Today, I added the 200th blog to Medlogs.com. Here's how blog addition works.
Someone wants a blog added to medlogs. They click "add a feed" and fill out the little form.
The form enters the blog into the database and sends me an e-mail requesting approval.
These days, perhaps due to the increasing popularity of the site, we're getting more commercial submissions. Rarely true spam ... but medically related sites or services that want to increase their exposure. Since Medlogs isn't a web directory .. I don't add these, and I don't e-mail the submitters with an explanation. Perhaps I should .. but I don't have infinite free time. So I don't. I add medical weblogs .. or weblogs that are relevant to medicine. the "geeks" section includes some technology stuff that is not directly to medicine .. and the "law" section does as well, but I find that these sections are both frequently visited ... and are of course potentially relevant medicine. The "more" section is a bit more complicated. I invented it for the "mercola" blog (absence of hyperlink is intentional) which is on a physician's website .. but it is not clear that the physician actually does all of the writing .. and the website is devoted to selling his books. So this is a commercial blog. But he clearly has a passion and I didn't want to be accused of censoring him (his views are unconventional, and several medlogs readers objected to his inclusion at all) .. so I created a new category and left him in.
Once I review the blog and see that it is relevant to medicine & Non-Commercial .. I add the feed and put the last few posts into medlogs. From there on .. it will flow, and we'll pick up all future feeds.
Of course, the RSS or ATOM needs to be working. I would say that the most common reason that a blog is not included is that I can't find an RSS/ATOM feed. No feed, no inclusion. Simple as that.
Here's the "I remember when" part: Nearly five years ago, I started Docnotes. Here's the first post. I think I was writing a similar web-based discussion for a while before that, but my entries are not archived .. so .. lost forever. The first iteration was with Userland Frontier. Then I moved to Seth Dillingham's Conversant. Next it was back to Userland Radio .. and then to MovableType, where the blog remains. I'm tempted by Ray Camden's BlogCFC. We'll see. I like MT .. and it's working pretty well, despite some quirks. I also have a TypePad account, which is used for other little blog projects.
Here's the question: (you didn't know there was going to be a question .. did you?) .. as Medlogs has grown, I've been finding that the signal:noise ratio is decreasing. Medical Blogs used to be a good way to find useful information quickly. They were also a way for us to provide a window into our thinking and our practices .. which I think all of us agreed was good. There have been several well written articles on medical weblogs .. but I still think the best was in Medicine on the Net .. by Bonnie Darvies. Unfortunately, it's not free or (!) available on the net .. which of course is silly. Kinda like Gartner research .. it's good stuff, but you have to pay to get to it.
Oh yeah .. I was asking a question. How to we keep the usefulness of weblogs high. Go ahead and click on that one .. it's a link tot he UVA website, and includes an image of the Pyramid of Information Mastery. Where do weblogs fit on this pyramid? How can I help to filter this (or how can you help filter this) .. so that weblogs remain (become?) a part of the pyramid.
One thought that I have had is "hits." Since we changes the main medlogs pages to include only excerpts of every post (the poll is still open .. but preference for partial feed remains at about 75%) the number of times that readers click the link to go read the full post is sored and displayed on the page. Presumably, the authors who generate the most hits are of the greatest interest to the readers. Are these the most useful Blogs? Should they be "featured" in some way?
Is the recent "grand rounds" effort a good way of accomplishing this? Perhaps ... hmm .. maybe I link to (or include full text of) the current week's grand rounds on a special page on medlogs .. hmm
Please share your opinion .. either with a post of our own .. or with a comment here. We didn't address this much at last year's bloggercon (video feed of the medical session is here ... moderated by some nerd .. yeh .. me).
If you're going to Bloggercon III this year, I'd suggest that this may be a topic for conversation at the medical weblogs session .. which Enoch will be moderating.
OK .. so I turned comments back on here .. so we'll see how bad the commentspam is this time .. and in the context of Enoch's post on the topic .. we may turn off comments over at medlogs .. but I'd sure like to have something in the RSS or ATOM feed to help resolve this ..
The medical weblogs aggregator is getting more use these days ... we're getting closer to an RSS feeed (of rss feeds) so if you want to use your aggregator to read the medical weblogs aggregator .. you can.
The other experimental addition is the addition of comments. Blogborygmi posted the other day on the expanding use of medlogs.com, and lamented:
One concern with medlogs.com is that it'll stifle reader comments -- ya can't see 'em from their site, and you're less likely to visit a blog if you've just read the latest post on an aggregator. (Something's gotta explain the dearth of opinions lately). And it seems kind of arbitrary which blogs are indexed in toto, and which get the blurb treatment.
a) Well .. I agree that comments can be useful and interesting, but they're not part of the RSS feed that weblogs publish .. so there would be no way for us to show the comments or add a method of building the dialogue. The next-best thing would be to host the comments ourselves and build a threaded discussion. Dave wants to do this .. so then medlogs would become the slashdot of medical geeks (we'll call it DaveDot). Short of DaveDot .. we've turned on Haloscan comments. IN the title bar of every post, you can post a comment about that post in medlogs. This may provide a method of maintaining comments - without the need for every weblog to host comments. As you can see .. I've disabled comments on Docnotes due to too much commentspam. We'll see how this works. Please let us know what you think.
b) Regarding the arbitrary nature of the how much of the weblog appears in Medlogs .. it's all about the RSS. Some RSS or Atom feeds provide all of the post - so we provide that to you on medlogs. Other feeds have only an excerpt .. so that's what you get. So it's not arbitrary at all ... and in fact, I'm not sure which one I like better. We would certainly be able to cut off part of the feeds (so all feeds show only an excerpt) and sometimes I think that this would be better (especially for the graphics-intensive feeds) .. but if we had only an excerpt, we'd have to be clicking on the URL for the post every time .. which defeats the "get it all here" concept of the aggregator.
What's a medical weblog? A weblog is ... uh .. well, let's look it up in the wikipedia: Definition: Weblog
So now you know what a weblog is. What's a medical weblog? It's a weblog with a focus on medicine. Some medical weblogs are by physicians .. some by people with a certain disease or condition .. some by healthcare technology workers, pharmacists, EMTs, nurses, medical students, residents .. you get the idea.
A key component of personal weblogs we've chosen for inculsion in Medlogs.com is that they are not devoted to selling something. Sure .. some of the weblogs have amazon ads or google ads on them, but the primary purpose of the site is not to generate revenue or sell somthing that generates revenue. If you notice that one of the sites we include IS doing this, please let us know by using the contact form on the main page.
What is the history of medical weblogs? The first medical weblog was David Theige's MedEdnews. Inspired by Dave winer's Scripting News, David was an avid weblogger, and made many wonderful contributions to medical education with this resource. From The Internet Archive, one can see that David's very early work - called "an Educator's Journal" - goes back to December 3, 1998. Alas, David seems to have lost interest in blogging, as MedEdNews hasn't been updated since 2001.
Also inspired by Winer, Jacob Reider's weblog (ok .. that's me .. but I sound more important in the 3rd person, don't I?) was first published in its current form on November 14, 1999. I think that this makes it the second (and longest running) medical weblog, but I'd be happy to be corrected!
The sites generally followed Winer's style - serving as a method of sharing useful information found on the web.
With the maturing tools, weblogs took off - as did medical weblogs. Steve Hoffman wrote the first (that I know of) non-physician medical weblog; Sydney Smith, and Dr Bob were early arrivals who remain some of the most popular webloggers .. and then (predictably) .. on came the next generation with a vengance. In fact, I'm surprised that it took so long for the medical students and residents to catch on, but I think that by a few months from now the "trainee" weblogs will outnumber the attending physicians.
How does medlogs.com work? With an RSS or Atom feed, Any weblog post is available in a format that other computers can read. So medlogs.com asks your weblog if it has any new posts. We do this every 30 minutes right now. Someday soon, we'll proably accept a "ping" from your weblog so that we don't have to ask your weblog if you have a new post .. it will just tell us. Once we get this worked out on our end, we'll tell you how to do it on your end. Like most things weblog, It's easy. Medlogs.com reads all of these feeds, then organizes them in reverse chronological order. So the newest posts are on top.
How are medical weblogs arranged? We have several categories. If you Think we've arranged them incorrectly, or if you're thinking one is in the wrong place, please let us know by using the contact form.
Why isn't my weblog in medlogs.com? There are usually two reasons why we don't have you in here.
We don't know about your weblog. Please let us know and we'll add you.
You don't have an RSS or Atom feed. You need one for medlogs to read your weblog. Please read the documentation for your blogging software. It's usually a matter of turning it on.
That's it for now. I'll update this post as time permits. If you have additional questions that you think I should put in the FAQ, please let me know.
The beta version of the new Medical Weblogs site continues to evolve. I've been adding weblogs and trying to organize things, while Dave fixed the CSS and built a blogroll on the side. I'm working on a form to permit you to add feeds I don't have. I'll open it up for a few days .. so medbloggers will notice it and please do help me get some more blogs in there ...
Here's a sneak peek at the newest iteration of the medlogs medical weblog aggregator. It sorts posts in order. So the most recently updated welbogs are at the top. Maybe this is incentive to keep active! We've also separated things a bit (still working on the categories .. comments and corrections requested) ... so resident blogs are separate from physician blogs which are separate from newsfeeds such as reuters and medscape, etc. Dave has, of course, helped enormously .. as I couldn't have done this myself. Required some re-writing of feedonfeeds , and a bit of php magic. More enhancements on the way .. and a bit of debugging before we move this over to the main medlogs url.
I've finally updated the back-end that runs medlogs. It's been re-built entirely .. with some help from Dave. I had some trouble with the CSS ... and he got things fixed for me.
Medlogs is now a much better medical weblog and news aggregator. I'm going to break things up into categories. Still haven't figured out a good way to get them sorted by date .. which is what I really want.
Dave has done some great work with coldfusion and LDAP. Not documented anywhere else .. so if you are a nerd looking for info on how to do coldfusion security with LDAP to Novell or Windows ... Dave's blog will show you how.
I'm in Toronto (home of the Blue Jays) for my annual pilgrimage to the STFM meeting. Toronto is a nice city. Reminds me of Seattle. Family medicine educators from all over the world come to the meeting to share ideas, successes and frustrations. Today was the awards luncheon and I was especially impressed with the acceptance speech of Ellen Beck who was recognized for the work she's done building medical student-run health clinics in San Diego and then creating a fellowship program to help others to create similar clinics in other cities. The people who are involved in STFM are dedicated, caring, thoughtful .. and just plain nice people. I'm not saying that other physicians or even other family physicians don't meet this description, but .. as a rule .. the people at STFM are the sort of characters I'd like my kids to be when they grow up ...
Working with my colleague on a web strategy proposal. I've found some useful resources.
a) Jakob Nielsen's March 29th article on usability is a good reminder that a well designed website (or intranet) will same time and therefore money.
b) This is a nice little document that serves as an excellent introduction to web strategy/tactics with a clear glossary as well.