Multi-Author Medical Blogs – At the End it is all about Credibility

9 03 2011

Recently, Bertalan Mesko (Berci on Twitter) was asking his twitter followers whether they had a favorite Web 2.0 story.  Berci needed examples for his yearly “Internet in Medicine course” at the university of Debrecen.

Doctor Ves (drVes) and Berci discussed various examples of blogs that had grown in a way: a blog that branched from blog to most popular podcast/physician-radio host (Dr. Anonymous), Kevinmd.com starting from a solo blog with 2-line snippets to a HuffPost-style conglomerate, DiabetesMine becoming a group voice with increasing popularity and industry recognition and Dean Giustini’s start from blog to the openmedicine journal based on WordPress.

And while those are all great examples, I just wondered whether growth from single to multi-authored blogs is per definition “the best” and something one should strive for. Does growth in number of authors automatically mean: “growth” of the blog? And in what respect? Is sheer growth of traffic and a greater audience the most important?

This blog regularly had guest posts in the pasts and they were surely an enrichment. Shamsha Damani was the main contributor. Her welcomed posts were in line with the theme of this blog (evidence based medicine, library-related topics), but had a fresh new look at certain topics (see for instance Grey literature time to make it systematic and  Uptodate versus Dynamed. The post were written by Shamsha, but I reviewed them before publication. Because after all, I’m responsible for the blogs content.

Guest posts/co-authorships can help to post more often. Variety in topics, style and perspectives may  further engage the readership and enhance traffic.

All good things. However, there is a big BUT, the BUT of quality and consistency.

If the blog has a theme or a focus, all authors should more or less adhere to it. Writers can have different opinions and perspectives but these should not be in conflict with the basic principles. And it surely shouldn’t be nonsense!

Good examples of blogs where authors replenish each other while adhering to a basic style are: Life in the Fast Lane (focus: emergency medicine and critical care, education, web.20 & fun) and the Health Informaticists (pretty much the scope of this blog: EBM, health 2.0, knowledge management).

Another good example is Science Based Medicine, a multi-author skeptical blog. Last year however one author (Amy Tuteur) resigned after

….”it had become clear to both the editors of SBM and Dr. Tuteur herself that, although Dr. Tuteur had routinely been able to stimulate an unprecedented level of discussion regarding the issues we at SBM consider important, SBM has not been a good fit for her and she has not been a good fit for SBM“.

Splitting up can be a good decision in case of unresolvable differences in approach. It was remarkable however that part of the  readers (167 comments to the post) were sad about Amy Tuteur’s leave, because they found her posts stimulating and engaging. Some people like (literally) thought provoking posts, while others rather see thoughtful (and sometimes predictable) posts supported by evidence.

Posts that don’t fit in can pose great credibility problems, not only for co-authored blogs, but also for blogs with guest posts. The well known KevinMD blog, cited above because it has grown from a single to a multi-author blog, recently came under fire because of a controversial guest post. Two (almost) equally famous “skeptic” bloggers devoted an entire post to this mishap, Orac of Respectful Insolence:Say it ain’t so, Dr. Pho! Credulity towards alternative medicine on KevinMD” and Steven Novella at Neurologica Blog wrote That treatment is not based on science? Don’t Worry, says KevinMD.

In his guest post “Why alternative care seems to work“, Peter Weiss assumes that people don’t try (or are even unwilling(!) to try CAM, because they don’t know the working mechanism. Weis’s post is a credulous plea for CAM:

Don’t get so hung up on the explanation that you don’t believe in, that you’re unwilling to try a practice that might actually help you.  Just keep an open mind.  You don’t have to know everything about how things work; you just have to know that they work. Just like, do I really understand electricity or do I just know that if I turn the light switch, the light comes on?

Weis tries to prove his point by saying that a highly prescribed drug as Lunesta has no known working mechanism either. Besides that this is ludicrous comparison, it isn’t true either. We do have a clue as to how Lunesta works (albeit falsifiable like everything in Science). Furthermore, Lunesta is effective whereas there is no such evidence for acupuncture or chiropractic. So should we just go and try and see instead of making an informed decision on basis of evidence  and plausibility?

This post is unlike the critical voice we usually hear from Kevin Pho. Regularly he warns against overtreatment and unnecessary screening,  for instance.

Bloggers seldom critic each other, but this quack-like post has led Steven Novella to conclude:

Weiss’s post on KevinMD is very disappointing, and unfortunately indicates that the filter on that blog for guest posts does not appear to be adequate. I hope it does not indicate a shift in philosophy away from science-based medicine, which would be worse.

Orac is much harsher.  He even devotes two posts to the topic. In style with the blog title he rages a respectful insolent rant: he will remove Kevin MD from his blogroll and will cease to recommend Kevin’s blog as a reliable source of medical information.

Orac -and many of his readers are also displeased with Kevin’s response (where he does admit they are kind of right):

Orac,

I appreciate the critique. As readers of this blog know, I often post pieces here I don’t necessarily agree with myself to promote discussion and debate. Your concerns are certainly valid, and will be taken into consideration as I choose future pieces.

Best,
Kevin

Orac even spent a second post to show the ridiculosity of  teaching the controversy in medicine by “posting pieces you don’t necessarily agree with” . What annoyed people the most was the lack of a disclaimer or an informed comment.

Basically I agree that Kevin should select more critically* and if a bad posts slips through, he should retract, openly criticize, or at least (directly) comment to the post. Indirectly saying that you will be more careful next time is not enough, IMHO. Furthermore comments were closed very soon, not giving people ample chance to respond.

On the other hand, Kevin agrees with the critique on multiple occasions. Also, I do not think that he has only traffic in mind when he includes many guest posts. He invites readers to “Submit a guest post to be heard on social media’s leading physician voice”. In line with this, Kevin once rejected a nomination in the Medgadget blog contests, probably so that some lesser known blogger would get more recognition out of the awards (roguemedic.com). Furthermore, many of the guest posts are interesting and of high quality. Thus, hopefully, this is an exception.

Anyway, this incident illustrates a pitfall of multi-author or multi-guest blogs. Posts should not be in conflict with  the basic principles of the blog. This will be directly noticed by experts in the field and certainly by skeptics), who immediately pounce on any contradictory message. But eventually conflicting standpoints may also dismay or -even worse- confuse other readers (patients, lay people).

In the end blogging is not only about the traffic. It is about credibility. It is not even about your own reputation, it is about the credibility of medical blogs in general.

*************************************

*Earlier, in a short discussion on Twitter dr Ves pointed out: “Well, Kevin is the publisher and he decides what deserves to get in, readers decide whether to follow… Similar to newspaper”. He also stresses we can’t tell KevinMD what to publish. Which is true. However, Kevin Pho and other prominent medical bloggers have a great responsibility towards an audience consisting of people  who seek to be well-informed. Medical statements should be accurate and assumptions should be plausible.
By the way, even newspapers make corrections now and then.

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Don’t forget to vote for your favorite Medical Weblog at Medgadget!

13 02 2011

I almost forgot to vote for the best medical blogs in the Seventh Annual Medical Weblog Awards Contest, organized by Medgadget.

But, I voted just in time, and so can you if you haven’t done so. Please support your favorite blogs!

Voting will close 23:59:59 this Sunday, February 13, 2011 (EST).

You can vote here at Medgadget

There are several categories:

  • Best Medical Weblog
  • Best New Medical Weblog (established in 2010)
  • Best Literary Medical Weblog
  • Best Clinical Sciences Weblog
  • Best Health Policies/Ethics Weblog
  • Best Medical Technologies/Informatics Weblog
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    Webicina Presents: PeRSSonalized Medical Librarianship: Selected Blogs, News, Journals and More

    13 08 2010

    One and a half-year ago I wrote about PeRSSonalized Medicine, developed by Bertalan Mesko or Berci. It is part of Webicina, which “aims to help physicians and other healthcare people to enter the web 2.0 era with quality medical information and selected online medical resources”.

    The RSS in PeRSSonalized Medicine stands for Real Simple Syndication, which is a format for delivering regularly changing web content, i.e. from Journals. However, if you use PeRSSonalized Medicine, you don’t need to have a clue what RSS is all about. It is easy to use and you can personalize it (hence the name)

    In the previous post I discussed several alternatives of PeRSSonalized Medicine. You can never tell how a new idea, or project or a new business will develop. We have seen Clinical Reader come and disappear. PeRSSonalized Medicine however really boomed. Why? Because it is free, because it has an altruistic goal (facilitate instead of earning money), because users are involved in the development and because it keeps evolving on basis of feedback.

    PeRSSonalized Medicine develops fast. There is not a week that I don’t see a new section: Nephrology, Genetics, Diabetes whatever.

    And this week tada tada tada … it is the turn of the Medical Librarianship, with Journals, Blogs, News and Web 2.0 tools. Please have a look yourself. You can personalize it at wish, and if you miss something, please mail to Webicina.

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    Laika’s MedLibLog on the Longlist of the Dutch Bloggies!

    3 11 2009

    dutchbloggies_copy7Laika’s MedLibLog is nominated for the Dutch Bloggies-awards. The Dutch Bloggies is a  yearly contest by the foundation “Dutch Bloggies” that awards weblogs from Dutch-speaking regions.

    Besides the overall Most Popular Weblog and Best Microblog, there are longlists for 15 categories. There are 10 blogs on each longlist. Laika’s Medliblog is nominated for best blog in category Best health & sport weblogs.

    These are the blogs in this category:

    Ajax Life | Catenaccio.nl | De Hardloper | Gezondheid.blog.nl | Green Jump | Laika’s MedLibLog | Marijn Fietst | Medicalfacts | SuikerWijzer | Zorg Beter Maken

    I do feel like Tom Thumb amidst the giants. Apart that this site serves a small niche, it is hosted by one person in spare time on a WordPress domain. I’m getting a little intimidated by the professional looks and frequent updates of some of the self hosted blogs. But being nominated is already a great honor.

    After publication of the shortlists the final winners will be announced in “het Paard van Troje” in The Hague, December 1th.

    Nice to know: Colleague Librarian and fellow blogger Edwin Mijnsbergen (http://twitter.com/zbdigitaal) of the Wonderful blog ZB Digitaal was previous year’s winner in the category Education (see his blogpost)

    All longlists can be viewed on http://www.dutchbloggies.nl/2009/?e=16

    A better overview (without the need for clicking) is presented at JeroenMirck (link), the blog of Jeroen Mirck, journalist and chairman of the jury.

    NRC-next blog (a blog of a Dutch newspaper) -nominated four times itself- also refers to the contest here.

    The Volkskrant mentions the Dutch Bloggies nominations here


    dutchbloggies2009-jury-totaal

    The deliberation of the jury. Originally there were 5000 nominations.

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    Spoetnik Symposium

    27 11 2008

    Yesterday the Spoetnik Symposium was held (see my previous announcement here).

    SPOETNIK was a 17 week course on NEW (web 2.0) internet communication methods for librarians. The main target group consisted of UBA (University Library of Amsterdam) librarians. In total, there were more than 160 course members, each having his own blog.

    The organizing UBA-spoetnik team, organized the Spoetnik symposium to learn from each other what has been done with the knowledge obtained a half after the course had finished.

    The program was as follows:

    14.00 Opening by Robin van Schijndel
    14.10 Since SPOETNIK – part1: Blogging after SPOETNIK by Jacqueline (alias Laika)
    14.25 Since SPOETNIK – part2: Colleagues about SPOETNIK by Alice Doek
    14.40 Group discussions
    15.30 Koffie- en theepauze
    15.45 Feedback from the discussion groups
    16.15 Since SPOETNIK – part 3: New applications by Pascal Braak
    16.30 Closure and drink

    spoetnikThe symposium started a few minutes later because Jacqueline was a bit late: she had to take off Laika’s astronaut suit (well kind of, she torn her new pantyhose and had to find a new one (that didn’t fit), she dubbelchecked whether she took her USB-stick with her and she forgot her glasses). It could have been worse, because it was just a few hours in advance that Jacqueline found out that the meeting was not in THE Doelenzaal at the Kloverniersburgwal but in the (also beautiful and old) Doelenzaal (zaal = room) in the UBA (main library of the University of Amsterdam). Of course, everyone else just knew this. That underlined the feeling that the Academical Medical Center and most other departments of the UBA are both physically and mentally apart, although still connected.

    The atmosphere was very relaxed. Before the speeches, there was a lot of rumor or as Alice said: it is like a reunion. And that ‘s how it felt! Finally I had the chance to meet my colleague bloggers in real life. I met Boekenvlindertje, Duijfje, Dyoke of Zygomorf (which I had always wrongly pronounced as Díe Joke, should be Dieuwke) and Turquoois, and I had long chat with Bert of “Een beetje adjunct” and finally with my blogmate George of Brughagedis, the one with whom I shared Google Docs, but never a drink, before. Both Bert and George have written a blogpost about this meeting (see here and here)

    Although George doesn’t want to be in the picture, he was mentioned in the introductory speech of Robin as one person that ‘meant a lot for the course’. That is certainly true. You need some active contributors to inspire the rest. Besides George was the first to create an OPML-feed of all blogs (together with Pascal) which made it a lot easier to keep up with all Spoetnik blogs.

    My talk was next. In 15 minutes I had to outline “Blogging after Spoetnik”. How did I continue when the course was finished? Here is my powerpoint presentation.

    The theme I choose was “Blogging is navel gazing?!”. I notice that many people (including myself in the pre-web 2.0 phase) consider blogging as something egocentric, just an outlet for one’s feelings and frustrations, or hobbies and thoughts. What I hoped to show is that web 2.0 is not just a set of web 2.0 tools, but it is a whole philosophy. It is the philosophy of gaining momentum when sharing. But to do this you have to be patient, you must have a story to tell (content) and than you have to find readers, else you will remain ‘lonely’. I recommended twitter as a very good source to build up a community, if you use it the right way (find people to share things with). Although I have to say that it is a lot easier for me, as a health 2.0 blogger to find a large global community than someone specialized in Dutch linguistics.
    Thus I feel committed to write an introduction on how to use Twitter effectively. Preferably in Dutch: at least 2 UBA colleagues spontaneously said they regret that I had changed to English.

    Alice told us the origin of Spoetnik and gave an overview of the opinions of many other well known Dutch librarians about the course. The comment of Wowter was missing however, possibly because he expected Alice to use a web 2.0 way of finding it (Feeds and Twitter). (You can read his -Dutch- comment here). Many other libraries will follow the example of Spoetnik and 23 Dingen, although in a shorter version.

    Pascal showed us that there were many new web 2.0 tools ( a few slides with last week’s additions), but according to Pascal none of them was really new, but all variations on a theme. He did whisper that he had a new twitter-firefox api for me, so I hope he will provide me with further details.

    In between we discussed in groups what we had learned from the course, what we liked and didn’t like about different tools. Using Google Docs, we brainstormed about how we could implement web 2.0 tools in our library, UBA-wide. A very interesting part of the program, this exchange of thoughts. Robin gave a quick overview of the ideas, but shortly all input will be available at the Spoetnik-website together with the presentations.

    The Spoetnik course has been a success, this meeting was a success and hopefully the implementation will also be a success. As Bert said: step by step. Rome wasn’t build in a day. Besides most UBA people are now involved in the implementation of a new program: Aleph. This has to be handled first.





    Co-comment faster than light?

    1 10 2008

    Just a very short note on something I stumbled upon in co-comment.

    As I wrote previousy (in Dutch) I use co-comment to keep track of my comments, comments to interesting items and comments to posts of my favorites.

    Today I got a red envelope in my Firefox toolbar notifying me there was a new comment.

    Looking at co-comment I saw my comment of 43 min ago at PIMM, Partial Immortalization. However when I took a look at his site the comment was still awaiting moderation.

    I noticed this before when some-one else (Wowter) posted a comment at my site: that comment already showed up at my co-comment before I even read it, let alone approved it!

    This is kind of odd: what is moderation worth if the the comment is already made public elsewhere?

    Is this one of the reasons that there are so many double or triple entries of the same comment in Co-comment, one after placing the comment, the copies after approval or editing??

    What about spam-comments?





    Blog Spam and Spam Blogs (2)

    14 09 2008

    In a previous post I gave two examples of Health Blogs that are really pills-selling-sites. In this post I will show two examples of real Spam Blogs.

    Spam blogs or splogs are usely fake weblogs where content is often either inauthentic text or merely stolen (scraped) from other websites. All spam artificially increases the site’s search engine ranking, increasing the number of potential visitors.

    Database-management blog: no longer exists

    Original post at this blog above and comment below.

    One Spam blog that I wanted to show you, is no longer available. It is called Database Management.

    Technorati-profile (authority=51)

    This blog had no own content, but scraped it from blogposts having the (WordPress?) tag “database”. Although the post does link to the original site, it doesn’t refer to the author’s proper name, but some automatically generated fake name. For instance Shamisos instead of Laikaspoetnik (see Fig).

    When I tried to place a comment on their site I had to login into the WordPress-account (although I was already logged in into mine). That’s when I began to really distrust it.

    It’s technorati profile still exists (see Fig.). It is clear that the blog has rapidly increased it’s “authority” in the few months it existed. From zero to 51.
    Many blogs linking to this blog are also gone or peculiar. Other blogs might have just linked to the spam blog because they assumed that this was the original post, not the copy. Presumably by having so much content on ‘database management’ the splog gets more traffic (of the preferred kind). This might be an example of a splog that backlinks to a portfolio of affiliate websites, to artificially inflate paid ad impressions from visitors, and/or as a link outlet to get new sites indexed (Wikipedia).

    The second example of a spamblog is a very interesting site for Medical Librarians: Generic Pub, with the webadress: http://genericpubmed.com/pub/ with posts about PubMed. Really high quality information. Why? Because the posts derive from elsewhere. All of my posts about PubMed are in there, as are those of my colleagues, and perhaps your posts as well. There is no clue as to where the post really came from. You don’t get any pingbacks, unless the (original) post linked to you. That’s how I found out. As with the other spamblogs you cannot comment. Comments are always closed.

    one of my posts on Generic Pub

    The blogroll of Generic Pub

    Blogroll of Generic Pub

    Generic PubMed homepage

    Generic PubMed homepage

    The site does not hide its real intentions. To the left is a huge pill “cialis” and the blogroll consists of only pills, as well as PubMed tag feeds of Technorati and WordPress.

    If you strip of the web adress to: http://genericpubmed.com you arive at the homepage, which is unmistakingly a pharmaceutical e-commerce website. Why is this done? Perhaps the sites looks more reliable whith all those PubMed posts or perhaps the site might be easier to find.

    One way or another, these two sites steal posts from other sites. Tags used by Technorati or by WordPress, that can be easily transformed into a feed make it very easy for these spambloggers to automatically import blogposts with a certain tag.
    By the way, did you find your post in there?

    Previous post, see here.

    ————————————————————————–

    Database-management blog: no longer exists

    In een eerder post heb ik 2 voorbeelden gegeven van blogs die eigenlijk tot doel hebben pillen te verkopen.

    Nu 2 voorbeelden van echte Spam Blogs.

    Volgens Wikipedia: Spam blogs of splogs zijn doorgaans nep-weblogs, waarvan de inhoud vaak min of meer gestolen wordt (“scraped”) van andere websites. Dit verhoogt de ranking door zoekmachines en zorgt ervoor dat het aantal bezoekers toeneemt.

    Een Spam blog dat ik jullie wilde laten zien, is niet langer beschikbaar, tw. Database Management.

    Dit blog had alle inhoud gepikt van posts met de (WordPress?) tag “database”. Er wordt wel gelinkt naar de originele site, maar de naam van de auteur wordt vervangen door een of andere automatisch gegenereerde naam, bijv. Shamisos in plaats van Laikaspoetnik (see Fig in engelstalig gedeelte).

    Toen ik een commentaar wilde plaatsen op deze site, werd ik gedwongen in te loggen in WordPress, terwijl ik nota bene al ingelogd was. Vanaf dat moment vertrouwde ik het echt niet meer.

    Het technorati profiel van deze site bestaat nog steeds (zie fig in engelstalig gedeelte). Het blog is in enkele maanden tijd van 0,0 tot 51 gestegen in “authoriteit”.
    Veel blogs die naar dit blog linken zijn ook opgeheven of zijn verdacht. Andere blogs hebben misschien slechts per ongeluk naar deze splog gelinked, omdat men dacht met de originele post van doen te hebben, niet de kopie. Waarschijnlijk krijgt de splog zo meer verkeer van mensen die juist in database management geinteresseerd zijn. Mogelijk is dit een splog die teruglinkt naar een aantal klonen en vice versa. (Wikipedia).

    Het 2e voorbeeld van een splog is een erg interessante site voor medisch informatiespecialisten, nl Generic Pub met het webadres: genericpubmed.com/pub. Allemaal kwalitatief zeer goede posts over PubMed. Maar ze zijn wel gejat. Al mijn berichten met de tag PubMed zijn er te vinden, evenals die van mijn collega’s en misschien uw berichten ook wel.
    Nergens is de ware herkomst van de berichten te herleiden. De echte auteurs krijgen normaal geen pingback, alleen als de oorspronkelijke post een link naar hen bevat. Zo kwam ik er eigenlijk achter. Evenals de andere splogs, kun je geen commentaar plaatsen.

    De website verhult zijn werkelijke bedoelingen niet. Links staat een reuzachtige pil “cialis” en de blogroll bevat alleen namen van pillen alsmede de feeds van de PubMed tags van Technorati en WordPress.
    Als je het webadres stript tot: genericpubmed.com kom je op de homepage, onmiskenbaar een e-commerce site. Waarom verschuilt men zich achter zo’n blog? Lijkt de site er betrouwbaarder door of vinden potentiele klanten de site makkelijker?

    Hoe dan ook deze 2 sites stelen van andere websites. Een feed nemen op Technorati- of WordPress-tags is een eitje, en dit maakt het deze spambloggers erg makkelijk om automatisch blogposts met een bepaalde tag te importeren.
    Tussen 2 haakjes, heeft u uw post al getraceerd?

    Vorig bericht in deze serie, zie hier.








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