas/flash_content/mainpage.html

LEGO City Advent Calendar (a real life toy to buy)

Teaching Mom: Learning Advent Calendar: http://www.teachingmom.com/features/advent.html

Educational Calendars

BBC: Bach: Advent Calendar: http://www.bbc.co.uk/radio3/bach/adventcalendar/

BBC: Today's Advent Calendar: http://news.bbc.co.uk/today/hi/today/newsid_7749000/7749926.stm

Intute: 2008 Advent Calendar: http://www.intute.ac.uk/artsandhumanities/blog/category/advent-calendar/2008-advent-calendar/

National Museums Liverpool: http://www.liverpoolmuseums.org.uk/online/advent/

New Zealand: Tepapa Museum: Christmas in the Collections: http://collections.tepapa.govt.nz/Theme.aspx?irn=823

Boston: Hubble Space Telescope: Advent Calendar: http://www.boston.com/bigpicture/2008/12/hubble_space_telescope_advent.html

British Trams Online (Trains): Advent Calendar: http://www.britishtramsonline.co.uk/advent.html

Official Word Magazine Advent Calendar Now Online: http://www.wordmagazine.co.uk/content/official-2008-word-magazine-advent-calendar-now-online

Marketing Calendars

Jamie Cullum: Cullumdar: http://advent.jamiecullum.com/

ThrillJockey: http://www.thrilljockey.com/holiday/?utm_source=AdventCalendar&utm_medium=Promo&utm_campaign=Outlets

WebUser: Online Advent Calendar 2008: http://www.webuser.co.uk/specials/272999.html

Do-It-Yourself Calendars

eHow: How to Sew a Countdown-to-Christmas Calendar: http://www.ehow.com/how_4557225_sew-countdowntochristmas-calendar.html

Unique Advent Calendar from Matchboxes: http://www.associatedcontent.com/article/90655/unique_advent_calendar_from_matchboxes.html?cat=30

Maya Made: Countdown Calendar: http://mayamade.blogspot.com/2008/11/countdown-calendar.html

“Good Will” Calendars

Action for Blind People: http://www.actionforblindpeople.org.uk/advent-day-1,659,SA.html

Advent Calendar on Sustainable Development: http://www.advent-calendar.info/

Goodwill Sweater Advent Calendar, part 1 - sample tweet (Tweet):
Sweater #21 and Houston Goodwill Stores http://tinyurl.com/8g4ufn

Goodwill Sweater Advent Calendar, part 2: http://matthewwettergreen.com/2008/12/21/sweater-21-and-houston-goodwill-stores/

Goodwill Sweater Advent Calendar, part 3: Tweet:
Christmas party at Philip’s. Brought all the sweaters and everyone’s wearing one. Only a couple people missing.

Goodwill Sweater Advent Calendar, part 4: Holly, Jolly Christmas Sweaters: http://www.chron.com/disp/story.mpl/life/main/6172196.html

Entertainment & Multimedia Calendars

Calm Asylum: Advent Calendar: http://calm.adventcalendaronline.com/

Dickinson Dees - Games Advent Calendar: http://dickinsondees.adventcalendaronline.com/

Straight No Chaser: http://christmascountdown.sncmusic.com/

Dr Who: Advent Calendar: http://atts-merrychristmas.blogspot.com/

BBC: Dr. Who: Advent Calendar: http://www.bbc.co.uk/doctorwho/s4/misc/advent08/

Electric December: Online Seasonal Countdown Calendar: http://www.electricdecember.org/08/calendar/

French Cinema: http://ns352037.ovh.net/~avent/gdpn/

Throwing Toasters: Grant’s Advent Calendar 2008: http://www.throwingtoasters.com/advent/2008/12/24/grant’s-advent-calendar-2008-video-podcast-day-024-christmas-eve/

PlayLouder: Advent Calendar: http://playlouder.com/content/17579/maps-advent-calendar-free-music-every-day-til-christmas-eve

Holidays on the Net: A Holiday Video Countdown to Christmas: http://www.holidays.net/adventcalendar/

VisuTech: Season’s Greetings: http://www.visumedia.info/advent/visutech/

Blog Calendars

Brendan McKillop: Christmas Comic Cover Countdown Calendar: http://www.brendanmckillip.com/labels/Comic%20Advent%20Calendar%202008.html

2008 Comics Should Be Good Advent Calendar: http://goodcomics.comicbookresources.com/2008/12/01/2008-comics-should-be-good-advent-calendar/

Organized Christmas: Holiday Tip of the Day: http://organizedchristmas.com/

Organized Christmas: Christmas Countdown: http://organizedchristmas.com/christmas-countdown/calendar

Google Holiday Calendars & Countdowns

Google: Countdown to Christmas Doodle 15: http://www.google.com/doodle15.html

Google: Countdown to Christmas Holiday Logos/Doodles Archive: http://www.google.com/intl/en/holidaylogos.html

Google’s Countdown to 2009: http://www.google.com/countdownto2009/

Google: Countdown to 2009:
Christmas Eve: the Weather at the North Pole? Clear and Cold

NORAD: Countdown to Track Santa: http://www.noradsanta.org/en/countdown.html

Lesson Learned?

Tweet: @Blackfeathers:
I still got a lot of time. 376 days until Christmas. LOL

Posted by pfa at 06:23 PM | Comments (0)

December 13, 2008

Google's Countdown to 2008, Plus

If you haven't already noticed it, the Google Countdown to 2009 is a great way to learn more about the various special features, tips, trick, tools, etcetera built into Google, including some of the newest. For example, I've been meaning to blog about the new video chat in Google, haven't gotten around to it yet, but here it is! Right alongside it are explanations and examples of converters, searching sports scores and movie times, and other features that I've been telling folks about for years.

When I saw this I thought, wow, this is a great little tutorial, a great introduction. Of course, that is what it is supposed to be. I don't know if Google plans to keep it around after the holidays, so here you have some screenshots of what I'm seeing now, plus the links they go to, with a couple other related bits I threw in for fun. I hope you enjoy!

Google Countdown to 2009: google.com/countdownto2009/

Posted by pfa at 09:05 AM | Comments (0)

November 12, 2008

Google Flu Trends

Announced today, Google is using individual's search term patterns to track and predict the spread of the flu.

Google: Flu Trends: http://www.google.org/flutrends/

Google Flu Tracker

Notice that even though the country at large has only barely started to climb, Michigan is showing more activity.

Google Flu Trends: Michigan

I am, on the one hand, excited to see Google applying appropriate data mining techniques to develop and test skills that could be used for disaster management and general health. On the other hand, I think this tool needs some work.

First, Google Flu Trends needs to be tested and validated by public health researchers. It is great that Google is putting it out, and I am very excited about this resources as an indicator or trend showing Google's commitment to the community at large. I would be more excited if I saw articles comparing and contrasting it with other similar tracking tools, and linking it to other informational tools beyond saying the CDC says you should get a flu shot.

Second, IMHO, the methodology. Of course, being that this is Google, we don't really have a clue how they arrived at this. They give us access to their data, but we don't know what they are tracking or how this is related to the outcomes. The methodology is missing, and I'm not sure how relevant the data is when you don't know the methodology that resulted in the data. We are lacking the opportunity to validate the data. This is a problem for me. If it is something more just of general interest, then fine, trust Google without knowing how they got there. With health information, I would feel safer if I knew more. Frankly, you have the same problem with Google Trends looking at the corporate and business information they make available. Fascinating, but would you put you money behind it in planning investments?

Which leads to my third thought. What little I've been able to tease out about this is that they are tracking the geographic use and incidence of phrases such as "flu diagnosis". I hope that they are using a rich collection of words related to the flu. Perhaps something like this:

(diagnosis OR symptoms OR "what's wrong" OR "do I have") (flu OR influenza OR vomit OR vomiting OR cough OR coughing OR chills OR aches OR aching OR headache): http://tinyurl.com/5ujuo7

Of if you want to get more technical, maybe something like this:

(diagnosis OR symptoms) (flu OR influenza OR ~vomit OR ~cough OR influenza virus OR influenza viridae OR H3N2 OR H1N1 OR H5N1 OR H9N2 OR "upper respiratory tract infection" OR URTI OR "severe acute respiratory syndrome" OR SARS OR pandemic OR Orthomyxoviridae OR "respiratory syncytial virus" OR RSV OR "West Nile virus"): http://tinyurl.com/5tjler

Now, what would make this all much more powerful, would be to bring together a collection of data sources that contain things people say about their health. Google searches is one. I would not be surprised if Google included phrases in people's email if they have GMail accounts. If you also included microblogging tools such as Twitter, Identi.ca, Plurk, Jaiku, Pownce, etc., social networks such as Facebook and Myspace, and other social media, then we'd have such a rich source of sources that I would hope the predictive validity would be very high. Here is a screenshot from someone else who is thinking about this - Morbus on Twitter.

Twitter: Morbus: http://twitter.com/morbus

Twitter: Morbus (Flu Tracking)

Now, I just wish Morbus would share their findings. :)

Posted by pfa at 01:33 PM | Comments (0)

October 06, 2008

xTimeline Embeds for Easy Dissemination of Timelines

Over at the Public Health blog, I just added an entry on the 100th anniversary of water chlorination.

100 Years of Clean Water: http://mblog.lib.umich.edu/PHLI/archives/2008/10/100_years_of_cl.html

For the blogpost, there was a timeline that had been sent to me to include that I didn't have a good way to put online. So I popped over to xTimeline, entered minimal data, added in some pics to spiff it up, and voila! Please note, most pics were from Wikimedia Commons or other copyright free sources, and all images linked back to the original source.

xTimeline: Events Leading to Widespread Chlorination of US Water

Even better, the timeline itself is embeddable, although it really doesn't fit well in the confines of the blog layout. Play with it here.

Best of all, xTimeline is a wiki, so I can go back to the person who sent it to me, and invite him to edit it. That should save me a lot of work, and of course he could invite other people to collaborate as well.

Nice tool!

Posted by pfa at 01:03 PM | Comments (0)

September 25, 2008

SparkPeople for Nutrition: The Blogpost that Turned into a Class

This post started as my telling my colleagues in a meeting about a social network I thought they'd enjoy.

SparkPeople: http://www.sparkpeople.com/
Social Media and Food: SparkPeople

At the previous Cool Toys Conversations meeting, someone had told me they like to use SparkPeople to analyze the nutritional value of recipes. Hey, that is useful, I thought! So I mentioned it. They said, "You should do a blogpost. Just a simple one." Famous last words, right?

The next day I found another fitness / nutrition community. Then I found a nutrition-only network. And it kept going — more and more. Quickly the number of tools and communities I found far outstripped anything appropriate for a blogpost, so we are now planning a mini-class overview of Food and Nutrition Online Communities. If we're lucky, maybe right before Thanksgiving?

Meanwhile, I checked out SparkPeople for the rumored recipe analysis, and here are some screenshots to show how you'd get there.

SparkPeople: Getting Started with the Nutrition Tracker:
Social Media and Food: SparkPeople - Start

SparkPeople: Nutrition:
Social Media and Food: Sparkpeople - Nutrition

SparkPeople: Nutrition: Meal Plans:
Social Media and Food: Sparkpeople - Diet Plans

SparkPeople: Nutrition: Add a Food:
Social Media and Food: Sparkpeople - Nutrition, Add a Food

NOTE: Did you see the Serving Size Calculator in the upper right hand corner of the picture above?

SparkPeople: Nutrition: Find a Food:
Social Media and Food: Sparkpeople - Nutrition, Search for a Food

SparkPeople: Nutrition: Create a Food Not Listed:
Social Media and Food: Sparkpeople - Nutrition, Create a Food

NOTE: You would use this when you are using a food in a recipe or meal plan that isn't already in their database. For myself, this is often when it is an old family recipe that starts with a mix or prepackaged food of some sort, and I will use the nutrition data from the packaging information.

Okay, not go have fun. We can get into more detail in the class, later.

Posted by pfa at 09:20 AM | Comments (0)

August 15, 2008

My Top Ten Tools Today

My Top 10 Today

I am often asked what are my favorite "web 2.0" tools. Well, for now ignoring the whole discussion about the phrase "web 2.0", here are my favorite personal productivity tools right now. These float around in different priorities depending on the day, so I am alphabetizing the list below, with brief notes about why I like them.


A.viary is a lovely suite of online image editing and generation tools (reminiscent of (but very different from) the Creative Studios suite that includes Photoshop and Illustrator) wrapped up in a lovely social networking framework.


My number one productivity tool, Delicious allows you to archive and manage bookmarks in an online account, with access from anywhere you have network access. I use it to save items for personal use, article bibliographies, grant projects, teaching projects, rss streams to web sites, reference questions, saving web search strategies, Pubmed search strategies, and much more. It also facilitates discovery of useful tools through your network and the general community, as well as searching a well filtered collection.


Like Delicious, Flickr is great for supporting web development and blogging. It is wonderful for image sharing and hosting, and Flickr automatically takes the one image I put in, and spits out a variety of sizes of the same image, saving me a lot of time and work. Because of the Flickr Application Programming Interface (API), many other folk have created useful tools based out of Flickr. These add-on tools allow you to create online presentations, slideshows, animations and more, embeddable within your website. Of course, there are also the groups for sharing, collecting, discovering both images of beauty and utility as well as conversations and friendships.


A lot of people encouraged me to try FriendFeed for a long time. Leaders in the online social talked about the conversation had moved to FriendFeed. I felt tired just thinking about it, but when I couldn't use Twitter for several days I made the switch. Wow, oh, wow. FriendFeed is so efficient about bringing to my attention the best of what's new, important, being discussed, and letting me see what my friends are doing in ALL their online spaces.

Google Plus

This doesn't mean just searching in Google. It means that PLUS GMail, Google Images, Google News, Google Docs, Google Maps, Google Earth, Reader, Blogs, Scholar, Books, Finance, Code, Labs ...

Identi.ca: http://identi.ca/
Jaiku: http://jaiku.com/
Plurk: http://plurk.com/
Pownce: http://pownce.com/
Twitter: http://twitter.com/

A couple weeks ago I would have said "Twitter" instead of "microblogging", but life changes. There are a lot of microblogging tools, and each has a different personality and attracts a different community. I am in several. These are the ones I watch, but the ones I check daily or more are Identi.ca, Plurk, and Twitter (in alphabetical order). OK, so that's what I do, but why? Because for a lot of the work I am doing, people with similar interests are there, engaging in rich provocative conversations and sharing useful resources. These, with FriendFeed have largely replaced feed readers for me, and to a large extent have also replaced much email.

Second Life

Second Life has dramatically increased my professional and intellectual engagement. When I became a single parent of a special needs child my ability and willingness to travel tot conferences was drastically reduced. In Second Life I am able to weekly attend multiple seminars, professional presentations, and training sessions, dramatically increasing my connection with people and ideas in my professional work. In addition, the number of professional presentations I have been able to generate myself has also skyrocketed. Even if I scale back by 50%, that would still be double or triple what I have done in any recent year.


I never really used Powerpoint or slide presentations much. At least, I didn't until Slideshare and MP4 podcasts. For the Bootcamp podcasts I had to use slides and could not do live demos. If I had to use slides, well, then I wanted to put them online. To my surprise, once the slides were in Slideshare, they developed an entirely new audience, reaching a much broader range of people than ever before. It was also useful being able to use the slides in new ways - to embed them in blogs and web pages, combine them with audio for embeddable "podcasts". It is very convenient having them backed up and archived, ready to hand during reference consultations, chats on the phone, just accessible in so many ways. I can't count how many times having a presentation in Slideshare has saved me when a computer at the site would not play the Powerpoint file I had brought with me. I would give my talk, and present using the Flash version made available through Slideshare. Very handy.


Tumblr is blogging made easy, mindlessly easy. Again, convenience and access is a big part of why I like this tool. I also like it for teaching other people how to blog when they are new to the idea. There doesn't seem to be any one blogging tool that has all the neat bells and whistles, and Tumblr doesn't pretend to even try. What is does do is make it so easy that anyone can do it, so easy that you might decide to have several blogs for different purposes. Best of all, it does this with a sweet set of built-in ready-to-use attractive layouts, while preserving the option for those geeks who want to customize to implement some sophisticated options via CSS.


When you say "wiki", I think Wetpaint. Sure, there are a lot of other wiki platforms, but none easier to use. The drawback with Wetpaint is that it doesn't work well in all browsers, and shows a significant loss of functionality with any browser other than Firefox. It's worth it. It's worth installing Firefox if you don't already have it. The editing interface is so similar to what is standard for word processors that the learning curve is dramatically reduced. It's easy to create, easy to use, easy to edit. Wetpaint allows you to add images, videos, calendars, embeddable media and widgets from other sites. It includes social networking features and allows you to add a discussion forum either separately or on any page. Conceptually, it is a new kind of wiki, showing the direction I believe we are headed in our blended information environment.

Posted by pfa at 08:35 PM | Comments (7)

August 07, 2008

Wetpaint, By Popular Request

During Enriching Scholarship last May, a group of people asked me to do a session on how to use Wetpaint. So I did. Wetpaint offers quite a lot:
* easy to use editing interface,
* integrated social networking,
* discussion tools,
* excellent collaboration environment for teaching, distance learning, research, or just general information sharing.

Best of all, they practice what they preach, with excellent use of their own and other social media for community support and outreach. Bravo, and job well done!

The podcast with audio will be available shortly at the Bootcamp Archive.

Posted by pfa at 03:59 PM | Comments (0)

July 28, 2008

New Search Engine - Cuil

The tech buzz this AM is that a bunch of folk from Google went off on their own and have now released a new search engine - Cuil.com.

Cuil - Search

Being a person who has been tracking search engines and writing about them for many years, my ears went BOING! and perked right up. Sounds really interesting!

Cuil (pronounced "cool" or "kewl") is supposed to have the largest search engine database ever. So far, so good.

Cuil - Search

They address one of the really big recent concerns with Google, too - privacy.

Cuil - Search

I know certain people this is really going to attract! Very important, and glad to see them do this.

And the interface? OMG, made me salivate, I swear. This is GOOD stuff! A lot of other search engines could learn important lessons from Cuil when it comes to the interface. They have beautifully integrated a number of recent trends in interface design - clustering, semantic search, visual thumbnails.... They even have two layers of clusters - the tabbed topics across the top and the suggested terms for narrowing a topic over at the right. Here is a screenshot of a sample search on the word "diabetes".

Cuil - Search

I liked the way they selected the most important topics for the right hand topical clusters and gave the option to expand to include more. Mousing over a topic gives more detail, so you can easily browse in by topic to a really decent level of granularity.

Cuil - Search

I just loved that when you mouse over the bottom level suggested search terms Cuil even provides a definition! w00t!

Cuil - Search

Where this all broke down was in the implementation. I tried clicking through the DIET section and selecting the subtopics. Of the four suggested -- low carbohydrate diet, low fat diet, dieting, and fasting -- only two of them were actually valid for search. I'd show you a screenshot, but their servers are down just this sec. ("We’ll be back soon... Due to overwhelming interest, our Cuil servers are running a bit hot right now. The search engine is momentarily unavailable as we add more capacity. Thanks for your patience.") I was curious because two of the four topics suggested are actually bad ideas for diabetics, at least the last I heard ("low-fat diet" and "fasting"). Indeed, those were the two suggested topics that, when clicked upon, tried to add the search terms to the search, and came back with zero results. I was baffled why the search engine would suggest inclusion of nonviable concepts.

The next concern that popped up for me was when I clicked through one of the subtopics that did work.

Cuil - Search

Personally, I rather enjoy spiritual reading and websites, however, I cannot consider them a top level source of content on most healthcare topics. I confess I was more than a bit concerned that for a search on "diabetes low-carbohydrate diet" Cuil returned as the top result a web page on Alzheimers from the BibleLife organization. Uh, oops?

I have already gone on record as having concerns about Google losing their edge for search result relevance as SEO has become more effective, so I wondered if the results would be similar in other search engines. I popped over to Google and tried running the same search.

Cuil - Search

Ahhhhh, much better. :) Leading research journals and professional organizations on diabetes seem much more relevant to my mind. So it isn't that better results weren't available, it is just that for some inexplicable reason, Cuil felt BibleLife's pages were more appropriate than the American Diabetes Association professional publications. I think some tweaking is in order here. I went back and dug a little more, and suspect that this is related to what they say on their main Information page*: "Rather than rely on superficial popularity metrics, Cuil searches for and ranks pages based on their content and relevance." Perhaps they should consider some way to include authority or credibility in that analysis?

*BTW, Cuil? The link to "About Us" on the main page is broken. Was tricky to find this.

So what do I really think? Here is the short and sweet from the discussion at Plurk.

Cuil - Search

Posted by pfa at 08:50 AM | Comments (0)

July 01, 2008

Dipity + Flickr = Embeddable Timeline Slidshows

I've been talking a lot lately about xTimeline and Dipity as educationally interesting timeline tools. I think the idea of a small group of students collaborating on a case study or other temporal data to be presented, incorporating multimedia and doing this all wiki-style and reducing the need for as much face-to-face (F2F) time ... well, seems pretty cool to me. :)

I recently discovered that Dipity also has a couple interesting mashup tools, connection the timeline function with either Flickr (with the mashup version known as Tickr) or YouTube (mashup known as TimeTube).

Tickr: http://www.dipity.com/mashups/tickr

Dipity: Tickr: Iowa Flood

TimeTube: http://www.dipity.com/mashups/timetube

Dipity: TimeTube: Iowa Flood

Now that bit right there is VERY interesting for exploring emerging trends and new events. To take it to another level, the Flickr mashup (Tickr) creates an embeddable view you can share with others and use on your blog or website. Could be extremely interesting for a public relations or conceptual type of course or project.

Here is an example from the recent Iowa Flood. See what you think. Remember, this is interactive, so go ahead -- scroll around in it, use the buttons, click on pictures -- see what happens. Fun!

Tickr (by Dipity): Iowa Flood:

Posted by pfa at 11:03 AM | Comments (0)

June 29, 2008

Slidecasts: Second Life How To Do for Teachers and Others

A slidecast is like a podcast except that both slides and audio are embedded in a web page. We are trying to offer some of our podcasts in both forms -- the version for the iPod or MP4 device and another version for the website. I hope to soon do a podcast / slidescast on how to make slidecasts. Meanwhile, check out these three -- Why Second Life, Getting Started in SL, & SL Teacher's Toolkit -- and see how you like this as a way to deliver content easily to a wide audience via the web.

Why Work & Teach in Second Life



Getting Started in Second Life



Second Life Teacher's Toolkit



Posted by pfa at 09:24 AM | Comments (0)

June 12, 2008

Happy Birthday! Ann Arbor added to Google Maps

Google Maps Street View turned one year old, and on that day they added ... us!

Google LatLong: Street View turns 1, keeps on growing: http://google-latlong.blogspot.com/2008/06/street-view-turns-1-keeps-on-growing.html

So now we can do nifty things like embed the map or pictures in our web pages. Check it out!


Google Maps: Ann Arbor Street Views: Medical School


View Larger Map

Posted by pfa at 11:48 AM | Comments (0)

May 29, 2008

Science as Conversation, Part 1: "Is Pubmed Passé?"

Today at "lunch" I listened to a webcast presentation by a couple of my colleagues & peers here at the University of Michigan Health Sciences Libraries - Marisa Conte & Jean Song. They were presenting research data that is part of a project to develop improvements to the PubMed searching interface. The specific project under discussion today was MiSearch.

MiSearch: http://misearch.ncibi.org


I occasionally sent brief tweets to Twitter about the interesting data or concepts being presented. As a topic for another conversation, somehow I turned on LiveTweet by accident, so the tweets were captured as a session.

LiveTwitter: http://livetwitting.com/session/145

What was really interesting was the dialog that happened around the tweets. Specifically one comment in particular from Chris Seper.

Tweet: Is PubMed Passé?

Wow! You could have knocked me over with a feather right about then. As a medical librarian, and especially as someone heavily engaged with evidence-based healthcare and systematic reviews, Medline is a BIG part of my life! PubMed, Ovid, Silverplatter, GratefulMed, Dialog, Index Medicus, Index to Dental Literature ... the list of tools I've used for searching the medical literature goes back through decades of my life, and the tools themselves (as well as the literature) go back around 150 years. I was "raised" (as a medical librarian) on Medline as the mother's milk of authoritative medicine and healthcare.

I was immediately and urgently curious what it was about ScienceRoll search that inspired Chris to make this change. So I popped over to Chris' page and checked it out. I noticed two big differences right away -- (1) what information sources are being searched, and (2) how the results are being displayed.


Science Roll Example - Sources


Science Roll Example - Results

So what is so different? Well, when you use ScienceRoll's search you do still get results from PubMed mixed in. That is also true of Google Scholar. ScienceRoll, though, is a bit like a blogroll -- "who are your favorites?" ScienceRoll searches the crème de la crème of the medical web -- World Health Organization, Centers for Disease Control, National Institutes of Health, Health On the Net, and many more. Then it gives you what it finds (a little, not too much, some consumer, some clinical) with more suggestions and ideas for refining your search. For a site targeting the general public I can definitely see why Chris felt this was a better choice than dumping John Q Public directly into the heart of the clinical dialog.

Posted by pfa at 03:42 PM | Comments (0)

May 12, 2008

Visual & Clustering Search Engines, and Things to Do With Them

After I did last week's session on "Online Visualization and Organization Tools" I realized that I had left out a significant group of tools that could contribute to both areas. I left them out at the time because they weren't intended for this kind of use, but when I thought about how I use these myself, I realized it was a disservice to my audience not to have included them. Consider this slideshow an addition to the earlier one.

Posted by pfa at 07:48 PM | Comments (0)

May 06, 2008

Online Visualization and Organization Tools

Enriching Scholarship is an annual week-long series of continuing education classes for university faculty on topics of teachnology (technology to support teaching). Pretty amazing and awesome concept, and I am proud to be part of it.

When we were planning sessions for this year's Enriching Scholarship, I thought, "Hmmm, I don't want to just do the same things I always teach. I want to do something new. Why don't I do a session on some of the coolest of the new toys I've found recently." That became a session I called "Online Visualization and Organization Tools."

Because I was already teaching 7 other sessions, and did not teach one I usually teach, we didn't want to go overboard with this. So we offered one session for 20 people. 45 registered. Oops. We switched to a new and bigger room, and scheduled a second session for a week later.

Last night I posted the slides. WIll you forgive me if I post a snapshot of the stats now? (Slides follow right below.)

Slideshare.net: Online Visualization & Organization Tools, 21 hours later

It is now 21 hours after I first posted the slides. Slideshare picked up the slides and highlighted them on their homepage. So in 21 hours there have been over 700 views. I am flabbergasted!

Someone commented that I should add audio, so I will probably turn this into a series of podcasts. You don't have to wait until that happens, though. You can look at the slides yourself right now. :)

Posted by pfa at 01:09 PM | Comments (0)

April 28, 2008

Strategies for searching for health info - Google, MedStory, Cochrane, Pubmed

I just answered a blog comment on a different blog about searching for information about tooth whitening using a variety of resources to gradually get to better and better information.

Tooth Whitening and How to Find Out About It: http://mblog.lib.umich.edu/dentlib/archives/2008/04/tooth_whitening.html

Posted by pfa at 08:50 PM | Comments (0)

April 25, 2008

Cool Toys Conversation April 22

On April 22nd, we had the first Cool Toys Conversation with staff of the Health Sciences Libraries. A group of us got together, ate lunch, and talked about what new cool tools and resources we've found online lately. Some of these have been previously been highlighted in this blog, some will be forthcoming. Here are the highlights of the conversation.

University of Michigan - iTunes U
The University of Michigan health sciences schools are collaborating on putting course lectures online as podcasts through iTunesU as a partnership with Apple.

ChaCha is a new reference service that will answer reference questions received through the web, text/chat, or by your mobile phone. Fast answers, too. Imagine going for a walk in a new city and sending a message asking, is there a good sushi bar near my location? and getting the answer in 2 minutes.

Open Source Alternative
Can't get your tech admin to buy you a copy of some application you want for your computer? Here is a searchable database of open source (and FREE) software alternatives. Why pay if you can get it free?

LifeHacker is a kind of blog/journal/tech/self-help site with all kinds of tips (both 'hot' and useful) to help make your life easier. All your life -- work, home, you name it. Worth checking out.

This is a tool for a build your own genealogy. We started thinking it would be interesting to use this to create visualizations of evolution of genetic profiles, plants, animals, ideas, memes, etc.

See http://mblog.lib.umich.edu/etechlib/archives/2008/02/xtimeline.html


MBlog: ETechLib
This blog. Where I sometime mention cool new online toys and trends in emerging technologies.

MBlog: Web 2.0
Another blog highlighting new toys their applications.

EBHC Strategies Wiki
A wiki about evidence-based search and searching strategies. The more the merrier!

There was so much talk about Twitter, I've put it at the bottom to group the longer discussion and various tools.

Twitter is referred to as a microblogging tool, and is the most prominent and popular of this group of social tech tools. Personally, I consider it an example of Web 2.0 and social tech in a microcosm. You know how much research is done with other organisms before human research in part because of the shorter lifespan? Twitter would be the "mouse" of the social tech sphere -- everything that happens in social tech happens there, just faster!

Here are some of the Twitter accounts, tools and concepts we discussed.


TwitterCycle: http://cogdoghouse.wikispaces.com/twittercycle


A2Snooze - local news / police blotter on Twitter

APHA - public health on Twitter

ChaCha - reference on Twitter

GetReady - disaster preparedness on Twitter

PubmedBootcamp - teaching on Twitter
MORE: http://mblog.lib.umich.edu/etechlib/archives/2008/04/pubmed_bootcamp.html

Posted by pfa at 09:20 AM | Comments (0)

April 23, 2008

Red Letter Week

This is my 441st blog post in MBlog. Of course, that doesn't count blog posts done at other places, but still, quite a chunk of work there! I figure with ones I've done other places I'll just call it a round 500. Sounds good, doesn't it?

Also today I posted the 45th slideshow in our shared Slideshare account:

Slideshare: UMHealthSciencesLibraries: http://www.slideshare.net/umhealthscienceslibraries/slideshows/

Earlier this week I hit a few other social tech landmarks.

I hit 2100 tweets and over 600 followers in Twitter.

Red Letter Week: 2100, 600+

Now, since then I have a hundred new followers, with no idea why.

One of my early slideshare presentations hit 10,000 views.

Red Letter Week: 10,000+

I now have over 13,000 links collected and organized in my del.icio.us account.

Red Letter Week: 13,000+

And Flickr - let's not forget Flickr, which is where I started with all this "Web 2.0" jazz. 45,000 views of my photostream, and will likely hit 12,000 images in the next week.

Red Letter Week: 45,000+

Last but not least, the YouTube video I made with Sharon Grayden and Dan Bruell of the School of Dentistry recently hit 8,000 views (although I'm not sure when).

Red Letter Week: 8,000+

Ed Vielmetti of SuperPatron fame has been heard to ask what is the point of social technologies if it doesn't make people want to connect face to face? So I found the also remarkable in that the following tech-to-face events happened.

1) Someone sat down on the bus, looked at me, and said, "Excuse me, but are you RosefireRising? Of Flickr?" (Let me tell you, that created a bit of a conversation in my Twitter crowd!)

2) I had lunch at Angelos with a woman I know from Second Life. (hey, Diva? /me waves)

3) I got this postcard from a Twitter pal.

Twitter Postcard via Tojosan

What does all this mean? I'm not sure, but it looks like someone somewhere thinks I'm doing something useful. A nice feeling. :) And it is nice to have friends. :)

Posted by pfa at 04:22 PM | Comments (0)

March 28, 2008

Many Eyes - Sharing Data & Data Visualization

I've been wanting to share this amazing tool for quite a while, and am just getting around to blogging it. ManyEyes is a social technology tool for data visualization from IBM.

Many Eyes:

Web 2.0: Many Eyes

You could write a dissertation about the features and potential applications of this. Briefly, here are some of the main points that have attracted my attention.

1. Collections of data visualizations created by other users on specific topics. Below is shown the Health topic hub.

Web 2.0: Many Eyes

2. A variety of data visualization models available. Here is one.

Web 2.0: Many Eyes

3. Data visualizations are INTERACTIVE. You can click on topics or portions of the graphic for some of the visualization types, and then redraw the graphic to focus on just that element within the visualization and dataset.

Web 2.0: Many Eyes

Of course it has all the usual social technology features -- join a group, comment on someone's dataset or visualization, share with others, work with a group, collaborate, embed in a blog ... Are you smiling yet? I am. :)

You can even embed in your blog either of two ways. Here is an example I think will interest you - University of Michigan Faculty Salary data. The first embed is a static image, and the second is an interactive visualization.

Static image:

ManyEyes: Visualizations : University of Michigan faculty size and average salary by dept (no subdepartments)

Live interactive visualization:

ManyEyes: Visualizations : University of Michigan faculty size and average salary by dept (no subdepartments)

Posted by pfa at 07:48 AM | Comments (0)

February 12, 2008


Lately, I've spent a lot of time telling people about xTimeline. xTimeline is a kind of multimedia wiki timeline-building tool. Let's take a closer look at this.

What do timelines do? They track a process through time. You see them most often used in history and literature venues, but they have major potential for applications in health. There are a few examples of health or medical timelines already available in xTimeline, so far of the traditional sort of timeline.

xTimeline: Baby Development Timeline: http://www.xtimeline.com/science-tech/Baby-Development-Timeline

xTimeline: History of AIDS Epidemic: http://www.xtimeline.com/science-tech/History-of-AIDS

xTimeline: Modern Medical Discoveries post 1800: http://www.xtimeline.com/science-tech/Modern-Medical-Discoveries-post-1800-1

xTimeline: Pregnancy Timeline: http://www.xtimeline.com/science-tech/Pregnancy-Timeline

Web 2.0: xTimeline

Now, think about all the other kinds of process-based information in health -- growth & development, embryogenesis, disease progression, disease transmission, treatment planning, all kinds of things in public health and epidemiology, I could go on and on. I bet you could, too!

Imagine this.

You have a class, and the assignment is for the small group to report back on what they learned about how a particular condition is transmitted to a host and what is the normal progression of the untreated condition. The small group divides up tasks, and goes out hunting information and examples. One person creates timepoints in the timeline, another person adds a sound file of a cough to one timepoint, another person adds a video to a different timepoint showing the gait. The chief editor drafts some text to add to the timepoints, and the team members edit and refine the text, adding citations. They mark the timeline private, and notify the teacher it is shared with him/her. The teacher reviews the general timeline for coherence, then clicks on the timepoints, which break out the richer text and media files. The prof makes some suggestions, and after those are implemented, the timeline is changed from private to public and is now available to be used as a reference by other students in the class.

Sound interesting? Here's another example.

The adult child caregiver of a long term care patient is trying to track trends in their parent's condition. They go back through their notebook of doctor's calls, and plot the last two years over time. They notice a general increase in frequency and severity. The caregiver marks the timeline private, but shares it with the rest of the family and the primary care clinician for their parent.

Or perhaps a newly-wed couple find themselves pregnant with their first child, and creates a timeline to track the progress of their pregnancy. They enrich the timepoints with pics and brief anecdotes.

I hope this whets your interest in exploring the potential of this tool for

Posted by pfa at 10:12 AM | Comments (0)