The Implosion of the Medical Blogosphere

January 8, 2014

businessman with gas mask watching TVWes Fisher’s take on the slow death of the medical blogosphere is something to look at.  I suspect most doctors reading his post will have no idea what he’s talking about.  To understand the fabric of the medical community before social media requires having seen it.  It was a world connected by nothing other than blogrolls, dynamic comment threads and the memorable blog carnival.

More doctors, less organization.  While the traditional medical blog may be going the way of FriendFeed, physicians are present in public in greater numbers.  They would appear, however, increasingly disconnected.  I would agree with Wes that their presence is less about doctorly togetherness and more about personal presentation.  Perhaps this reflects the broader trend of physician disorganization.  Some physician-to-physician bonds have given way to physician-patient connections.  Many physicians find community in their own corners of the web in their specialties or areas of interest.  We just don’t see it.

New forms of creation.  There’s an assumption that the only way that doctors can meaningfully create and share is in long-form copy delivered in reverse chronology, Blogger style.  But the world relates differently now.  Video is the preferred medium of some.  Microblogging is a viable means of communication and it suits the piecemeal schedules of others.  Images do things that copy can’t.  These media are different, not better or worse than long-form writing.

Very few create.  Keep in mind that the vast majority of the planet consumes information, few create.  Doctors are no exception.  In the early days the medical blogosphere attracted and amplified the voice of a courageous minority who ventured out to find themselves and create the earliest iteration of digital culture.  Still, very few created.

The web amplifies our differences.  Most importantly I think we’re all finding our voices and recognizing that we don’t say and think the same thing.  Public media amplifies our passions and beliefs that aren’t always about medicine.  The most passionate physician voices aren’t sharing journal articles or talking shop.

So while the blogosphere of the early-mid 2000’s may be part of history, I don’t think public doctors are going away.  We just share, create and relate differently.


{ 3 comments }

Chris Porter MD (@PorterOnSurg) January 8, 2014 at 12:25 pm

Bryan,

You note a trend of physician disorganization. I agree. I see traditional organizations (academic, professional) struggling to connect with a digital native demographic or provide thought leadership except in bursts around the annual conference. I hear voices on blogs and social media with great insight but no power structure or budget to effect change. I suspect we’re in the early middle of a substantial reorganization of authority and community, brought on by sea change in how we communicate.

As to mediums of choice, just yesterday I uploaded my first iPhone selfie video straight to YouTube. All my unfinished written blog posts are likely to remain so, as I experiment with building conversations seeded with video content.

Besides evolving mediums, another reason we don’t see more long-form doc writers, I suspect, is because positions formerly up for grabs are now filled. The fact that good bloggers have established niche audiences raises the bar for new creators.

Happy New Year and keep the blog rolling!

Chris

john bennett md January 9, 2014 at 9:49 am

Evolution of forms of communication and education.

And in this wonderful time of living (I believe that we are the last generation that cannot choose how long they live), more ways of communication are being invented or re-invented.

I believe that Google Hang out will be the future phonecalll and the primary way to meet and educate.

Futurist?

Please, don’t pin that one on me.

You cannot collect unemployment if I start making false predictions.

HAH

Paul Sufka MD January 10, 2014 at 9:41 am

I actually hope any feeling of flatting of the medical blogosphere is actually a mistaken natsukashii feeling (http://en.wiktionary.org/wiki/懐かしい#Usage_notes) for the close community feeling of medical blogging grand rounds (http://www.getbetterhealth.com/grand-rounds) of years past.

Maybe, it’s that the way we use the web is very different now compared to even 4-5 years ago, when the dominant way that blogging was organized was through subscribing via an RSS reader or through blogrolls.

Now days, we get our information through social networks, where the most popular (not necessarily the best) posts are retweeted or commented on, moving them to the top of our timelines. Times have changed. The RSS reader is essentially dead as our main newsfeed (admittedly, I still occasionally use an RSS reader, but only to catch up on a few favorite blogs I might have missed).

For a reminder of how we understand technology and sharing and how this has changed, look at comparisons between the original iPhone and iOS7 (from http://daringfireball.net/2013/06/wwdc_2013_expectations):

>Look around you. Any street corner. Any office. Any shopping mall. Any restaurant. You will see people tapping on touchscreens. We all get it now. iOS-style computing is no longer novel; it is now the standard interaction model for personal computing.
>The primary problem Apple faced with the iPhone in 2007 was building familiarity with a new way of using computers. That problem has now been solved. It is time to solve new problems.

So at this point, maybe the problem the medical community still has is finding their very own social network . One where we feel safe from marketing and HIPAA and everything else that keeps physicians from feeling safe online. Unfortunately, none of the current iterations of social networks for physicians have yet done it right (much like the medical billers and coders that have huge input into our EMR designs will never make one that satisfies us).

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