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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    PeRSSonalized Medicine – and its alternatives

    27 02 2009

    perssonalized_medicineA few posts back I just discussed that Personalized Genetics has not fulfilled its promise yet. But what about PeRSSonalized Medicine, just launched by Bertalan Mesko?

    Bertalan Meskó is a medical student from Hungary, who runs the award-winning medical blog Scienceroll. According to the web 2.0 model of Hugh Carpenter, mentioned in a previous post, Bertalan (Berci) just finished his journey as a Web 2.0 jedi: he started a web 2.0 company: Webicina. Webicina offers a personalized set of web 2.0 tools to help medical professionals and patients enter the web 2.0 world.

    To be honest I was a bit skeptical at first. When I think of web 2.0, I think of it as *open, *collaborative, *creative commons, *networking, ****collective intelligence (Elizabeth Koch). Web 2.0 exists by the mere fact that people want to share information for free. Later I realized that this initiative is comparable to individualized courses that you have to pay for as well. Webicina will also offer some free tools, especially for patients.

    One such free tool is PeRSSonalized Medicine. The RSS in PeRSSonalized Medicine stands for Real Simple Syndication, which is a format for delivering regularly changing web content, i.e. from Journals. PeRSSonalized Medicine is a free tool meant to help those users who cannot spend much time online (e.g. medical professionals). It helps them track medical journals, blogs, news and web 2.0 services really easily and creates one personalized place where they can follow international medical content without having a clue what RSS is about (see post at Scienceroll)

    persssonalized-medicine-tabs

    PeRSSonalized Medicine has a beautiful and straightforward interface. There are 5 separate sources you can follow: (1) Medical Journals, (2) Blogs, (3) News and (4) Media (including Youtube channels, Friendfeed rooms or Del.icio.us tags), and (5) “articles” in PubMed (to setup this you have to perform a search in a separate toolbar).

    The items included are partly of general interest -i.e. the Medical Journals includes 13 titles, including the BMJ, the JAMA and the Lancet-, partly it is very specialized, i.e. on the field of genetics. A lot of Journals are not included and Web 2.0 sources tend to be more represented than the official media/journals.Thus this tool seems most suited for the generalist and people wanting to follow web 2.0 tools. On the other hand – and this is a clear advantage- the content develops as wishes and suggestions are taken into account.

    Each Tab can be personalized by simply hiding the titles you don’t want to include (under the button personalize it), but settings are only saved after registration.

    The view of the personalized page is pleasant and neat. You see short titles of the 10 latest articles of the sources you have subscribed to. Moving your mouse over the titles will reveal more information and once you clicked the link it turns grey instead of blue. What I miss is the button: more, so you can catch up if you have missed older articles. Especially with media and journals that often have more than 10 new articles per issue, even more so if the first 10 titles consist of “obituaries” (BMJ).

    The latest addition to PeRSSonalized Medicine (5) is the possibility to subscribe to a Pubmed search so “you can also follow the latest articles in your field of interest without going back to PubMed again and again and doing a search for your favourite term. Make this process automatic with PeRSSonalized Medicine.”
    However, as most of you may know, you don’t have to go back to Pubmed over and over again to “do” your search, but you can easily subscribe to a search in PubMed either by email (My NCBI) or by RSS (see for instance this post in Dutch). Although the process of subscribing is not as intuitive as it is in PeRSSonalized medicine, PubMed is better suited to design a good search strategy. To keep abreast of the latest information in your field a good search forms the basis. It hurts my heart as a librarian that most web 2.0 people are more fixed on the technique of how to subscribe to a feed (RSS) than on good search results. Remember, it still is: garbage in, garbage out. RSS is just the drain.

    As an example I show two RSS feeds below, one with more appropriate terms (pulmonary embolism and d-dimer) than the other (lung embolism and d-dimer). Pulmonary embolism is a MeSH. It is evident that with lung embolism articles will be missed just by choosing wrong/less optimal terms.

    pubmed-search-rss-toelichting

    Again the presentation of results is pleasant. Apart from the search restrictions I don’t find it very handy to look up each paper in HubMed (for that is where the link takes you).
    Personally I prefer regular e-mail-alerts at specific intervals (via MyNCBI). I would like to look up citations either individually (if there is just 1 interesting hit) or all at once (10-50 hits). In PubMed, results can be selected, PDF’s directly downloaded from the library website and citations can be kept in My NCBI Collections or imported into a reference manager system. A RSS-feed of Pubmed searches is also handy (see below).

    Alternatives

    The idea presented on Webicina, although fancy, is not new. Consider the following alternative web tools, also build on data collected from RSS feeds.

    Amedeo

    Amedeo is dedicated to the free dissemination of medical knowledge. It is an international free service that will send you weekly literature updates in medical subjects of your choosing. At the same time a personalized website is made, with subscriptions to the journals you selected. You can retrieve the articles in text or in HTML-format. The HTML format brings you to the latest results for that Journal in PubMed. This service seems most suitable for specific medical disciplines. General topics (family physician) are not available, although it is possible to subscribe to for instance the American Journal of Family Physicians. As with all these free literature services, you will have to subscribe. It is easy to select or deselect journals in a category (tick boxes).
    Amedeo also has Free Books For Doctors, but no podcasts or blogs. You can search the site, but you cannot easily look up individual journals.

    amadeo

    —————————————————–

    emergency-medicine-2x

    MedWorm (and LibWorm)

    MedWorm is a free medical RSS feed provider as well a a search engine. It is meant both for doctor and patient. There are many medical categories that you can subscribe to, via the free MedWorm online service, or another RSS reader of your choice, such as Google Reader. The number of RSS-feeds is enormous: >6000. There are a publications directory, a blog directory, a blog tag cloud, consumer health news, discussion and several specific topics, like cancers, drugs, vaccines and education. Within the publications directory there is a further subdivision in: Consumer – Info – Journals – News – Organizations – Podcasts.

    Many specialties are represented, including primary care and veterinary science. I tried it out and subscribed to some Addison’s disease related topics, Reuter’s Health and my own blog, which has recently been included. When you subcribe via the Medworm-RSS all news can be read in “My River of News”. It shows the titles and part of the abstracts (see Fig. below).

    You can subscribe to single items or categories, but it is not possible to in- and exclude individual feeds within a topic or category by a single action. So within Endocrinology I cannot selectively exclude all diabetes journals, but (as far as I can see) I have to subscribe to each individual journal, if I don’t want the whole package. The loading of the River of News takes long, sometimes.

    Together with David Rothman the builder/owner of MedWorm, Frankie Dolan, has also launched Libworm, which is a librarian’s version of MedWorm.

    medworm2-home-page-favs

    DO IT YOURSELF (or let the library do it for you)

    Sometimes the library will set up a personalized start page. See for instance the Dermatology page created with Netvibes at the Central Medical Library, University Medical Center Groningen (UMCG). Doesn’t it look beautiful?

    groningen-dermatology-netvibes

    I-Google

    And isn’t the tool below superb looking? Well, I constructed it myself on basis of what Ves Dimov wrote in the post “Make Your Own “Medical Journal” with iGoogle Personalized Page”, he submitted to the first MedLib”s round. And I had a little “life” help from Ves via Twitter, because things have changed a bit. All you need is a free Google mail (G-mail) account, just go to Google.com/IG (or search the web for I-Google) and subscribe. First you can create your start page with all kind of gadgets (like clock, G-mail inbox and weather forecast, see Figure below) and then you can add other tabs (encircled below). The Medical Journal and Journals Tabs I just took from Ves by clicking on the links he gave in his post: RSS feeds of the “Big Five” medical journals (NEJM, JAMA, BMJ, Lancet and Annals) plus 2-3 subpecialty journals and the podcasts of 4 major medical journals in iGoogle.

    Once you have these tabs you can edit them (add, delete, move) as you like.

    i-google

    I-Google Medical Journals Tab

    i-google-start-page-shape-top

    I-Google Startpage

    RSS-readers

    All the above tools are based on RSS, which means Real Simple Syndication. It isn’t called Simple for nothing. You can easily do it yourself, which means that you have more freedom in what you subscribe to. Because I-Google doesn’t scale well beyond 50 or so RSS feeds, other RSS-readers are advisable once you subscribe to many different feeds (see Wikipedia for list and comparison) . I use Google-Reader, shown below, for this purpose.

    Generally, adding Feeds is easy. In Firefox you often see the orange RSS-logo in the web browser (just click on it to add the feed) and most Journals and blogs have a RSS-button on their page, that enables subscription to their feed.

    google-reader

    rss-buttons-at-site-in-browser

    As detailed in another (Dutch) Post, numerous Pubmed searches can be easily added to your RSS-reader. You build up a good search in Pubmed, for instance: (pulmonary embolism[mh] OR pulmonary embolism* OR lung embolism*) AND (“Fibrin Fibrinogen Degradation Products”[Mesh] OR d-dimer). In “the Results” you click on “Send To” and choose RSS-Feed and add it to your reader. That’s all.

    pubmed-rss

    Summary

    PeRSSonalized Medicine is a free tool which lets you subscribe to a small and rather skewed selection of journals, news, media and blogs and (straightforward) PubMed searches. The strong points of this tool are: the beautiful design, the ease of use for people not used to web 2.0 tools including RSS, and its continuous development, seeking active input from its users. To speak with dr Shock’s: It is meant for a physician who is not web savvy, never heard of RSS and never wants to, not a geek, nerd, and still wants to stay up to date with health 2.0 or medicine 2.0.”

    But there are other free tools around with more (subscription) possibilities and with a little more investment of time you can do it yourself and make subscriptions really perssonalized. Once you know it is simple, believe me.

    You may also want to read:

    https://laikaspoetnik.wordpress.com/2008/05/05/1-may-rss-day/ (about RSS)

    https://laikaspoetnik.wordpress.com/2008/02/15/rss-feed-en-pubmed/ (about RSS and Pubmed – Dutch)





    The 2008 Medical Weblog Awards Polls Are Open!

    6 01 2009

    award_lr1Just a short notice that you can start voting for your favorite finalists in the Medgadget contest for best medical blogs.

    You can find all categories here.

    I’m in category: “The best new medical weblog“, for which you can vote here.

    I guess that my chances of winning are slim, considering the quality of the other blogs. I’ve become a real fan of [1] Sandsnurf of ‘Life in the Fast Lane, and I regularly read [2] Science-Based Medicine a good quality team-blog about controversies in the relationship between science and medicine, a subject being close to my heart.

    New to me are [3] Medtechinsider, another team-blog (editorial staff of Medical Device Technology and European Medical Device Manufacturer), devoted to covering the medical manufacturing industry and its suppliers. And [4] The New Health Dialogue, a policy blog of the New America Foundation.

    But let’s not talk too much about the others, shall we….??!! 😉

    I truly hope I have earned your vote. But whether you do vote for me or not, please make sure you get to vote for your favorite in each of 7 categories here.

    I’m already thrilled having made it to the short list.





    A 2008 Medical Weblog Awards Finalist…..

    6 01 2009

    award_lrSome weeks ago I announced that the Medgadget 2008 nomination of the Best Medical Blogs had started.

    The unexpected has happened. Laika’s Medliblog has been chosen as a finalist in the category Best New Medical Weblog (established in 2008).

    As a Dutch Medical Librarian, and a novice in the web 2.0 world, I’m thrilled and very honored that I’m among the finalists for this prestigious award.

    Special thanks to Wowter (with a Dutch and an English blog) who took the initiative to nominate me.

    Here is a complete list of the finalists for The 2008 Weblog Awards. The final list of nominees can be found here.

    The voting starts tomorrow, well Tuesday 06-01-2008 (that is today here). Please keep tuned in….scanman-announces-finalists

    p.s. How did I found out? Via twitter, of course, where one of the other finalists, “Scanman” or Vijay congratulated some of us.Thanks Vijay.






    Nomination Best Medical Blogs at MedGadget

    19 12 2008

    It is time for the 2008 Medical Weblog Awards!

    Since 5 years Medgadget, an independent on-line journal covering the latest medical gadgets and technologies, organizes a competition “to showcase the best blogs from the medical blogosphere, and to highlight the exciting and useful role medical blogs play in medicine and in society.”

    The 2008 Medical Blog Awards

    The categories for this year’s awards are:

    • Best Medical Weblog
    • Best New Medical Weblog (established in 2008)
    • Best Literary Medical Weblog
    • Best Clinical Sciences Weblog
    • Best Health Policies/Ethics Weblog
    • Best Medical Technologies/Informatics Weblog
    • Best Patient’s Weblog

    Nominations will be accepted until Wednesday, December 31, 2008. You can put your nominations (1 in each category) in the comments section on the Medgadget site.
    An update of the current nominees is given here. For further information see here.