Silly Sunday #52 Online Education Sites: and the Spam Goes on.

14 10 2012

On many occasions  (hereherehere and here [1-4), I have warned against top 50 and 100 lists made by online education sites, like  accreditedonlinecolleges.com, onlinecolleges.com.

They are no more than splogs and link bait scams. Thus please don’t give them credit by linking to their sites.

I have also mentioned that people affiliated with these sites sometimes offer to write guest posts. Or they ask me to place an infographic.

Apparently they don’t do a lot of research. The post don’t really fit the topic of this blog and the writers don’t seem aware of my critical posts in the pasts.

Nevertheless, the number of requests keeps on growing. Sometimes I get 4-5 a day. Really ridiculous…

They don’t seem discouraged by my lack of response.

The letters are usually quite impersonal (they just found a wordpress-tag for instance).

———————–

Hey ,

Re:  laikaspoetnik.wordpress.com/tag/medicine-20/

While doing research  for an online educational resource I write for, I ran across your blog and thought you may be interested in an idea for a post I have been thinking about.

The fate of schools in California is tied to the financial health of the state and because of years of economic downturn and recession, the state can no longer support the schools and the price of tuition is skyrocketing. This is making attending college considerably more difficult for many qualified applicants.

I would love to write about this for your blog. Let me know if you’re interested and I will send you a full outline.

Thanks!

———————-

Lately I’m also informed about dead links at my blog. How kind. Three guesses which link is offered instead…..

——————————-

Hi Laika Spoetnik,

I came across your website and wanted to notify you about a broken link on your page in case you weren’t aware of it. The link on http://laikaspoetnik.wordpress.com/2009/06 which links to http://www.visi.com/juan/congress is no longer working. I’ve included a link to a useful page on Members of Congress that you could replace the broken link with if you’re interested in updating your website. Thanks for providing a great resource!

Link: http://www. onlinebachelordegreeprograms . com / resources / bachelor-of-arts-in-political-science-congress /
(spaces added)

Best,
Alexandra Sawyer

—————————-

p.s. ( as far as I know I never linked to visi com, and 2009/6 is not a single post, but many..)

References

  1. Vanity is the Quicksand of Reasoning: Beware of Top 100 and 50 lists! (laikaspoetnik.wordpress.com)
  2. Beware of Top 50 “Great Tools to Double Check your Doctor” or whatever Lists. ((laikaspoetnik.wordpress.com)
  3. Even the Scientific American Blog Links to Spammy Online Education Affiliate Sites… (laikaspoetnik.wordpress.com)
  4. Health and Science Twitter & Blog Top 50 and 100 Lists. How to Separate the Wheat from the Chaff. (laikaspoetnik.wordpress.com)

 





Even the Scientific American Blog Links to Spammy Online Education Affiliate Sites…

28 05 2012

On numerous occasions [1,2,3] I have warned against top Twitter and Blog lists spread by education affiliate sites.
Sites like accreditedonlinecolleges.comonlinecolleges.com, onlinecollegesusa.org, onlinedegrees.com, mbaonline.com.

While some of the published Twitter Top 50 lists and Blog top 100 lists may be interesting as such (or may flatter you if you’re on it), the only intention of the makers is to lure you to their site and earn money through click-throughs.

Or as David Bradley from Sciencebase said it much more eloquently than I could:
(in a previous comment) 

“I get endless emails from people with these kinds of sites telling me I am on such and such a list…I even get different messages claiming to be from different people, but actually the same email address.They’re splogs and link bait scams almost always and unfortunately some people get suckered into linking to them, giving them credence and publicity. They’re a pain in the ‘arris.

These education sites do not only produce these “fantabulous” top 50 and 100 lists.
I also receive many requests for guest-authorships, and undoubtedly I’m not the only one.

Recently I also received a request from mbaonlinedegrees to post an infographic:

While searching for resources about the internet, I came across your site and noticed that you had posted the ‘State of the Internet’ video. I wanted to reach out as I have an infographic about the topic that I think would be a great fit for your site.”

But this mba.onlinedegrees infographic was a simple, yes even simplistic, summary of “a day at the internet”:

How many emails are sent, blog posts are made, how many people visit Facebook and how many updates are updated, and so forth and so on. Plus: Internet users spend 14.6 minutes viewing porn online: the average fap session is 12 minutes…
(How would they know?)

Anyway not the kind of information my readers are looking for. So I didn’t write a post with the embedding the code for the infographic.

Thus these online education affiliate sites produce top 50 and 100 lists, blogposts, guestposts and infographics and promote their use by actively approaching bloggers and people on Twitter.

I was surprised to find¹, however that even the high quality Scientific American science blog Observations (Opinion, arguments & analyses from the editors of Scientific American) blindly linked to such a spammy infographic (just adding a short meaningless introduction) [4].

That is an easy way to increase the numbers of blog posts….

And according to an insider commenting to the article the actual information in the infographic is even simply wrong.

“These MBAs have a smaller brain than accountants. They don’t know the difference between asset, revenue and income”.

If such a high authority science blog does not know to separate the wheat from the chaff, does not recognize splogs as such, and does not even (at the very least) filter and track the information offered, …. than who can…. who will….?³

Sometimes I feel like a miniature version of Don Quixote…

————-

NOTES

1.  HATTIP:

Again, @Nutsci brought this to my attention:

2. In response to my post @AdamMerberg tweeted a link to a very interesting article in the Atlantic by Megan McArdle issuing a plea to bloggers to help stop this plague in its track. (i.e. saying:  The reservoir of this disease of erroneous infographics is internet marketers who don’t care whether the information in their graphics is right … just so long as you link it.). She even uses an infographic herself to deliver her message. Highly recommended!

3. This doesn’t mean that Scientific American doesn’t produce good blog posts or good scientific papers. Just the other day, I tweeted:

The referred article Scientific American puts a new meta-analysis of statins and an accompanying editorial in the Lancet in broader perspective. The meta-analysis suggests that healthy people over 50 should take cholesterol-lowering drugs as a preventative measure. Scientific American questions this by also addressing the background risks (low for most 50+ people), possible risks of statin use, cost-effectiveness and the issue of funding by pharmaceutical companies and other types of bias.

References

  1. Health and Science Twitter & Blog Top 50 and 100 Lists. How to Separate the Wheat from the Chaff. (laikaspoetnik.wordpress.com)
  2. Beware of Top 50 “Great Tools to Double Check your Doctor” or whatever Lists. (laikaspoetnik.wordpress.com)
  3. Vanity is the Quicksand of Reasoning: Beware of Top 100 and 50 lists! ((laikaspoetnik.wordpress.com)
  4. What’s Smaller than Mark Zuckerberg? (blogs.scientificamerican.com/observations/)




Health and Science Twitter & Blog Top 50 and 100 Lists. How to Separate the Wheat from the Chaff.

24 04 2012

Recently a Top 100 scientists-Twitter list got viral on Twitter. It was published at accreditedonlinecolleges.com/blog.*

Most people just tweeted “Top 100 Scientists on Twitter”, others were excited to be on the list, a few mentioned the lack of scientist X or discipline Y  in the top 100.

Two scientist noticed something peculiar about the list: @seanmcarroll noticed two fake (!) accounts under “physics” (as later explained these were: @NIMAARKANIHAMED and @Prof_S_Hawking). And @nutsci (having read two posts of mine about spam top 50 or 100 lists [12]) recognized this Twitter list as spam:

It is surprising how easy it (still) is for such spammy Top 50 or 100 Lists to get viral, whereas they only have been published to generate more traffic to the website and/or to earn revenue through click-throughs.

It makes me wonder why well-educated people like scientists and doctors swallow the bait. Don’t they recognize the spam? Do they feel flattered to be on the list, or do they take offence when they (or another person who “deserves” it) aren’t chosen? Or perhaps they just find the list useful and want to share it, without taking a close look?

To help you to recognize and avoid such spammy lists, here are some tips to separate the wheat from the chaff:

  1. Check WHO made the list. Is it from an expert in the field, someone you trust? (and/or someone you like to follow?)
  2. If you don’t know the author in person, check the site which publishes the list (often a “blog”):
    1. Beware if there is no (or little info in the) ABOUT-section.
    2. Beware if the site mainly (only) has these kind of lists or short -very general-blogposts (like 10 ways to….) except when the author is somebody like Darren Rowse aka @ProBlogger [3].
    3. Beware if it is a very general site producing a diversity of very specialised lists (who can be expert in all fields?)
    4. Beware if the website has any of the following (not mutually exclusive) characteristics:
      1. Web addresses like accreditedonlinecolleges.com, onlinecolleges.com, onlinecollegesusa.org,  onlinedegrees.com (watch out com sites anyway)
      2. Websites with a Quick-degree, nursing degree, technician school etc finder
      3. Prominent links at the homepage to Kaplan University, University of Phoenix, Grand Canyon University etc
    5. Reputable sites less likely produce nonsense lists. See for instance this “Women in science blogging”-list published in the Guardian [4].
  3. When the site itself seems ok, check whether the names on the list seem trustworthy and worth a follow. Clearly, lists with fake accounts (other then lists with “top 50 fake accounts” ;)) aren’t worth the bother: apparently the creator didn’t make the effort to verify the accounts and/or hasn’t the capacity to understand the tweets/topic.
  4. Ideally the list should have added value. Meaning that it should be more than a summary of names and copy pasting of the bio or “about” section.
    For instance I have recently been put on a list of onlinecollegesusa.org [b], but the author had just copied the subtitle of my blog: …. a medical librarian and her blog explores the web 2.0 world as it relates to library science and beyond.
    However, sometimes, the added value may just be that the author is a highly recognized expert or opinion leader. For instance this Top Health & Medical Bloggers (& Their Twitter Names) List [5] by the well known health blogger Dean Giustini.
  5. In what way do these lists represent *top* Blogs or Twitter accounts? Are their blogs worth reading and/or their Twitter accounts worth following? A nobel price winner may be a top scientist, but may not necessarily be a good blogger and/or may not have interesting tweets. (personally I know various examples of uninteresting accounts of *celebrities* in health, science and politics)
  6. Beware if you are actively approached and kindly requested to spread the list to your audience. (for this is what they want).It goes like this (watch the impersonal tone):

    Your Blog is being featured!

    Hi There,

    I recently compiled a list of the best librarian blogs, and I wanted to let you know that you made the list! You can find your site linked here: [...]

    If you have any feedback please let me know, or if you think your audience would find any of this information useful, please feel free to share the link. We always appreciate a Facebook Like, a Google +1, a Stumble Upon or even a regular old link back, as we’re trying to increase our readership.

    Thanks again, and have a great day!

While some of the list may be worthwhile in itself, it is best NOT TO LINK TO DOUBTFUL LISTS, thus not  mention them on Twitter, not retweet the lists and not blog about it. For this is what they only want to achieve.

But what if you really find this list interesting?

Here are some tips to find alternatives to these spammy lists (often opposite to above-mentioned words of caution) 

  1. Find posts/lists produced by experts in the field and/or people you trust or like to follow. Their choice of blogs or twitter-accounts (albeit subjective and incomplete) will probably suit you the best. For isn’t this what it is all about?
  2. Especially useful are posts that give you more information about the people on the list. Like this top-10 librarian list by Phil Bradley [6] and the excellent “100+ women healthcare academics” compiled by @amcunningham and @trishgreenhalgh [7].
    Strikingly the reason to create the latter list was that a spammy list not recognized as such (“50 Medical School Professors You Should Be Following On Twitter”  [c])  seemed short on women….
  3. In case of Twitter-accounts:
    1. Check existing Twitter lists of people you find interesting to follow. You can follow the entire lists or just those people you find most interesting.
      Examples: I created a list with people from the EBM-cochrane people & sceptics [8]. Nutritional science grad student @Nutsci has a nutrition-health-science list [9]. The more followers, the more popular the list.
    2. Check interesting conversation partners of people you follow.
    3. Check accounts of people who are often retweeted in the field.
    4. Keep an eye on #FF (#FollowFriday) mentions, where people worth following are highlighted
    5. Check a topic on Listorious. For instance @hrana made a list of Twitter-doctors[10]. There are also scientists-lists (then again, check who made the list and who is on the list. Some health/nutrition lists are really bad if you’re interested in science and not junk)
    6. Worth mentioning are shared lists that are open for edit (so there are many contributors besides the curator). Lists [4] and [7] are examples of crowd sourced lists. Other examples are truly open-to-edit lists using public spreadsheets, like the Top Twitter Doctors[11], created by Dr Ves and  lists for science and bio(medical) journals [12], created by me.
  4. Finally, if you find the spam top 100 list truly helpful, and don’t know too many people in the field, just check out some of the names without linking to the list or spreading the word.

*For obvious reasons I will not hyperlink to these sites, but if you would like to check them, these are the links

[a] accreditedonlinecolleges.com/blog/2012/top-100-scientists-on-twitter

[b] onlinecollegesusa.org/librarian-resources-online

[c] thedegree360.onlinedegrees.com/50-must-follow-medical-school-professors-on-twitter

  1. Beware of Top 50 “Great Tools to Double Check your Doctor” or whatever Lists. (laikaspoetnik.wordpress.com)
  2. Vanity is the Quicksand of Reasoning: Beware of Top 100 and 50 lists! ((laikaspoetnik.wordpress.com)
  3. Google+ Tactics of the Blogging Pros (problogger.net)
  4. “Women in science blogging” by  ( http://www.guardian.co.uk/science)
  5. Top Health & Medical Bloggers (& Their Twitter Names) List (blog.openmedicine.ca)
  6. Top-10 librarian list by Phil Bradley (www.blogs.com/topten)
  7. 100+ women healthcare academics by Annemarie Cunningham/ Trisha Greenhalgh (wishfulthinkinginmedicaleducation.blogspot.com)
  8. Twitter-doctors by @hrana (listorious.com)
  9. EBM-cochrane people & sceptics (Twitter list by @laikas)
  10. Nutrition-health-science (Twitter list by @nutsci)
  11. Open for edit: Top Twitter Doctors arranged by specialty in alphabetical order (Google Spreadsheet by @drves)
  12. TWITTER BIOMEDICAL AND OTHER SCIENTIFIC JOURNALS & MAGAZINES (Google Spreadsheet by @laikas)






Jeffrey Beall’s List of Predatory, Open-Access Publishers, 2012 Edition

19 12 2011

Perhaps you remember that I previously wrote [1] about  non-existing and/or low quality scammy open access journals. I specifically wrote about Medical Science Journals of  the http://www.sciencejournals.cc/ series, which comprises 45 titles, none of which having published any article yet.

Another blogger, David M [2] also had negative experiences with fake peer review invitations from sciencejournals. He even noticed plagiarism.

Later I occasionally found other posts about open access spam, like the post of Per Ola Kristensson [3] (specifically about Bentham, Hindawi and InTech OA publishers), of Peter Murray-Rust [4] ,a chemist interested in OA (about spam journals and conferences, specifically about Scientific Research Publishing) and of Alan Dove PhD [5] (specifically about The Journal of Computational Biology and Bioinformatics Research (JCBBR) published by Academic Journals).

But now it appears that there is an entire list of “Predatory, Open-Access Publishers”. This list was created by Jeffrey Beall, academic librarian at the University of Colorado Denver. He just updated the list for 2012 here (PDF-format).

According to Jeffrey predatory, open-access publishers

are those that unprofessionally exploit the author-pays model of open-access publishing (Gold OA) for their own profit. Typically, these publishers spam professional email lists, broadly soliciting article submissions for the clear purpose of gaining additional income. Operating essentially as vanity presses, these publishers typically have a low article acceptance threshold, with a false-front or non-existent peer review process. Unlike professional publishing operations, whether subscription-based or ethically-sound open access, these predatory publishers add little value to scholarship, pay little attention to digital preservation, and operate using fly-by-night, unsustainable business models.

Jeffrey recommends not to do business with the following (illegitimate) publishers, including submitting article manuscripts, serving on editorial boards, buying advertising, etc. According to Jeffrey, “there are numerous traditional, legitimate journals that will publish your quality work for free, including many legitimate, open-access publishers”.

(For sake of conciseness, I only describe the main characteristics, not always using the same wording; please see the entire list for the full descriptions.)

Watchlist: Publishers, that may show some characteristics of  predatory, open-access publisher
  • Hindawi Way too many journals than can be properly handled by one publisher
  • MedKnow Publications vague business model. It charges for the PDF version
  • PAGEPress many dead links, a prominent link to PayPal
  • Versita Open paid subscription for print form. ..unclear business model

An asterisk (*) indicates that the publisher is appearing on this list for the first time.

How complete and reliable is this list?

Clearly, this list is quite exhaustive. Jeffrey did a great job listing  many dodgy OA journals. We should watch (many) of these OA publishers with caution. Another good thing is that the list is updated annually.

(http://www.sciencejournals.cc/ described in my previous post is not (yet) on the list ;)  but I will inform Jeffrey).

Personally, I would have preferred a distinction between real bogus or spammy journals and journals that seem to have “too many journals to properly handle” or that ask (too much ) money for subscription/from the author. The scientific content may still be good (enough).

Furthermore, I would rather see a neutral description of what is exactly wrong about a journal. Especially because “Beall’s list” is a list and not a blog post (or is it?). Sometimes the description doesn’t convince me that the journal is really bogus or predatory.

Examples of subjective portrayals:

  • Dove Press:  This New Zealand-based medical publisher boasts high-quality appearing journals and articles, yet it demands a very high author fee for publishing articles. Its fleet of journals is large, bringing into question how it can properly fulfill its promise to quickly deliver an acceptance decision on submitted articles.
  • Libertas Academia “The tag line under the name on this publisher’s page is “Freedom to research.” It might better say “Freedom to be ripped off.” 
  • Hindawi  .. This publisher has way too many journals than can be properly handled by one publisher, I think (…)

I do like funny posts, but only if it is clear that the post is intended to be funny. Like the one by Alan Dove PhD about JCBBR.

JCBBR is dedicated to increasing the depth of research across all areas of this subject.

Translation: we’re launching a new journal for research that can’t get published anyplace else.

The journal welcomes the submission of manuscripts that meet the general criteria of significance and scientific excellence in this subject area.

We’ll take pretty much any crap you excrete.

Hattip: Catherine Arnott Smith, PhD at the MedLib-L list.

  1. I Got the Wrong Request from the Wrong Journal to Review the Wrong Piece. The Wrong kind of Open Access Apparently, Something Wrong with this Inherently… (laikaspoetnik.wordpress.com)
  2. A peer-review phishing scam (blog.pita.si)
  3. Academic Spam and Open Access Publishing (blog.pokristensson.com)
  4. What’s wrong with Scholarly Publishing? New Journal Spam and “Open Access” (blogs.ch.cam.ac.uk)
  5. From the Inbox: Journal Spam (alandove.com)
  6. Beall’s List of Predatory, Open-Access Publishers. 2012 Edition (http://metadata.posterous.com)
  7. Silly Sunday #42 Open Access Week around the Globe (laikaspoetnik.wordpress.com)




I Got the Wrong Request from the Wrong Journal to Review the Wrong Piece. The Wrong kind of Open Access Apparently, Something Wrong with this Inherently…

27 08 2011

Meanwhile you might want to listen to “Wrong” (Depeche Mode)

Yesterday I screened my spam-folder. Between all male enhancement and lottery winner announcements, and phishing mails for my bank account, there was an invitation to peer review a paper in “SCIENCE JOURNAL OF PATHOLOGY”.

Such an invitation doesn’t belong in the spam folder, doesn’t it? Thus I had a closer look and quickly screened the letter.

I don’t know what alarmed me first. The odd hard returns, the journal using a Gmail address, an invitation for a topic (autism) I knew nothing about, an abstract that didn’t make sense and has nothing to do with Pathology, the odd style of the letter: the informal, but impersonal introduction (How are you? I am sure you are busy with many activities right now) combined with a turgid style (the paper addresses issues of value to our broad-based audience, and that it cuts through the thick layers of theory and verbosity for them and makes sense of it all in a clean, cohesive manner) and some misspellings. And then I never had an invitation from an editor, starting with the impersonal “Colleagues”… 

But still it was odd. Why would someone take the trouble of writing such an invitation letter? For what purpose? And apparently the person did know that I was a scientist, who does -or is able to- peer review medical scientific papers. Since the mail was send to my Laika Gmail account, the most likely source for my contact info must have been my pseudonymous blog. I seldom use this mail account for scientific purposes.

What triggered my caution flag the most, was the topic: autism. I immediately linked this to the anti-vaccination quackery movement, that’s trying to give skeptic bloggers a hard time and fights a personal, not a scientific battle. I also linked it to #epigate, that was exposed at Liz Ditz I Speak of Dreams, a blog with autism as a niche topic.

#Epigate is the story of René Najeraby aka @EpiRen, a popular epidemiologist blogger who was asked to stop engaging in social media by his employers, after a series of complaints by a Mr X, who also threatened other pseudonymous commenters/bloggers criticizing his actions. According to Mr. X no one will be safe, because all i have to do is file a john doe – or hire a cyber investigator. these courses of action cost less than $10,000 each; which means every person who is afraid of the light can be exposed”  In another comment at Liz Ditz’ he actually says he will go after a specific individual: “Anarchic Teapot”.

Ok, I admit that the two issues might be totally coincidental, and they probably are, but I’m hypersensitive for people trying to silence me via my employers (because that did happen to me in the past). Anyway,asking a pseudonymous blogger to peer-review might be a way to hack the real identity of such a blogger. Perhaps far-fetched, I know.

But what would the “editor” do if I replied and said “yes”?

I became curious. Does The Science Journal of Pathology even exist?

Not in PubMed!!

But the Journal “Science Journal of Pathology” does exist on the Internet…. and John Morrison is the editor. But he is the only one. As a matter of fact he is the entire staff…. There are “search”, “current” and “archives” tabs, but the latter two are EMPTY.

So I would have the dubious honor of reviewing the first paper for this journal?…. ;)

  1. (First assumption – David) – High school kids are looking for someone to peer review (and thus improve) their essays to get better grades.
    (me: school kids could also be replaced by “non-successful or starting scientists”)
  2. (Second assumption – David) Perhaps they are only looking to fill out their sucker lists. If you’ve done a bad review, they may blackmail you in other to keep it quiet.
  3. (me) – The journal site might be a cover up for anything (still no clue what).
  4. (me) - The site might get a touch of credibility if the (upcoming) articles are stamped with : “peer-reviewed by…”
  5. (David & me) the scammers target PhD’s or people who the “editors” think have little experience in peer reviewing and/or consider it a honor to do so.
  6. (David & me) It is phishing scam.You have to register on the journal’s website in order to be able to review or submit. So they get your credentials. My intuition was that they might just try to track down the real name, address and department of a pseudonymous blogger, but I think that David’s assumption is more plausible. David thinks that a couple of people in Nigeria is just after your password for your mail, amazon, PayPal etc for “the vast majority of people uses the same password for all logins, which is terribly bad practice, but they don’t want to forget it.”

With David, I would like to warn you for this “very interesting phishing scheme”, which aims at academics and especially PhD’s. We have no clue as to their real intentions, but it looks scammy.

Besides that the scam may affect you personally, such non-existing and/or low quality open access journals do a bad service to the existing, high quality open access journals.

There should be ways to remove such scam websites from the net.

Notes

“Academic scams – my wife just received a version of this for an Autism article, PhD/DPhil/Masters students beware that mentions a receipt of a similar autism”
Related articles




Health Experts & Patient Advocates Beware: 10 Reasons Why you Shouldn’t be a Curator at Organized Wisdom!! #OrganizedWisdom

11 05 2011

Last year I aired my concern about Organized Wisdom in a post called Expert Curators, WisdomCards & The True Wisdom of @organizedwisdom.

Organized Wisdom shares health links of health experts or advocates, who (according to OW’s FAQ), either requested a profile or were recommended by OW’s Medical Review Board. I was one of those so called Expert Curators. However, I had never requested a profile and I seriously doubt whether someone from the a medical board had actually read any of my tweets or my blog posts.

This was one of the many issues with Organized Wisdom. But the main issue was its lack of credibility and transparency. I vented my complaints, I removed my profile from OW, stopped following updates at Twitter and informed some fellow curators.

I almost forgot about it, till Simon Sikorski, MD, commented at my blog, informing me that my complaints hadn’t been fully addressed and convincing me things were even worse than I thought.

He has started a campaign to do something about this Unethical Health Information Content Farming by Organized Wisdom (OW).

While discussing this affair with a few health experts and patient advocates I was disappointed by the reluctant reactions of a few people: “Well, our profiles are everywhere”, “Thanks I will keep an eye open”, “cannot say much yet”. How much evidence does one need?

Of course there were also people – well known MD’s and researchers – who immediately removed their profile and compared OW’s approach with that of Wellsphere, that scammed the Health Blogosphere. Yes, OW also scrapes and steals your intellectual property (blog and/or tweet content), but the difference is: OW doesn’t ask you to join, it just puts up your profile and shares it with the world.

As a medical librarian and e-patient I find the quality, reliability and objectivity of health information of utmost importance. I believe in the emancipation of patients (“Patient is not a third person word”, e-patient Dave), but it can only work if patients are truly well informed. This is difficult enough, because of the information overload and the conflicting data. We don’t need any further misinformation and non-transparency.

I belief that Organized Wisdom puts the reputation of  its “curators” at stake and that it is not a trustworthy nor useful resource for health information. For the following reasons (x see also Simon’s blog post and slides, his emphasis is more on content theft)

1. Profiles of Expert Curators are set up without their knowledge and consent
Most curators I asked didn’t know they were expert curators. Simon has spoken with 151 of the 5700 expert curators and not one of those persons knew he/she was listed on OW. (x)

2. The name Expert Curator suggests that you (can) curate information, but you cannot.
The information is automatically produced and is shown unfiltered (and often shown in duplicate, because many different people can link to the same source). It is not possible to edit the cards.
Ideally, curating should even be more than filtering (see this nice post about 
Social Media Content Curators, where curation is defined as the act of synthesizing and interpreting in order to present a complete record of a concept.)

3. OW calls your profile address: “A vanity URL¹”.

Is that how they see you? Well it must be said they try to win you by pure flattery. And they often succeed….

¹Quote OW: “We credit, honor, and promote our Health Experts, including offering: A vanity URL to promote so visitors can easily share your Health Profile with others, e.g. my.organizedwisdom.com/ePatientDave.
Note: this too is quite similar to the Wellsphere’s approach (read more at E-patients-net)

4. Bots tap into your tweets and/or scrape the content off their website
(x: see healthcare content farms monetizing scheme)

5. Scraping your content can affect your search rankings (x)
This probably affects starting/small blogs the most. I checked two posts of well known blogs and their websites still came up first.

6.  The site is funded/sponsored by pharmaceutical companies.
 “Tailored” ads show up next to the so called Wisdom Cards dealing with the same topic. If no pharmaceutical business has responded Google ads show up instead.
See the form where they actually invite pharma companies to select a target condition for advertizing. Note that the target conditions fit the OW topics.

7. The Wisdom Cards are no more than links to your tweets or posts. They have no added value. 

8. Worse, tweets and links are shown out of context.
I provided various examples in my previous post (mainly in the comment section)

A Cancer and Homeopathy WisdomCard™ shows Expert Curator Liz Ditz who is sharing a link about Cancer and Homeopathy. The link she shares is a dangerous article by a Dr. who is working in an Homeopathic General Hospital, in India “reporting” several cases of miraculous cures by Conium 1M, Thuja 50M and other watery-dilutions. I’m sure that Liz Ditz, didn’t say anything positive about the “article”. Still it seems she “backs it up”. Perhaps she tweeted: “Look what a dangerous crap.”
When I informed her, Liz said:“AIEEEE…. didn’t sign up with Organized Wisdom that I know of”. She felt she was used for credulous support for homeopathy & naturopathy.

Note: Liz card has disappeared (because she opted out), but I was was surprised to find that the link (http://organizedwisdom.com/Cancer-and-Homeopathy/wt/medstill works and links to other “evidence” on the same topic.


9. There is no quality control. Not of the wisdom cards and not of the expert curators.
Many curators are not what I would call true experts and I’m not alone: @holly comments at a Techcrunch postI am glad you brought up the “written by people who do not have a clue, let alone ANY medical training [of any kind] at all.” I have no experience with any kind of medical education, knowledge or even the slightest clue of a tenth of the topics covered on OW, yet for some reason they tried to recruit me to review cards there!?! )

The emphasis is also on alternative treatments: prevention of cancer, asthma, ADHD by herbs etc. In addition to “Health Centers”, there also Wellness Centers (AgingDietFitness etc) and Living Centers (BeautyCookingEnvironment). A single card can share information of 2 or 3 centers (diabetes and multivitamins for example).

And as said, all links of expert curators are placed unfiltered, even when you make a joke or mention you’re on vacation. Whether you’re a  Top health expert or advocate (there is a regular shout-out) just depends on the number of links you share, thus NOT on quality. For this reason the real experts are often at lower positions.

Some cards are just link baits.

 

10.  Organized Wisdom is heavily promoting its site.
Last year it launched activitydigest, automatic digests meant to stimulate “engagement” of expert curators. It tries to connect with top health experts, pharma -people and patient advocates. Hoping they will support OW. This leads to uncritical interviews such as at Pixels and Pills, at Health Interview (
Reader’s Digest + Organized Wisdom = Wiser Patients), Xconomy.com organizedwisdom recruits experts to filter health information on the web.

What can you do?

  • Check whether you have a profile at Organized Wisdom here.
  • Take a good look at Organized Wisdom and what it offers. It isn’t difficult and it doesn’t take much time to see through the facade.
  • If you don’t agree with what it represents, please consider to opt out.
  • You can email info@organizedwisdom.com to let your profile as expert curator removed.
  • If you agree that what OW does is no good practice, you could do the following (most are suggestions of Simon):
  • spread the word and inform others
  • join the conversation on Twitter #EndToFarms
  • join the tweetup on what you can do about this scandal and how to protect yourself from being liable. (more details will be offered by Simon at his regularly updated blogpost)
  • If you don’t agree this Content Farm deserves HONcode certification, notify HON at  https://www.healthonnet.org/HONcode/Conduct.html?HONConduct444558
Please don’t sit back and think that being a wisdom curator does not matter. Don’t show off  with an Organized Wisdom badget, widget or link at your blog or website.  Resist the flattery of being called an expert curator, because it doesn’t mean anything in this context. And by being part of Organized Wisdom, you indirectly support their practice. This may seriously affect your own reputation and indirectly you may contribute to misinformation.

Or as Heidi’s commented to my previous post:

I am flabbergasted that people’s reputation are being used to endorse content without their say so.
Even more so that they cannot delete their profile and withdraw their support.*

For me those two things on their own signal big red flags:

The damage to a health professional’s reputation as a result could be great.
Misleading the general public with poor (yes dangerous) information another

Altogether unethical.

*This was difficult at that time.

Update May 10, 2011: News from Simon: 165 individuals & 5 hospitals have now spoken up about unfolding scandal and are doing something about it (Tuesday )

Update May 12, 2011: If I failed to convince you, please read the post of Ramona Bates MD (@rlbates at Twitter, plastic surgeon, blogger at Suture for a Living), called “More Organized Wisdom Un-Fair Play. Ramona asked her profile to be removed from OW half a year ago).  Recommended pages at her blog seem to be written by other people.
She concludes:

“Once again, I encourage my fellow healthcare bloggers (doctors, nurses, patient advocates, etc) to remove yourself from any association with Organized Wisdom and other sites like them”

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Reclaim your Privacy on Facebook using a Simple Bookmarklet

20 05 2010

Of all social networking sites, Facebook causes the greatest privacy concerns. Certainly since it has changed its privacy options over time.

In the beginning, Facebook restricted the visibility of a user’s personal information to just their friends and their “network”, but the default privacy settings have become much more permissive, as you can see in the video below.
This short video is based on a visualization made by Matt McKeon and gives only an impression of a work-in-progress
(for up to date info check the original animation at http://mattmckeon.com/facebook-privacy/).

The reason? According Facebook founder Mark Zuckerberg the controversial new default and permanent settings just reflect the way the world has changed, becoming more public and less private (see ReadWriteWeb).

“Default” is the key to the problems. You have to opt out to protect your privacy. However to fully protect your privacy on Facebook, you have to navigate through 50 settings with more than 170 options (see great charts at the NY Times!). Facebook’s privacy policy is longer than the American constitution!!!

Shocked by the results of the ACLU’s Facebook Quiz (see Mashable), I already changed my privacy settings last summer. Doing a simple quiz on Facebook meant everything on your profile (whether you use privacy settings or not), is available to the quiz. Even more worrying, when your friends do a quiz, everything on your profile is made available to the developers as well.

Since the default privacy settings have changed, my settings needed to be adapted again. But where were the leaks in the 170 options?

Luckily there is a very simple bookmarklet Reclaim Privacy that can check and fix your profile in 2 minutes (see Mashable.com) It is very easy.

1. First go to Reclaim Privacy and drag the bookmarklet to your web browser bookmarks bar
(in the example I dragged the bookmarklet into Chrome’s bookmarks (upper arrow)

2. Go to your Facebook privacy settings and then click that bookmark (Scan for Privacy, see arrow) once you are on Facebook.

3. You will see a series of privacy scans that inspect your privacy settings and warn you about settings that might be unexpectedly public.
In my case my friends could still accidentally share my personal information. This is indicated by a red sign: “insecure.

4. So I clicked “prevent friends from sharing your data”, and in seconds this was the result:

5. I tweaked the contact information a bit (caution) by changing my contact settings, but I still would allow everyone to add me as a friend (I still have to approve, don’t I?)

Piece of cake!








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