Grand Rounds Vol 8 nr 5: Data, Information & Communication

26 10 2011

Welcome to the Grand Rounds, the weekly summary of the best health blog posts on the Internet. I am pleased to host the Grand Rounds for the second time. The first time, 2 years ago, was theme-less, but during the round we took a trip around the library. Because, for those who don’t know me, after years of biomedical research I became a medical librarian. This also explains my choice for the current theme:


The theme is meant to be broad. According to Wikipedia:

Information in its most restricted technical sense is a message (utterance or expression) or collection of messages that consists of an ordered sequence of symbols, or it is the meaning that can be interpreted from such a message or collection of messages. Information can be recorded or transmitted (…) as signs, or conveyed as signals by waves. Information is any kind of event that affects the state of a dynamic system. (…) Moreover, the concept of information is closely related to notions of … communication.. dataknowledge, meaning, .. perception. .. and especially entropy.

I am pleased that there were plenty submissions on the topic. I love the creative way the bloggers used the theme “information”. In line with the theme the information will be brought to you according to the Rule of Entropy, seemingly chaotic. Still all information is meaningful and often a pleasure to read. Please Enjoy!


From: IBN-live (India): Book News: “Kama Sutra is about sexual & social relations”

IMAGES are a great way to tell information, especially if you don’t understand the language. The picture above is from the Kama Sutra, an ancient Indian Hindu work on human sexual behavior in Sanskrit literature. Did you know the original Kama Sutra is not all about sex and does not have any pictures? Only words, no graphic. And sadly, as a text, it isn’t widely read.

Yes, we start our trip where it ended last week, in INDIA

Our host of last week, Sumer Sethi of Sumer’s Radiology Site, shows very clear (MRI)-images of partially recanalized internal jugular vein thrombosis, in a patient with MS, possibly supporting the theory that MS is a result of chronic venous insufficiency. As readers of this blog know Laika is not impressed by n=1 data, although it may be a good starting point. However, Sumer underpins this link with a paper in J Neurol Neurosurg Psychiatry 2009. Still, a quick look at the citing papers shows many new studies don’t confirm the association of MS with cerebrospinal venous insufficiency…

Another great radiologist, also from India, isVijay Sadasivam (@scanman). No recent posts, but at Scanman’s Casebook you will find an archive of interesting radiological cases, in the form of case reports.

The quite tech savvy surgeon Dr. Dheeraj (aka Techknowdoc) explores the alternatives to the invasive and uncomfortable colonoscopy procedure at Techknowdoc’s Surgical Adventures! This post is a short illustrated guide, visualizing the differences between regular colonoscopy, capsule endoscopy and Virtual Colonoscopy. It is not hard to imagine which approach people would prefer.

Pranab (aka Skepticdoctor) makes an urgent appeal to fellow Indians to help Amit Gupta and other Indian people to get a bone marrow transplant when they need one. Amit has Acute Leukemia, but South Asians are very poorly represented in bone marrow registries, so his odds of getting a match off the registries in the US are slim. The chances are even worse for the less well-off Indians. Read at Scepticemia how you can help. For Amit, for India, for you, or worse, someone you love more than yourself….

Dr. Jen Gunter ridicules Cosmo’s to-go version of the Kama Sutra in a short series! For the “sex positions of the days” are just an offensive alliteration and woeful ignorance of female anatomy… Looking up medical information is the 3rd most common on-line activity. While there are good sites with great information that can help people be empowered about their health, there are also tons of terrible sites marred by bias and rife with the stench of snake oil. In an other post at Dr. Jen Gunter (wielding the lasso of truth) Jen reveals 10 red flags that will help you separate the wisdom from the woo.


Yes, a picture is worth a thousand words. And this is also true for other audiovisual arts. 

Yet, some Medical Bloggers master the art of storytelling, they convey of events in words, images and sounds. And here, words have the same powerful strength. Often these posts of these storytellers are about communication and they know how to communicate that.

One of the master storytellers is Bongi, a general surgeon from South Africa. He submitted the post die taal (that language), which is clearly about communication but in a language (“Afrikaans”), that I can understand, but many of you don’t. Therefore I choose another post at Other Things Amanzi, which is also about communication: “It’s all in the detail”

Another great storyteller, and the winner of the best literary medical blog category of Medgadget contest in 2009 and 2010 is StorytellERdoc. In the beautiful post The Reminder – EKG #6, he tells us how the 6th abnormal EKG in a presentation of one of the residents, brought back memories to the technician who made that EKG: “There is something more important about this EKG than it’s tracing, I began” ….

Robbo (Andrew Roberts) is a pharmacist from one of the most remote parts of Australia working full time in Aboriginal Health. His blog BitingTheDust often covers topics like aboriginal art and pharmacy. There is also a category “information-resources”. His latest post in this category explains how condoms are made and how they work. A video goes with it.

Øystein of  The Sterile Eye (Life, death and surgery through a lens) uses photos throughout his blog. His latest post is about a brochure “LEICA – Fotografie in der Medizin” (Photography in Medicine) that was published by Leitz in 1961.

Another blogger, unique in its kind, “raps” his stories. Yes I’m talking about Zubin, better known as ZDoggMD. Watch how he and his mates colleagues rap “Doctors Today!” where he “informs” folks of what it’s like to actually practice primary care medicine on the front lines. Want to know more about this medical rapper, then listen to this radio interview with a med-student run radio (RadioRounds). It’s about using video to “inform” patients and healthcare providers about health-related issues in a humorous way.

Movies are also a good way to “tell a story” and pass information. Ramona Bates reviews the Lifetime’s Movie “Five” at her blog Suture for a Living. Five is an anthology of five short very emotional (but not sentimental) films exploring the impact of breast cancer on people’s lives.

We have had pictures, music, videos and movies as data carriers. But here is a post that is based on the good old book. Dr. Deborah Serani (who has a blog of her own: Dr. Deb: Psychological Perspectives) submits a review from PsychCentral about her new book “Living with Depression.” My first intuitive response: how can a psychologist or psychoanalyst write about “living with“. But it seems that Deborah Serani has faced a lifelong struggle with depression herself. This memoir/self help book seems a great resource for anyone in the health field looking for information about mood disorders, treatments and recommendations. The review makes me want to read this book.


What about social media as a tool for medical communication and a source of information?

At Diabetes Mine Allison B. and Amy Tenderich review numerous new mobile apps for managing diabetes. Their reviews “Diabetes? There’s An App For That” and “Glooko: iPhone Diabetes Logging Made Super-Easy” may help to choose diabetes patients among the bevvy of diabetes apps.

Twitter is seen as offering more noise than signal, but there’s valid medical data that can be uncovered. Ryan DuBosar at the ACP internist blog highlights how a researcher uses Twitter to track attitudes about vaccination and how they correlate with vaccination rates. The study adds to a growing body of evidence that social networking can be used to track diseases and other natural disasters that affect public health.

Hot from the press, I can’t resist to include a post from the web 2.0 pioneer Dr. Ves at CasesBlog. Ves Dimov usually writes many short posts, but today he explains Social media in Medicine in depth and guides you “How to be a Twitter superstar and help your patients and your practice”. According to his interesting concept two Cycles, the cycle of Patient Education and the Cycle of Online Information and Physician Education, work together as two interlocking cogwheels.

Mayo Clinic started using social media for communication with patients well before all the recent hype and it organized tweetcamps back in 2009. David Harlow made the pilgrimage to Rochester, MN and spoke at the Mayo Clinic Center for Social Media’s Health Care Social Media Summit last week. According to David “A ton of information was presented, through traditional channels and through some multimedia demos as well”. He shares conference highlights in this post at HealthBlawg, like “It is impossible to transplant a successful program from one location to another without taking into account myriad local conditions”. And “health care providers will have to do more with less”. Therefore e-Patient Dave suggests in his closing keynote to “Let Patients Help”.

Nicholas Fogelson of Academic OB/GYN notes that an operating room without incentives is very expensive. He proposes to install a cheap digital toteboard in every operating room in the USA, that would read how many dollars have been spent on that case at that moment. The idea is that surgeons who know exactly what they are spending, would compete to spend less wherever they could.

According to Bryan Vartabedian the social and technological innovations cause doctors to slowly change from analog physicians to digital physicians. He mentions 6 differences between these doctors. The first is that the information consumption of the digital physician is web-based, while the analog doctor consumes information through paper books and journals, often saying curious things like, “I like the smell of paper” or “I’ve gotta be able to hold it.” By the way, Bryan’s blog 33 Charts is all about social media and medicine.

Blogging doctors are digital doctors per definition, but that doesn’t mean they don’t want to discuss things and see each other in real life. Dr. Val of Better Health and cofounder of this Grand Rounds announces a blog conference in Los Angeles, the Blog World Expo, on November 4th, 2011. Her talk is about “physicians engaging online in social health”, but she is actually hoping that many members of the medical blogging community will be out there IRL! At her blog you can get discount tickets.

The online presence of doctors at social media places can have serious drawbacks. The post of Anne Marie Cunningham about derogatory and cynical humour as displayed by medical personnel at Twitter and Facebook has made it to the Daily Telegraph, other UK newspaper, and to my blog…. This post at Wishful thinking in medical education is a must read for healthcare providers embracing social media.

Many physicians have an online presence, but do they really use social media for decision making, wonders Chris Nickson. From his post and the ensuing reactions at Life in the Fast Lane it appears that tools like Twitter and the comments sections on blogs enable a constant, ongoing dialogue with emergency physicians and critical care experts around the world regarding puzzling clinical issues. Rarely, however, there is a direct ‘tweet’ for clinical help. Rather Twitter contributes to the serendipitously finding of relevant and significant information.

Perhaps direct clinical questions are not asked because Twitter (and Facebook to some extent) are open social media. Bertalan Mesko of ScienceRoll mentions that some French doctors actually perform case presentations on Google+, taking advantage of the very simple privacy settings of Google+. They upload information about the case, discuss it with other peers and get to a final diagnosis.

E-Patient Dave announced a seven hour event about information transfer during transitions of care. This event was webcasted, tweeted and discussed on Google+. (also see Brian Ahier’s post about it on Government Health IT). Dave gives some examples that highlight that without reliable information transition, the care transition can become dangerous. Yes, good IT can help.


We now arrive at a clinical librarian topic, medical information via databases, journals and the role of EBM.

The first post bridges this and the previous topic. Jon Brassey is co-founder of  the TRIP-database, a clinical search tool designed to rapidly identify the highest quality clinical evidence for clinical practice. At his blog Liberating the Literature he expresses his view that search is -at best- a partial solution. He is passionate about answering clinician’s questions and would rather see an answer machine than a search engine. Jon is very tempted to allow users to upload their own Q&As, thereby creating an open repository of clinical Q&As. I am more skeptical, because this kind of EBM sharing might be at the expense of the quality of evidence.

What do you think? Can social media and EBM reinforce each other or not? Please tweet your ideas to Anabel Bentley (@doctorblogs at Twitter) who is giving a talk at Evidence 2011 (#ev2011) tomorrow on social media & EBM and asks for your input. You might also want to read my older post about The Web 2.0-EBM Medicine split.

Dean Giustini reviews PubMed Health at The Search Principle Blog. Dean describes PubMed Health as follows. It is as a consumer version of PubMed – a metasearch tool that gathers evidence from Cochrane Collaboration, Nice and other EBM sources to see clinical studies and “what works” in human health. One major benefit of PubMed Health is that any search performed on PubMed Health also runs in PubMed.” Sounds like worth trying.

The invitation to join the editorial board of a relatively new online, open access journal, without receiving any compensation triggered Skeptic Scalpel to ponder about the tangible benefits of open access publishers (coined as “predatory open access” by a commenter) and about how many journals are really needed? Who has the time or interest to read 25 journals on a relatively specialized topic? And what about the quality of the articles in all these journals?

Indeed as The Krafty Librarian explains  the “good guys” (open access) are making just as much profit as the “bad guys.”  They both are for profit. Open Access is not the panacea that many think it is.

Tasha Stanton of Body in Mind asks the intriguing question what to do if systematic reviews on the same topic don’t all give us the same conclusions, whereas you would expect they would collate the same evidence. Tasha finds this disconcerting as for some conditions this could take ages before we could ‘trust’ the evidence. In the example discussed here an Umbrella review was helpful in assessing the evidence. Also the quality of systematic reviews is improving.


From: as seen at Science Based Medicine

Many people think screening is always a good thing and will prevent or cure a disease. But not every test is a good test and often there are both harms and benefits. It is difficult for patients to understand the true value of tests. 

Margaret Polaneczky, MD was touched by a beautiful essay in the NY Times written by a mother of a child born with Tay Sachs disease. While the mother in her loved the essay, the doctor in her cringed, because a single paragraph about the mother’s experience with prenatal screening had the potential to misinform and even frighten readers. Margaret writes a bit of a primer on Tay Sachs screening at the Blog That Ate Manhattan, mainly to set realistic expectations about what prenatal testing can and cannot accomplish.

David Williams at the Health Business Blog reasons that the US Preventive Services Task Force (USPTF) recommendations against routine use of the PSA blood test in healthy men should not have been delayed because of the the firestorm of controversy created by the 2009 screening mammography guidelines… Because uh-oh well, PSA testing is different (and David is right)…  It’s all about what kind of info we can expect from screening and where it leads us.

This month is breast cancer awareness month, meant to highlight issues of breast cancer and try to call attention to new discoveries about breast cancer. Personally I have mixed feelings about the pink ribbon exploitation of this month”, but David Gorky at Science Based Medicine points at a worse misuse: quacks seize the opportunity to spread their message against science-based modalities for the detection and treatment of breast cancer and to promote their “alternative” methods. (see Fig. above).


Dr Shock MD PhD reviews a Dutch trial that shows that availability bias contributes to diagnostic errors made by physicians. Availability bias means that a disease comes more easily to the mind of a doctor who diagnoses this disease more often. This study also suggests that analytical or reflective reasoning may help to counteract this bias.

In an intriguing post counseling psychologist Will Meek, PhD covers some of the recent research on two information processing systems as identified by Daniel Kahneman: Intuition and Reasoning. A simple experiment confirms (in my case) that we use intuition for most of the day, and occasionally use reasoning to answer more complex problems. Some people may also frame this as “head vs heart”. Both systems have their pros and cons and both are needed to make good decisions. Otherwise common problems can arise.

David Bradley of ScienceBase discusses recent research by Gallant and colleagues who were able to reconstruct a video image presented to a subject in a functional MRI machine. David dreams of uploading our dreams to Youtube and of developing a mind-machine interface to allow people with severe disabilities to communicate their thoughts and control a computer or equipment. But David is more of a scientist than a dreamer and he interviews Gallant to find out more about the validity of the technique.

Computational Biologist Walter Jessen highlights “National Biomedical Research Day” at Highlight HEALTH. “National Biomedical Research Day” was proclaimed by Bill Clinton in 1993 on the 160th anniversary of Nobel’s birth. This day celebrates the central role of biomedical research  in improving human health and longevity.

This image was paired with the story: Insurers Shun Those Taking Certain Meds

Philip Hickey at Behaviorism and Mental Health discusses homosexuality. Philip: “homosexuality is a complex phenomenon which defies simplistic explanations. Unfortunately in this field valid information and communication often take a back seat to bigotry and prejudice.”

In his post “Want go Dutch…or German…or French?” at HUB’s LIST of medical fun facts Herbert Mathewson, MD argues that “Before trying to copy other nation’s health care systems we should probably actually learn about them.” The outcomes of the Dutch switch from a system of mandatory social insurance administered by nonprofit sick funds to mandatory basic insurance that citizens had to buy from private insurance companies (“managed competition”) are appalling! I can imagine that the idea that the Dutch reforms provide a successful model for U.S. Medicare seems bizarre. (Herbert’s post is based on a NEJM article “Sobering Lessons from the Netherlands”).

Henry Stern of InsureBlog notes that as far as RomneyCare© (Massachusetts health care reform) is concerned it’s not so much lack of information per se that’s the problem. It’s information that’s wrong that gets you in trouble.

Robert Centor of Medrants simply submitted one sentence:
“I am a physician, not a provider, and Groopman agrees. –″
This distinction between physicians and providers is similar to the distinction between consumers and patients, and I agree.

Rich Fogoros (DrRich) of The Covert Rationing Blog discusses recent article in the New York Times about whether nurses with a doctorate degree ought to be addressed as “doctor.” Most doctors think calling a nurse “doctor” is not appropriate and confusing for patients.
A medical student running the blog The Reflex Hammer agrees: medical students with a doctoral degree don’t introduce themselves as “Doctor” to a patient either, don’t they?
Dr Rich, an old hand, thinks otherwise. While it is indeed comforting that doctors should be so concerned about patients knowing everything they’re supposed to know, the fact (according to dr. Rich) is that the doctor-nurse controversy is a distraction.

Note: this is a librarian!!

And of course you always hope that you find the information you need or that you can inform people the right way.

Medaholic wonders whether you still would be a medical doctor if you knew that it didn’t pay as much? What sorts of information would help you determine whether this is a career worth pursuing?

The post, by Chris Langston, at the John A. Hartford Foundation blog, Health AGEnda details how interested health professionals can get information about how to apply for a new fellowship with the Center for Medicare & Medicaid Innovations office, and urges health professionals interested in improving health care for older adults to apply.

Hospital antimicrobial stewardship programs are prompting more appropriate prescribing of antibiotics, leading to improved patient care, less microbial resistance and lower costs, three studies show. The trick is how to convey this information so hospitals will implement these programs, as only one-third of U.S. facilities currently do. Read more at ACP Hospitalist, in the second contribution of Ryan DuBosar to this round.

We all know that adherence to prescriptions is a problem. But will the Star Ratings system increase adherence? The big question, according to Georg van Antwerp, author of Enabling Healthy Decisionsis whether consumers care about Star Ratings or just focus on lowest price point and access to pharmacies or specific medications.

Louise of the Colorado Health Insurer Insider summarizes her submission quite aptly: “Our submission is about the new Health Insurance Exchanges that will be starting here in the US soon. This post discusses how consumers will get INFORMATION about the health plans through the exchanges. Currently, consumers get their information through health insurance brokers or directly through the insurance carrier. If there are people to answer questions for consumers with the exchanges, how will the plans be more or less expensive”

The post that Reflex Hammer submitted (the one above was just picked by me) concerns informing young children about vegetables. A few weeks ago he and a classmate were invited to give a presentation to 1st graders at an inner-city school. Wishing to combat obesity, they developed a lesson plan about vegetables. They were heartened by how much the adorable kids already knew about vegetables and how enthusiastic they became about eating their greens. An adorable initiative and a great post to end this Grand Rounds, since it illustrates the importance of doctors who enjoy to take their time to inform people.

I just want to mention one other post, by Mike Cadogan at Life at the fast Lane. Mike doesn’t blog a lot lately, because he is preparing presentations for an important Emergency Medicine meeting. But Mike does share some of this journey with us in The 11 Phases Of Grief  Presentation Preparation. Reading these 11 stages, the similarities between writing a lecture and writing for Grand Rounds struck me. Except that beer had to be replaced by wine….

Mike is in stage 7-9, I am in stage 10-11. Stage 11 is Evaluation: What will I do different next time? First, I won’t go for two blog carnivals at the same time, I won’t plan a Grand Round when I’m away for the weekend* (I just need a lot of time) and I should refrain from adding posts that weren’t even submitted….

Will you remind me next time?

I hope that you enjoyed this Grand Rounds and that it wasn’t too much information. I enjoyed reading and compiling all our posts!

Related articles

Twitter as a modern tam-tam

26 07 2008

I´ve just discovered Twitter, a free social networking/microblogging service. As described in a previous post I prefer Twitter to Hyves: it’s globally oriented, more interactive and there are more collegues out there.

Via Twitter you can share ideas and thoughts with people with the same kind of interest (followers/-ing). People tell what they’re doing, give links to interesting information. Sometimes Twitter serves like an Q&A. It is only difficult to condense the message to 140 characters -and still be understood. Here is an example:

Laika (Jacqueline) laikas Does anyone know the code(s) in PubMed for : ‘has been indexed’ and ‘has not been indexed’. There are so many papers unindexed >1 yr old.

Nikki D.eagledawg @laikas Not all citations will have MeSH [PubMed – indexed for MEDLINE], details on why (scope,author manuscripts) at

Laika (Jacqueline)laikas @eagledawg Thnx. PubMedCentral® manuscripts may be the main culprit in this set.

Nikki D.eagledawg @laikas yep that will do it too! Hard to explain anything about NLM resources in only 140 characters 😉

Apart from being a social platform, Twitter can also function as a news breaking platform. In case of the China earthquakes, for instance, Twitter brought faster coverage than traditional media. (i.e. see this blog about technology from BBC News)

A Dutch example: the news that Joran van der Sloot (possibly involved in Natalee Holloway’s disappearance) threw a glass of red wine in the face of private detective Peter R. de Vries after a TV broadcast first appeared on Twitter. Corrie Gerritsma saw it all happen in the studio, twittered it, which was picked up by Fransisco van Jole, a journalist, specialized in Internet coverage (see his post here). While the official media were asleep, Francisco made it public on Twitter. Later a video showing the incident appeared on You Tube. I learned these facts from yet another twit: dutchcowboys. Thus Twitter is really working as a tam-tam here. Dutchcowboys notes that although the group twitterati is small they’re moving closer and closer to the fire.

Quite coincidentally I picked up two very different news stories simultaneously through Twitter yesterday morning while at work.

One was about the Bomb blasts in Bangalore, brought to us via Twitter by @mukund and @narain (via @pfanderson). They covered in detail what happened, before the official news releases.

Mukund twittered:

6 minutes ago: Bomb Blasts in Bangalore – 4 locations, details to follow #Bloreblast
4 minutes ago: Blasts at: Sirjapur Road, Nayandhalli, Madiwala , Adugodi, Rajaram and Mohan Rai Circle
1 minute ago: Bangalore blasts – telecom connectivity is broken so trying to call bangalore wont work

And finally blogged about it (see post here). The usefulness of Twitter to follow the events was stressed by Daniel Bennett at his post: using Twitter to follow the bangalore bomb blasts (click here). Daniel is a PhD student researching the impact of blogging and new media on the BBC’s coverage of war and terrorism.

twitter news

Although the news is not verified and authorized, it is fast, and that may be important, especially for local news (also to reassure people: ‘no death’). Other examples and thoughts about Twitter’s relevance as a news source see the comments to the post on ‘BBC news technology’ I referred to before.

The other event I was alerted to at the very same moment was local news from the ‘University of Leicester (UoL) Library (UK), where the falling down of a part of the heavy wooden ceiling in the new library caused a little disaster (luckily without any casualties), resulting in a temporary closing. Interestingly, Leicester Twitter-users were well aware of the event before it was common knowledge, and colleagues were informing each other via Twitter. The question then asked, both at the blog of the Leicester Library and on 2 video’s by @AJCann (one below): how should we respond to such unofficial events (possibly much worse events at a crowded campus)? And which role social media have to play in such a context?

Vodpod videos no longer available.
more about “Vodpod Firefox Extension for WordPress”, posted with vodpod

In a second video (made that same day) AJCann stressed that:

“everything with a service function should have a service dashboard especially in case of services outages, like and have.
Where is your university organization service dashboard? How does your organization inform about the status of your institution, library, blog, lecture, module, whatever?”
(freely cited)

On his video he referred to the url the announcement on “Movius Interactive Corporation Announces Rapid Alert Application” on O’Reilly Radar.

Certainly, also a service like PubMed should be in dashboard to notify their customers of outages. As Michelle Kraft recently ranted at her blog (see her post here):

Apparently PubMed’s servers went down at 1:00am that morning… As usual the emails started coming in from Medlib-l regarding PubMed. Librarians from different areas of the United States asking about the health status of PubMed as they too noticed it doing funky things. There was a brief discussion and some questions raised on Twitter Medlibs about what to do if PubMed goes down and you don’t have access to Ovid. What do you do, where do you send patrons? Would third party tools work?

Thus again the unofficial tam-tam did its job, but wouldn’t it be far better if PubMed itself “put an obvious note on the site when there is an outage or if there are problems”?

Indeed Web 2.0 communication is an undeveloped area. There are plenty possibilities, not only for individuals, but also for libraries, hospitals, universities and organizations.
But how to convince the majority of people that think those tools/sites are just trendy?!

Note added ‘in proof’: while I was working on this post, @mukund was twittering about new blasts in Ahmedabad.


NL flag NL vlag

Ik ken de gratis netwerk/microblogging dienst Twitter eigenlijk nog maar kort, maar ben er nu al enthousiast over. Zoals ik eerder schreef verkies ik Twitter boven zo’n site als Hyves, dat meer een profielensite is, minder interactief èn Nederlandstalig. Met Twitter bereik je veel meer mensen, ook (en in mijn geval vooral) veel collega’s.

Via Twitter kun je ideeen en gedachten met geestverwanten (followers/-ing) delen. Mensen vertellen wat ze aan het doen zijn, of geven links naar interessante informatie. Soms is Twitter net een vraagbaak (Q&A). Alleen is het soms een hele kunst om je boodschap helder over te brengen in 140 tekens, zoals wel blijkt uit de volgende, overigens zeer nuttige, conversatie:

Laika (Jacqueline) laikas Does anyone know the code(s) in PubMed for : ‘has been indexed’ and ‘has not been indexed’. There are so many papers unindexed >1 yr old.

Nikki D.eagledawg @laikas Not all citations will have MeSH [PubMed – indexed for MEDLINE], details on why (scope,author manuscripts) at

Laika (Jacqueline)laikas @eagledawg Thnx. PubMedCentral® manuscripts may be the main culprit in this set.

Nikki D.eagledawg @laikas yep that will do it too! Hard to explain anything about NLM resources in only 140 characters 😉

Twitter is echter niet alleen een sociaal medium, maar zorgde meerdere malen voor een primeur, zoals bijvoorbeeld over de aardbevingen in China. Twitter bracht het nieuws sneller dan de traditionele media (zie bijvoorbeeld dit blog over technologie van BBC News)

Om dichter bij huis te blijven: het ‘nieuws’ dat Joran van der Sloot (die mogelijk betrokken is bij de verdwijning van Natalee Holloway) na een tv-uitzending een glas rode wijn in het gezicht van Peter R. de Vries had gegooid, werd het eerst bekendgemaakt via Twitter. Corrie Gerritsma zag het incident, plaatste een bericht op Twitter, dat opgepakt werd door de journalist Fransisco van Jole (zie bericht). Terwijl de Telegraaf ‘sliep’, bracht Francisco deze primeur naar buiten via Twitter en later via zijn blog. Daarna verscheen er ook nog een You-tube video van het hele gebeuren. Op mijn beurt las ik dit alles weer op een twit van de dutchcowboys. Dus Twitter werkt soms echt als een tam-tam. Dutchcowboys merkt ook op:

“Twitter lijkt ondanks de nog relatief kleine groep van gebruikers steeds dichter op de actualiteit te kruipen“.

Heel toevallig kwamen gisteren via Twitter 2 heel verschillende nieuwsberichten voorbij.

Een ging over bomaanslagen in Bangalore, via de Twitterati @mukund and @narain wereldkundig gemaakt (getipt door @pfanderson). Vòòrdat de officiele kanalen het raporteerden.

Minuut na minuut twitterde Mukund:

Bomb Blasts in Bangalore – 4 locations, details to follow #Bloreblast
Blasts at: Sirjapur Road, Nayandhalli, Madiwala , Adugodi, Rajaram and Mohan Rai Circle
Bangalore blasts – telecom connectivity is broken so trying to call bangalore wont work

Vervolgens vond hij ook nog tijd om erover te bloggen (zie hier). Het belang van Twitter in dit opzicht werd uit de doeken gedaan door Daniel Bennett: using Twitter to follow the bangalore bomb blasts (zie hier). Als promovendus onderzoekt Daniel de effecten van web 2.0 media op de oorlogsverslaggeving door de BBC.

Hoewel niet officieel en niet geverifieerd, is het nieuws er wel heel snel. Met name bij locaal nieuws kan dat van belang zijn, niet alleen om mensen te waarschuwen, maar ook om ze gerust te stellen (‘geen doden‘). Zie voor enkele andere voorbeelden van het belang van Twitter als nieuwsbron, de commentaren op het BBC news technologie-blogbericht.

Vrijwel tegelijkertijd speelde zich een klein drama in de ‘University of Leicester (UoL)’ Bibliotheek af: een deel van het zware plafond van het net nieuwe gebouw was naar beneden gevallen. Gelukkig was dit vòòr openingstijd gebeurd en waren er geen slachtoffers, maar de bibliotheek werd wel tot nader order gesloten. Werknemers met een twitter-account hoorden het nieuws het eerst. Continu stelden ze elkaar op de hoogte via Twitter, ook toen er rond het middaguur weer groen licht gegeven werd.
De twitteraar @AJCann stelde zich toen de vraag hoe we op dergelijke onofficiele berichten horen te reageren en welke rol de sociale media in deze context moeten spelen. Zie de discussie op het blog van de U0L Bibliotheek. Ook maakte hij diezelfde dag nog 2 video’s, waaronder bovenstaande video.

In een 2e video benadrukte AJCann:

“everything with a service function should have a service dashboard like and have, especially in case of services outages,
Where is your university organization service dashboard? How does your organization inform about the status of your institution, library, blog, lecture, module, whatever?”
(vrij ‘vertaald’)’

Op de video is steeds de url in beeld een verwijzing naar een bericht op O’Reilly Radar over de noodzaak van een snel waarschuwingssysteem.

Zo’n waarschuwingsysteem zou ook een dienst als PubMed niet misstaan om de gebruikers te waarschuwen als ze weer eens ‘down’ zijn, of hun servers overbelast. Ik moest hieraan denken, omdat Michelle Kraft het kortgeleden hierover had (zie hier voor haar blogbericht):

Apparently PubMed’s servers went down at 1:00am that morning… As usual the emails started coming in from Medlib-l regarding PubMed. Librarians from different areas of the United States asking about the health status of PubMed as they too noticed it doing funky things. There was a brief discussion and some questions raised on Twitter Medlibs about what to do if PubMed goes down and you don’t have access to Ovid. What do you do, where do you send patrons? Would third party tools work?

Dus wederom is het zo dat de onofficiele tamtam zijn werk deed (voor diegenen die het volgden), maar het zou toch veel beter zijn als PubMed problemen zelf officieel aankondigde.

Web 2.0 communication is een nog onontgonnen gebied. Het biedt heel veel mogelijkheden, niet alleen voor individuen, maar ook voor bibliotheken, universiteiten, ziekenhuizen, organisaties.
Maar dan is het wel nodig dat de grote meerderheid die denkt dat het allemaal maar niets is of veel te trendy over de streep getrokken wordt… net als ik, een paar maanden geleden.