Friday, August 01, 2008

PBWiki Offers Free Premium Account to Librarians

Thank you MidContinental Region News for alerting me that PBWiki is offering free premium accounts to librarians and teachers (a $250/year value). According to the folks over at PBWiki they want to make 2008-2009 the year of collaborative learning. "We know that budgets are going to be tight, and we don't want a lack of funds to deter educators from using collaborative technologies like wikis with their students." This offer is good for each teacher or librarian who signs up to be a part of the program from August 18 through November 30, 2008.

The free wiki subscription lasts one year and each Fall PBWiki plans to offer additional programs allowing program participants to retain their premium status free of charge.

For more information on the difference between the traditional free account and the premium account as well as participation information go to

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Friday, July 25, 2008

What is Knol

Google has been testing a new product called Knol. Knol is intended to be a site where authoritative articles on specific topics are available. These articles are written by people "who know all about those subjects." According to the Official Google Blog, "every know will have an author (or group of authors) who put their name behind their content."
At first glance there appears to be a lot of health care information on Knol. One of the Feature Knols is Migraine: Mechanisms and Management,by Richard Kraig. Knol topics include Tuberculosis, Pancreatitis, Glaucoma, and many more. From what I can tell many are written by physicians based on the brief author information on each knol. However, I found many authors did not provide Knol with their biographical information, leaving me to question whether the friendly face in the picture really is a physician and if so what their qualifications are. Additionally, Knol has no specific guidelines as to what somebody could publish.

Introduction to Knol:

"So what subjects can I write on?
(Almost) anything you like. You pick the subject and write it the way you
see fit. We don't edit knols nor do we try to enforce any particular viewpoint –
your knol should be written as you want it to be written."

Read Write Web's article, Knol: Google Takes on Wikipedia, provides a nice overview of Knol and mentions that authors can validate their identity on Knol through either a credit card or a phone number. I am less than impressed by this method of validation. I would much rather see some in depth information as to why I should trust Dr. Smart Brain's knol on congestive heart failure vs. Dr. Also Smart on the same knol. You see not only are there no stringent author requirements for posting medical information, but there can be more than one knol on a topic. Great for restaurant and hotel reviews, but potentially confusing (at best) for medical information.

If Knol seems at all familiar then you may have heard about Medpedia, which was recently posted on David Rothman's blog who noted that he saw no criteria for the acceptance of applications for submitting to Medpedia. In a comment to David's post, Angela Simmen said,
"We are confident that a large number of passionate people — some with medical credentials and some without credentials — can collaborate to produce something of very high quality. We also believe that the result of their work will do a better job of answering the general public’s questions than the most popular medical websites of today." Fine and dandy, but what happens if you have an author writing an popular point of view or writes about a controversial topic. There are plenty of passionate people who view early child immunization shots as a direct contributor to autism. Almost equally controversial is the debate on circumcision. Those are just two examples, and we haven't even scratched the surface with drug trials. Need we forget that at one time rofecoxib (Vioxx) was used to treat osteoarthritis and was approved and thought safe and effective by the Food and Drug Administration only later to be pulled by the manufacturer concerns about increased risk of heart attack and stroke associated with long-term, high-dosage use.

David has also done a very nice job of compiling a list of medical wikis. Speaking as a consumer (let's forget for a second that I am also a librarian), I would be extremely concerned that neither of these two sites (as well as other medical wikis) do not have any authorship controls. Excellent websites post their authors' credentials and an excellent wiki should also require authors to provide appropriate credentials. AskDrWiki does this, only "licensed clinical professionals who have proven their credentials to the satisfaction of editors," are allowed to contribute. I would challenge all other professional medical wikis to do the same and create some actual standards and criteria for posting.

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Thursday, May 29, 2008

Design Envy

I am working on a project to help 8 hospitals have an Internet presence for their users. We wanted something with a cohesive look and feel so that doctors going from one hospital to another would be familiar with finding things. We wanted something that could be easily edited and changed by all of the librarians, because they don't want to be calling me to make the changes to the web page. We needed a hosted site because we don't have a server.

After going through our criteria list and bouncing things around, it appeared that a wiki might satisfy our needs. The WikiMatix allowed me to compare different wiki platforms to see which one would best suit us. WetPaint had most of the critical features we needed. So I started creating the 8 hospital library wiki site and started to encounter design envy. I want to do so much more than WetPaint can do. I want to design a wiki site that will include the online catalog's search box and delete some of the permanent tabs (Members, ToDos, Invite) within WetPaint that might be confusing to our users. I want to make a nice header graphic listing each hospital with hotspots within the graphic linking to each library's wiki page. That way when you are buried within Hospital A's page you can easily click on the header and jump to Hospital B instead of scrolling through the left hand list of 8 hospitals. And while I was at it why not create a whole new skin which better incorporates my branding.

Hmm, some great ideas but from what I can tell it isn't going to happen because WetPaint doesn't allow HTML editing. WetPaint only supports widgets (which the catalog box would be) that are embedded Flash content or published in internal frames. And WetPaint is not real keen on messing with their overall style (skin) and deleting some of their WetPaint features (Members, ToDos, Invite tabs).

So scrap WetPaint? Well not necessarily. As I mentioned, given our unique criteria WetPaint emerged as the wiki leader for us. It just means that I must scale back my design aspirations. Instead of the search box for the catalog on the wiki page, I can easily link out to the Web OPAC. Instead of a nice graphic hotspot embedded header, I can create a normal nice graphic header without hotspots. I have to remember that for some of these hospitals this is the first time they will ever have any sort of Internet web page, so they may not need all of the bells and whistles yet.

I just have to remember to keep things in perspective to try and curb my design envy.


Tuesday, June 12, 2007

HLS Wiki

I have been playing around and browsing on the HLS Wiki and I like it. I also think it is one of those hidden gems that we hospital librarians need to do more to utilize and support. I can't tell you how many emails that get posted on the MEDLIB-L asking for help, ideas, best practices or resources on statistics, benchmarking, collection development, etc.

This wiki could be a really great resource for those kind of questions, but it needs your help. The wiki depends upon you to provide the information. The more quality information, the more of a help it can be to other hospital librarians.

I know, you are busy and don't have a lot of time at free time or work time to play around with a wiki. I hear ya. However, you don't have to sit there and edit every page or contribute mass amounts of information. Nobody has time for that. But it hardly takes any time to add a brief paragraph and link to something you did that worked. For example, I created an account and logged in and made some minor additions to beef up the front page of the Web 2.0 section. It took me a total of 5-10 minutes.

So here is my proposal. Don't stop the MEDLIB-L questions, I think we can all agree they are helpful and great. But perhaps in addition to sharing on MEDLIB you could also add the resource or example to the HLS wiki. Not only will you be sharing the information with that one person, but you will be providing information to others later on.

Just a thought.

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Tuesday, May 15, 2007

Which Wiki is Right for You

Library Stuff directed me to an article in School Library Journal, "Which Wiki is Right for You?" by Shonda Brisco. There are tons of wiki builders out there and a question I get asked a lot is what type of wiki somebody should use. I am sorry to say but my answer has never been that great because a lot of it depends upon the person and what they want to do. I usually refer them to the Wiki Matrix, which compares wikis to each other. However, the Wiki Matrix profiles so many that it too can just add to the confusion a little.

So if you are interested in starting a wiki or just curious you should check out the article in School Library Journal. It profiles three popular wikis, PBWiki, WikiSpaces, and WetPaint. Cost, how it works, pros and cons are all discussed, allowing you to get a better idea of what each wiki does and make a more informed decision.


Monday, May 14, 2007

AskDrWiki Editorial Board

If you have been following the AskDrWiki threads around the blogosphere (David Rothman, Doctor Wiki, AMA News, etc.) you will know that the creators of AskDrWiki have instituted a detailed editorial policy to help ensure that accurate and quality medical information is posted.

Unlike many wiki and blog pages, editors on AskDrWiki are not anonymous and are identified with their name and degree. Now the Who is Dr Wiki Page not only lists the editors but it will also link to their resume or curriculum vitae. Examples: Kenny Civello MPH, MD and Brian Jefferson MD.

AskDrWiki is still a little subject heavy in Cardiology, however they are looking for editors in every specialty. For example the Biomedical Informatics section is currently empty, so if there are any librarians, physicians, medical information systems people who specialize in Biomedical Informatics, you might want to drop them an email and help contribute.

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Friday, March 30, 2007

AskDrWiki in the News

This article, "A Wikipedia-style site for medical information?" appeared in yesterday's (March 29, 2007) Cleveland Plain Dealer. I have been busy with a couple of projects so I am just now getting to blog about it.

David Rothman, was interviewed as a librarian opposed to AskDrWiki and that actually shocked me a little. Even though David has criticized the wiki on his blog in the past, he has also discussed the positives of AskDrWiki as well as other wikis. It wasn't until I read David's blog this morning did I get the full picture. In his post, Cleveland Plain Dealer on Medical Wikis he revealed his frustration of being quoted out of context and his decision to publish his interview with the reporter.

I am very familiar with AskDrWiki and I have been watching it with great interest as one the better examples as to how wikis could work in the medical field. It offers a lot of promise as a learning site that can be used in conjunction with other medical information resources. While I share David's concerns about authority control and errors with medical wikis I am not as jittery as many would think.

Perhaps it is just in my mind but I kind of think of wikis, specifically specialty wikis like AskDrWiki, as a virtual discussion room for individuals. As librarians we look at various resources that our patrons use for information. However one resource we often forget about because we often don't see it, is doctor to doctor personal communication. Doctors (as well as other professionals) often consult each other formally or informally. At the basic level what is the difference between the sharing of information face to face vs. online through a wiki? Both methods are a means of exchanging information. Aah.. but there is a chance that the information posted on AskDrWiki is wrong. Yes. But isn't there also a chance the individual you are consulting in person is wrong? People are infallible, including doctors.

Now that AskDrWiki has instituted a credential review policy, it ensures that at least medical professionals are posting and sharing information which does help with some quality control. However, it does not totally eliminate the chance of errors and I don't know of anything that eliminates that chance completely. Textbooks have been recalled for errors, journal articles have been amended or retracted, and treatments medical society once thought to be the gold standard have been replaced. I tend to think of wikis like other information resources (articles, textbooks, personal discussions, etc.) where the onus is still on the user to verify the information. We do it all the time with print resources or through subtleties in conversation.

The medium is not what should be questioned, it is the information within. Learning is all about asking questions. Wikis offer that opportunity to learn.

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Tuesday, March 13, 2007

HLS Wiki

The hospital librarians' wiki, sponsored by the Hospital Libraries Section of the Medical Library Association, is up running and available for people to use. The purpose of the wiki is to provide an area where librarians can share best practices and ideas. It is easily accessed, archived, searched, and modified.

Currently, the wiki has information on Collection Development, Electronic Health Records, Point of Care resources, and Magnet Hospitals. You can add your comments by clicking on "Edit This Page" or start an entirely new topic by “Adding a New Page”.

Help documentation and tutorial videos are available if you should need any assistance with the wiki. Please feel free to add your content. It is a great opportunity to learn how to use wikis as well as sharing information with other hospital librarians.


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The Krafty Librarian has been a medical librarian since 1998. She is currently the medical librarian for a hospital system in Ohio. You can email her at: