Medpedia, the Medical Wikipedia, is Dead. And we Missed its Funeral…

12 07 2013

In a post about Wikipedia in 2009 I suggested that initiatives like Ganfyd or Medpedia, might be a solution to Wikipedia’s accuracy and credibility problems, because only health experts are allowed to edit or contribute to the content of these knowledge bases.

MedPedia is a more sophisticated platform than Ganfyd, which looks more like a simple medical encyclopedia. A similar online encyclopedia project with many medical topics, Google Knol, was discontinued by Google as of May 1, 2012.

But now it appears Medpedia may have followed Google KNOL into the same blind alley.

Medpedia was founded in 2007 [2a] by James Currier, an entrepreneur and investor [2b], and an early proponent of social media. He founded the successful Tickle in 1999, when the term Web 2.0 was coined, but not yet mainstream. And his list of  investments is impressive: Flickr, Branchout and Goodreads for instance.

On its homepage Medpedia was described as a “long term, worldwide project to evolve a new model for sharing and advancing knowledge about health, medicine and the body.”
It was developed in association with top medical schools and organizations such as Harvard, Stanford, American College of Physicians, and the NHS. Medpedia was running on the same software and under the same license as Wikipedia and aimed both at the public and  the experts. Contrary to Wikipedia only experts were qualified to contribute to the main content (although others could suggest changes and new topics). [3, 4 , 5, 6] In contrast to many other medical wikis, Medpedia featured a directory of medical editor profiles with general and Medpedia-specific information. This is far more transparent than wikis without individual author recognition [5].

Although promising, Medpedia never became a real success. Von Muhlen wrote in 1999 [4] that there were no articles reporting success metrics for Medpedia or similar projects. In contrast, Wikipedia remains immensely popular among patients and doctors.

Health 2.0 pioneers like E-Patient Dave (@ePatientDave) and Bertalan Meskó (@berci) saw Medpedia’s Achilles heel right from the start:

Bertalan Meskó at his blog Science Roll [7]:

We need Medpedia to provide reliable medical content? That’s what we are working on in Wikipedia.

I believe elitism kills content. Only the power of masses controlled by well-designed editing guidelines can lead to a comprehensive encyclopaedia.

E-patient Dave (who is a fierce proponent of participatory medicine where everyone, medical expert or not, works in partnership to produce accurate information), addresses his concern in his post

“Medpedia: Who gets to say what info is reliable?” [8]

The title says it all. In Dave’s opinion it is “an error to presume that doctors inherently have the best answer” or as Dave summarizes his concern: “who will vet the vetters?”

In addition, Clay Shirky noted that some Wikipedia entries like the biopsy-entry were far more robust than the Medpedia entries [9,10 ].

Ben Toth on the other hand found the Atrial Fibrillation-Medpedia item better than the corresponding Wikipedia page in some respects, but less up-to-date [11].

In her Medpedia review in the JMLA medical librarian Melissa Rethlefsen [5] concludes that “the content of Medpedia is varied and not clearly developed, lacks topical breadth and depth and that it is more a set of ideals than a workable reference source. Another issue is that Medpedia pages never ranked high, which means its content was hardly findable in today’s Google-centric world.

She concludes that for now (2009) “it means that Wikipedia will continue to be the medical wiki of choice”.

I fear that this will be forever, for Medpedia ceased to exist.

I noticed it yesterday totally by coincidence: both my Medpedia blog badge  and Mesko’s Webicina-“Medical Librarianship in Social Medicine”-wiki page were redirected to a faulty page.

I checked the Internet, but all I could find was a message at Wikipedia:

‘It appears that Medpedia is now closed but there is no information about it closing. Their Facebook and Twitter feeds are still open but they have not been updated in a few years. Their webpage now goes to a spam site.

I checked the Waybackmachine and found the “last sparks of life” at January 2013:

11-7-2013 23-57-49 waybackmachine medpedia

This morning I contacted Medpedia’s founder James Currier, who kindly and almost instantly replied to all my questions.

These are shown (with permission) in entirety below.

=============================================================================

[me: ] I hope that you don’t mind that I use LinkedIn to ask you some questions about Medpedia.

{James:] I don’t mind at all!

Is Medpedia dead? And if so, why was it discontinued?

For now it is. We worked on it for 6 years, had a fantastic team of developers, had fantastic partners who supported us, had a fantastic core group of contributors like yourself, and I personally spent millions of dollars on it. In other words, we gave it a really good effort. But it never got the sort of scale it needed to become something important. So for the last two years, we kept looking for a new vision of what it could become, a new mission. We never found one, and it was expensive to keep running.
In the meantime, we had found a new mission that Medpedia could not be converted into, so we started a new company, Jiff, to pursue it. “Health Care in a Jiff” is the motto. Jiff continues the idea of digitizing healthcare, and making it simple and transparent for the individual, but goes after it in a very different way. More info about Jiff here: https://www.jiff.com and here https://www.jiff.com/static/newsJiff has taken our time and attention, and hopefully will produce the kinds of benefits we were hoping to see from Medpedia.

Why weren’t people informed and  was Medpedia quietly shut down?

We definitely could have done a better job with that! I apologize. We were under a tight time frame due to several things, such as people leaving the effort, technical issues around where the site was being hosted, and corporate and tax issues after 6 years of operating. So it was rushed, and we should have figured out a way to do a better job of communicating.

Couldn’t the redirection to the spam-site be prevented? And can you do something about it?

I didn’t know about that! I’ll look into it and find out what’s going on.*

Your LinkedIn profile says you’re still working for MedPedia. Why is that? Are there plans to make a new start, perhaps? And how?

Yes, I haven’t updated my LinkedIn profile in a while. I just made that change. We have no current plans to restart Medpedia. But we’re always looking for a new mission that can be self sustaining! Let me know if you have one.

And/or do you have (plans for) other health 2.0 initiatives?

Jiff is our main effort now, and there’s a wonderful CEO, Derek Newell running it.

I know you are a busy man, but I think it is important to inform all people who thought that Medpedia was a good initiative.

Thank you for saying you thought it was a good initiative. I did too! I just wish it had gotten bigger. I really appreciate your questions, and your involvement. Not all projects flourish, but we’ll all keep trying new ideas, and hopefully one will break out and make the big difference we hope for.

*somewhat later James gave an update about the redirection:

By the way, I asked about the redirect, and found out that that that page is produced by our registrar that holds the URL medpedia.com.

We wanted to put up the following message and I thought it was up:

“Medpedia was a great experiment begun in 2007.
Unfortunately, it never reached the size to be self sustaining, and it ceased operations in early 2013.
Thank you to all who contributed!”

I’m going to work again on getting that up!

============================================================================

I have one question left : what happened with all the materials the experts produced? Google Knol gave people time to export their contributions. Perhaps James Currier can answer that question too.

I also wonder why nobody noticed that Medpedia was shut down. Apparently it isn’t missed.

Finally I would like to thank all wo have contributed to this “experiment”. As a medical librarian, who is committed to providing reliable medical information, I still find it a shame that Medpedia didn’t work.

I wish James Currier all the best with his new initiatives.

References

  1. The Trouble with Wikipedia as a Source for Medical Information
    (http://laikaspoetnik.wordpress.com) (2009/09/14)
  2. [a] Medpedia and [b] James Currier , last edited at 6/30/13*  and 7/12/13 respectively (crunchbase.com)
  3. Laurent M.R. & Vickers T.J. (2009). Seeking Health Information Online: Does Wikipedia Matter?, Journal of the American Medical Informatics Association, 16 (4) 471-479. DOI:
  4. von Muhlen M. & Ohno-Machado L. (2012). Reviewing social media use by clinicians, Journal of the American Medical Informatics Association, 19 (5) 777-781. DOI:
  5. Rethlefsen M.L. (2009). Medpedia, Journal of the Medical Library Association : JMLA, 97 (4) 325-326. DOI:
  6. Medpedia: Reliable Crowdsourcing of Health and Medical Information (highlighthealth.com) (2009/7/24)
  7. Launching MedPedia: From the perspective of a Wikipedia administrator (scienceroll.com) (2009/2/20)
  8. Medpedia: Who gets to say what info is reliable? (e-patients.net/) (2009/2/20)
  9. Clay Shirky at MLA ’11 – On the Need for Health Sciences Librarians to Rock the Boat (mbanks.typepad.com) (2011
  10. Wikipedia vs Medpedia: The Crowd beats the Experts (http://blog.lib.uiowa.edu/hardinmd/2011/05/31
  11. Medpedia and Wikipedia (nelh.blogspot.nl) (2009/10/08)
  12. Jiff wants to do for employer wellness programs what WordPress did for blogs (medcitynews.com)
  13. Jiff Unveils Health App Development Platform, Wellness Marketplace (eweek.com)

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6 responses

14 07 2013
Crowd trumps credentials: Medpedia’s dead.–e-Patient Dave | Knowledge of Medicine

[…] Spoetnik has a strong post on the demise,including an interview with its founder,James Currier: Medpedia,the Medical Wikipedia,is Dead. And we Missed its Funeral.  The bottom line […]

15 07 2013
pfanderson

Reblogged this on Emerging Technologies Librarian and commented:
I don’t know how many of you remember all the hype and hurrahs around the founding of Medpedia, for which the University of Michigan was a founding member and collaborator.

New MedPedia site powered by U-M Medical School: http://www.med.umich.edu/prmc/mnewsarchive/Aug08.htm

There were many concerns and some hurt feelings at the time because they wouldn’t allow expert patients, patient advocates, many allied health, or librarians to contribute. My favorite quote came from Berci: “I believe elitism kills content.” I share that view. Eventually the powers that be changed that stance, but I suspect it was too little too late.

So, last week, Jacqueline (Laikas) blogged about how Medpedia not only disappeared, but no one even noticed it disappeared. I’ve never hit the “reblog” button before, but she has done such a beautiful job with this that I think it is more important and efficient for you to read her post than for me to try to write my own. There are important lessons for us all to learn about how social media has changed the concepts of health care communities, collaboration, cooperation, content creation, trust, engagement, authority, and credibility.

Medpedia, the Medical Wikipedia, is Dead. And we Missed its Funeral…

I thought some here might be interested. FYI.

17 07 2013
Medpedia, the Medical Wikipedia, is Dead. And w...

[…] In a post about Wikipedia in 2009 I suggested that initiatives like Ganfyd or Medpedia, might be a solution to Wikipedia’s accuracy and credibility problems, because only health experts are allowed to edit or contribute to the content of these…  […]

29 07 2013
Who are you addicted to on Twitter? Research watchdog edition. | Susannah Fox

[…] @Laikas – Medical librarian, scientist, mom, human. I’m addicted to posts like: “Medpedia, the Medical Wikipedia, is Dead. And we Missed its Funeral…“ […]

18 08 2013
Medpedia, the Medical Wikipedia, is Dead. And w...

[…] In a post about Wikipedia in 2009 I suggested that initiatives like Ganfyd or Medpedia, might be a solution to Wikipedia's accuracy and credibility problems, because only health experts are allowed…  […]

27 08 2013
Adrian Midgley

Ganfyd ( http://ganfyd.org/ ) is ticking along quietly. Our model is different from either the Wikipedia or Medpedia’s. Our costs although not zero are nothing like the amounts suggested above for medpedia, and I think this may be a reason for persistence. I would present our licence – copyright or qualified copyleft licence – as a significant difference also. It is more difficult for our effort and material to simply be lost, and this is a feature designed in from before launch. The advantage over the Wikipedia (which many of us are also active in) is the degree of assurance of the authors and editors. Either they are invited experts – our librarian is of huge value of course – or they are licenced and practicing doctors (Americans may say physicians) of some sort.

Doing things in a quiet and organic way is more in the spirit of both the Web and in my view Medicine.

If the licences of material from Medpedia permitted it, donation of it to Ganfyd would prevent it simply being lost.

In general, any collaborative effort should have a plan for termination, aimed at reducing loss.

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