Pew Internet: The Social Life of Health Information

The Pew Internet & American Life Project recently released a report, “The Social Life of Health Information”, that contains results from a survey on the way people are seeking out health information.   The survey was focused on U.S. respondents only. 

As can be expected, Americans are now turning more and more to online sources for information.   In the past, patients typically called a health professional, their Mom, or a good friend.  Today they are also searching online, reading blogs, listening to podcasts, updating their social network profile, and posting comments.   And many people, once they find health information online, talk with someone offline about that information they have found online.

Some interesting findings from this survey:

  • 57% of respondents use the Internet when locating health information
  • Two-thirds of people that find information online then discuss with someone else their findings
  • 60% of respondents have said that information they have found online has impacted the way they have then pursued treatment.
  • 41% of e-patients have read another person’s commentary or experience about health or medical issue

Also interesting was the finding that "e-patients" – what the authors called people who look online for health info – are more likely to engage in social media in general, compared with other Internet users.  For instance, e-patients are more likely than non-health seekers to have created or worked on their own blog, read someone else's blog, used a social networking site, used a micro-blogging site, and other activities.  Small numbers of people are using social software like Twitter and Facebook.  Mostly these services are used to follow another person’s health issue and then perhaps include their own commentary on the health issue. 

As use of the Internet and social media increases, it's not surprising that more people are searching for health information and participating and engaging in health-related communities.   As these people search for and create their own content, this will put added pressure on providers to embrace social media in order to participate in the discussion.

Read the entire report here:

The Role of Social Networks in the Coverage of Michael Jackson’s death and Events in Iran

Two events over the past 10 days have been announced and developed on social networks before traditional media.  Just last Thursday, the announcement of Jackson death blocked Google research access for queries related to Michal Johnson.  TMZ which broke the story had several outages, and Twitter crashed, and Widipedia seemed to be in temporarily overload.  One of the reasons is that it was a daytime event when people were using their cell phones at work to download the news.  While the scale of the response may be unprecedented, the pattern was not:  News search, reaction, tributes. 

The other major event that was mostly tracked through Twitter was the events in Iran.  A recent article in the NY Times analyzes the advantages and limits of Twitter in this situation.  I am including below some excerpts of this really interesting article.  “Twitter did prove to be a crucial tool in the cat-and-mouse game between the opposition and the government over enlisting world opinion. As the Iranian government restricted journalists’ access to events, the protesters have used Twitter’s agile communication system to direct the public and journalists alike to video, photographs and written material related to the protests.

1. Twitter Is a Tool and Thus Difficult to Censor:  Twitter aspires to be something different from social-networking sites like Facebook or MySpace: rather than being a vast self-contained world centered on one Web site, Twitter dreams of being a tool that people can use to communicate with each other from a multitude of locations, like e-mail. You do not have to visit the home site to send a message, or tweet. Tweets can originate from text-messaging on a cellphone or even blogging software. 

2. Tweets Are Generally Banal, but Watch Out: “Tweets by their nature seem trivial, with little that is original or menacing. Even Twitter accounts seen as promoting the protest movement in Iran are largely a series of links to photographs hosted on other sites or brief updates on strategy. Each update may not be important. Collectively, however, the tweets can create a personality or environment that reflects the emotions of the moment and helps drive opinion.

3. Buyer Beware:  Nothing on Twitter has been verified. While users can learn from experience to trust a certain Twitter account, it is still a matter of trust. And just as Twitter has helped get out first-hand reports from Tehran, it has also spread inaccurate information, perhaps even disinformation.

4. Watch Your Back: Not only is it hard to be sure that what appears on Twitter is accurate, but some Twitterers may even be trying to trick you. Like Rick’s Café, Twitter is thick with discussion of who is really an informant or agent provocateur. Government agents have created some accounts to mislead the public.

 5. Twitter Is Self-Correcting but a Misleading Gauge:  Twitter is a community, with leaders and cliques. Of course, Twitter is a certain kind of community — technology-loving, generally affluent and Western-tilting. In that way, Twitter is a very poor tool for judging popular sentiment in Iran and trying to assess who won the presidential election. “

6. Twitter Can Be a Potent Tool for Media Criticism:  Just as Twitter can rally protesters against governments, its broadcast ability can rally them quickly and efficiently against news outlets. One such spontaneous protest called out CNN last weekend for failing to have comprehensive coverage of the Iranian protests. This was quickly converted to an e-mail writing campaign. CNN was forced to defend its coverage in print and online.”



Smarter Planet: Billions of Sensors Tweeting

Innovation often occurs at the intersection of two points.  In this case, the intersection of Sensors and Twitter.

  • Fact:  There are billions of sensors today.  More and more of them are becoming embedded into our infrastructure, the products we use….and thus our daily lives.
  • Fact:  Twitter is here to stay.  More and more people are finding out that Twitter is more than just a consumer tool.  There are potential reasons to use it for productive purposes.

Consider the following early applications:

1) Letting you know the exact moment a Ferry has left or arrived at a dock.

2) Letting you know exactly where a Telescope is pointed now.

3) Letting you know the Temperature or humidity at a certain site:

4) Letting you know when your laundry is done

5) Letting you know when your plant needs watering

6) Letting you how much energy you are using

7) Knowing when a bridge is up or down

8) Keep track of high and low tide

9) Keep a log of your training runs  See this post

10) Letting people know your heart is beeping.  See this post

11) Keep track of your cats

In fact, Andy Stanford-Clarke, Master Inventor at IBM, uses his home to show how sensors can tweet.  (from a blog post titled BBC – Things that tweet)

Do we all understand where this is going?  Billion’s of sensors ‘tweeting’ to the ‘Computing Cloud’ (hopefully not something like (Skynet)where software agents monitor, analyze, and act upon these tweets based on pre-determined preferences.  The tweets are saved in a history file for us to review at anytime, so we always know what happened when. 

Just spend a few minutes and imagine how a city-wide sensor network could make that city smarter.  It becomes very similar to our own central nervous system, right?

Smarter Fire Departments = Smarter Cities

On page 18 of the Fire Department of New York’s 2009 – 2010 Strategic Plan, we find the text quoted below.

Develop a comprehensive data analysis system that will improve the efficiencies and effectiveness of a Coordinated Building Inspection and Data Analysis System (CBIDAS).  This risk-based inspection and computerized building safety program is one of the most important management initiatives in the modern history of the FDNY.   It will enable the FDNY to concentrate its fire prevention resources on the buildings and neighborhoods facing the greatest risk of serious fires.

As announced earlier this year, the Fire Department of the City of New York (FDNY) and IBM will build a “smart” system for collecting and sharing data in real-time that can prevent fires and help protect firefighters and other first responders when a fire does occur.

FDNY's new Coordinated Building Inspection and Data Analysis System (CBIDAS) will use technology found in business intelligence approaches to anticipate potential fire risks, analyze possible impacts, and improve processes such as collecting and disseminating data on building inspection, permits and violations that can reduce risks.

"This technology will allow us to shift to a risk-based inspection system that will prevent fires and improve public safety.  Combining different existing databases, and linking them with those of other city agencies such as the Department of Buildings, will dramatically improve the information available to our firefighters and result in a smarter, more productive inspection program."  – Fire Commissioner Nicholas Scoppetta

An important element of the project will be better communication, improved sharing of information and coordination of fire inspection and site/building structure information.  That sharing will take place both within the FDNY and between the FDNY and city agencies such as Department of Buildings, Department of City Planning, and Department of Environmental Protection, as well as contractors.

Learn more:  Fire Department of New York Selects IBM for Intelligent Fire Safety System (press release)

$50k ITS Congestion Challenge

Have an innovative idea on how to solve traffic congestion?   The Intelligent Transportation Society of America (ITS America), in partnership with IBM and Spencer Trask Collaborative Innovations (STCI), has launched a global challenge to identify innovative ideas for combating transportation congestion.

ITS America is challenging commuters, transportation experts, entrepreneurs and academic researchers to come up with the best ideas to reduce traffic congestion and lessen its economic and environmental impact.

At stake is a $50,000 prize presented at the 16th World Congress on Intelligent Transportation Systems in Stockholm, Sweden, this September.  The winner will also receive the development support needed to put his or her idea to work.

Winning ideas are expected to focus on the following five areas:

  1. Speed and efficiency:  Using technology to reduce delays and transport people and goods efficiently and reliably.
  2. Behavioral impact:  Innovative ways to convince users to choose options that reduce congestion.
  3. Safety:  Preventing accidents, improving incident response and providing more timely, accurate transportation information.
  4. Sustainability:  Lowering energy use and emissions while actively managing traffic and reducing congestion.
  5. Economic competitiveness: Improve productivity through new technologies (e.g., wireless applications and mobility tools).

For additional information and to enter submissions, visit Join the ITS Congestion Challenge

A Primer on Futurists

As organizations increasingly try to grapple with the seemingly endless scorching rate of technological innovation and change, more are engaging the services of self-described futurists for advice on how to adapt.

What Is A Futurist?

Basically, futurists are those who look to and provide analysis and insights on potential futures.  They help others anticipate and prepare for potential changes and disruptions in order to make better decisions today.   Think of futurists as in the same league as historians.  Futurists explore the future, just as historians study the past.   Historians are  concerned with origins, roots, stories/points of view of where we have been in the past and how we got to where we are today.   Futurists are interested in emerging trends, technologies, goals, purposes.  In short, futurists are interested in where we might be going in the future and how we can get there.   It’s interesting to note that in many cases good futurists have a little bit of a historian inside of them (e.g. studying the past can help predict potential futures.)


What Do Futurists Do?

Futurists research and explore the full range of potential / plausible futures.  A futures consultant or facilitator helps clients expand their typically narrower focus on the future to a broader range of possibilities.  They forecast the future, not just to know the future as an abstract description, but rather to prepare for it as a concrete reality.
The objective is not just to know what will happen, but to be ready whatever does happen.  The objective is not necessarily to be exactly right (which is impossible), but rather not to be wrong–that is, not to be surprised.  Surprise means inadequate preparation, late response, higher risk of failure, even chaos or panic.  Thus, preparing for the full range of plausible futures is the objective of futures studies.

Futurists take an inter-disciplinary approach and employ a wide range of methods, from trend analysis to scenario planning, to simulations, to strategic planning and visioning.  Since the future does not exist, we must study ideas about the future. Futurists use data from the past and present, and our concepts and methods to understand how the present will evolve into possible alternative futures. We also borrow liberally from other fields, such as creativity, complexity science, organization development, systems analysis, and philosophy.

What Type Of BackGround Do Futurists Have?

Futurists come from a wide range of backgrounds. What they have in common is big picture thinking, strong pattern recognition, and innate curiosity.
Futurists come from a wide range of backgrounds and walks of life, be it liberal arts, psychology, engineering, the sciences. A growing number are coming from the dozen or so futures degree programs worldwide.
Other characteristics typical of futurists include openness to new experiences, comfort with ambiguity, thinking systematically, seeing options and alternatives, questioning and challenging assumptions, a global outlook, a long-term time horizon, optimistic, and having a sense of purpose.

How Can I Train To Become A Futurist?

The formal study of the future goes by a number of names, including “Strategic Foresight”, “Futures Studies”, and “Prospective Studies”. 

Formal futurist higher education options are somewhat limited.  There are about a dozen degree programs worldwide.   Within the United States there are two main academic programs created that focus on training futurists 1) the University of Houston (M.S.) and  2) University of Hawaii (M.A. and Ph.D.).  Both programs have been around for over 30 years.

Futurists without the formal education learn on the job through professional development.  Many professionals become futurists by acquainting themselves with futures concepts, tools and methods, familiarizing themselves with the literature, and participating in futures conferences and organizations.

What Professional Networks Are There?

Here are some places to go to find more information….

  • World Future Society  20-25,000 members who subscribe to The Futurist magazine and attend annual meetings; mostly centered in the U.S.
  • World Futures Studies Federation   Several hundred members spread across the globe with a rotating secretariat, includes many academics
  • Millennium Project  Volunteer group around the globe that produces the annual State of the Future report and other futures studies, as well as the Futures Research Methodology. 
  • Association of Professional Futurists  200+ professional futurists and students in futures degree programs.
  • The World Future Council. The World Future Council brings the interests of future generations to the centre of policy making.  The Council addresses challenges to our common future and provides decision-makers with effective policy solutions.

Being a futurist sure sounds like fun….and there might just be a future for futurists.  🙂

Disruptive Absence of Innovation

A couple of articles about the impact of innovation on the economy drew my attention this week – Both articles show how disruptive weak innovation can be, the first one below highlights some interesting recent trends.

According to a Business Week article this week there is growing evidence that the innovation shortfall of the past decade is not only real, but may also have contributed to today’s financial crisis.  The article argues that the commercial impact of breakthroughs fell short of expectations (e.g., gene therapy, broadband, and alternative energy economics).  The journalist uses among proof points stock prices and trade balance results:  The stock index that tracks the pharma, biotech and life sciences companies  in the S&P 500 dropped 32% from the end of 1998 and 2007.  Trade balance in advanced technology products went from a surplus in 1998 to $37B deficit in 2007.  An innovation shortfall may have weakened the country’s underlying productivity group.  Many economists are skeptical about placing the blame of the recession on an innovation shortfall preferring to focus on problems on Wall Street and in Washington – admitting that the US may not be as innovative as it believes is a step that remains difficult to take.

The other article is the transcript from a more conventional Deloitte executive conversation,  “Reshaping the Future – the Risks and Rewards of Innovation in a Changing World”.  It shows that innovation should be a key element of adaption for companies at a time of disruption.  Adaption takes a very narrow focus on just what can be done within your own company.  The key is to figure out where the disruptions are and then take into account the larger related opportunity.

Stockholm: 2009 Intelligent Community of the Year

The Intelligent Community Forum (ICF) recently named Stockholm, Sweden the Intelligent Community of the Year for 2009.  The Scandanavian community, known for its prowess in innovative technologies and its quality of life won the 2009 award.  A detailed profile of Stockholm and why it was selected for the award can be found at this ICF website.

It’s nice to see Stockholm get this award, especially since IBM has been deeply involved in the city’s Intelligent Transportation initiatives.

Since 1999, ICF has presented awards to honor the achievements of communities tackling the complex task of building and maintaining competitive and inclusive local economies in the global Broadband Economy.   The ICF is a think tank that “focuses on the creation of prosperous local economies and robust societies in the broadband economy of the 21st Century”.  The goal of the yearly awards is to increase awareness of the role that broadband and information communications technology (ICT) play in economic and social development at the community level worldwide.

Earlier this year, the ICF had announced their annual list of The Top Seven Intelligent Cities of 2009.  These seven finalists were selected based on analysis of their nominations by a team of independent academic experts.  The academic team  conducts a thorough review of the nominations and generate quantitative scores during the selection process.   These cities have proactively re-engineered their economies and social networks to make them more flexible and adaptable, which gives them a powerful competitive advantage.  The top seven communities are chosen, not because they excel in all areas of ICF's Intellligent Community Indicators, but because each demonstrates excellence in at least one. 


The Top Seven cities of 2009 were:

  • Bristol, Virginia, USA. Bristol has made an impact after taking on incumbent telcos in court and the state legislature to win the right to deploy a fiber network called OptiNet.  OptiNet will become a fiber-to-the-premises network for business and residents in Bristol and four neighboring counties.  It has attracted more than $50 million in private investment, including the region's first technology employers, and improved rural education and healthcare by connecting local providers to leading institutions.   
  • Eindhoven, Netherlands.  Established a public-private collaboration called Brainport. Among more than 40 public-private projects are an award-winning coop that has brought FTTP and a broadband culture of use to the suburb of Neunen, and the SKOOL outsourced IT management system for public schools.
  • Fredericton, New Brunswick, Canada.  When it could not get broadband from the private sector, Fredericton founded the e-Novations co-op, which deployed a fiber ring that spurred competition, giving the city a 70% penetration rate at speeds of up to 18 Mbps.  The next step was the Fred-eZone wireless network, which provides free WiFi service across 65% of the city.  The combination of broadband, entrepreneurship and Fredericton's universities has powered the creation of over 12,000 jobs.
  • Issy-les-Moulineaux, France.  Beginning in 1980, a visionary mayor focused policy on creating an innovative, IT-based knowledge economy, implementing e-government, outsourcing IT needs, and taking advantage of liberalization to attract competitive fiber carriers deploying cost-effective broadband.  Public-private innovation includes a cyber-kindergarten for children, cyber tearooms for older citizens, citizen e-participation in decision-making, a successful business incubator and ICT-based real estate projects.
  • Moncton, New Brunswick, Canada. This bilingual community has become a major Canadian customer contact and back office center, and built a "near-shore" IT outsourcing industry.   Private-sector carriers have collaborated in the city's growth as a telecom-centric economy, and helped power the addition of 20,000 new jobs since the early 1990s.  
  • Stockholm, Sweden. In the mid-90s, Stockholm, the economic and political capital of Sweden, established a company called Stokab to build an open-access fiber network.  Today, the 4,500 km network connects more than 90 competing service providers to government and business customers.  Though the city already has a 98% broadband penetration rate, Stokab will also provide FTTP access to over 95,000 low-income households in public housing by the end of 2009.  Stockholm also manages KISTA Science City, housing more than 1,400 companies, plus a support program for start-up and early-stage companies.  
  • Tallinn, Estonia.   Making creative use of people and funding, Tallinn computerized its schools and deployed widespread WiFi as well as nearly 700 public access kiosks.  The city also developed a large-scale digital skills training program, extensive e-government, and an award-winning smart ID card.  Through partnerships, it developed high-tech parks including Ulemiste City, Tallinn Technology Park and Cooperative Cyber Defense Center. 

For more see this ICF website.  Also check out the videos here View Top7 Video

For those of you working on projects related to Smart Cities, you might also want to spend time reading the 49 page white paper “The Top Seven Intelligent Communities of 2009”

Yankee: Workforce of Tomorrow Webinar

I recently attended a Yankee Group webinar titled "The Workforce of Tomorrow".  

The webinar focused in on how work employee work activities and habits today are rapidly moving away from historical patterns.  Remote, work-at-home, and mobile work is becoming a prerequisite for workers.  Yankee says unfortunately that many companies have been slow to react to these changes, resulting in lower productivity and employees feeling isolated.  As companies have increasingly been reducing business travel I suspect this is adding fuel to the growing fire.

According to a Yankee Group survey, nearly three-quarters of workers believe allowing employees to work from home benefits the company.  In addition, the majority of workers indicate that the ability to work from home is the single most important thing their company could do to increase their productivity.   Employees are demanding flexibility, and the companies that fail to react to this trend will be at a severe competitive disadvantage in the war for talent.

The webinar focused in on these trends that will impact the workforce of tomorrow.  The speakers discussed employees’ technological, social and professional needs and how to keep them connected.    The webinar runs about an hour.  You can access the audio here (mp3) and a pdf version of the slides here  or you can check out the embedded slideshare version below.

I have been working out of my house for IBM in a suburb outside Chicago for about 16 years.  During that time my management has always been in New York.  There is no question in my mind that IBM has been the major benefactor over the last 16 years.  They’ve saved thousands of dollars on real-estate costs and I have been much more productive than I would have been in a normal office setting.  And I know I have given IBM many more hours of work here at home than I would have given in an IBM office.   But IBM is to be applauded in this case as I have always been given access to productivity software and collaboration tools.  I have in turn exploited those tools and therefore have been able to feel connected to my New York colleagues.

At the same time, I can also say that I have benefited from the flexibility of being a work at home dad.  I have been able to participate in many of my kid’s school and after school activities that I would never have been able to do in a normal office. 

I was a little disappointed in the webinar as I really thought Yankee might touch on how social networking and social computing was going to impact remote and mobile workers.  I think that would be an improvement for their next webinar.

A couple additional related resources from Yankee on this topic includes…

  • Silent Killer: How Mobile Workers Sabotage Profitability,” by Josh Holbrook
  • The Future of Work,” by Josh Holbrook

  • Other Social Networking Websites

    Beyond Facebook, Myspace and twitter, had on its front page this week a list of some social networking websites I had never heard of. These show the potential of networking on basically any topic of interest: work, sports, art, books, support groups, generation issues.

    SportSymphony –    Sport Symphony is sports social network intended for amateur and recreational athletes. It allows members to upload and share sports video and images, helps teams find members and members to find teams, assists coordinators with the organization of sporting events, and enables recreational centers to promote and manage sports leagues.
    Virb –  Viirb is an artistic network that proclaims itself to be a community where its members can contribute photo and video media portfolios. Virb allows members to share their interests in a simple online format.

    Meetup –  From Bar-Hoppers in Atlanta to the Web Content Mavens in Washington DC, Meetup has created a place where local groups of any kind can organize face-to-face "meetups."

    Eons –   Eons is an online community targeting baby boomers. It offers games, photo and video sharing, groups, forums, and health and fitness information specifically targeting the needs of baby boomers.

    LibraryThing – A site for book lovers, LibraryThing is an online book club that allows you to catalog your books while connecting you with other readers based on similar book prefrences.
    Yammer – Yammer is a corporate social network and productivity tool that allows members to connect and share with people within their company or organization.

    Epernicus – www.epernicus.comEpernicus is a professional networking site for research scientists. It allows researchers all over the world to connect and expand their network to help make advancements in their research.

    Disaboom – Disaboom connects individuals living with disabilities or those caring for someone with disabilities. This support network offers articles, blogs, forums, and health information on a range of disabilities.

    CafeMom – CafeMom is a social network for moms and moms-to-be. It is a support network connecting experienced and new moms offering advice, how-to articles, and anything that you may need to know about being a mom.

    Happy social networking!