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Behind the Scenes of Medical Blogs: Scott Shreeve

I’ve already presented several famous medical bloggers to you. My aim is to get my readers closer to these quality blogs and the bloggers as well. I’d like to persuade more and more health professionals/laypeople interested in medicine to create their own blogs by providing interesting “behind-the-scenes” interviews. The twelfth blogger in this series is Scott Shreeve, the author of CrossOver Healthcare, a blog about web 2.0 and healthcare.

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  • How do you find information for your blog? You certainly read other blogs, journals but do you use RSS reader? How many blogs do you track?

I am constantly trolling the blogosphere to find out what is going on. I find that the following blogs provide me my staple of information:

* HISTalk
* The Health Care Blog
* Health Populi
* Health Care Policy and Marketplace Review

I also follow the following out of personal technology interest:

* Matt Asay
* Nicholas Carr
* O’Reilly Radar

I have unwittingly adopted nearly the full Google platform, and so I use Google Reader and Google Alerts to constantly troll the net for stuff I am interested in. I also use Gmail, Google Chat, and love google analytics. However, I had switched over to WordPress to try it out which causes me some mild integration problems. I am going to stick it out for a year and then make a decision about which platform I like better.

  • You’ve had several presentations, when will the next one take place? And do you plan to publish your slides?

Yeah, I am a big believer in the information theory that information becomes more valuable as you share it. I love the concept of the creative commons which provides the intellectual property ownership framework that allows this type of sharing to happen in a trusted fashion while preserving my rights. I love to share my presentations and if there are not online it is only because I have not taken the time to post it up. I will attempt to get some additional ones up.

  • Do you think there is a difference between health 2.0 and medicine 2.0?

In my opinion, medicine 2.0 is more about education. I specifically chose the term “Health” versus Health Care versus Medicine versus other terms. Health felt the most comprehensive. I stand by my definition of Health 2.0 as both the enabling technologies and the reform movement that will catalyze the transition to next generation health care.

Seems that, given your orientation, that Medicine 2.0 is all about the medical student or health care student experience and how to use enabling technologies and curriculum reform to get to next generation medical education. You see how you need both things to get to the ultimate reality. You add all these wizbang online avatar computers that teach you biochemistry and molecular genetics that is great; but if you never change the fundamental stuff you are teaching you are not going to get the outcome you want. It was like when we implemented electronic medical records, we can’t just deploy the enabling technology without changing the business processes as well. It requires both to be successful.

Yes, I have. In fact, I have checked it out on a couple of occasions. I have always wondered how you have time to do all the stuff that you do – particularly during medical school. Pretty impressive.

There is so much more we could do with the Health 2.0 Wiki but I just don’t have time. I am hoping that Matthew and Indu can get some funding for what they are doing in order to get some staffing. I believe that if the organization could get some modest fund for a couple of staff members to more appropriately staff, catalogue, and aggregate the whole Health 2.0 thing the site could really add some value to the constantly growing community. More importantly, I would love to have a more vibrant way to capture all these innovative companies out there who are doing great things.

  • Has your valuable work been recognized by medical journals or your colleagues?

Again, I have been approached by several journals and reporters and find that I just don’t have the time to sit down to write out all my ideas. I would love to have a volunteer author step forward and collaborate with me on the development and articulation of the ideas. Essentially, getting some help teasing out and developing the ideas, putting those ideas to paper, and then getting it in a format that could be distributed would be awesome.

  • Do your colleagues appreciate your work and understand its importance?

It is unclear who my colleagues are at this point, but recent conferences like the September Health 2.0 and now the Spring Fling Health 20 conference are certainly validating that this is in fact transitioning into a relevant movement that will create disruptive change within the healthcare industry. While we are currently focused on the enabling technologies, I can assure you that health care reform will become an increasing important byproduct of all these efforts as well. That is why I have always opted for a more expansive definition and perspective.

I also don’t think we can understand its importance as the game has not yet been played. I hope to look back years from now and be able to say that I was able to recognize the trend early, and was able to bring disruptive innovation to the health care market that allows us to improve health care delivery.

  • At last, what are your future plans with your blog?

Well, I enjoy blogging as a means to share ideas, collaborate with people I would otherwise never meet, and to think through my own ideas in a public way. My sense is that there is somewhat of a voyeuristic sense to my blog as people have become interested in not only WHAT I am thinking about, but WHY and HOW I am thinking about it as well. Again, I have no delusions that I have a very limited readership (~2,500/mo) compared to someone like your self but it is significant growth month over month. I have chosen not to monetize my blog as of yet – as I personally don’t like all the distracting ads – but I respect that as a choice of many bloggers to get paid for the value they are creating through their publication.

Thank you, Scott, for the nice answers, especially for expressing your thoughts about the difference between medicine 2.0 and health 2.0!

Check out his blog!

Behind-the-Scenes interviews so far:

Behind the Scenes of Medical Blogs: Diabetes Mine

amywhitesofeyes_bw7.jpgI’ve already presented several famous medical bloggers to you. My aim is to get my readers closer to these quality blogs and the bloggers as well. I’d like to convince more and more health professionals/people interested in medicine to create their own blogs by providing interesting “behind-the-scenes” interviews. The eleventh blogger in this series is Amy Tenderich, the author of DiabetesMine.com, a blog about diabetes.

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  • You’ve been blogging for more than 3 years now. How can you maintain your blog? How much time does it take?

DiabetesMine.com has kind of taken over my life, for sure. I now post every weekday, and sometimes on weekends, too. It’s very time-consuming. But it’s also therapeutic, because the blogging has become intertwined with my diabetes care and my support community. I feel like I couldn’t stand the diabetes if I didn’t have that.

  • How do you find information for your blog? You certainly read other blogs, journals but do you use RSS reader? How many blogs do you track?

Of course I peruse hundreds of blogs and medical sites. I’m a big fan of the Bloglines prescription service. Honestly, I could hire an assistant just for tracking all the health and diabetes-specific information on the web. But what I choose to write about is really mostly the stuff that just “catches my eye,” or that I believe will truly impact people’s lives.

  • You got special mention in Medgadget’s Weblog Awards; you’ve been featured in several magazines. I’m pretty sure you are one of the most respected ambassadors of diabetes. What do you think about it?

That’s very kind of you. In fact, there’s a very rich community of patient bloggers out there. I think we all add value with our individual strengths and style, and together, we’ve created a new force: a Voice of the Patient Community that could never be heard before. This is the essence of the Health 2.0 movement that’s underway – a whole new model for consumer involvement in the healthcare system. I’m just delighted to be a part of it!

  • The mission of patient blogs is to educate other patients, but do you learn from what you write about? Do your readers, other patients help you how to deal with diabetes?

OMG, you have no idea how much I’ve learned in the last three years writing DiabetesMine.com! In part from my own research, but also from the many, many wonderful people out there who comment and correspond with me. Remember, I’m a relative newbie to this disease. There are folks out there who’ve had it for DECADES. They keep us grounded on what’s really possible when we see all these sensational headlines about diabetes. The veterans give me tips, which I strive to share with the rest of the community. Some readers argue with me. Some say thank you. As sappy as it sounds, a few of them have actually made me cry. Let’s just say we need each other.

  • What do you think about the patient-community sites focusing on diabetes ( Sugarstats.com ; TuDiabetes.com:, etc.)? How much can web 2.0 be helpful for patients?

The convergence of Web 2.0 and healthcare is huge. Relationships between patients and caregivers are changing, medicine is becoming more personalized, and healthcare itself is moving toward an open market model in this country. You can read more about my take on these changes at the Digital Influence 360˚blog.

Meanwhile, all of these new interactive web tools are fantastic for us PWDs (people with diabetes). We can learn, share, and reach out to other patients around the world 24/7 essentially for free. We can “beam” our glucose results to our doctors, search for healthy recipes, and “talk” to other real people living with this volatile disease. IMHO, the whole experience of being a patient is being transformed.

  • At last, what are your future plans?

I view technology and social media as important factors in bridging the gap between “the system” and its consumers. A lot needs to be fixed in healthcare in the US – from the insurance reimbursement model to the design of medical devices for patients with long-term illness. I want to be an active part of the group that helps improve the situation through community involvement. I think of DiabetesMine.com not only as a news source, but also a gathering place to learn, share, laugh, and sometimes vent. I hope to keep building out that robust community.

Thank you, Amy, for the kind answers! Check out her blog and the other patient blogs out there!

Behind-the-Scenes interviews so far:

Behind the Scenes of Medical Blogs: Clinical Cases and Images

vesdimov.gifI’ve already presented some famous medical bloggers to you. My aim is to get my readers closer to these quality blogs and the bloggers as well. I’d like to convince more and more health professionals/people interested in medicine to create their own blogs by providing interesting “behind-the-scenes” interviews. The tenth blogger in this series is Ves Dimov, M.D., a clinical assistant professor of medicine at Cleveland Clinic Lerner College of Medicine of Case Western Reserve University in Cleveland, Ohio and the author of ClinicalCases.org, a case-based curriculum of medicine, and CasesBlog.

  • How do you find information for your blog? You certainly read other blogs, journals but do you use RSS reader? How many blogs do you track?

Google Reader is my “inbox for the web,” I subscribe to 650 feeds — journals, Pubmed searches, newspapers, blogs and other web sites. I post on the blog when I find something interesting and I use it as a personal archive and educational portfolio.

I subscribe to about 30-40 medical blogs and have 4-5 favorites that are always informative and well grounded. Bloglines was my favorite RSS reader for several years but Google Reader is faster and uses a Google account which allows seamless interoperability with other Google services such as Gmail, Blogger, Bookmarks, and Picasa Web.

  • You are one of the first bloggers who started to write about web 2.0 and medicine. How did you find such a great topic?

Actually, I believe I was the first to write about “Web 2.0 in medicine” (in October 2005) and describe how these new tools can be used by health workers.

Soon after, Dean Giustini and I started to talk about the Web 2.0 possibilities and he wrote the landmark BMJ editorial How Google is changing medicine referring to some of my ideas.

I have been interested in information technology since middle school. After all, I was born in Bulgaria and the first computer was invented by a Bulgarian-American, John Atanasoff, in 1939. Web 2.0 offers an interesting blend between technology and medicine which can benefit both physicians and patients. As I was preparing for Grand Rounds on Web 2.0 in Medicine at Cleveland Clinic in 2005, I assembled a few ideas and published them on my blog and this is how my “formal involvement” started.

  • We know well what a comprehensive database Clinical Cases and Images is, but what about the feedback of the medical journals and professionals? Do medical students and physicians use it?

The impact of Clinical Cases and Images has been well beyond my expectations. The project is an online case-based curriculum of clinical medicine with many contributors which has had more than 1.7 million page views since 2005. It has been featured in multiple scientific journals including British Medical Journal (3 times), Journal of the American College of Cardiology, Cleveland Clinic Journal of Medicine, Journal of the American Society of Nephrology,BMC Medical Education, Medscape (2 times), Student BMJ, Medical Journal of Australia and Clinical Infectious Diseases.

Abstracts and posters about the use of Clinical Cases and Images for medical education in different subspecialties have been presented at multiple scientific meetings including but not limited to the annual sessions of American College of Cardiology, American Society of Nephrology, International Association of Medical Science Educators, Society of Hospital Medicine, Cleveland Clinic Annual Perioperative Medicine Summit, and Case Western Reserve University Research ShowCase.

ClinicalCases.org is hyperlinked in the web sites of 25 medical schools in the U.S., Canada and Europe and is integrated within the Intranet and Internet properties of Cleveland Clinic.

I often receive feedback by medical students and physicians mentioning how beneficial the web site was for their education. I could have never imagined such a worldwide impact when I started the project as a chief resident in 2004.

  • How can it be possible that nearly all the real pioneers of medicine 2.0 are based in Cleveland? (AskDrWiki, Clinical Cases and Images, etc)?

Cleveland is a medical city and we have some of the best and brightest working and studying here. It is not very difficult to find people with similar interests especially if you work at Cleveland Clinic which is one of the largest medical institutions in the world with 30,000 employees. Cleveland Clinic Heart Center has been ranked number one in cardiology for 13 years in a row by the U.S. News World Report. Even our CEO has a blog.

  • Do your colleagues know about your work and do they use the tools/services you share with them?

My colleagues, and the students and residents that I teach, are well aware of my Web 2.0 projects. I am a Clinical Assistant Professor of Medicine at the Cleveland Clinic medical school and we often use ClinicalCases.org to pull sample cases for teaching sessions. In addition, it is easy to find the original reference of something we discuss — I just need to run a Google custom search on my blog which is also an archive/educational portfolio.

When the idea of using Web 2.0 in medicine was very new, I gave a series of lectures at several hospitals in Cleveland in attempt to popularize the concept starting in October 2005

I created several web sites for different projects and departments at Cleveland Clinic which were underpinned by a blogging platform at least initially:

- Web site of Department of Hospital Medicine at Cleveland Clinic

- Web site of the Annual Perioperative Medicine Summit at Cleveland Clinic

- Persistent search via RSS Feeds for Cleveland Clinic on the front page of the official web site

  • At last, what are your future plans with your blog?

I would like to expand the coverage of Clinical Cases and Images to include more cases from different subspecialties, currently we have about 150. Also, there will be more educational tools like mind maps, mnemonics and clinical notes. Podcasts and Second Life projects are other interesting possibilities. I am planning to write a few short review articles about Web 2.0 tools for the Cleveland Clinic Journal of Medicine which will feature ideas from the web site. At some point, we will probably combine the clinical cases in a book.

It was my honor to interview the real pioneer of medicine and web 2.0. Thank you, Ves Dimov, for the answers!

Behind-the-Scenes interviews so far:

Behind the Scenes of Medical Blogs: Code Blog

codeblog.jpgI’ve already presented some famous medical bloggers to you. My aim is to get my readers closer to these quality blogs and the bloggers as well. I’d like to convince more and more health professionals/people interested in medicine to create their own blogs by providing interesting “behind-the-scenes” interviews. The ninth blogger in this series is a nurse, Geena from Code Blog.

  • How do you find information for your blog? You certainly read other blogs, journals but do you use RSS reader? How many blogs do you track?

I post about my own personal experience as a nurse. I also post submissions that readers send in. I’ve received submissions from EMT’s, other nurses, patients, and family members of patients.

I definitely use an RSS reader – I can’t imagine life without it! I follow almost 50 medical blogs and about 20 other blogs that aren’t medical.

  • You’ve been blogging for 5 years now. Is it hard to blog as a nurse? How do you find time for this and how can you maintain your blog?

When I started blogging, there were only a handful of other medical blogs – I remember finding GruntDoc, RangelMD and Medpundit. I did a lot of searching, but was only able to find one other blog written by a nurse (“code: the web socket;,” which is no longer updated). I thought it would be great to start a blog dedicated to nursing and my experiences as a nurse. I was nervous about putting my experiences out there in the world and was afraid that I wouldn’t have enough material to keep up with it, which is why I added the submissions link.

I figured that I wouldn’t put too much pressure on myself to keep to a schedule. I usually only post a few times a month, and during my pregnancy I barely blogged at all. I don’t want it to feel like an obligation – I just want to enjoy it! And I do, so I don’t find it hard. Frankly I’m a bit surprised to be here almost 5 years later. I’m very proud of the fact that I am one of the first nurse bloggers and that I’ve kept with it this long.

  • You have excellent images. Do you create those yourself? Are most of your posts based on your daily work experiences or you have to search for interesting/new content on the web?

I create the buttons on my sidebar by using images or color schemes from the blog I’m linking to. I really enjoy making them, but it isn’t as easy as adding a text link, so I do find that I’m usually a bit behind in adding new blogs. The little nurse in the upper right hand corner of my blog is a painting that I bought off of Ebay.

Most of my posts are based on work experiences, but occasionally I’ll find something in the news or on another blog that I want to comment on.

  • Do your collegues and the physicians at your hospital know about your blog? Do they appreciate your work? Does your employer have to know about your blog?

My boss and colleagues do know about my blog. I don’t think the physicians do, but not because I’ve been keeping it a secret. When my blog was written about in Nurse Week, the cat was pretty much out of the bag at that point! I was excited to be included in the article and told a few coworkers and it went from there. They, and my boss, are very supportive and have left comments and submitted stories themselves!

  • Tell us please what are the biggest problems with us, medical students?

There are no med students or interns/residents at the hospital I work at now. I did work with them when I first started out as a nurse. The med students never bothered me in the least unless they were hogging my patient’s chart. As for the interns and residents – well, I thought they were a godsend. Being new and inexperienced, I was often very nervous about calling physicians (especially in the middle of the night!) It was somehow easier to call the residents instead. I felt like they weren’t in a position to get mad at my calls. Not that I ever made frivolous calls, of course. But they were much less intimidating than the attendings and I was grateful to be able to bounce my concerns off of them first.

  • You have a Submit your story section. Last time, I saw the same at Six Until Me, the best patient blog. Why do you have such a problematic section? I mean it must be hard to maintain and moderate it. Or am I wrong?

I don’t find it problematic at all! I enjoy reading the submissions that people send in. If I don’t feel that the story fits codeblog, I simply don’t publish it. My favorite submissions are from patients. I think it’s so important to always try to keep in mind what it’s like from the patient’s perspective, and one way to do that is by reading their stories. It also helps to have submissions to post when the well of ideas has run dry.

  • At last, what are your future plans with your blog?

Hopefully a redesign!! I have had the same exact color scheme and layout since day 1, when there were very few other blogs to link to and almost no fun blog widgets! Otherwise, I plan on continuing to write posts and provide readers with the scoop on what it’s like to be a nurse.

It has been so enjoyable to read blogs by other nurses and I’m so glad that there are so many! I also love reading physician and patient blogs. What an awesome way to keep connected and continually be exposed to other perspectives. I really feel as though it has made me a better nurse.

Thank you, Geena, for the answers and to take us behind the scenes of nurse bloggers!

Behind-the-Scenes interviews so far:

Behind the Scenes of Medical Blogs: Neurophilosophy

moheb.jpgI’ve already presented some famous medical bloggers to you. My aim is to get my readers closer to these quality blogs and the bloggers as well. I’d like to convince more and more health professionals/people interested in medicine to create their own blogs by providing interesting “behind-the-scenes” interviews. The eighth blogger in this series is Moheb Costandi, the Neurophilosopher.

  • How do you find information for your blog? You certainly read other blogs, journals but do you use RSS? How many blogs do you track?

I get my information mainly from the journals and the science stories in the mass media. It’s all aggregated in Google Reader, with which I’m subscribed to about 1,250 feeds (mostly blogs of all sorts). Of these, I only track about 100. The ones I read regularly are the science news feeds and my favourite blogs.

  • You provide incredibly detailed posts and you write often. How much time does it take a day to be up-to-date and to maintain your blog?

When I started blogging in February of last year, I was spending 12 hours a day at a computer. I had very little else to do, so I had plenty of time to read and to write those detailed posts. But my routine has changed dramatically in recent months. Due to some major changes in my circumstances, I’ve got far less computer time at the moment. So I’ve reverted to the traditional methods – printing papers, reading them at work during the day and taking notes that I type up later. This has made me more focused on what I write. However, I’m nowhere near as prolific as I used to be, but I hope to have more time to devote to blogging in the near future.

  • You always give attention to the references and sources of your writings. Do you think your readers click on those?

Only occasionally I think. At the old blog, I had a count of outgoing clicks on the stats page, and I did notice regular small numbers of clicks on the PDFs I linked to. The main reason I cited my sources so extensively was to make the blog seem as academic as possible.

  • Recently, you moved to Scienceblogs.com. What are your first experiences? Is it a better place to be a neurophilosopher?

It’s been great joining ScienceBlogs (and actually I’ve just come back from a long weekend in New York, during which I met many of my new “colleagues”.) I think there are a number of advantages to blogging with the Seed Media Group. First, I feel like part of a wider community, whose other members have similar interests to mine. Secondly, the bloggers there are all outstanding, so to be accepted into the network is to be recognized. And finally, ScienceBlogs is an experiment in scientific writing/ publishing, and as such is something exciting to be involved in.

  • What about the scientific journals? Have they discovered you and your blog? Do your colleagues know about your blog and your achievements?

I’m pretty sure that the journals haven’t discovered me and my blog. Then again, the old blog was on PostGenomic, which is maintained by Nature. And I’m not sure if “discovered” is even the right word, because I don’t think I’ve got anything to offer the journals. In fact, I see weblogs as a threat to the monopoly on the distribution of scientific information, so I don’t think the journals are going to accept them as legitimate any time soon. On the other hand, researchers sometimes send me PDFs of their newly-published papers, asking if I’d be interested in writing about their research on the blog. Several others have told me that they read my blog every now and then to see what’s going in other areas of neuroscience. As if I provide them some kind of news service.If, by “colleagues”, you mean other lab members, etc., the answer is no, the reason being that I’m not currently in academia. Seven years ago, I was doing a Ph.D. in Developmental Neurobiology at King’s College London. But I left without completing it, for various reasons. Next month (September 2007) I’ll be returning to UCL, where I read neuroscience as an undergraduate, to study for a M.Sc/ Ph.D in neuroscience. I mentioned on the application form that I have a neuroscience blog, but they didn’t ask me about it at the interview.

  • At last, what are your future plans with your blog?

I just want to keep doing what I’m already doing. That is, to continue writing about things that interest me. It’s amazing how much I’ve learned in the past 18 months, just by writing the blog. Because of the blog, I’m doing the things that I enjoy most: reading, writing and learning. And I can’t foresee anything that will stop me from blogging.

Thank you, Moheb, for the great answers! For more about neuroscience, check out the Neurophilosophy blog!

Behind-the-Scenes interviews so far:

Behind the Scenes of Medical Blogs: Healthbolt.net

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I’ve already presented some famous medical bloggers to you. My aim is to get my readers closer to these quality blogs and the bloggers as well. I’d like to convince more and more health professionals/people interested in medicine to create their own blogs by providing interesting “behind-the-scenes” interviews. The seventh blogger in this series is Sara Ost who runs the #1 health blog on the web, Healthbolt.net.

  • How do you find information for your blog? You certainly read other blogs, journals but do you use RSS reader? How many blogs do you track?

I read Google News and BBC news along with all the major journals and press releases from the FDA, CDC and NIH. I check in on around 50 health and science blogs and I also follow roughly 100 other blogs (politics, web, tech, marketing, writing, philosophy, personal development, etc.).

  • You’re not a medical specialist but you can cover a wide range of medical topics. How can you do it?

I am a sponge. Most of my inspiration comes from observation of everything around me. I tear stuff out of magazines, I go out with friends, I surf the web. While I’m not an “expert”, I have learned a lot about health. Beyond that I’m a very curious person, which helps.

  • Was it hard to follow Wade Meredith’s job? (Actually, it seems you have no problem with that.)

Healthbolt is the house that Wade Meredith built. I followed the blog for Wade’s entire run and really dug it. I edit and write for a popular alternative health blog (www.marksdailyapple.com), and I’d had the itch to further satisfy my blog bug with my own digs, so it couldn’t have worked out better.

  • Healthbolt is No. 1 on this list, and No. 8 on that one. It must be a little bit frustrating that so many people are watching! How can you handle it?

Hey, thanks for bringing that up! I’m just myself. If it works, it works!

  • Are the most of your readers patients/laymen? Or medical specialists?

My readers are generally college-educated but not health professionals. They skew male, they’re Gen X-ers, they’re interested in entertainment, politics, psychology, sex, and science. They like learning about health and how the body works, but they aren’t really too nutty about it. That’s what the other blog is for! ;)

  • Do you plan to write more about web 2.0 or genetics? I personally miss these topics.

I am just as obsessed with Web 2.0 as any other blogger, and I follow all the major web and tech blogs, but that’s not really the purview of Healthbolt. Genetics? Duly noted!

  • At last, what are your future plans with your blog?

Well, one goal is to continue to make Healthbolt very interactive. The first thing I did was to open up comments. Other than that, I’m just curious and focused on learning, so I appreciate that others take the time to learn along with me. And it’s a riot! 

Thank you, Sara, for the answers. Follow Healthbolt.net for many interesting posts on popular medicine and health!

Behind-the Scenes interviews so far:

Behind the Scenes of Medical Blogs: MicrobiologyBytes

alancann.jpgI’ve already presented some famous medical bloggers to you. My aim is to get my readers closer to these quality blogs and the bloggers as well. I’d like to convince more and more health professionals/people interested in medicine to create their own blogs by providing interesting “behind-the-scenes” interviews. The sixth blogger in this series is Dr Alan Cann, the blogger of MicrobiologyBytes, Science of the Invisible and the maintainer of microbiologybytes.com.

  • How do you find information for your blog? You certainly read other blogs, journals but do you use RSS reader? How many blogs do you track?

Since I started blogging, I read more than I have ever done. I couldn’t do it without RSS. I feel I need to convert people to the joy of RSS! To help with that, I’ve just written an online tutorial I hope will be helpful for people – and I hope people will give me lots of feedback on how it can be improved. Bloglines is my preferred RSS reader, but I’ve found that when I show people RSS, they have strong preferences which reader they prefer, so I always show people Bloglines, Google Reader and Pageflakes and let them choose which they like best. Since nearly half of the subscriptions to my RSS feed at MicrobiologyBytes are through email subscriptions to the feed rather than through feed readers, I also give them that option, although I try to persuade them not to use email for RSS!

I read around 180 feeds, but this varies from day to day. This is my current list. I have my core feeds that I’ve always read, but I try new feeds out frequently, dropping them if they don’t give me what I’m looking for. About half of them are preformed feeds from blogs, etc, and the rest are generated from keyword searches and tags on a wide variety of websites – that’s how I can rapidly scan so much information in one place.

  • You provide excellent content. Moreover, you create podcasts. How much time does it take to maintain these?

Blush. The podcasts are much more labour-intensive than the blog. It takes between one and two hours a week to produce the podcast, which lasts around five minutes! Ironically, I started the blog as a front end for the podcast to allow search engine discovery, but now in many ways the podcast is a shop window for the blog! I currently have around 1,200 subscribers to the podcast feed and the podcast files get downloaded around 10,000 times a month. More people prefer to download the podcast files directly by clicking on links rather than by subscribing to the feed, but that’s fine.
Now that I feel that I know what I’m doing with the blog, it doesn’t take that long to maintain, a few hours spread across the week – less than when I was experimenting more in the early days. But it varies a lot throughout the year, depending on how busy I am with other work.

  • You are a blogger at Science of the Invisible and you also work on microbiologybytes.com. I think there aren’t any better microbiology sources than microbiologybytes.com. Am I right?

There are other good microbiology blogs, such as Small Things Considered and Aetiology, but they tend not to post as frequently as I do on MicrobiologyBytes. The most important thing is to read as widely as possibly, and access your information from as many sources and as many points of view as you can.
I’d like to explain why I have two blogs. It’s not because I’m greedy! When I started, MicrobiologyBytes had a long format (for a blog) and the front end to the podcasts, and Science of the Invisible was a short format. Gradually, more and more education/technology content crept into SOTI, and so about six months ago I chose to separate them, giving MicrobiologyBytes all the microbiology content (“The latest news about microbiology in a form that everyone can understand”), and putting all the educational stuff into SOTI (“Education costs money. Ignorance costs more.”). At that point, both blogs really took off, so I guess the lesson is to target a particular audience. I don’t think many people regularly read both of my blogs, although a few wander in and out since I put links in the sidebars.
Actually, I’ve got lots of blogs – since I discovered how to use del.icio.us tags to create RSS feeds. I currently have about six: MicrobiologyBytes, SOTI, two del.icio.us miniblogs for the sidebars so I can post items quickly (one and an other), oh, and my Virtual Frogroom blog. I just started another miniblog to cover the UK foot and mouth disease outbreak.

  • Does blogging help your career? Do your colleagues respect what you’ve done on the web?

I think it will do. It’s certainly helped me widen my horizons over the last year, and stay up to date – with technology as well as microbiology. I have a Why Blog? page on MicrobiologyBytes.com to try to encourage other people to think about blogging.

  • What about the microbiology journals? Have they discovered you and your blogs?

Not the academic journals, since publishers still feel blogging is a threat to their income, but news media have discovered blogging, even if they don’t know what to do with it. MicrobiologyBytes is starting to get quoted quite often by journalists. Interestingly, when I started my microbiology website (now at microbiologybytes.com) in 1994, journalists would find out my phone number (which wasn’t on the site) and interrupt me with calls. Now they just quote the blog directly. I’m happy with that, as long as they link back.
I have a very good relationship with the Society of General Microbiology in the UK who have been generous enough to sponsor the podcasts.

  • At last, what are your future plans with your blog?

Well first, to keep going as long as possible – or until a better technology comes along! SOTI is a platform which allows me to explore lots of different technologies which may or may not make it into my teaching eventually – after I’ve had chance to play with them online first. Beyond that, public responses to events such as people flying around the world with XDR-TB and the recent foot and mouth disease outbreak in the UK have started me thinking about how bloggers can contribute to the public good, beyond general education and awareness of science. I’m trying to think of what I might be able to do when the next influenza pandemic strikes – got any ideas?

Thank you, Alan, for the answers. Keep on informing the world about microbiology in several ways!

Behind-the Scenes interviews so far:

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