Jan 20

17th Edition of Medicine 2.0 Blog Carnival

The 17th Edition is at The Story of Healing.

Standard disclaimer: I don’t like the name of this carnival and some of what is featured in it each week has nothing to do with what O’Reilly described as “Web 2.0” – but the items it points to are frequently interesting and useful to anyone interested in both healthcare and the Web.

Jan 19

OvidSP Resources

The Krafty Librarian has assembled a number of useful resources on OvidSP that should be helpful to those still working on transition plans.

You can also check out what other medical libraries are doing by searching the Medical Library CSE for ovidsp.

You could even seek out specific instructional materials by searching for Ovidsp (handout OR instructions OR “how to” OR training)

For what the biblioblogosphere has had to say about OvidSP, see this LibWorm search.

Jan 18

The Biblioblogosphere (and LibWorm) used in Library School

I got a great email from a friend who is currently in library school months ago that I never posted about. Bad, BAD David!

I love her description of how she used LibWorm to search the biblioblogosphere as a part of her research for a library school assignment:

…I was required to write a brief piece related to an assigned search tool. The point was to share with the class the latest news related to a particular site (I had the Librarians’ Internet Index). I used LibWorm to see what people were saying about LII. Julie Shen’s blog pointed me to a piece about Wikipedia’s plan to start Search Wikia, a community-based search service. I ended up using the article from the blog to discuss the niche LII has created in the market. Your site was really useful because the BBC article never mentions LII so I don’t know that I would have found the article without LibWorm.

This makes me feel warm and fuzzy. 🙂

Jan 16

Online Drug Interaction Checkers

When it comes to needs inside our hospital, we have expensive professional tools available on our intranet that allow clinicians to check for drug interactions. In preparation for our library’s eventual internet presence, I wanted to see if there was a free, consumer-oriented tool that we might feel okay recommending.

I decided to try out several of them to see what they had to say about Ketorolac and Ibuprofen, a combination that one of our hospital’s PharmDsThis PharmD, Kathleen LaParne is wonderful. She’s smart, she’s generous with her expertise and time, she’s awfully nice and the way that she so clearly and strongly *cares* about doing what is best for patients makes her one of my favorite people in the hospital where I am employed. tells me any interaction checker should absolutely, positively catch as a Very Bad Idea.

  • DoubleCheckMD.com

    I had tried DoubleCheckMD previously, but went back to try it again. I find the look and layout of site aesthetically appealling and I really like how it’ll suggest complete drug names after the user enters the first three letters.

    I find it interesting how the report is split into three parts. First it gives the basic answer in English, then more detail in English, then a short statement in what we might call “MedSpeak.” This could perhaps help make the danger understood to a greater number of users.

    However: immediately above the information in the screen capture above, DoubleCheckMD says

    “Below is a list of your drug combinations that can cause problems. Note that these problems are RARE. In most cases, these drugs are safe to take together.’

    That’s a bit confusing, isn’t it? It seems to contradict the content that immediately follows (“This medication combination is not recommended and should be avoided”).

    Another minor annoyance is that one must register in order to use this tool and log in the next time one wants to use it.

  • PDRHealth Drug Interaction Tool

    Having played with DoubleCheckMD first, I found that I missed the convenience of the way DoubleCheckMD auto-completed drug names.

    Also, the results seem…I don’t know…less than clear, somehow. For me, they suggest that taking these drugs together might be a bad idea rather than saying clearly that one simply should not do it.

  • Express Scripts’ Drug Digest

    Huh. Looks like I’m not going to be recommending this one. It failed to see a problem with taking Ketorolac and Ibuprofen together:
  • Drugs.com: Drug Interaction Checker

    This one has a pleasant auto-complete function and the results seem pretty unambiguous:
  • DiscoveryHealth Drug Interaction Checker

    I won’t be recommending this one either because of its horrible interface for entering drug names. Rather than searching for a drug or having drug names suggested as you type, you have to select the first letter of the drug’s name, then scroll to the drug you want. Awful, awful interface. The results were okay:

  • CVS/Caremark Drug Interactions

    I really like the clear, straight-forward wording of the results in this one:

    Also, this checker also offers to check for interactions with foods, alcohol and tobacco:

Are there others I should try? Are there particular features of these that you like or dislike? Do you recommend any of these or similar tools to patients? Please leave a comment and let me know!

Jan 14

Please Vote! (…preferably for me)

Okay. To my great surprise, it looks like I actually have a chance at winning this award (previously mentioned here and here).

At the moment, I’m trailing Berci’s ScienceRoll– but not by a great margin.

This sort of contest is really about how many people one can motivate to go vote for one’s own endeavor- so the fact that I’m closing on Berci is probably due in no small part to bloggers like Michael Stephens, Wouter Gerritsma, Blake Carver, Zagreus Ammon (blogging under a pseudonym at Physician Executive) and Steven Cohen for encouraging others to vote for my blog.

If you haven’t yet, please head over to vote for davidrothman.net?

Thank you!

Jan 14

Favorite RSS Resources and Tools

[Updated: 8/28/2008]

(My emphasis here is on free and low-cost resources)

Explaining RSS

Resources to help you choose a feed aggregator

RSS Plugins for Outlook

(2003 or earlier- Outlook 2007 has a feed aggregator built-in)

Google Reader Tips and Plug-ins

RSS-to-Email tools

Publishing RSS content on Web Pages

Web-Based RSS-to-Web-Page tools
Hosted RSS-to-Web-Page Tools

Feed mashing and filtering tools

Creating feeds for pages that don’t offer them

Sometimes called “scraping”

Creating feeds from PubMed

Creating feeds from LibWorm (/MedWorm)

Although structured slightly differently, MedWorm and LibWorm have similar interfaces and identical search operators.
LibWorm FAQ
LibWorm-Fu for Beginners
Intermediate/Advanced LibWorm-Fu (Power Searching)

Okay, your turn: What good stuff did I miss?

Jan 13

MedLib Blog Badge at Patient Education Matters!

Patient Education Matters!” is a bi-weekly e-newsletter for the staff and volunteers of Inova Health System. The “Patient Education Matters!” blog is an abridged version of this publication available to the general public.

Why is David always on about this badgey stuff? Badges? We don’t need no stinkin’ badges!

Previously, I’ve noted the following blogs that display the MedLib Blog badge in their sidebars:

These blogs are:

  1. about medical / health / health sciences / biomedical librarianship;
  2. written by (a) medical librarian(s) or medical library paraprofessional(s);
  3. maintained by a medical library; or
  4. maintained by professional association of medical librarians and/or medical library paraprofessionals.

Hey! My blog has the MedLib Blog badge and you haven’t featured it here!

Sorry! I do try for omniscience, but frequently fall short of this goal. If I’ve missed the badge on your blog or if you’ve just added it, please let me know so I can link to it from here.

Why would I want to add the badge to my blog?

The badge links back to the masterlist of MedLib blogs to indicate the blog’s membership in the growing community (and sense of community) of MedLib blogs(/bloggers). (This should serve also as a reminder to add your blog to this masterlist, if appropriate.)

To add this badge to your own blog, just copy and paste this code:

<a href="http://liswiki.org/wiki/Medlib_Blogs">
<img src="http://tinyurl.com/y32hh8/"></a>

Not sure how to do this with your particular blogging software? Email me at david[DOT]rothman[AT]gmail[DOT]com and we’ll figure it out together. :)

Jan 12

ACP Internist on Medical Wikis

Jessica Berthold has written a very good, short article for ACP Internist about medical wikis for which I was interviewed in November.

The entire text of the interview is below.

What are your thoughts on the latest iteration of AskDrWiki? In the last few months, the site has taken many of your suggestions– for eg, posting an editorial policy, verifying the credentials of contributors. Does it still have flaws that need corrected?

I’m sure it does, but the use of wikis for this purpose is still a very new idea. If critics keep being vocal and if AskDrWiki’s administrators continue to constructively respond to criticism, AskDrWiki may help establish for others the best practices through which a medical wiki can be built and maintained.

What, in your opinion, is an acceptable way for a practicing physician to use AskDrWiki, and what is unacceptable? Does this apply to all medical wikis?

A physician could reasonably use AskDrWiki the same way a high school student would use Encyclopaedia Britannica (or Wikipedia)- as a starting point at which to begin research. An inadvisable use would be to stop one’s research there.

Of course, the most ideal use of AskDrWiki by a physician would be for the physician to register, read critically, and make changes where he/she sees room for improvement. The more health professionals who are keeping an eye on the content to ensure accuracy, the better.

Based on some of the criteria I’ve seen you write about, I am guessing that you would rank AskDrWiki and PubDrug at the top of the list of existing medical wikis, in terms of having reliable, trustworthy information. Is that true? Are there other medical wikis you find equally, or more, reliable?

I think that ganfyd approaches the credibility that AskDrWiki and PubDrug have earned. However, some excellent wikis really have different goals than to be “a medical Wikipedia”. The MacSurgWiki would be a good example of this.

It is easy, when discussing wikis, to mistake Wikipedia as a paradigm instead of one application of the wiki as a tool for collaborative document development.

Some of the traits you’ve named that indicate a reliable medical wiki include a detailed editorial policy, a review process for submitted information, verification of contributors’ credentials, and a clear listing of the names of editors and administrators. Are there other traits?

As a very general rule, active revisions are another good sign in a medical wiki. By looking at the recent changes page of a wiki [examples at Ganfyd and AskDrWiki] one can get an idea of how actively the wiki’s community of contributors is adding or editing content. This can indicate that the information is being kept up-to-date or that there is an active community keeping an eye on the content to ensure accuracy of the information. An unchanging wiki is not a healthy wiki.

Do you think medical Wikis will ever replace textbooks? What needs to change in order for that to happen?

In some ways, some wikis are already replacing textbooks for some purposes. I’m told by colleagues in medical school libraries that medical students frequently make use of wikis and other convenient, free online resources.

However, the larger trend here is not that wikis threaten to supplant books, but that online resources, whether free or subscription-based, threaten to supplant paper-and-ink resources.

I believe there will always be need for authoritative literature and that textbooks will never go away, but wikis and their descendent technologies will probably influence the way that online medical resources are managed and revised.

As medical wikis currently stand, what can they practically offer to a doctor that no other medium can?

Medical wikis currently contain no kinds of information that cannot also be found in other resources, online and on paper. The edge wikis have is not really in content, but in being free and convenient to use.

As a whole, what do you think of the quality of the existing crop of medical wikis?

The quality of medical wikis varies tremendously and virtually nothing can be said about them as a whole. One of the reasons I first started making notes on them individually was to highlight the fact that each wiki must be evaluated on its own merits in the same sense that any book must be examined on its own merits. It is as ridiculous to say “wikis are good” or “wikis are bad” as it would be to say that “books are good” or “books are bad.” Some books are great, others…not so much. Same for wikis.

Jan 10

The Beauty of the Dialectical Process

Well, I was pretty hard on Dean Giustini’s BMJ Editorial.

I have believed in the value of the dialectical process since long before I knew there was a term for it and have always believed that honest criticism serves the criticized, the critic, and those witnessing the process.

So I LOVE that Dean decided to specifically address one of my criticisms.

I questioned Dean’s assertion that “Google’s search results are emblematic of an approaching crisis with information overload”.

Dean writes:

Google most certainly is emblematic (a visible symbol) of information overload, and in fact is the information specialist’s laboratory for it.

I see honest disagreement here.

I think Google is emblematic of the way that the clever application of technology overcomes “information overload.” The Web is huge, filled with an insane amount of information that is varyingly good, bad, ugly or [fill in your favorite adjective here]. But if one uses Google to search for Google Scholar Dean, the first four results are about Dean Giustini, the author of the UBC Google Scholar Blog. It took typing three words and I found EXACTLY what I was looking for in about 0.51 seconds. To me, this doesn’t paint an image of Google as a symbol of information overload.

Dean continues:

“It’s well-documented throughout the blogosphere that web 2.0 has resulted in too many RSS feeds, too much data and information from disparate sources with little connection to each other.”

First, there are many popular positions (technical, political, philosophical…) expressed in the blogosphere (and elsewhere) that I believe to be wrong-headed, foolish, unwise or silly. I also believe that decisions based on evidence and direct experience tend to get better results than those built on blogosphere buzz and hearsay.

Second, I’m sincerely flabbergasted to hear a librarian (or any information professional) complain that there is “too much data” or “too many RSS feeds”.

“Web 2.0” doesn’t cause an information glut. What causes an information glut is being an information glutton, taking on more than anyone can reasonably manage. There aren’t too many RSS feeds. Rather, there are users who subscribe to too many RSS feeds. The solution isn’t for less data to exist, the solution is smarter, more selective use of the data. The tools that help us filter and manage the information that we care most about are continuing to improve in power and sophistication.

The feeds I subscribe to are so carefully chosen and filtered that I started to worry about missing out on serendipitous discovery of information I didn’t know I needed. I remedied this by using feeds from the social bookmarking of medical librarians (and other beloved medical/technology information nerds) to keep an eye on what they find interesting. In this way, the tools that Dean sees as contributing to the “information glut” open me up to new ideas, thoughts, and resources that I would otherwise not have found. With the smart use of my aggregator, I can browse these quickly and easily, discarding what doesn’t suit my interests.

Dean also writes:

“99% of the information that we are finding in Google is irrelevant to medicine.”

Sure, but I’ve never heard a single physician claim Google is irrelevant to Medicine. On the contrary, many talk about how frequently they use it. Meanwhile, 99.99% of what’s findable via PubMed is irrelevant to a particular healthcare information need. So what?

Meanwhile, turnabout is absolutely fair play, and Dean reciprocates by sharing some criticism of my own writing. Because I’m really enjoying the direct discussion and believe in the dialectical process, I’m going to address each of his criticisms.

Dean writes:

“If you have some different ideas on where the web is, why don’t you write your own piece?”

I will absolutely be pleased to write an Op-Ed on the Web and health information at the invitation of the first prestigious medical journal which invites me to do so.

I’d might use the opportunity to demystify buzzwords, clear up popular misconceptions and/or call for a new sort of rigor in the way that writers in medicine and libraries use technology buzzwords in order to better empower each other and those whose needs they serve.

I could alternately suggest practical ways in which existing technologies could be leveraged to expand or improve information services for clinical patrons.

Dean writes:

“One thing about David’s blogging is that he doesn’t explore the social or cultural context for all the tools he introduces.”

That’s usually true. After all, I’m neither a sociologist nor a cultural anthropologist.

I usually talk about how Web tools might be applied in the setting of a medical library. That’s sort of what this blog is for- and I’ve said that from the very first post.

I run a hospital library and I solve problems that hospital-based users experience while using technology. I write about the things that interest me and that I think will interest others who do similar work and face similar problems. That’s what defines the general scope of this blog- and I’m happy with it.

Dean writes:

“It’s much harder to place information technologies in some context than it is to merely announce that you’ve found a new tool worth exploring.”

Although I really do think it is important and useful just to share the existence of tools that I think may be of interest or use to other medical libraryfolk, I often provide context. Some examples:

Both Dean and Dr. Ves Dimov (at Clinical Cases and Images) seem to think that I want to replace “Web 2.0” with some other term.

Dr. Dimov writes:

David seems to suggest the alternative term “Web Geekery” which does not sound much better than “Web 2.0.”

I have at no time suggested that my complaints with the (mis)use of “Web 2.0” would be solved by replacing it with ANY other term. “Web Geekery” is just the phrase I use to describe the stuff that interests me.I also refer to the words of smartasses as “smartassery” and refer to the deeds of dumb clucks as “dumbcluckery.” I don’t know why.

I will point out, though, that not a single person has ever needed me to explain what I mean by “Web geekery.”

For the record, Ves- I don’t think there was anything wrong with your description of “Web 2.0 and Medicine” in 2005. You were talking about applying the trends O’Reilly described with “Web 2.0” to the needs of medicine. Still, I dearly hope that many of the current uses of “2.0”, “3.0” and (yes, really!) “Web 4.0” will go away. The metaphor threatens to outgrow and eat what it was supposed to represent.

Jan 09

Medical Blogs, Voting and Hyperemesis

When I thanked Rachel for nominating me in MedGadget’s 2007 Annual Medical Weblogs Awards, I didn’t consider the possibility that my blog would end up a finalist in the category of Best Medical Technologies/Informatics Weblog.

That’s really flattering because I subscribe to and read the other four nominees- they’re all absolutely worth your time and attention.

If you’re into this sort of thing and aren’t already so tired of news about the race for the U.S. Presidency that the very mention of the word “vote” makes you want to hurlUseful word that political pundits should start using to describe the feelings of American voters faced with the current slate of candidates: Hyperemesis. Dr. Sanjay Gupta should please feel free to teach this word to Wolf Blitzer., head over there and vote for one of the five.

There are poor choices to be made among the presidential candidates, but not among these five blogs. I still doubt I stand a snowball’s chance of winning- but it is an absolute lock that the winner will be a very good blog.

Next year, though, I’d like to see two or three MedLib Blogs in the list of nominees.

This year’s nominees:

Jan 09

Cleveland Plain Dealer on Medical Wikis (again)

Brie Zeltner of the Cleveland Plain Dealer contacted me weeks ago because they were planning on doing a follow-up to their previous article about AskDrWiki.

Their follow-up is here.

Here’s what they say about our interview in the article:

Critics of medical wikis have praised AskDrWiki for publishing an editorial policy, making a list of its editors and their credentials available on the site, and responding promptly to constructive criticism about the site’s design.

David Rothman, a medical librarian who has warned against relying on wikis for medical information, said AskDrWiki has made great strides in the past eight months. “It certainly is a safer source of medical information than it was,” he wrote in an e-mail, adding that the site is still meant as a resource for medical professionals.

Here’s the brief interview in its entirety:

In your opinion, has the web site improved since we published our article? In what ways? Is it a safe source of medical information right now?

They’ve written and posted an editorial policy- that’s a great step. It is certainly a safer source of medical information than it was, but it is important to note that it is meant as a resource for medical professionals. Healthcare consumers looking for health information would probably be better served by visiting MedlinePlus, a site maintained by the National Library of Medicine.

Do you still have reservations about medical wikis? About this one in particular? What are its greatest assets?
I absolutely have reservations about any source of healthcare information with inadequate editorial controls. AskDrWiki has greatly improved in this regard.

Do you think a site like this can ever be as reliable as a textbook or a medical library?
It is a huge mistake to compare any single resource to a medical library. A medical textbook is probably about as reliable as its editors and policies, so with editors and policies on par with those of a textbook, there’s no reason why a medical wiki can’t be made a reliable and trustworthy source.

What do you recommend to make the site a safer and more reliable source of information?
I’ve already made all the recommendations I have to offer. If I think of any others, I’ll pester Dr. Civello with them.

Do you keep in contact with AskDrWiki’s editors about the site?
We have traded a few emails. We have a number of common interests and goals.

I also added:

Brie, you may want to note in your article that the guys at AskDrWiki must be on to something because Elsevier, one of the biggest names in medical publishing, has started their own medical wiki. I posted some details here.

This may indicate that established publishers see sites like AskDrWiki as a real threat to their business.

I’d also like add now that it is great to see that AskDrWiki has achieved 501(c)(3) (not-for-profit) status. Congratulations and wishes for continued growth to Dr. Civello, Dr. Jefferson and all others who’re working to expand and improve this project.

Jan 08

Disliking “Web 2.0” and Hating “Web 3.0”

I was asked recently in an interview:

“You’ve written quite a bit about Web 2.0 tools and medical librarianship […snip…] Are there ways in which you see health sciences librarianship 2.0 as differing from Library 2.0?”

I answered that I’m actually not all that fond of the the “2.0” suffix, whether it is applied to “Web,” “Library,” “Medicine” or “Health.”

This answer was lame and incomplete, something I’m not proud of. Even though I’m not entirely happy with it, maybe this one will be better.

The term “Web 2.0” is a metaphor representing the idea that the Web is in it’s “second version”. It is not, in my view, a particularly good metaphor.

Some trends commonly associated with “Web 2.0” are tools for collaboration (and other “social” activities), applications that live online and in your Web browser, rounded corners (and other aesthetic choices), and the blurring of the line between content consumer and content creator. The term “Web 2.0” can be a useful shorthand with which to describe these tends and in aggregate and I’m not opposed to the idea that these trends are, taken together, significant enough to collectively merit a term referring to them. My impression is that this term is most especially useful when marketing Silicon Valley investment opportunities to potential investors.

Some other critics of the term have asserted that “Web 2.0” as a term is meaningless. I disagree. This piece by Tim O’Reilly does a great job of explaining what he means when he says “Web 2.0.”


  • The Web hasn’t been upgraded. There’s no new version of the Web. The longer a medium is around, the more interesting things people figure out how to do with it. This isn’t (or at least shouldn’t be) surprising. Tim Berners-Lee, the person generally credited as having invented the World Wide Web, saidThe entire transcript of remarks by Berners-Lee on this topic is available here.:

    “Web 1.0 was all about connecting people. It was an interactive space, and I think Web 2.0 is of course a piece of jargon, nobody even knows what it means. If Web 2.0 for you is blogs and wikis, then that is people to people. But that was what the Web was supposed to be all along…the idea of the Web as interaction between people is really what the Web is. That was what it was designed to be as a collaborative space where people can interact.”

  • Many things that are new and cool on the Web are not “Web 2.0.” Sometimes, new and cool things are the Web are just new and cool and really don’t need a numeric versioning suffix.
  • Although some might see it as semantic nit-pick, I believe that there’s no such thing as “using Web 2.0I may not like the title of Phil Bradley’s book- but I think the book itself is quite good. (Way too expensive, but quite good.) and that Web 2.0 doesn’t have “features”.At least Berci has the excuse of not being a native speaker of English, so I don’t usually give him a hard time for such things. He’s also a really nice guy with a great blog that I subscribe to. “Web 2.0” isn’t a program, a movement or a standard. It is jargon used to describe a set of trends in the sorts of things people are doing on the Web.

There’s nothing wrong with jargon in and of itself- but the term is now so widely and varyingly used that it needlessly creates more confusion among those who most need clarity. More and more, I read things about “Web 2.0” that drive me up the wall.

And now we’ve got people talking about “Web 3.0”

There are a number of things about Dean Giustini’s recent BMJ Editorial on “Web 3.0” with which I am unhappy.I should also point out here that it is a lot easier to criticize an editorial in BMJ than to write one. I admire Dean, I admire the way he promotes librarians as agents of technology and change, and I admire that he makes himself visible in this way to the greater world of healthcare professionals.

First, to continue and enhance the confusion that now comes with every use of a versioning suffix by using “3.0” is a significant disservice. Librarians should be demystifying confusing terms and clarifying definitions. I’m disappointed that neither BMJ nor Dean decided to describe some of the the ways that evolving Web technologies may impact healthcare. Instead, the article appears impressive to people who aren’t familiar with the buzzwords (most of BMJ’s readership are not, I am guessing, professional technologists) and says almost nothing to those for whom these buzzwords are all too familiar.

Second, the entire editorial about “Web 3.0” or “The Semantic Web” lacks a definition either term. Is the assumption that perhaps these terms are familiar to the average BMJ reader?

Now, with apologies, some fisking:

Dean writes:

“Each new version of the web should be a better iteration of its predecessor, and web 3.0 should be no exception.”

Except that there has been, as Berners-Lee points out, no new version of the Web. Part of the problem with the hype surrounding “2.0” is that people who should know better forget that it is a metaphor.

Dean writes:

“In medicine, we should focus on the ability to locate trusted clinical information, while creating the means to produce new knowledge.”

What, because we don’t focus on these things now…?

Dean writes:

“Information retrieval in web 3.0 should be based less on keywords than on intelligent ontological frameworks, such as the National Library of Medicine’s Unified Medical Language System, Medline’s trusted MeSH vocabulary, or some other tool.”

I do not believe that we will live to see a time where the World Wide Web is thoroughly indexed and made searchable with a controlled vocabulary like MeSH. It is a poor analogy for what technologists mean when they speak of “the Semantic Web” and it is a disservice to lead librarians to think that searching the Web will eventually be like searching MEDLINE. It won’t.

Dean writes:

“The question of whether http://del.icio.us and www.connotea.org—two popular social tagging sites—will be useful in web 3.0 remains doubtful.”

This statement confused the hell out of me. Allan Cho (with whom Dean collaborated in writing this article on the Semantic Web) has said one of my favorite things on this topic:

“…use of folksonomies could help overcome some of the inherent difficulties in ontology construction, thus potentially bridging Web 2.0 and the Semantic Web. By using folksonomies’ collective categorization scheme as an initial knowledge base for constructing ontologies, the ontology author could then use the tagging distribution’s most common tags as concepts, relations, or instances. Folksonomies do not a Semantic Web make — but it’s a good start.”Confession: I literally clapped my hands while sitting at my desk the first time I read this quote by Allan and wished I’d written it.

Nicely said, Allan.

Dean writes:

“In medicine, finding the best evidence has become increasingly difficult, even for librarians.”

I don’t think I can agree with this premise. I think that Web tools have made the best stuff increasingly easier to find for those with the skills to use the tools.

Dean continues:

“Despite its constant accessibility, Google’s search results are emblematic of an approaching crisis with information overload, and this is duplicated by Yahoo and other search engines.”

Huh? How are Google search results emblematic of information overload?

Dean continues:

“Consequently, medical librarians are leading doctors back to trusted sources, such as PubMed, Clinical Evidence, and the Cochrane Library, and even taking them to their library bookshelves instead.”

Okay, maybe- but how is this a “Web 2.0” trend? Haven’t librarians always struggled to get their patrons to use the best tools?

Dean continues:

“Unless better channels of information are created in web 3.0, we can expect the information glut to continue.”

Dean has previously blamed “Web 2.0” for “information overload”, now he seems to say that Google is responsible for an “information glut”. Both of these assertions are just silly.

The Web makes a whole lot of information easily available to a whole lot of people (which I see as a good, desirable thing) and many people lack the information skills to get just the stuff they want- but to assert that “Web 2.0” or Google cause information overload (with absolutely no support) is just beyond my ability to comprehend.


Because in the hands of a skilled user, Google is a powerful tool for filtering out the chaff. Because I routinely use “Web 2.0” tools (like RSS feeds from del.icio.us or blogs) to benefit from the readings and tags and opinions of friends and colleagues- this helps me stay focused just on the good stuff. How else would I keep on top of all the stuff this blog covers?

Okay. Enough fisking.

What about “Medicine 2.0” and “Health 2.0”?

“Medicine 2.0” bugs me perhaps even more than “Web 2.0”. It is a way of marketing tools that apply newish Web trends to the needs of health professionals. How does the term serve anyone but investors and those who have something to sell investors? Why the heck should healthcare professionals embrace and adopt this marketing schtick when they could instead demand terms that are clear and descriptive?

“Health 2.0” is term for hyping the application of newish Web trends to the needs of healthcare consumers. Again, it appears to be useful in selling investment opportunities. Do the rest of of need the term? No. We can instead refer with more clarity and simplicity to Web sites and Web services for healthcare consumers.

So what about “Library 2.0”?
I think that I have come to agree with T. ScottThough I still think T. Scott was, in this instance, unfair to Casey and Savastinuk. The work is important and good, but the term is not. I urge librarians, particularly bibliobloggers, to use the term carefully (if at all). We don’t need it to describe the application of Web trends and technolgies to library work, we REALLY don’t need it in order to describe making libraries more patron-centric, and when we use it (usually failing to explain/define it) we add to the confusion and needlessly alienate potential ALLIES for improving computer literacy in libraryfolk and in patrons.

I like Wikis and blogs and RSS and APIs and mashups and portable data and rich user experiences and social networking tools and online productivity tools and social bookmarking. I’m fascinated by the new and interesting things people keep doing with the Web. I believe that librarians need to be technologists and need to know what “Web 2.0” means- but that doesn’t mean they need to add to the existing confusion. It means they need to help smooth it away.

Jargon is fine in small groups of specialists- but information professionals, I think, have a special responsibility to help others overcome and dismiss jargon when it gets in the way of sharing information. Not only to bring the benefits of these new technologies to all our colleagues, but to all our patrons.

For that reason and to keep me sane, please: No more talk of “Web 3.0.”

In case it isn’t obvious by now: I’d like to hear your thoughts, whether you agree or disagree with mine. Leave a comment, wouldja’?

Jan 06

Survey for Readers of MedLib Blogs

From Marcus Banks:

I’m working on a paper for a meeting in Las Vegas next month, called, “Delving into the Health Sciences Biblioblogosphere: How Has it Changed our Professional Practice?” The abstract is below.

For the paper I’ll include results of a survey of librarians who read blogs that are written by health sciences librarians and targeted to other professionals. These blogs should generally focus on library issues (which excludes my humble home here).

If you read blogs by and for health sciences librarians, please take 5-10 minutes to complete the survey. The survey is open until January 21, and I’m happy to answer any and all questions.

Thank you very much.

So if you’re reading this post, you’re probably the sort of person Marcus is looking to take the survey. Marcus says responding will take 5-10 minutes, but I found it took less than 2 minutes.

If you yourself write a MedLib blog that is read by medical libraryfolk, it’d be great if you’d also put up a post encouraging your readers to take the survey! Marcus has promised to share the results, so we’ll all benefit from the largest possible number of survey respondents.

Jan 04

Web Geekery in Recent Literature – 1/4/2008

(What do y’all think of this as a regular feature on this blog?)

  • I’ll Google That.
    AORN J. 2007 Dec;86(6):933-5
    Authors: Hamlin L
    PMID: 18068397

    I haven’t read the whole article yetMy library has full text access to this title digitally, but I can’t seem to access this issue yet…dangit, but the European Medical Libraries blog has some excerpts:

    “There is no doubt that information and communication are the very essence and heart of Google; however, unlike the majority of traditional, scholarly sources, information obtained via a search engine such as Google is not necessarily accurate, authoritative, or even true.”

    Here’s the thing: Google isn’t a source, Google is a tool for (among other things) finding sources. Criticizing Google as a source of information is about as ridiculous as criticizing the card catalog for not being a good source. Of course it isn’t! But the books the card catalog helps you find are! Both the card catalog and Google require specialized informatoin literacy to use effectively. Google and other general Web search engines are incredibly useful tools in the hands of an expert searcher and I continue to be amazed that there are people who doubt this.

    I really need to read the article to see if the entire thing is this ridiculous or if these excerpts, out of context, don’t represent it well.

  • I love the idea of physicians seeking to learn something from patient blogs…

    What can physicians learn from the blogs of patients with uveitis?
    Ocul Immunol Inflamm. 2007 Nov-Dec;15(6):421-3
    Authors: Mehta SA
    PMID: 18085484

    Aim: To identify the sources of anxiety from patient blogs. Materials and Methods: Blogs were identified using www.blogsearch.google.com. and the following noted: age, sex, location, type of uveitis, symptoms, and the sources of anxiety. Results: 103 blogs were identified. Anterior uveitis was the most common type followed by multifocal choroiditis and sympathetic ophthalmia. Sources of anxiety include acute pain, redness, photophobia and visual loss, initial misdiagnosis and monetary expenses. Conclusions: Physicians should focus on pain relief and counsel on visual loss including its impact on career or livelihood needs. Patients seen in emergency situations need early referral.
  • Cool…an article on HealthMap, a really cool mashup previously mentioned here).

    HealthMap: Global infectious disease monitoring through automated classification and visualization of Internet media reports.
    J Am Med Inform Assoc. 2007 Dec 20;
    Authors: Freifeld CC, Mandl KD, Reis BY, Brownstein JS
    PMID: 18096908

    OBJECTIVE Unstructured electronic information sources, such as news reports, are proving to be valuable inputs for public health surveillance. However, staying abreast of current disease outbreaks requires scouring a continually growing number of disparate news sources and alert services, resulting in information overload. Our objective is to address this challenge through the HealthMap.org Web application, an automated system for querying, filtering, integrating and visualizing unstructured reports on disease outbreaks. DESIGN This report describes the design principles, software architecture and implementation of HealthMap and discusses key challenges and future plans. MEASUREMENTS We describe the process by which HealthMap collects and integrates outbreak data from a variety of sources, including news media (e.g., Google News), expert-curated accounts (e.g., ProMED Mail), and validated official alerts. Through the use of text processing algorithms, the system classifies alerts by location and disease and then overlays them on an interactive geographic map. We measure the accuracy of the classification algorithms based on the level of human curation necessary to correct misclassifications, and examine geographic coverage. RESULTS As part of the evaluation of the system, we analyzed 778 reports with HealthMap, representing 87 disease categories and 89 countries. The automated classifier performed with 84% accuracy, demonstrating significant usefulness in managing the large volume of information processed by the system. Accuracy for ProMED alerts is 91% compared to Google News reports at 81%, as ProMED messages follow a more regular structure. CONCLUSION HealthMap is a useful free and open resource employing text-processing algorithms to identify important disease outbreak information through a user-friendly interface.

Jan 02

PogoFrog vs. the Dyson Vacuum Cleaner

(Please note that this post contains no links to PogoFrog’s domain. If you really want to find it, you can Google for it and find it very quickly, but I don’t want to give it any Google juice by linking to it.)

PogoFrog is a Google Custom Search Engine, like the Medical Library Search Engine and the Consumer Health and Patient Education Information Search Engine.

Here’s how PogoFrog describes itself:

“PogoFrog.com jumps over the layman-focused clutter on the internet to find only credible medical information for physicians.”

So…PogoFrog’s schtick is that it skips over all that pesky consumer-oriented health information and zeroes in on information intended for medical professionals, right? But if one tries searching for “Ulcerative Colitis,” one finds that nine of the ten results on the first page are from consumer-oriented sites like MedlinePlus and Mayoclinic.com.

But if you REALLY want to use Google to look for physician-oriented resources, you’ll actually get more satisfying hits in the first ten listed results if you search for “ulcerative colitis” in regular Google. You can even select “For Health Professionals” at the top of those results to refine the search to sites tagged as oriented towards medical professionals by the participants of the Google Health Co-op.

The Google Health Co-Op has its problems, too- but it’s loads better than PogoFrog.

Not “Monetizing Social Search”
Dean Giustini describes PogoFrog as an attempt to “monetize social search.”

I disagree mostly because PogoFrog isn’t social. If it was one of those CSEs that allowed users to volunteer and collaborate, it would be social. It doesn’t…therefore isn’t.

Dean writes:

“PogoFrog also appears to want physician input, essentially another kind of social search.”

Asking for input or feedback from users does not make a service social. Lots of businesses invite users to suggest improvementsExamples would include KFC, Burger King, WalMart and LibWorm, but that doesn’t make their services social.

Dean also writes:

PogoFrog searches across American .gov and .edu sites in medicine but notice that there are Sponsored links to the right of every search page.

If you have a problem with these advertisements, you shouldn’t be using regular Google either- they’re the exact same sort of contextual advertisements you see along the side of the page when you perform a regular Google search.

The only other monetization I can find on PogoFrog (which benefits PogoFrog instead of Google) is on this page, well away from search results, where links to “sponsors” of PogoFrog are listed.

I wouldn’t have any problem with this kind of monetization either…if PogoFrog was a useful tool. The TRIP database has advertising and I don’t think it detracts from the usefulness of the site (which, by the way, is a bajillion times more usefulroughly estimated to a medical professional than PogoFrog). The advertisements aren’t disguised as content and can be ignored if not of interest to the user.

So the real problem with PogoFrog is that it is a lousy tool with many superior alternatives.