February 04, 2009

I See the Punk, But Where's the Science?: Science Blogging - Good, Bad, and Ugly

I've been working up a series of talks on Science 2.0 - what, why, payoffs, etcetera. In an earlier talk on Science Blogs (Staying Current with Science Blogs and Wikis) I had promoted the science blogs community (http://scienceblogs.com/) as a place for faculty to track science innovation and trends, as well as to consider for their own blogging. I did that because of the range of voices represented and the dynamism of the conversation. Right now, I am about to backpedal on that recommendation just a bit, to qualify it as I should have done in the beginning.

Earlier this week I stumbled across an entry in a blogpost at ScienceBlogs that raised red flags for me regarding the actual science in the post.

SciencePunk (Frank Swain): Reiki One-Liners: a daily dose of healing via Twitter: http://scienceblogs.com/sciencepunk/2009/02/reiki_one-liners_a_daily_dose.php

DISCLAIMER: I was initially attracted to reading the article because of seeing it discussed on Twitter, and I must admit that the author of the Reiki One-Liners is one of the roughly 2000 people I follow on Twitter. I also follow a lot of hard care scientists and informaticians, as well as medical and clinical people, social tech geeks, local folk, librarians and friends. I appreciate and enjoy the diversity of the conversations I observe and participate in through Twitter.

One of the sentences that was a warning sign for me was this: "probably the world's laziest form of quackery" as well as the closing sentence, "Given their aversion to actually seeing patients, Reiki practitioners clearly think diagnosis is just some kind of foolish Western misconception anyway." Immediately I wanted to know what made him think this -- where's the evidence, how does he support this statement. So I browsed on to the comments, many of which were overtly insulting to both Reiki (overtly) and the process of intellectual inquiry (covertly). Here is a particularly inflammatory example:

"No, Pamir, Reiki isn't "spiritual teaching". It's nonsense. OK, it's more than nonsense, it's fraud, it's drivel, it's lies, it's trash. It's the way of the idiot.

And a world without idiots feeding idiocy to other idiots would be a better place.

Help your fellow practitioners by suggesting they take up honest work instead of feeding them waffles."

Well, before we get too insulting, let's check the credentials of the person we're bashing, ok? Pamir's work and information is actually affiliated with some hospitals and medical organizations.

South Florida Hospital News: Reiki: The Art of Spiritual Healing: http://www.southfloridahospitalnews.com/specialfocus/default.asp?articleID=492

My response was to dig a bit (not deeply) into the scientific evidence, explore the claims of the original post and the commentor. I already was aware through my work of the National Center for Complementary and Alternative Medicine (NCCAM) from the US government National Institutes of Health. Here is what they have to say about Reiki:

NCCAM: Reiki, an Introduction: http://nccam.nih.gov/health/reiki/

Digging into the evidence more via PubMed, I found little to support the blogpost's assumptions. Basically the evidence seemed to be saying that Reiki might work, we aren't sure yet, but it doesn't seem to hurt as long as you have the money to pay for it. I also had in mind a recent case study we'd been working with in the local medical school focusing on the effects of intercessional prayer, which sounds a little similar to me. I am thinking that reiki is a case of potential good with little risk of overt harm. I responded to the blogpost with a comment focused on the issue of science and evidence and interpretation of the evidence. I'll get to that later. It is what happened next that is interesting.

I received a notice from the system that my comment had been directed to the author for approval before being released to the web page. That is pretty common, and didn't concern me. But that was two days ago, and four more comments have been added to the page without mine being approved for release. I sent a twitter communication to the original author asking why my blog comment had not been approved. OK, Frank is new, still learning how Twitter works, and he doesn't quite get it yet. He tried to reply to my tweet but sent it in a way that I wouldn't see. (Frank, the @pfanderson has to be the first characters of the tweet to show up in my Replies box.) He asked me to email him, but on neither his blog nor his Twitter account was I able to find an email address, not in the profile, the "About", nor in a Google search. I will give him kudos for trying to reach me, but ... did he check the pending comments file at the blog?

Frank is a prominent voice in the science blogging community, having been tapped to write for the Guardian in the UK as well as . Here is a brief bio and a video of his chat about the importance of informing our decisions with evidence:

Why is Science Important?: Frank Swain: evidence to base our decisions: http://whyscience.co.uk/2008/12/frank-swain-evidence-to-base-our-decisions.php

I want to believe that any author at ScienceBlogs would be scientific enough to support the discussion about the evidence that is an essential part of scientific inquiry and progress. I spoke on this as an invited speaker at the Medical Library Association last May, coming from a strong personal conviction that social media has much to contribute to Science through supporting Science as Conversation.

So what does it say about a science blog when inflammatory and insulting comments are part of the comment thread, but a comment about the evidence of the topic is not released to the comments? For me, the most interesting and important part of the conversation is missing, and I must question what was the purpose of the original post if informed dialog is suppressed.

Basically, what it comes down to is a strategy that applies in science at every point from hallway conversations to informal publications such as blogposts all the way through to peer-reviewed publications and systematic reviews -- "Quis custodiet ipsos custodes?" "Who watches the watchers?" (Juvenal, Satire 6.346–348). All of us, in whatever role (scientist, humanist, student, teacher, curious observer) must not assume the reliability of a source, but should take everything with a grain of salt. That's it, that's all I saying -- that we must keep questioning, asking where is the science, where is the evidence, what is the quality of the evidence, what are the trends in the evidence, where is it coming from, who is doing the research, how is it being funded, is there obvious bias ... all those questions. We must keep asking.

So what was my comment that wasn't posted? See below. Please note that at the time of writing it I did not realize that Frank was the author of the post and not Sam, so my own mistake there. I will send Frank a copy of this post, and hope for his response at the original post. Also, here is an example of what sort of content triggered the original SciencePunk blogpost:


Twitter: Gassho: Reiki One-Liners


Sam, I might encourage you to examine some of the recent research evidence on Reiki:


Within the context of my experience as a consultant working with evidence-based healthcare for the past decade, I would want to mention that insufficient evidence does not always mean that the treatment doesn't work. It means exactly what it says -- that we don't have enough research to make a conclusive decision. The purpose of systematic reviews that identify insufficient evidence is largely to identify flaws and gaps in the research to be addressed in future studies. I have seen a number of drug trials in similar circumstances, who completely turn around the findings by the time of the 5 yr update to the review.

In the case of insufficient evidence, clinicians should look at the BEST AVAILABLE EVIDENCE to support decisions, as well as the balance of potential risk/harm from the treatment. Current clinical trials and systematic reviews of reiki show distinct trends supportive of the effectiveness, and show little or no harm. There just aren't enough of the trials to have reached statistical significance. So, while results are currently inconclusive, they are encouraging of a positive effect.

Please note that in the bulk of the research trials, they are examining the effectiveness of the "healing touch" aspects of reiki. In your post you seem unaware of this aspect of reiki, which you could not have avoided knowing if you read either the Reiki FAQ: http://www.reiki.org/faq/WhatIsReiki.html or even Wikipedia. Perhaps you should research and define your terms, as politely suggested by Pamir.

Posted by pfa at 08:20 AM | Comments (3)

January 31, 2009

Life Outside the Bell Curve

Wearing one of my other hats, blogged over on the limitations of the evidence base:


Posted by pfa at 09:04 PM | Comments (0)

January 20, 2009

Inauguration Links

I am busily cranking away on the inauguration slides, BUT since many of the links I'll be referring to are still active and have live content streaming through the balls and other events, I thought I would share them right now so you can go explore on your own. A few comments mixed in.

The White House website changed over precisely at the drop of 12 noon, Just before Obama started his speech. I pulled the site up on my laptop and waved the screen at the crowd of people gather to watch CNN's broadcast in the Med School's LRC lobby. Amazing. There is a new back end, new social media integration, blogs, RSS, and a variety of aspects that have geeks everywhere raving and ranting. More on that later.

White House: http://www.whitehouse.gov/

OMG! We now have a White House YOUTUBE Channel! I am the 85th subscriber. Brand new. WOW!!

Youtube: White House: http://www.youtube.com/user/whitehouse

Links to info and resources being promoted by the Obama team. Many of these offer ways you can be involved. Notice Obama's campaign Twitter account is live again, after going dormant immediately after the election.

USA Service: http://USAservice.org/

Twitter: Barack Obama: http://twitter.com/BarackObama

Twitter: Obama Inaugural: http://twitter.com/obamainaugural

PhotoBucket: Obama Photobook: http://photobucket.com/obamaphotobook

Flickr: Inauguration: http://www.flickr.com/photos/inauguration

PIC: Photos: http://www.pic2009.org/blog/entry/tumblr#

PIC: Blog: http://www.pic2009.org/blog

The BBC is hosting a video of Maya Angelou saying what she thinks is most important for Obama to hear. There are similar videos from a variety of people, including white collar, blue collar and even children.

BBC: Maya Angelou: http://news.bbc.co.uk/2/hi/programmes/world_news_america/7838941.stm

A fun graphic.

Blogumentary: Happy Obama Day: http://blogumentary.typepad.com/chuck/2009/01/oh-yes-long-time-coming-happy-obama-day.html

This was up, on the web, live, from a citizen journalism site, within SECONDS after the speech broadcast on CNN. They must have had someone taking dictation and typing it up as fast as he spoke.

NowPublic: Full Text - President Obama's Inauguration Speech: http://www.nowpublic.com/world/full-text-president-obamas-inauguration-speech-2009

One of several sites collecting links to various ways in which social media are being used to track inauguration events and provide minute by minute reporting and coverage.

Inauguration 2.0: http://www.othersidegroup.com/adcomments/2009/01/inauguration-20/

CNet: How to watch Obama's Inauguration and Parties Online: http://news.cnet.com/how-to-watch-obamas-inauguration-and-the-parties-online/

LifeHacker: Inauguration: http://lifehacker.com/tag/inauguration/

iPhone + Inauguration

TechCrunch: Watch the Obama Inauguration with your iPhone: http://www.techcrunch.com/2009/01/16/watch-the-obama-inauguration-from-your-iphone-with-ustream/

Widgets available to embed content in your website. Also check many of the web streams, which also have embedding available.

Inauguration: Inauguration Report: http://inaugurationreport.com/

Inauguration Report: Widgets: http://inaugurationreport.com/widgets/

Streaming and live reporting available over the net, many of which will continue with the inaugural balls. The fun isn't over yet!

Ustream: http://www.ustream.tv/

Current/Twitter: Inauguration: http://current.com/topics/88852690/inauguration/new/0.htm">http://current.com/topics/88852690/inauguration/new/0.htm

Hulu: Obama Presidency: http://www.hulu.com/spotlight/obamapresidency

Senate: http://inaugural.senate.gov/index.cfm

Presidential Inauguration Committee (PIC): http://www.pic2009.org/content/home/

Neighborhood Ball Party: http://www.pic2009.org/page/content/neighborhoodballparty

MSNBC: http://www.msnbc.msn.com/id/27721638/

CBS: http://www.cbsnews.com/stories/2009/01/08/national/inauguration09/main4707733.shtml

Joost: http://www.joost.com/024o8pj/t/Joost-Presents-Everything-Obama

ABC: http://abcnews.go.com/politics/president44

CSpan: http://c-span.org/Watch/C-SPAN_wm.aspx

CNN: http://www.cnn.com/live/

Washington Post: http://voices.washingtonpost.com/inauguration-central/

NY Times:

LiveStation: http://www.livestation.com/inauguration

USA Today: http://usatoday.com/

Associated Press (my fave so far): http://ap.org/

CNet: http://news.cnet.com/8301-13578_3-10144141-38.html?tag=mncol;posts

A couple non-US sources.

CBC: http://www.cbc.ca/news/?refresh

BBC: http://www.bbc.co.uk/

Very interesting, but not available just yet I think, a 3d zoomable display of this particular moment in time. Send in your photos if you were there to help make rendering accurate.

CNN; The Moment: http://www.cnn.com/SPECIALS/2009/44.president/inauguration/themoment/ OR http://cnn.com/themoment

MORE Citizen journalism and reporting the inauguration.

Inauguration Report: http://inaugurationreport.com/

iReport: Inauguration: http://www.ireport.com/ir-topic-stories.jspa?topicId=180017

CitiMediaLaw: Documenting 2009 Presidential Inauguration: http://www.citmedialaw.org/legal-guide/documenting-2009-presidential-inauguration


Mashable: Obama Inauguration Speech Generator: http://mashable.com/2009/01/15/obama-inauguration-speech-generator/

ATOM: Inauguration Speech Generator: http://www.atom.com/spotlights/inauguration_speech_generator/

Attack Ad Generator: http://attackadgenerator.com/

Daily Show: http://www.joost.com/home?playNow=024o8pj#id=076iunv

Make a Do-It-Yourself Inauguration Souvenir: http://blog.wired.com/geekdad/2009/01/make-a-do-it-yo.html

Is Obama President Yet: http://isobamapresidentyet.com/

Aggregated Searching.

IceRocket: http://www.icerocket.com/search?tab=buzz&lng=&q=inauguration&x=10&y=17

Blogs etc.

"Today, we inaugurate the first president to ever own a BlackBerry, to ever have a Twitter account, and to ever use the Internet to build and win a grassroots campaign. Obviously, hopes are high among those of us in Ed Tech for a very different sort of presidency when it comes to education funding."

Tumblr: Inauguration Photos: http://inauguration.tumblr.com/submit/photo

Tumblr (another fave): http://www.tumblr.com/search/obama

One of the many responses from around the world. This was sent as a link on Twitter tagged for the inauguration.

Obama Hindi Song: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=-KvDg_a2Kf8

Posted by pfa at 02:56 PM | Comments (1)

January 19, 2009

Telling the Election Story Through Social Media

There has been a lot of buzz about the incredible use of social media in the Obama campaign. Meanwhile, here I am sitting over in my cubicle doing this, that, and the other thing to try to inform the campus and especially the health schools about the potential of social media for productive functions. I started thinking maybe this is one of those times when a picture is worth a thousand words, or where a parable -- telling the stories -- gets the message across better than spelling it out.

Sounds like a brainstorm, eh? And what story has been more foremost in our thoughts for the past couple months than (a) the election and (b) the economy. Living in Michigan, the economy is too depressing for me to want to spend a lot of time thinking about it. So I spent a bunch of time during the past couple months capturing screenshots and browsing social media. I do that all the time anyway as part of my job. When I saw something relating to the election, reacting to it, or leading up to the inauguration, I grabbed a snap, and sometimes a link as well. You can find the links here:



I tried to be nonpartisan -- to show the whole story (barring expletives and graphic rudeness). I tried to give enough information in the images that people could find the original, but in some cases the original has disappeared since the time I captured the screenshot. I did not capture all the links, simply because of the labor involved. The plan is to have several sections for this:
- Part One: Early Vote, Election Day, Results, Announcement, Immediate Responses
- Part Two: November - Elation and Depression
- Part Three: December - Getting Used to the Idea
- Part Four: January - Inauguration Preparations
- Part Five: Inauguration

That's the idea, I don't know if I will really pull it off. Today, I do have for your viewing pleasure, Part One. Take a small step back in time, and relive the excitement and uncertainty of Election Day 2008.

Slideshare: UMHealthSciencesLibraries: Election Story, Part One: http://www.slideshare.net/umhealthscienceslibraries/election

Posted by pfa at 11:22 AM | Comments (0)

January 07, 2009

Science 2.0 - Communities in Science Blogs & Gender Inequity in Science

This isn't the prettiest slideshow I've ever seen, but it does a good job of proposing a methodology by which to analyze the existence of communities represented and created by science blogs. I found two points particularly interesting.

One, the definition of how "science blog" is defined, and would very much like to see the list of science blogs included in the analysis - rather like a systematic review. I checked her website (http://terpconnect.umd.edu/~cpikas/ScienceBlogging/index.html) but perhaps she isn't quite ready to share that sort of information about her methodology. Maybe after it is published?

Two, that the commenting/co-citation behaviors are very different across genders. I find that not unexpected, but provocative for several reasons, raising many more questions than it answers. Is it simply that women tend to be more social in general? Is it that women tend to be minorities in science and need to support each other more in the absence of other local supports? Is the same true of other minorities in science? What does this say about gender inequities and recruitment/retention in science? Are men missing the potential of Science 2.0 applications in their own research work? Will the emergence of Science 2.0 provide a springboard to shift domination of science research across the gender divide?

Posted by pfa at 09:33 AM | 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)

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)

November 04, 2008

Election Day 2008 via Social Media

At 7:15 AM I was at the polling place. I had never seen the school parking lot that full, for any occasion, in all the years I've lived in the neighborhood (over 10). The line inside turned out to be a 2-hour wait.

Election Day 2008: 7:15 AM

It has been utterly fascinating to me watching the campaign evolve through the social media. There is massive amounts of information available about this, so I am not going into any particular depth. I just wanted to share a few of things I found interesting.


While I was waiting in line at the polling place (a local school), a woman walked down the long hall with a camcorder, documenting the length of the line. I laughed. Later I found out there was actually a competition for election day videos. It was all a PBS idea ...

Election Day 2008 - Social Media Election Day 2008 - Social Media

PBS: Video Your Vote: http://www.pbs.org/vote2008/youtube/
Youtube: Video Your Vote: http://www.youtube.com/videoyourvote

But isn't legal in Michigan:

Election Day 2008 - Social Media
Citizen's Media Law: Guide: Documenting Your Vote: http://www.citmedialaw.org/legal-guide /documenting-your-vote

I learned here that it isn't legal in Michigan to post photos of your ballot, so it is a good thing I refrained from taking any! A fascinating way to catch a personal glimpse of the election day experience across the nation.


If something is big in Youtube, you can bet it is in Facebook and/or Myspace also.

Election Day 2008 - Social Media Election Day 2008 - Social Media

Facebook: Election 08: http://www.facebook.com/election08/
MySpace: MyVote: profile.myspace.com/index.cfm?fuseaction=user.viewprofile...


The first social media election coverage I really noticed was when Twitter made an election tracking banner at the head of every page. Their election page can be a real timewaster, as comments from real people scroll across the screen in real time as they happen.

Election Day 2008 - Social Media

Twitter: Election: http://election.twitter.com/


"A picture is worth a thousand words", and people must believe it seeing the extraordinary quantity of politically-themed groups, photos and images in Flickr, the famous photo sharing site. It has really brought the campaign and election to life, having so many different points of view and perspectives widely available in vivid technicolor!

Election Day 2008 - Social Media Election Day 2008 - Social Media

2008 Presidential Election: http://flickr.com/groups/election2008/
Early Voting 2008: http://flickr.com/groups/earlyvoting08/


Election Day 2008 - Social Media Election Day 2008 - Social Media

John McCain 2008: flickr.com/groups/mccain2008/
Barack Obama 2008: flickr.com/groups/barackobama2008/


Election Day 2008 - Social Media

Yahoo News - Election: http://flickr.com/groups/ynews_election2008/


Or perhaps simply bizarre politically-themed pictures.

Election Day 2008 - Social Media Election Day 2008 - Social Media
Election Day 2008 - Social Media Election Day 2008 - Social Media

Anti-Obama League: http://flickr.com/groups/anti-obama_league/
Barack Olantern: http://flickr.com/groups/876267@N24/
Dolls for Obama: http://flickr.com/groups/752938@N20/
John McCain Photoshop CHUDlenge: http://flickr.com/groups/mccain_chudlenge/


It becomes especially obvious how embedded the candidates are in social media when you check out their FriendFeed streams.

Election Day 2008 Election Day 2008

FriendFeed: Barack Obama: http://friendfeed.com/barackobama
FriendFeed: John McCain: http://friendfeed.com/johnmccain


I'm not really going to touch on the blogosphere and the current election, except to highlight just a couple excellent posts on how to use online resources to follow the election today.

Election Day 2008 - Social Media Election Day 2008

The Next Right: Where to Get Official Election Returns: http://www.thenextright.com/patrick-ruffini/where-to-get-official-election-returns
Silicon Alley Insider: How to Watch Election Day Live Online: www.alleyinsider.com/2008/11/how-to-watch-election-day-live-online


And yes, I did eventually succeed in voting. :)

Election Day 2008

Posted by pfa at 03:23 PM | Comments (2)

September 04, 2008

Assumptions about Library's Roles in Disasters

I just spent the last week and a bit working on one blog post about "What Assumptions From Now Are Shaping the Future of Librarianship?". (What slowed me down was that my computer crashed 6 times in 4 days, and required me to rebuild my lost work each time.) Here is the blog post I was working on.

Questions to Ask about Librarianship and the Future: Thoughts about the Ithaka and Portico Reports: http://mblog.lib.umich.edu/hsldir/archives/2008/09/questions_to_as.html

Basically, while the blog post is about some recent reports looking at professional trends, my perspective came from a few personal experiences.

One Story

I was on a committee with faculty, staff, and administrators to look into planning and preparations for potential disasters. During the various meetings and discussions, it became clear that there were a number of assumptions at various levels about how local libraries would support the community during disasters.

Patron Assumption #1:
All academic libraries keep basic reference materials in both print and electronic, so everyone will always have access to the core important information even if one library gets smashed in a disaster.

Patron Assumption #2:
Local public libraries aren't expected to keep everything when there is a strong academic research library in the area. Of course, the academic library and the public library collaborate and talk about who is keeping what, so we don't have to worry about it - they've already done that.

Patron Assumption #3:
I don't personally have to worry about keeping anything as long as it is in the library, because the library will always have it.

Patron Assumption #4:
For the really important stuff, the library has it in a variety of formats. After all, there was that Ohio backout, and Katrina, and 9/11 - we know that we can't always get to the electronic. Not to even mention the digital divide, or that some folks have tech of physical problems that prevent them from using one media or another. The library is going to have the Good Stuff in electronic, and print, and maybe other media as well.

These assumptions are very flattering, in a way. People were happy with what we were doing, and beyond even just respecting us as professionals, they thought the librarians had thought of everything in advance and were doing everything necessary to take care of everything. Pretty comprehensively. Hmmmm.

Having some concerns about these assumptions, I went back and started to talk these over with friends and colleagues and administrators. Perhaps it shouldn't be a surprise that the librarians had corresponding but different assumptions.

Academic Librarian Assumption #1:
We primarily support the day-to-day needs of our immediate patrons (faculty, staff, students of our institution, and alumni, to a different extent), focusing on what is needed for their core functions of education and research. Everything over that is gravy, extra - not required.

Academic Librarian Assumption #2:
Public libraries have the primary responsibility for providing and preserving any materials that would be needed by the local community. We love our public library, but there really isn't much overlap.

Academic Librarian Assumption #3:
If you as an individual think there is something you can't live without, you should keep a copy for yourself.

Academic Librarian Assumption #4:
Electronic-only is perfectly fine, since the Ohio blackout was a blip and will never happen again. We will never be without power for more than a day, and will never have a crisis where we need information that is only available in electronic format. Besides, we kept backups on CD or DVD locked in a dark archive somewhere. We'll be able to get to those if we really need it.

OK, now I am oversimplifying both perspectives here. I am not directly quoting anyone. At this point, I am not presenting proposals for any solutions, merely presenting a possible problem arising from different communities having different assumptions about who is doing what and who is responsible for doing what. Remember this little ditty?

"This is a little story about four people named Everybody, Somebody, Anybody, and Nobody.
There was an important job to be done and Everybody was sure that Somebody would do it.
Anybody could have done it, but Nobody did it.
Somebody got angry about that because it was Everybody's job.
Everybody thought that Anybody could do it, but Nobody realized that Everybody wouldn't do it.
It ended up that Everybody blamed Somebody when Nobody did what Anybody could have done."


If there are these kinds of misunderstandings in this area, are there other assumptions about the profession that are not being addressed in our decisionmaking for the future and for which the profession could later be blamed? Do we need to better communicate this type of context in our decisionmaking? Personally, I have an interest in how new technologies are being used to prepare and respond to disasters, with the flip side of the coin being when new technologies are NOT appropriate for these functions. I'll be blogging more on those topics. With the broader questions and context raised here, I don't know what the solution is, but am hoping there will be more of a discussion about these types of issues.

Posted by pfa at 10:01 AM | Comments (2)

June 05, 2008

Science as Conversation, Part 2: Evolution of Scientific Conversation

Picking up on the earlier blogpost about Science as Conversation, there was something in particular about ScienceRoll that intrigued me -- the selected search targets. They are all fairly high quality resources, but they cover a broad range of topics and tools (articles, drugs, consumer health, biomaterials, biotechnology, specific diseases, textbooks, link portals, research sites). Even more interesting, they are very different types of resources -- databases, news services, clinics, organizational web sites, even some that are sort of half-blog / half-publication.

Science Roll Example - Sources

Now I don't want to get sidetracked by talking about the specific choices. What interests me is that this search tool, ScienceRoll, whether through design or happy coincidence, is embracing a range and variety of voices and communities, thus implicitly recognizing that significant scientific conversation is occurring in more places than it did, say, perhaps a dozen years ago?

For most of my life, the primary sources for science and scientific controversy / discussion have been the peer-reviewed scientific journals. The tools we, as librarians & researchers & care providers, have developed to support decision making have been based primarily on that fact. This doesn't mean that the published articles were the only scientific communications, however. Other discussions happened, but informally, off-radar, so to speak, in hallways & restaurants & bars at conferences, in lab groups, by phone. This part of scientific discussion was never overt and never really captured. There was a certain amount tracked in what is known as grey literature, but that has always been challenging to discover and to preserve. Winker and Fontanarosa noted in 1999 (JAMA) that Letters and Editorials are the main places that this type of informal conversation has been preserved in the scientific literature.

"Scientific discourse occurs in many forms: among colleagues, at scientific meetings, during peer review, and after publication. Such discourse is essential to interpreting studies and guiding future research. However, most forms of discourse become part of the scientific record only indirectly, such as through revision of a manuscript in response to peer review or through the influence of colleagues' comments on the author. Only one form of discourse—letters—becomes part of the permanent biomedical record, linked with the scientific article through its citation in databases such as MEDLINE."
Winker MA; Fontanarosa PB. Letters: A forum for scientific discourse. JAMA 1999 281(16):1543. jama.ama-assn.org/cgi/reprint/281/16/1543.pdf NOTE: Accessible only to subscribers with password.

Let's go back a little farther, though. Science has always been a dialogue, a conversation, based in an informed and delightfully contentious community. Agreement was not the point - learning, discussion, discovery, challenge and progress played larger roles than consensus in much of science. Consensus actually has often proved to be dangerous, but that is a different topic altogether.

Briefly, in the early scientific journals, it was not unusual to have a stenographer present to transcribe the presentations. (Just imagine, if you didn't need to write your article -- just say what you thought, and someone else would write it down for you? Wow.) The stenographers did not stop at transcribing the presentations, however. They continued by transcribing the following discussion -- the questions and answers, the conversations, the arguments. These were often published either completely or as a synopsis in the printed journals. Sometimes they told some wild stories or argued in language that we would now be astonished to find in a scientific journal. Here is one example, but there are (trust me on this) many, many more.

Dental Cosmos 2(2):111

Sometimes the debates crossed from journal to journal. There is one example I am familiar with, The Gies-Marshall debate over salivary factors. James Marshall had been a student of William Gies. Dr Gies was famous as the founding editor of the Journal of Dental Research (JDR) and the author of the formative work Dental Education in the United States and Canada Bulletin Number Nineteen (The Gies Report) (1926) (equivalent to the Flexner report in medical education). He as a personage of some influence.

Marshall was, I believe, the first to introduce the concept of salivary diagnostics. At the time, Dr. Gies took exception to what he considered sloppy science, and was offended that a student of his would be guilty of the same. Marshall would publish an article in one journal, Gies would publish an article strongly expressing concern in his journal (that became the JDR), Marshall would reply to , etcetera. The discussion was, at some points both heated and wounded, and rather dramatic for a scientific publications.

Science as Conversation: Gies Marshall Debate

I am sure there are many similar examples in the early literature of other disciplines. Indeed, there are researchers who explicitly study ways in which scientific discourse has evolved and changed. Here are just a couple examples that caught my interest. (NOTE: These are probably only accessible to UM affiliated patrons.)

Second JA. How scientific conversation became shop talk. Trans. RHS 17(2007):129-56. http://journals.cambridge.org/production/ action/cjoGetFulltext?fulltextid=1400236

McCarthy, Gavan; Sherratt, Tim. Mapping Scientific Memory: understanding the role of record-keeping in scientific practice. Archives and Manuscripts 24(1) May 1996. http://www.asap.unimelb.edu.au/pubs/articles/gjm/mapscimem.htm

Bereiter C. Implications of postmodernism for science, or, science as progressive discourse. Educational psychologist 1994 29(1):3-12. http://www.informaworld.com/smpp/content~content=a784752393~db=all

Yes, I am going somewhere with this, but am saving the denouement for part 3 of this series. For now, I hope this line of thought has piqued your interested. Here is a web search, if you want to explore more.


Here are my slides from the Medical Library Association meeting in which I discussed this a small bit.

Posted by pfa at 03:31 PM | 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?

  • "Interesting. Is PubMed becoming passé? I just yanked the PubMed widget off Cleveland.com/medical. Replaces with ScienceRoll."

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)

April 27, 2008

Work Productivity in Second Life

Friday was one of those days when once I got into Second Life, it seemed like I couldn't get back out again. Some folk might assume that this relates to playing and a lack of personal discipline, but instead it is rather the reverse.

I spent my morning working on email and blogs, then came into Second Life for a meeting of our local Second Life community (which will be described at the SLUM blog). Immediately following that meeting was the regular Metanomics session, followed by a special extra Metanomics session with Larry Pixel of NMC. Somewhere around that time there was another meeting for Immersive Education, but I was too worn out to stay around for that.

During these 3.5 hours of meetings, I had separate private conversations with one of the presenters, a professional colleague from the UK, one of my SL neighbors, a local SL community member, and the Metanomics host. I also took notes of key points from the presentations and participated in the audience discussion (called "backchat"). At the same time, in real life, I periodically tried to make sure my sick son was drinking his fluids, eating lunch, and taking his meds.

This is one of the things I like and dislike about working in Second Life - multitasking. I find I can be so incredibly productive and efficient, but I also find the juggling a bit overwhelming and sometimes stressful. Mostly, though, I appreciate being able to maximise the effective use of my time.

The conversation with the professional colleague was, in part, about the issues of whether or not Second Life is useful for professional productivity, and specifically whether having professional meetings in Second Life is useful.

A Sexual Health Sim in Second Life: Web conferencing: 2D vs. 3D (or both), or ‘Why conduct events and meetings in Second Life?’: http://sl-sexualhealth.org.uk/?p=140

For myself personally, this is a no-brainer. I cannot imagine being as productive and professionally engaged without virtual worlds as I am as a resident of Second Life. (Note: Second Life is one of many virtual worlds, and seems to be currently the most productive one for professional engagement in my areas of interest.) This is not so obvious to people who are not active in a virtual world or Second Life specifically. So let me step back a minute and try to show why it is useful for me.

Firstly, I am a single parent of a special needs child. When I became a single parent, my son asked me not to travel for a while. "A while" became about five years. Traveling is a hardship both financially and even more so for parenting and trying to provide a stable home environment for my child. Being able and willing to travel is essential for many if not most professional positions, and is often a requirement for promotion.

Travel is important for very good reasons. Professional meetings provide opportunities for engagement with other professionals, continuing education, professional acculturation and support, discussion and learning about core issues and trends in the profession. Without a rich foundation in all of these one is at risk of becoming not just socially isolated as a professional but of losing touch with the current standards of practice, and eventually losing what it is that really makes the difference between a professional and someone who isn't.

In Second Life, I participate in professional meetings on a variety of topics on a weekly basis. I engage with other professionals in education, librarianship, technology, science, and healthcare at these professional meetings. I see the same people over and over, know who they are and why they are important to know. I engage with these same professionals outside of the meetings as well. The "hallway conversations" of geosynchronous meetings become conversations in chatrooms, via twitter, by email, on wikis and social networking sites, and other media.

Geosynchronous meetings (meetings to which someone travels) have common outcomes that contribute to your professional productivity. You gather information to apply in your home environment, have useful and enjoyable discussions with like-minded folk, find and share solutions to common problems, are invited to present or publish, are invited to partner on research projects, discover that someone else has already done what you were just about to start, etcetera.

There is not one of these outcomes that does not also happen with Second Life meetings. For myself, I have given two professional presentations in Second Life, taught classes, been invited to partner on grant proposals in collaboration with other institutions, and had many of those interesting and productive conversations that lead to useful outcomes or resources for my parent institution.

Geosynchronous meetings, however, have significantly different costs embedded in the events. Just on a personal level, the costs of the actual travel, hotel, food, and meeting fees are significant. The additional costs and inconvenience and risk of arranging childcare, petcare and home security are also items that decidedly get my attention.

When those costs are extrapolated to all attendees, and extended to include the costs of planning and coordinating the physical arrangements of the meeting, well, frankly it is baffling to me that more organizations don't define virtual worlds as an institution priority as a cost savings mechanism! IBM is one example of a major organization that has indeed made virtual worlds an institutional priority. IBM has at least 26 islands in Second Life, of which one is open to the public and the rest are reserved for the use of IBM employees on IBM business. That says something to me. IBM is far from being the only significant corporate presence in Second Life, but to detail out the corporate landscape of SL should be saved for another post.

Alright, so for the sake of the argument, let's say we've established sufficient cause for shifting some or many professional meetings to an online environment as a cost savings mechanism. There are other ways to have online meetings. Why not just have a web conferencing system? What is special or better about having meetings in Second Life or another virtual world? What are the barriers to having meetings in virtual worlds? Good questions, that can be better answered by others, but I will make a small attempt.

What are the barriers to having meetings in virtual worlds, Second Life in particular? The barriers have mostly to do with the technology itself and learning to be comfortable with that technology. This, too, could be a whole blogpost by itself, easily. To touch on it superficially, software-hardware compatibility is a problem for many folk. If you are buying new computers, make sure they have the video cards currently preferred by most virtual worlds.

What is better or special about having meetings in Second Life. The two words the come up with overwhelming frequency are IMMERSION and ENGAGEMENT. For myself, I have attended and presented at professional meetings in Second Life. Feels an awful lot like doing the same thing in real life. I have attended presentations on web conferencing systems. Perhaps my experiences were atypical, but what I recall most is the awkwardness and technical challenges.

So, perhaps I am prejudiced, but for me, speaking personally, this seems like an obvious choice to make and an obvious direction for institutions to explore. Given the choice, check out virtual worlds for your next big meeting or seminar series.

Posted by pfa at 10:52 AM | Comments (0)

April 26, 2008

Reading & Reacting: The Wisdom of Patients (CHCF Report)

"Social media on the Internet are empowering, engaging, and educating health care consumers and providers. While consumers use social media -- including social networks, personal blogging, wikis, video-sharing, and other formats -- for emotional support, they also heavily rely on them to manage health conditions."

The Wisdom of Patients: Health Care Meets Online Social Media
Jane Sarasohn-Kahn, THINK-Health
April 2008

Thursday, after the a2b3 meeting, several of us were discussing this very concept. Many folk are worried about the privacy issues of social media for support communities as well as for personal health records and tracking. Despite this, there seems to be an overwhelming drive to make personal use of the empowerment and flexibility offered by social media.

More and more, I find examples of social tools designed specifically for the use of health care consumers and professionals, but mostly for consumers.

DailyStrength: http://dailystrength.com/

ICYou: http://icyou.com/

ReliefInSite: http://www.reliefinsite.com

More and more, I find articles and examples of how more general social media tools and resources are being used for personal health management or interventions.

SugarStats & Twitter Help You Keep Track of Your Diabetes: http://linuxchic.net/internet/sugarstats-and-twitter-help-you-keep-track-of-your-diabetes/

Tweet What You Eat: http://tweetwhatyoueat.com/

Twitter for Health: http://www.social-marketing.com/blog/2008/02/twitter-for-health.html

In my slideshow on e-health last summer I gave examples of patients building their own custom applications in general social media tools (such as Google Docs) as well as other examples of tools and applications.

This report provides an overview of the current state of social media in healthcare. At this moment, it seems to be more a direction for the future. Ten years ago the public had just really discovered the Web but only a percentage were making active use of it for health information. That percentage has grown to become a majority. Signs are pointing toward social media being the next evolutionary step toward the personally empowered patient who partners in their own clinical decisionmaking.

The Wisdom of Patients report also looks at trends and patterns for the future, and how the concepts of social and community are playing out in the online environment. Particularly interesting sections of the report are those that examine the concept of collaborative decisionmaking with healthcare professionals and consumers ("Platforms that Make Health Consumers and Clinicians Peers"), the dynamics of the social communities ("Knitting Communities Together" and "Disruptions Through Collaborations"), and the very significant "New Patient Opinion Leader".

What I am observing is that, whether it is encouraged or not, the person with a need and accessible tools is likely to find creative solutions for their needs. Healthcare consumers are now using, and will continue to use, a variety of online tools and resources to seek information, to seek support, to manage and share their personal health information, and much more. I hope that both the healthcare and information professions will anticipate these directions, and plan to meet the healthcare consumer at their virtual home, wherever that might be.

Posted by pfa at 09:13 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 25, 2008

What Are Emerging Technologies?

This question pops up a lot. I will eventually get around to writing down my own ideas on this, but for now I want to start by laying some background. What are other people calling emerging or emergent technologies?

The University has been paying attention to this for quite a while. CRLT (Center for Research in Teaching and Learning) spends a lot of time on connecting new technologies with instruction. The Enriching Scholarship series every May (for the past decade!) has focused on bringing new and innovative technologies to faculty attention.

Last year, the 10th annual Enriching Scholarship week, they invited as a keynote speaker Bryan Alexander, who spoke on emergent technologies. Here are his slides from that presentation to get a sense of what he was thinking of as emerging tech.

Posted by pfa at 09:12 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)