Apr 30

Blogging Vacation Extended

Too buried to write much about it, but I suspect I’ll blog very little between now and the end of May. I decided today that rather than feeling guilty (as I have for the last couple weeks) about not blogging, I would consider this a well-deserved vacation after averaging about 1.5 posts per day for the last two years.

Hope you feel the same way and will be here when regular posting resumes.



Apr 22

Good Reasons for Not Blogging

I have (no joke) 20 posts that are half-written, and have ideas for another dozen or so that I want to get to- but they’ll need to wait until next week.

Reason 1:
I must try to finish a writing project (about which I’ll write more soon).

Reason 2:
I must make sure I’m well-prepared for my visit to Wisconsin at the end of the week.

Reason 3:
I need to keep refining my materials for MLA 2008. I’m not happy with them yet.

I’m not pleased to put off the blogging, but with the commitments I’ve made to others it is the only thing I can (in good conscience) put on the back burner.

Next week, I plan to put up a few posts about the AMA conference last week and some of the interesting things I learned there.

Also keeping me busy lately: Liz and I are expecting a baby in early July.

More about that next week, too.


Apr 21

Hakia’s Health Search

Hakia says they’re tapping the expertise of librarians. As CEO Dr. Riza C Berkan writes on the Hakia blog:

Every Web search starts with two queries. One is X. The other one is “who knows X the best?” Because finding X is not enough if the author of that page does not know X himself/herself. This will immediately resonate with you if you ever searched for medical, legal, or financial information for a serious case.

This was called the “credibility” criteria in the old world-order which has progressively vanished in the new age of Internet search engines. You enter X, and get the same “popular” perspective without distinction of credibility. You may recognize some of the sources, but are you an expert yourself about these things?

Ironically, there is a science for this. It is the science of libraries and librarians. That’s their job. They know what is credible, trustworthy, and commercially-unbiased.

So how does Hakia leverage librarian expertise? They say it is by indexing “quality sources” which are “taken from the Medical Library Association recommendations.”

That’s a great idea of where to start, but anyone could accomplish the same by making a Google CSE like this one. The Google Health Co-op greatly surpasses Hakia’s effort here by including a greater number of recommended sites and greater value from having more authoritative recommenders than just the MLA.

Also interesting is that Hakia has created a little micro-portal for each of the following sites:

PubMed – http://pubmed.hakia.com
World Health Org – http://who.hakia.com
ClinicalTrials.Gov – http://clinicaltrials.hakia.com
Centers for Disease Control – http://cdc.hakia.com
The National Cancer Institute – http://nci.hakia.com
National Heart, Lung and Blood Institute – http://nhlbi.hakia.com

Mayo Clinic – http://mayoclinic.hakia.com
familydoctor.org – http://familydoc.hakia.com
Healthfinder – http://healthfinder.hakia.com
HIV InSite – http://hivinsite.hakia.com
Kidshealth – http://kidshealth.hakia.com
Medem – http://medem.hakia.com
MEDLINEplus – http://medlineplus.hakia.com
NOAH – http://noah.hakia.com
American Cancer Society http://acs.hakia.com
Cancer Care, Inc. – http://cancercare.hakia.com
Oncolink – http://oncolink.hakia.com
Women’s Cancer Network – http://womenscancernet.hakia.com
American Diabetes Assc. – http://ada.hakia.com
diabetes123 – http://diabetes123.hakia.com
Children with Diabetes – http://childrenwithdiabetes.hakia.com
The Diabetes Monitor – http://diabetesmonitor.hakia.com
Joslin Diabetes Center – http://joslinharvard.hakia.com
National Institute of Diabetes & Digestive & Kidney Diseases – http://niddk.hakia.com
American Heart Association – http://aha.hakia.com
Congenital Heart Information Network – http://tchin.hakia.com
March of Dimes – http://marchofdimes.hakia.com

These are also interesting, but superior results could be achieved using existing tools. Rather than searching Hakia’s portal for the American Heart Association for myocardial infarction, we could more easily search Google for myocardial infarction site:americanheart.org and make use of Google’s further refinements from there.

Apr 14

The AMA’s Medical Communications Conference

I think I may take the week off from blogging.

Until Tuesday afternoon, I need to get some writing projects done and make preparations to be away from work for the rest of the week.

I’m flying to San Diego Tuesday afternoon for the American Medical Association’s 28th Annual Medical Communications Conference. I’m excited about serving on this panel partially because I’m acquainted a little with Craig Stoltz and Jason Bhan.

Craig is a former health editor for the Washington Post, a former editorial director for Revolution Health, and a sharp guy I’ve enjoyed talking with. Last week, Craig’s Web 2.Oh…really? blog was recognized by TIME magazine as one its “Top 25”- and Craig (rightly) responded with an excellent critique of the feature in a post titled “In Which I Unwisely Bite the Hand That Feeds Me.

I’ve had the pleasure of a longish phone conversation with Dr. Jason Bhan, Chief Medical Officer of Ozmosis. We had intended to talk solely about Ozmosis, but we turned out to have a number of similar perspectives and I’m looking forward to chatting more with Dr. Bhan.

Some sessions I’m looking forward to attending:

So I probably won’t be blogging much this week…but reserve the right to change my mind.

If you’re going to be at the conference, please say hello!

Apr 11

“What the heck is Twitter and why should I care?” (Alan Cann)

Dr. Alan Cann made a very decent SlideCast to help explain Twitter (embedded below):

Patricia Anderson and Jill Hurst-Wahl convinced me to give Twitter a third try, and I’m glad they did.

Twitter is fun and I enjoy it, but wouldn’t enjoy it nearly as much if I wasn’t using Twhirl as a desktop client. If you try Twitter, here’s my advice:

1. Find the friends you want to try following and follow them.
2. Download and install Twhirl.
3. Leave Twhirl running in the background while you work. If you see a tweet that interests you or makes you want to respond, do. If the tweets you see don’t engage you, they’re easy to ignore after a quick glance.

Apr 10

Use mon.itor.us to keep an eye on your Web site

This site went down for about an hour a couple of weeks ago (my host’s database server had problems, I’m told). Fortunately, I didn’t have to wait for someone to email me and tell me my site was down because a free service I’ve been using for more than a year alerted me promptly that something was wrong.


Exactly what is mon.itor.us?

mon.itor.us provides a “24 x 7” network and website monitoring service to help its users quickly identify faults and deficiencies to ensure continuous operations of their IT infrastructure and maintain business operations that provide the ultimate web experience. Particularly mon.itor.us provides personalized Ajax dashboard interface, checks server performance and availability, generates uptime reports, tracks visitors, checks CPU, memory and other systems resources, and alerts its users in case abnormalities are detected. External end-user checks are performed from geographically dispersed servers as well from customer locations. Internal checks can be performed inside of network firewalls through smart agents.

Alerts are delivered via email and/or RSS. I receive mine via email and set my Gmail account to forward alerts to my cell phone so I know as soon as possible if there is a problem with my site and am alerted when it gets back to normal.

Apr 09

Hope Leman and ScanGrants.com

Hope Leman and I first got in touch in June 2006 and we jabbered about RSS for a while. By September of 2006, Hope had rolled out MedGrab, where clinicians could easily find and subscribe to TOC updates of their favorite journals via email.

Just recently, Hope has rolled out another neat project called ScanGrants.

ScanGrants is designed to facilitate the search for funding sources to enhance individual and community health. The funding sources listed here may be of interest to virtually anyone associated with the health field – medical researchers, social workers, nurses, students, community-based health educators, academics and others.

Funding sources most frequently listed here include those of private foundations, corporations, businesses, and not-for profit organizations. Finding and listing less traditional funding opportunities is also a priority. Federal and state funding sources are typically not included on ScanGrants because they are readily available on other sites (e.g. www.grants.gov).

ScanGrants was developed as a tool for Samaritan Health Services and its collaborators, but it is also available for use by the general public. The listing is selective and is intended to supplement other search methods. In many instances, grant announcements have been abbreviated for the sake of brevity. To view the full grant announcement, click on the link to the source URL provided for each funding opportunity.

ScanGrants has an RSS feed and email subscription option for each grant category or you can search the site and subscribe to a feed of your search results.

This is a great idea and a terrific, useful (and really good-looking) service for Samaritan Health Services to share with the world.

Apr 09

How to: Use Gmail to Manage List Emails

I subscribe to a bunch of mailing lists because they frequently contain useful information, but being subscribed to these lists using the email account provided by our hospital would be problematic. The volume of postings on some lists would clutter up the acount, making it more difficult to manage and making it more likely I’d miss other, more important emails from inside our organization.

So I subscribe to lists using a Gmail account. Here’s why:

  • Separating list emails into a separate account allows me to treat them, as a whole, in a different manner than emails from higher-priority senders (patrons, co-workers, etc.). This lets me keep my attention focused where it needs to be.
  • Because list emails are in a separate account, I also never have to annoy other list subscribers with “out-of-office” messages that get sent to whole list– because there’s never need to turn on an “out-of-office” message for this account.
  • Threaded conversation: Instead of having one line per each email received, Gmail inboxes have one line for each conversation. That means that my Gmail lists inbox doesn’t get as cluttered. It also lets me efficiently manage whole conversations instead of individual emails, even if a particular email is sent to multiple lists I subscribe to. Example image below shows that all (23) emails on the topic of “abortion” being made a stopword in POPLINE are one (expandable) line item in my Gmail inbox:
  • Mute function: If there’s a particular conversation(/thread) that I’m not interested in continuing to follow, I can “mute” the conversation and not need to see any further emails in that thread.
  • Gmail’s search capabilities are awesome. If I want to find a MEDLIB-L email I remember was sent by Michelle Kraft about OvidSP, I can search for label:medlib-l from:Kraft OvidSP and find it really, really quickly.
  • Gmail’s filters are powerful and easy to use.
    • Assigning labels: You can set up your Gmail filters to automatically assign colorful labels based on information that lets you scan your email quickly. For example, you could set your account up to automatically assign colored labels based on which list the conversation is from.
    • Forwarding based on content: You can combine Gmail’s great searching and filtering to monitor your list subscriptions. Say you subscribe to multiple lists, but only really want to pay attention if Young Adult services are mentioned. I can create a filter from the search for young OR youth OR “YA” and set any hits from that search to be automatically forwarded to my primary email address so it comes to my attention. Imagine the time saved by not having to manually look through all those emails for mentions of the topic I want to follow.

Bonus tip: Would you rather read your list email information in your feed aggregator? Set your lists Gmail account to forward the emails to MailBucket, and MailBucket will give you the content in an RSS feed.

Apr 08

PubGet (3rd Party PubMed/MEDLINE Tool)

The idea behind Pubget is that it speeds up the process of grabbing the full-text PDFs from PubMed search results. The videos below illustrate the idea:

Above: Embedded video. If you are reading this in an aggregator, you may need to visit the site to view the video.

If you’re at one of the following institutions, you can try a full-featured Pubget that links to full-text PDFs available to these institutions:

From Pubget’s public site, you can get a feel for how it works, but it’ll only pull up open access PDFs.

To keep up on new developments, you can subscribe to the feed of the Pubget blog.

Interested in getting this service for your library’s users? Get in touch and let them know you’re interested.

Apr 07

WikiEcho (cardiography wiki)

Added to the list of medical wikis:


Self-description: “Wikiecho is a project to create a free, up-to-date and reliable online resource covering the rapidly advancing field of echocardiography.”
Intended Audience/Users: “This website is intended to be used by medical students, residents, physicians, cardiology fellows, cardiologists and cardiac sonographers.”
Contributors: Anyone who registers.
Editors/Administrators: Not listed.
Editorial Policies: Minimal, available here.

Apr 03

Web Geekery in Recent Literature: 4/3/08

J Am Coll Radiol. 2008 Apr;5(4):593-7.
Quality of CT colonography-related web sites for consumers.
Sheran J, Dachman AH.

Department of Radiology, University of Chicago Hospitals, Chicago, Illinois 60637, USA.

PURPOSE: Patients often request to undergo computed tomographic colonography (CTC) from radiologists or referring physicians on the basis of their personal examination of information on the Web. Therefore, the authors examined the information on CTC and virtual colonoscopy available for consumers on the Web to assess its quality. MATERIALS AND METHODS: The term virtual colonoscopy was entered into 3 popular search engines: Google, Yahoo, and MSN. In each case, evaluation was limited to the first 50 Web sites, or hits, which were recorded and analyzed for content, comprehensiveness, and accuracy. RESULTS: Sixty-seven Web sites were deemed appropriate for further analysis. More than half of the sites reported currency dates more than 2 years old. Only a third of the sites included information about the risk factors for colorectal cancer. About a third of the sites did not explain the indications for the use of CTC, and the remaining sites lacked consistent descriptions of the indications. Few Web sites offered or described the option of performing same-day optical colonoscopy for patients with abnormal results on CTC. CONCLUSION: The data suggest that patients are often armed with very incomplete information from Web sites on CTC. Web sites were often found to be outdated, to contain conflicting information, and were lacking descriptions of patient risk factors for colorectal cancer. Several suggestions are made to improve the dissemination of comprehensive, current, and accurate information.

PMID: 18359448


Hum Reprod. 2008 Mar 27 [Epub ahead of print]
Infertility information on the World Wide Web: a cross-sectional survey of quality of infertility information on the internet in the UK.
Marriott JV, Stec P, El-Toukhy T, Khalaf Y, Braude P, Coomarasamy A.

Assisted Conception Unit, Guy’s and St. Thomas’ Hospital NHS Foundation Trust, Thomas Guy House, Guys Hospital, 4th Floor, London SE1 9RT, UK.

BACKGROUND The internet is a frequently used source of information for infertile couples. Previous studies suggested that the quality of health information on the internet is poor. The aim of this study was to assess the quality of websites providing information on infertility and its management in the UK. Differences between website types and affiliations were assessed. METHODS A Google search for the keyword ‘infertility’ was performed and 107 relevant websites were identified and categorized by type. Websites were assessed for credibility, accuracy and ease of navigation using predefined criteria. RESULTS The total scores for all types of websites were low, particularly in the accuracy category. Websites affiliated to the UK National Health Service (NHS) scored higher than those affiliated to private fertility clinics and other clinics providing non-conventional fertility treatment. Specifically, NHS websites were more likely to report success rates (92.9% versus 60% and 0%, P PMID: 18372253


Am J Pharm Educ. 2008 Feb 15;72(1):10.
Online social networking issues within academia and pharmacy education. [Free full text]
Cain J.

University of Kentucky College of Pharmacy, USA.

Online social networking sites such as Facebook and MySpace are extremely popular as indicated by the numbers of members and visits to the sites. They allow students to connect with users with similar interests, build and maintain relationships with friends, and feel more connected with their campus. The foremost criticisms of online social networking are that students may open themselves to public scrutiny of their online personas and risk physical safety by revealing excessive personal information. This review outlines issues of online social networking in higher education by drawing upon articles in both the lay press and academic publications. New points for pharmacy educators to consider include the possible emergence of an “e-professionalism” concept; legal and ethical implications of using online postings in admission, discipline, and student safety decisions; how online personas may blend into professional life; and the responsibility for educating students about the risks of online social networking.

PMID: 18322572


Catheter Cardiovasc Interv. 2008 Feb 15;71(3):441-4.
SCAI launches seconds-count.org: An interventional cardiology resource for patients and physicians.
Weiner BH, Marshall JJ.

St Vincent Hospital at Worcester Medical Center, Worcester, MA 01608, USA. president@scai.org

PMID: 18288740

[Okay, not a lot in the abstract, but check out the site.]

Apr 02

How to: Follow CIL 2008 online via RSS [Edited again]


  • Added a feed from Google Blog Search (which uses a fairly narrow search) to the Superfeed.
  • Added filters to the Superfeed to screen out a handful of false positives.
  • Embedded Grazr widget (see end of post)


Wouter has made the Superfeed available in Dutch. 🙂

To make sure I don’t miss any online chatter about Computers in Libraries 2008 (which starts next Monday), I’m subscribed to the following feeds:

If you’re like me, you’d rather subscribe to one feed than several, so all the feeds above are included in the feed below:

Single feed that combines all of the above:

Grazr widget below will let you browse the Superfeed contents:

Apr 01

JANE, eTBLAST, and Whatizit

When I posted in February about JANE, I should also have mentioned eTBLAST(previously mentioned here):

Our service is very different from PubMed. While PubMed searches for “keywords”, our search engine lets you input an entire paragraph and returns MEDLINE abstracts that are similar to it. This is something like PubMed’s “Related Articles” feature, only better because it runs on your unique set of interests. For example, input the abstract of an unpublished paper or a grant proposal into our engine, and with the touch of a button you’ll be able to find every abstract in MEDLINE dealing with your topic. No more guessing whether your set of keywords has found all the right papers. No more sorting through hundreds of papers you don’t care about to find the handful you were looking for–our search engine does it for you.

I also recently stumbled across Whatizit:

Whatizit is a text processing system that allows you to do textmining tasks on text. The tasks come defined by the pipelines in the drop down list of the above window and the text can be pasted in the text area. The description of each individual task/pipeline can be found following the link next to the submit button. Whatizit is also a Medline abstracts retrieval/search engine. Instead of providing the text by Copy&Paste, you can launch a Medline search. The abstracts that match your search critetia are retrieved and processed by a pipeline of your choice.