Posts tagged ‘social networking’

Finding Useful H1N1 Information Online

I was interviewed for Healthcare IT News about how H1N1 information is disseminated to the public. While the news media was providing constant updates about outbreaks, my interest was in how healthcare consumers get useful information. I sent the author, Molly Merrill, a quick analysis of some of the sources of information I had used.

The CDC is known and established as the most respected source of information in this country and comes up as one of the first results in most searches on “swine flu” or “H1N1”. Their site is well-branded and is clearly marked with the last updates. However the site itself is busy with sidebars and lots of related information, while arguably the most important information for most healthcare consumers is in a box near the bottom, “What You Can Do to Stay Healthy”. What is likely to be prevalent on most people’s minds doesn’t appear at all here. If you click on “H1N1 Flu & You” near the bottom, a Q&A format addresses the questions people are likely to have, such as “What are the signs and symptoms of this virus in people?” In addition, the CDC has done a great job of using social media, such as twitter, for updates.
 
While I applaud the Massachusetts Department of Public Healthfor providing material in 14 languages, the page itself is basically a collection of links to PDFs. The documents I read are are well-written but some are not even what the links say; for instance, under “Resources if You Are Sick or Think You Are Sick”, the Flu Symptoms Checklist was designed for a parent to determine if a child should be kept home from school or brought to the doctor.
 
WebMD’s Swine Flu Centerdoes a better job of providing immediately visible and useful information through clearly labeled links to answer common questions such as “Swine Flu and Travel”. Due to poor health literacy skills and the fears that have been played upon by the media frenzy, health Web sites should provide very specific information that addresses the concerns uppermost on a healthcare consumer’s mind and it should take minimal scrolling to find it, as is the case here. 
 
Finally, my town, Lexington, MA, has done a great job of addressing parental concerns through emails. The school department Web site provides a parent resource with guidelines about how to talk to your child, a huge problem when children hear a lot on the media and from their friends and need to hear factual age-appropriate information from their parents. And, when one of my sons was out sick for a few days, I received a phone call from the school nurse!

June 9, 2009 at 9:43 pm 4 comments

Ten Things You Can Do in Ten Minutes To Be a More Connected Health Professional

You need a break and, instead of heading to the coffee pot, take 10 minutes to follow one of these 10 suggestions to be more connected and better at communicating health messages:

  1. Become a social networker: Take your pick, LinkedIn, Facebook, Plaxo, … Create a profile, including a picture, and invite some colleagues. If you search, you’ll find many of them already there. (You can connect to me!)
  2. Try twitter: Join twitter and try out micro-blogging. Invite some colleagues or find some who are already there. Try following me (I am a sporadic user but I post health links occasionally) or try BBC Health.
  3. Read a blog: Health blogs range from very professional and constantly updated to navel-gazing ones that were last posted in over a year ago. I recommend you start with Well, Tara Parker-Pope’s health blog at the New York Times, The Wall Street Journal’s Health Blog, Consumer Report’s Health Blog, or Health 2.0. For contrast, try Leroy Sievers’ NPR blog or one of WebMD’s blogs. Not feeling overwhelmed yet? Do a search on “health blogs” or even “health blog directories” and I guarantee you will be suffering from information overload. Now comment on a blog. Not only do bloggers like to know you read a post, but you undoubtedly have something to contribute. After all, if you wrote a blog post, wouldn’t you like to know what your readers think? Be a producer, not just a consumer!
  4. Create a blog: You knew this was coming! But only do it if you can commit to posting regularly. If you think you can only post sporadically, start one with a few colleagues. I recommend wordpress but there are many other blogging tools.
  5. Create a community: try ning and set up an online community about your health specialty. First search to see what else is there. If you find some, check to see how many members they have and the date of the latest site activity.
  6. Do a search on a health topic: Select a topic of interest to you professionally and do a search. Look at the number of results first. Next look to see if there are sponsored links. Finally, look at the first 10 results and see if you think they represent your topic well. If your work isn’t there, come up with a plan for greater visibility. (If you don’t know what SEO stands for, then at least become conversant with it.)
  7. Learn how information spreads: Post an article you like (or wrote) to digg, mixx, StumbleUpon, or reddit. Or post a picture to Flickr or a video to YouTube. If you aren’t ready to post, then participate by commenting on or voting on it.
  8. Use Wikipedia: Have you read Wikipedia’s entry on your health specialty? Read it and enhance it. If there isn’t one there, create it. There are other wikis out there too – for instance, you might want to add your name to the list of Health 2.0 people – and see who else is on it.
  9. Connect with a person: Email a colleague about something you read or are thinking about. Or pick up the phone. Or even invite someone you’ve been meaning to talk to out for coffee. (See, you get your coffee break after all.)
  10. Just for fun: What would it take for you to be the first health specialist on TechCult’s Top 100 Web Celebrities list – besides a blog (see #4) and funky hair?

Finally, think of your own idea for a 10 minute activity that can improve your health communication skills and post it as a comment below so others can benefit.

Thanks to the students in Emerson College’s Summer Institute for Social Marketing and Health Communication who inspired this post following my lecture on New Technologies for Health Communication.

July 20, 2008 at 4:14 am 4 comments

How Social Networking Dilutes the Definition of Friendship

It’s my birthday today and, for the first time, I received more birthday wishes from businesses and associates than I did from friends. Bette Midler sang, “You got to have friends,” and I have many friends who kindly remembered my birthday. But when site registration includes a date of birth, birthday messages with15% off coupons can result. (If I receive a 25% off coupon, does that mean we have a stronger relationship?)

MCI’s widely advertised Friends & Family calling program in the early 90’s introduced me to the commodification of friendship. This loyalty program provided “a lower rate for calls made to customers that they had included in their calling circle,” and, furthermore, increased switching cost since a departing customer’s former calling circle had to pay more for calls to that person. This program ended when a flat-rate plan was introduced, allowing people to call their friends without having to designate people as members of their circle.

Marilyn Monroe sang, “Diamonds are a girl’s best friend,” and obviously friendship has varied meanings. Social networking is stretching the definition of friendship even further as sites use different terminology to describe the people one is connected to. LinkedIn asks me to “Add friends or colleagues to your network?” “Friend” appears 29 times on my Facebook profile – and some of my Facebook “friends” are not people I even know well. In contrast, I really like it that twitter calls the people I follow “people”!

I believe that this overuse of “friend” can dilute the word’s meaning. Dionne Warwick’s “That’s what friends are for” is the title of a RevolutionHealth post about how “Good friends hold you together when you are falling apart, even if it’s over the silliest, most minute things.” A friend is “a person attached to another by feelings of affection or personal regard,” while social networking contacts are acquaintances or – perhaps a better word – associates: “a person united with another or others in an act, enterprise, or business; a partner or colleague“.

Studies show that people with close confidants have healthier immune systems, stronger hearts, and less depression and anxiety — not to mention more fun.” While people certainly form tight bonds in online health communities with others who are in a similar situation, I imagine these studies more likely refer to friends in the traditional sense. A study by Dr. Will Reader at Sheffield Hallam University found that most people “have, on average, five really close friends,” whether or not they use social networking sites. (I wonder how many people think that their stature is increased by the number of connections they have in a social networking site.)

It is not surprising that I was happier with the phone calls and cards from my friends, rather than those from businesses and my social networking associates. And what about that e-card from my dentist’s office – it’s hard to get a warm, fuzzy feeling. I can certainly think of more perfect ways to celebrate – in fact, already have! – than “A perfect way to celebrate: 25% off the regular price of…” And, if you are my friend, please come join us!

April 30, 2008 at 12:57 am 3 comments

Tech Populism and Discotheque Populism: Parallel Revolutions

Tech populism, a term coined by Forrester Research, refers to people bringing the technology they use in their personal lives into the workplace where traditionally tools have been provided to them and their use prescribed. Employees may, for example, have access to online courses they are supposed to take, but they may prefer to search for and use information available on the web instead of utilizing these courses. Another example is when there is a corporate knowledge management initiative but employees find and contact each other through LinkedIn or other social networking services.

Tech populism is revolutionary in that the traditional tight controls on workplace behavior are violated – often to everyone’s benefit. And a revolt can occur when employers attempt to suppress tech populism.

Bona fide revolutions—whether political, cultural, or spiritual —occur infrequently in history” and one is certainly taking place in the workplace today. This revolution parallels what was arguably the biggest revolution in music, dancing, and nightlife: the discotheque.

The American Heritage Magazine article goes on to say that “the discotheque originated as a den of resistance in Nazi-occupied France” and, from the 1960s to the 1980s, impacted all aspects of culture in the US and other countries. “Discotheque dancing followed the 1960s pattern in which teenagers invented pop-culture trends and discarded them soon afterward, at which point they were taken up by adults,” just like Facebook today!

“Saturday Night Fever propelled disco fever to epidemic proportions: By 1978, 40 percent of all the music on Billboard’s Hot 100 was disco. Meanwhile the discofication of America proceeded: There were disco lunch boxes, disco “Snoopy” bed sheets and pillows, disco belt buckles, disco records by old-timers like Frank Sinatra and Ethel Merman, an estimated two hundred all-disco radio stations, disco dance courses, disco proms, books about the proper makeup to wear to discos—and an estimated twenty thousand discotheques nationwide.”

I coined discotheque populism to refer to how this “discofication” still lives in the music, lighting, and dance moves found in any club. Even the clothes, makeup, and hairstyles periodically return to popularity. Tech populism is no different – the Facebook of yesterday is the Twitter of today. Tomorrow will bring new applications that will be adopted (and even created) by teenagers first, become mainstream, and then be abandoned by the original adopters just when managers are developing policies for their use.

April 23, 2008 at 1:52 am 2 comments

Seven Habits of Highly Connected People by Stephen Downes, Guest Contributor

Stephen Downes was kind enough to allow me to publish this here. I was especially interested in it because FranklinCovey was one of my clients when I worked at EDS. Watch for a version of this to appear in eLearn Magazine later this month!

With apologies – and all due credit – to Stephen Covey.

1. Be Reactive

There’s a lot of talk about user-generated content on the web. That’s great. But if publishing your own stuff comes at the expense of reading, and commenting on, other people’s stuff, that’s not so great.

The first thing any connected person should be is receptive. Whether on a discussion forum, mailing list, or in a blogging community or gaming site, it is important to spend some time listening and getting the lay of the land.

Then, your forays into creating content should be as reactions to other people’s points of view. This will ensure, first of all, that they read your comment, and second, that your post is relevant to the discussion at hand.

Posting, after all, isn’t about airing your own views. It’s about connecting, and the best way to connect is to clearly draw the link between their content, and yours.

2. Go With The Flow

We all know those people in our online community who are out to Prove Something, to Get Things Done, or to Market Themselves.

These are people we tend to avoid. Because no matter what the topic of discussion, they’ll weigh in with their pet project, peeve or talking point.

When connecting online, it is more important to find the places you can add value rather than to pursue a particular goal or objective. The web is a fast-changing medium, and you need to adapt to fit the needs of the moment, rather than to be driving it forward along a specific agenda.

This doesn’t mean you shouldn’t have any goals or principles for yourself. You should; that’s what will inform your participation. It’s just a reminder that your goals are not the same as other people’s goals, and therefore that your online participation needs to respect that fact.

3. Connection Comes First

People talk about not having time for email, of not having time for blogs. Sometimes they even talk about working without an internet connection.

It’s good to take a break and go out camping, or to the club, or whatever. But the idea of replacing your online connecting with busy-work is mistaken.

In almost all fields, connecting with others online is the work. The papers you write, the memos your read and toss – all these have to do with connecting with people. Even if you work with your hands, making cabinets or rebuilding engines, all your contacts with customers and suppliers are about connecting with people.

If you don’t have enough time for reading email, writing blog posts, or posting discussion lists, ask yourself what other activities you are doing that are cutting in to your time. These are the things that are often less efficient uses of your time.

If you are spending time in meetings, spending time traveling or commuting to work, spending time reading books and magazines, spending time telephoning people (or worse, on hold, or playing phone tag) then you are wasting time that you could be spending connecting to people online.

If you make connecting a priority, you can take that walk in the forest of vacation in Cadiz without feeling you are not caught up.

4. Share

We’re all heard the advice to “think win-win”. Forget that advice. If you follow that advice, you will always be looking at things and saying, “what’s in it for me?” That’s exactly the wrong attitude to have in a connected world.

The way to function in a connected world is to share without thinking about what you will get in return. It is to share without worrying about so-called “free-riders” or people taking advantage of your work.

In a connected world, you want to be needed and wanted. This will, over time, cause resources to be sent to you, not as a reward for some piece of work, but because people will want to send you stuff to help you to be even more valuable to them.

When you share, people are more willing to share with you. In a networked world, this gives you access to more than you could ever produce or buy by yourself. By sharing, you increase your own capacity, which increases your marketability.

5. RTFM

RTFM stands for ‘Read The Fine Manual’ (or some variant thereof) and is one of the primary rules of conduct on the internet.

What it means, basically, is that people should make the effort to learn for themselves before seeking instruction from others.

Almost everything a person could need to know has been recorded somewhere online (by people who are sharing their knowledge freely). Taking the time and effort to look at this work is not merely respectful, it demonstrates a certain degree of competence and self-reliance.

For example, if your software fails to install, instead of calling customer service or posting a note on a bulletin board, copy the error message into the Google search field and look for answers. Almost every software error has been encountered (and documented) by someone before you.

Finally, when you do ask for help, you can state what you’ve read and tried, and why it didn’t work. This saves people from giving you advice you don’t need, and helps them focus on what’s unique about your problem.

6. Cooperate

Offline people collaborate. They join teams, share goals, and work together. Everybody works in the same place, thy use the same tools, and have the same underlying vision of the project or organization.

Online, people cooperate. They network. Each has his or her own goals and objectives, but what joins the whole is a web of protocols and communications. People contribute their own parts, created (as they say in open source programming) to ‘satisfy their own itch’.

This is probably the consequence of distance. Online, it is not possible to enforce your will or (beyond a limited extend) to get your way by shouting and intimidation. This means that online communications are much more voluntary than offline communications. And successful online connectors recognize this.

To cooperate, it is necessary to know the protocols. These are not rules – anybody can break them. But they establish the basis for communication. Protocols exist in all facets of online communications, from the technologies that connect software (like TCP/IP and HTML) to the ways people talk with each other (like netiquette and emoticons).

7. Be Yourself

What makes online communication work is the realization that, at the other end of that lifeless terminal, is a living and breathing human being.

The only way to enable people to understand you is to allow them to sympathize with you, to get to know you, to feel empathy for you. Comprehension has as much to do with feeling as it does with cognition.

People who use online communications ‘only for business’ – or worse, feel that other people shouldn’t be posting cat photos or playing Scrabble on Facebook – are employing only a small part of the communications capacity of the internet.

Learning and communicating are not merely acts of sending content over a wire. They are about engaging in (what Wittgenstein called) a ‘Way of Life’. Having a cat is as important for a physicist as having an advanced research lab. These common everyday things form the mental structure on which we hang the highly theoretical structure.

The idea behind ‘being yourself’ is not that you have some sort of offline life (though you may). Rather, it’s a recognition that your online life encompasses the many different facets of your life, and that it is important that these facets all be represented and work together.

April 3, 2008 at 9:55 pm 23 comments

Using MySpace for Health Information: Where is the Empathy?

MySpace has over 300 million accounts as of 2/3/08 and was the #1 website in the US at least one week in 2006. If someone is a regular user of MySpace and has a health question, it is easy to turn to one’s community for help. MySpace Forums have a Health and Fitness section with exercise, general, and nutrition forums. The most active discussion under Nutrition is a thread on diets started 6/9/05 and it includes a post from someone who offer 59 ways to eat less of which many are potentially extremely dangerous. The 1300 replies range from serious posts about anorexia to advertisements. The other forums are similar, with a mix of serious, frivolous, and seemingly harmful discussions about bodybuilding, natural remedies, steroids, etc. There is a broader mix of comments than in most health forums and the amount that are off topic or what I perceive as far from helpful is far greater than in other forums I have looked at. Most other health forums tend toward highly supportive comments or advice. Are there different social norms in MySpace that lead to less empathic behavior?

March 10, 2008 at 5:32 am 10 comments

Who Am I Today? The Problem of Multiple Online Identities

At a course I taught on Online Health Communities, one of my students described how he investigated and tracked down a person who had a dozen personas in the community he managed. MIT Technology Review reported how a social networking site, Moli, allows (and encourages) users to develop multiple profiles and control access to them. The issue here is that everyone has multiple facets and it is difficult to portray and maintain multiple personas online, whether for honest or fraudulent purposes. I may not want the readers of eLearn Magazine to know that my passion in life is swing dancing (oops!) or to package my consulting skills to fit a profile form. LinkedIn, for instance, only allows you to select one industry. I selected “e-learning”, but could have accurately chosen “higher education” or “health, wellness, and fitness”. “Dance” isn’t even listed.

March 4, 2008 at 10:33 pm 1 comment

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Lisa Gualtieri, PhD, ScM

Lisa GualtieriLisa Gualtieri is Assistant Professor at Tufts University School of Medicine in the Department of Public Health and Community Medicine. She is Director of the Certificate Program in Digital Health Communication. Lisa teaches Designing Health Campaigns using Social Media, Social Media and Health, Mobile Health Design, and Digital Strategies for Health Communication. Contact Lisa: lisa.gualtieri@tufts.edu

@lisagualtieri


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