Apr 30

Update on EBSCOhost RSS Features

Got email from EBSCO’s Kathleen McEvoy who says that the policies I criticized yesterday have been miscommunicated and misunderstood.

The user doesn’t have to click on an item and go to EBSCO to prevent a feed from expiring. What keeps the feed active is that EBSCO notes it is still being polled regularly by your aggregator.

The feeds that disappear after a week are those that have been created but not subscribed to. It is reasonably assumed by EBSCO that feeds that are created and not polled by any aggregators were created by accident and deleted.

Kathleen also notes:

These limits only apply to users who aren’t signed in. If you’re logged into your My EBSCOhost account, one-click alerts follow the normal with regular renewal notices.

EBSCO has posted an updated explanation of how these work.

Thanks, Kathleen, for clearing this up.

Apr 30

American Medical News on Medical Wikis (edited)

(Be sure to check out the List of Medical Wikis)

American Medical News (weekly newspaper of the American Medical Association) has an article this week on AskDrWiki and other medical Wikis titled “Physician wikis: Do-it-yourself textbooks” (Full text available to subscribers and AMA members only).


(A physician affiliated with our hospital donates his paper copy of AMN to our library, but that won’t come for a few days. If you have digital access, I’d love to see the full text of the article.)
[Edit] Just read the article. For a short article, it touches on a number of important points. Nicely done. I’d love to see what the author could do if she were allowed to do a longer, feature article on the topic.[/Edit]

The author, Pam Dolan, contacted me for an interview a little more than a week ago in preparation for the article and asked some really good questions. In case you’re interested, the full interview is below. Pam’s questions are bolded.

You said that, conceptually, you are a fan of the medical wikis. Assuming present and future medical wikis learn to vet all their sources, create strict editorial guidelines and become reliable, trusted sources of information for medical professionals, where does that leave the traditional medical libraries? Will medical libraries be forced to adapt to this new source of information or is there room for both?

I think it important to recognize that medical librarians, by and large, do not need to be convinced of the potential value of a collaboratively-created resource for medical information. I’m currently aware of no less than three Wikis created by and for medical librarians. EBM Librarian (http://ebmlibrarian.wetpaint.com/) is a resource promoting the practice of evidence-based medicine in libraries. MLA-HLS (http://mla-hls.wikispaces.com/) is sponsored by the Hospital Libraries Section of the Medical Library Association (http://www.hls.mlanet.org/). The UBC Health-Lib Wiki (http://hlwiki.slais.ubc.ca/) is a project of medical librarians and students of health sciences librarianship at the University of British Columbia. All three of these, like Ask Dr. Wiki, are exploring how the Wiki, as a platform, can best be leveraged to support the work of health professionals.

If Ask Dr. Wiki evolves (as I hope it will) into a large, searchable repository of frequently-updated, high quality medical information with a track record of accuracy and strict adherence to good editorial policies, I think medical libraries will embrace it and add it to the repertoire of tools they currently utilize. In simplest terms, the work of a medical librarian is to find and evaluate medical information. If and when medical librarians embrace Ask Dr. Wiki, it will be the best possible indicator of its success and worth. Medical librarians will never need to be “forced” to embrace a high quality, authoritative resource.

In the interview with the Plain Dealer [available here] you said people shouldn’t rely on Wikipedia as their LAST stop for information. Where do you think medical wikis are in the chain of medical information for doctors? What is the context in which information should be used or even accessed from a medical wiki by medical professionals? (we are assuming the wiki is trusted with professional contributors) When is it more appropriate to turn to a traditional medical library?

This would depend on the individual Wiki and its individual merits. It is important to understand that a Wiki is a kind of platform for building Web sites collaboratively without the need for much knowledge of how the Web works. The fact of being a Wiki doesn’t indicate anything conclusively about the content. Again, professionals in library and information science are developing Wikis themselves at a good clip- so to say that clinical patrons will need to choose between a Wiki and a medical library is a false dichotomy. Given the current state of the medical Wikis I have seen, many may be a good place to begin one’s research into a particular medical topic, but I think even the editors of those Wikis would agree that one’s research shouldn’t end there.

Assuming AskDrWiki vetted all its sources and the information clearly is from reliable sources, are there still limitations to it? If so, what are those limitations and can they ever be eliminated?

A medical Wiki with good editorial policies and vetted contributors may soon contain information of quality similar to an established medical journal or textbook. Again, we must be careful not to confuse the container ( e.g. Wiki, book, journal, Web site) with the content (the information contained therein). I don’t believe the Wiki as a platform or container has any limitations or potential risks that aren’t also faced by other kinds of publishing, whether in print or on the Web.

Dr. Ken Civello compared AskDrWiki to a published medical journal in terms of how several eyes look at all transcripts before it goes out. Yet, corrections are routinely made in medical journals as errors slip through the cracks. If the saying that “the more eyes, the better” is true, then could medical wikis (assuming all sources are professional) be considered more reliable than medical journals since there will always be eyes looking at the content and (in theory) improving it?

I think there may well be some merit in this theory, but there is often significant distance to cover between theory and practice. Medical Wikis are really only getting started, and I think we’ll need to use them for a good while longer before we’ll be able to look back and evaluate them in this manner. Thankfully, many kinds of Wiki software automatically keep a detailed history of any and all changes- this will be enormously helpful in testing the theory.

Dr. Civello also made the point that errors sometimes appear in text books. And when those errors are detected, they can’t be corrected until the next edition. On a wiki, an error can be corrected in a matter of minutes. What do you think the rise of medical wikis will mean to the future of text books?

The implication of this is that Wikis threaten to supplant medical textbooks. I don’t exactly disagree with the implication, but it could be argued that it perhaps understates the shift that is going on in medical publishing. It isn’t only that Wikis (and other kinds of online resources) threaten to supplant books- digital publishing threatens to supplant publishing with ink on paper. The reason Dr. Civello mentions is only one of many reasons for this shift.

Do medical wikis have the potential to change the way medical students learn?

Wikis are already changing the way medical students learn. I’m told by medical librarians who work with medical schools that some medical students are already using Wikis to supplement their textbook reading and that others use Wikis to collaborate on class projects and research. Some medical school faculty members even use Wikis to develop and deliver course materials.

The administrators of AskDrWiki made several changes that were based on your recommendations. Did they contact you seeking advice on how to improve their site or how did that collaboration start?

After reading an article in Nature Medicine by Brandon Keim which discussed Ask Dr. Wiki [The article was WikiMedia by Brandon Keim. News@Nature 13, 231 – 233 (01 Mar 2007) News. I posted about it here: http://davidrothman.net/2007/03/02/nature-medicine-on-wikis/], I wrote a post on my blog (another fairly new platform for publishing) pointing out the problems I saw with it. Drs. Civello and Jefferson replied with detailed comments which led to the exchange of detailed emails which somehow led to them believing I had a good point or two. I honestly never expected them to read my blog or engage with a critic so directly, much less embrace my suggestions. This may be a great illustration of the kind of sharing of ideas and collaboration that these new, digital models of publishing can facilitate in a way never before possible.

One suggestion was the creation of a logo. Was this your suggestion? What does having a logo add to the wiki’s reputation?

That suggestion didn’t come from me, but I like it purely for aesthetic reasons.

Apr 29

EBSCOhost‘s modestly improved RSS features (edited 04/30/07)

[EDIT] Please disregard the criticisms of EBSCO’s policies in the latter part of this post. They were not explained or understood well. See this post for clarification.[/EDIT]
I was in the process of writing detailed instructions on how to use the new RSS features in EBSCOhost when I saw Paul Pival’s kick-butt screencast.

Paul has posted a larger, higher-quality version here.

EBSCO’s announcement: EBSCOhost RSS Feed and Search/Journal Alert Upgrades

Okay, this is an improved interface for feeds, mostly because the feeds are easier to find. However, Ken Varnum and Paul both point out the regrettable policy EBSCO has put in place by which feeds will be deleted if they are inactive for two months or if they are not accessed within a week of creation. With apologies to the very nice people I know at EBSCO, this is an extremely unwise policy.

The POINT of search-based feeds is that the user doesn’t have to come back and CHECK every two weeks for new hits. Forcing the user to come back to the site sort of defeats the purpose of the feeds.

Dear EBSCOfolk

Feeds make it more likely that people are going to actually USE your service and increase usage stats. Feeds cost you very little in resources. They buy goodwill and convenience for the user at extremely low cost.

A number of resources I can access through EBSCO are also available (at my local academic library) through other vendors. If you’re going to make it so dang inconvenient, I (as a user) will create search feeds for those resources through your competitors’ services and access the full text through your competitors’ services.

Please consider instead just requiring the user to confirm his/her wish to continue the feed annually. If you like, you can even send an item down the feed every week to say “no new hits.”

While this policy is in place, RSS feeds in EBSCOhost‘s RSS “enhancements” are, I’m sorry, next to useless for my purposes.

PubMed already has feeds, OVID is going to roll them out this year. EBSCO Medline fulltext is going to look ridiculous if this doesn’t change. Feeds are a current awareness tool, just like the emailed alerts. PLEASE stop crippling their usefulness.

Apr 29

Circulation Wiki

Mary Chimato points to a new Wiki for those in Circulation and Access services.


The purpose of this site is to foster communication and community among Circulation and Access Services professionals. Far too often, the work performed by circulation staff is minimized by the Library community, especially the professional community. This site is a tool to share resources and knowledge and hopefully helps us become better customer service providers who have a community of support.

Says Mary (the biblioblogosphere’s most prominent voice on Access and Delivery Services):

I strongly encourage all circulation, ILL, document delivery, and reserves staff to join the Circulation Services Wiki (the password is circrules)!

Apr 29

MedWorm Searches Get Even More Powerful and Specific

Have I mentioned recently how much MedWorm creator and LibWorm co-creator Frankie Dolan rocks? Let’s just make sure I cover that bit of housekeeping: Frankie Dolan Rocks.

Moving on…

Okay, say we want to search MedWorm for mentions of Ulcerative Colitis. When we get the search results, we now see a new option to “filter.”

This produces a breakdown of the search results by feed category with a number in parenthesis showing how many search results come from each feed category.

So if I’m primarily interested in getting updates on Ulcerative Colitis from sources mainly concerned with drug therapies, I might select Drugs & Pharmacology and Pharmaceuticals, then click the Apply Filter button.

selectcategories.png applyfilter.png

We’ve now filtered the search results to just those from feeds in those two categories AND we can subscribe to a feed for this filtered search. How cool is that?

Coming to LibWorm: Because MedWorm and LibWorm are very similar, enhancements to one will inevitably roll out on the other. Imagine being able to search LibWorm for “Information Literacy” and restrict the search results to just items appearing in feeds from Academic Libraries.

Feel free to say it with me: Frankie Dolan rocks.

Apr 27

UCSD Catalog of Clinical Images

This site is a visual educational resource dedicated to providing pictures that are representative of common and uncommon physical exam findings. Discussions of pathophysiology, diagnostics, and treatment are not included. View the “Links” to see selected related sites.

Feel free to download images for use in your own educational endeavors, though please provide appropriate credit for the author and this site. Please send comments to Charlie Goldberg, M.D.


Check it out.


Apr 26

Health Information and Libraries Journal on Web 2.0


Alan points out an article from the Health Information and Libraries Journal (UK) worth checking out (especially for those new to these technologies) that I somehow completely missed:

Maged N. Kamel Boulos, Steve Wheeler (2007)
The emerging Web 2.0 social software: an enabling suite of sociable technologies in health and health care education1
Health Information and Libraries Journal 24 (1), 2–23.

Free full text currently available:


Thank you, Alan!

Apr 26

CILIP HLG Newsletter on Third-Party PubMed Tools

I often stumble across good and useful things by accident.


Case in point: While using Google to look for a document I had misplaced, a typo caused me to stumble across an article from the March 2007 issue of the CILIP Health Libraries Group Newsletter titled “Internet Sites of Interest,” featuring short descriptions of a number if third-party PubMed tools. I recognized the name of the author, Keith Nockels, because I have subscribed to his blog’s feed since I first discovered it through the Masterlist of MedLib Blogs.

I recently wrote a similar item for publication, but selected a completely different set of tools to focus on- so it was loads of fun to see which ones Keith decided to feature. (Mark Rabnett recently wrote a similar piece. Again, there is very little overlap between his selections and mine.)

Snag Keith’s article here: PDF

Now that I know this newsletter exists, I’ll be keeping an eye out for future issues. Thanks, Keith!

Quick question I’m hoping a U.K. Health Librarian will answer: I understand that CILIP is to the U.K. what the ALA is the U.S.. Is the HLG the closest U.K. analogue to the U.S.’s MLA? If you’re not sick to death of acronyms and initialisms yet, please leave me a comment and let me know? Many thanks!

Other posts about third-party PubMed tools:

Apr 25

How To: Move your feeds from Bloglines to Google Reader

I’ve mentioned before that I switched from Bloglines as my feed aggregator to Google Reader, but it occurred to me recently that I should’ve provided instructions on how others can do this quickly and easily. Try using the instructions below to import your feeds into Google Reader in just a couple of minutes and take Google Reader for a test drive.

Images below are from my computer’s installation of Firefox 2 and its particular add-ons. Yours will probably look a little different, but not much.

Step 1: Create a Google Reader Account
(If you already have a Google Account, skip down to Step 2)

  1. Go to http://reader.google.com/
  2. Click “Create an account now.”
  3. Plug in an email address, a password, your location, and the word verification- then accept the terms of service. A confirmation email will be sent to the address you provided.
  4. Click on the link in the confirmation email and you’ll be taken to a message noting that you have verified the account. You’ll now be able to log into Google Reader when you’re ready.

Step 2: Export your feed subscriptions from Bloglines

  1. Log into your Bloglines account.
  2. on the left side of the screen, scroll down and click on “Export Subscriptions”.
  3. Select “Save to Disk” and click the OK button. This will save a file called “export.opml” to your computer.

Step 3: Import the feed subscriptions into Google Reader

  1. Go to http://reader.google.com/
  2. Login using the email address and password you created in Step 1.
  3. In the lower left corner of the Google Reader Screen, click “Manage Subscriptions”
  4. Click “Import/Export”
  5. Click the Browse button and navigate to the “export.opml” file you saved in Step 2, then click the Upload button.
  6. Google Reader will now show you the list of feeds it has imported. If you were happy with your feed names and folder structure in Bloglines, there’s nothing to do here. Just click “Back to Google Reader.”

Step 4: Start enjoying all the coolness Google Reader can offer with these tips, tricks, and extensions

Apr 24

Google EMR?


The Wall Street Journal Health blog mentions that Google VP Adam Bosworth (whose interest in health information I’ve previously posted about here, here and here) spoke today at the World Health Care Congress in Washington D.C.

Bosworth…said patients should have online access to all of the electronic health information that exists about them, whether it’s contained in doctors’ files, billing databases or prescription record.

David Williams, a blogger and health-care consultant who was there….speculates that Google wants to be the one to offer consumers this information, in the form of an electronic health record.

But Bosworth didn’t spill any specifics. Williams told the Health Blog this afternoon that the exec would only say that Google’s health project is “in the queue.”


Apr 24

Bubble Guru Demonstration

(If you’re reading this post in an aggregator, you’ll need to visit the blog to see this work.)

To see a demonstration of what Bubble Guru does, click here.
(Has audio- adjust the volume on your speakers to be appropriate to your environment)

Try it yourself: http://www.bubbleguru.com/

Apr 24

RSS in Plain English (Video)

Great, simple explanation of what RSS can do for the user.

There are two types of Internet users, those that use RSS and those that don’t. This video is for the people who could save time using RSS, but don’t know where to start.

I love the reversal of the arrows and the “Netflix vs. Video Store” analogy.


Apr 23

JournalReview: Digg for Medical Literature, Part VI

Okay, so far we have BioWizard, Dissect Medicine, MediNews and Onexamination– time for one more: JournalReview.org.


In conversations with friends, I have previously referred to sites like BioWizard and Dissect Medicine as a sort of “digital journal club,” so it is sort of neat to learn that’s how journalreview.org sees it, too:

In the academic world, “Journal Clubs” are a common way to discuss and critically question medical literature. The knowledge gained by this activity can be immeasurable, and often leads to ideas both relating to patient care and to future research. However, many clinicians are unable to participate in these academic activities. In addition, information shared within an individual journal club is seldom disseminated.

JournalReview is an international interdisciplinary Internet based unbiased forum for review of medical literature. Very much like an on-line journal club, we aim to provide a venue which will improve communication amongst physicians and lead to better understanding and interpretation of medical literature.

You can browse previously submitted articles by one of 28 specialties…

…or search PubMed from inside the JournalReview interface:

When you find the article in the PubMed search results that you wish to submit, can leave comments about it by clicking “Discuss Article,” send an article’s link to a friend by clicking “Email Article,” or rate the article on three different scales of one to five by clicking “Rate Article:”

JournalReview is more like Biowizard than the others in that it only allows articles to be submitted from PubMed. Like BioWizard, this means it should encourage a user base of medical professionals where tools like Dissect Medicine which allow articles to be submitted from absolutely any URL.

However, where BioWizard has RSS and email alerts to keep users up to date on the articles most highly rated by users, JournalReview has no analogous feature. It is for this reason more than any other that BioWizard is still my favorite by far of the “Digg for Medical Literature” tools.

Related Posts

Onexamination.com (Digg for Medical Literature, Part V)

MediNews: Digg for Medical Literature, Part IV

Dissect Medicine: Spanish and German Editions

More notes on BioWizard (Digg for Medical Literature, Part 3.5)

BioWizard Enhancements: ‘Digg for Medical Literature’ Part III (Edited)

Dissect Medicine: ‘Digg for Medical Literature’, Part II

BioWizard: The start of ‘Digg for Medical Literature’?

Apr 22

“Laptop Librarians” outreach program

Below: embedded flash video

Interesting outreach program by the Macon State College Library sends librarians with laptops to the cafeteria/student life center at lunchtime to answer reference questions or help students find information they need for their coursework.

It seems like a groovy idea to me. One question: Why only 90 minutes per week?

Apr 20


Syracuse University’s MSLIS News blog posts about http://www.librarycareersny.org.

(From NYLINE listserv:)

Librarycareersny.org is a coordinated effort to collect and present information supplied by educators, librarians, and other educational sources for people interested in pursuing a library and information science career.

I’m very flattered that the page about medical librarians includes a link to this blog and a link to the Masterlist of MedLib blogs I started at LISWiki.