Thursday, April 06, 2006

Proposal: Linking Communities of Healthcare Blogs with Wikis

Collaborating communities of healthcare professionals and consumers are essential to solving the healthcare crisis. Through news feeds, conversation and knowledge-sharing, these communities help increase people's understanding, spark innovation, provide decision-support, enable better problem-solving, and mobilize grass-roots efforts.

The most practical way to do this is through "virtual communities" using communication vehicles such as blogs, wikis, forums, list serves, and real-time workspaces. Each of these technologies has certain unique capabilities, as well as overlapping functions.

Following is a proposal that combines these different vehicles in an optimal way enabling virtual communities to generate, evaluate, evolve, and implement strategies and tactics for solving the healthcare crisis from the "bottom-up" through grass-roots action.

Unlike a blog, a wiki is an excellent vehicle for organizing content, like an encyclopedia, using links to pages via a table of contents or taxonomy, which gives a comprehensive “whole-picture” view. It enables the reader to navigate quickly and easily from topic to topic, category to category, and can handle many different links to reference materials and other external information sources. And it allows collaborative editing by authorized contributors who can modify and add content right on the wiki pages. They also enable comments, as does a blog.

Blogs, on the other hand, do not organize content into a comprehensive view. Instead, posts appear chronologically, not organized by topic. This is a good way to deliver a variety of different issues for review and discussion, like a news feed. The reader scans through the issues of the day, reads the ones they want, and post comments as desired. When the comments stimulate community dialogue, blogs help surface new ideas, challenge people’s assumptions, and lead to greater learning.

So, wikis are like encyclopedic organizers and blogs are like newsfeeds, both of which enable conversations. How can they be used together for maximum benefit?

Well, when it comes to focusing virtual communities on something as complex as finding solutions to the healthcare crisis, I suggest using our
Wellness Wiki as a vehicle for organizing and growing content, and using a community of blogs to “feed” the wiki. What I mean is that the blog posts would:

  • Present timely information (news, studies, insights, opinions, experiences, questions, etc.) on different topics of interest (some of which might even be based on content from the wiki itself).
  • Engage people in short-term dialogue about that information.
  • Have links to them from the appropriate wiki pages, so people reading a topic on the wiki can easily navigate to the associated blog posts. If a post does not have a corresponding page on the wiki, because it introduces a topic absent from the wiki, then the wiki should be expanded to include that topic.
  • Contain links to specific pages in the wiki as is appropriate.

In some ways, this is like a blogs aggregator, except that each blog post is organized in the wiki by topic/category, not by the time period in which the posts happen to appear.

If certain topics in the wiki require deep continuous dialogue, lengthy posts, branches into sub-topics, voting capabilities, file exchange, etc., then a virtual forum can be set up for that purpose.

If any bloggers are interested, please contact me.


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