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Medpedia, the NHS, Knol and restaurant reviews

In Information industry, Web 2.0 & all that, Website reviews on July 28, 2008 by Alan Lovell Tagged: , , , ,

So, everyone’s talking about Medpedia. Well, when I say everyone that’s a tiny exageration. But I am aware of three people in the last few days, and that’s near enough everyone in my book. Here’s what it’s all about:

“In association with Harvard Medical School, Stanford School of Medicine, Berkeley School of Public Health, University of Michigan Medical School and other leading global health organizations, the Medpedia community seeks to create the most comprehensive and collaborative medical resource in the world. Medpedia will serve as a catalog, database, and learning tool about health, medicine and the body for doctors, scientists, policymakers, students and citizens that will improve medical literacy worldwide.”

And as if Harvard wasn’t enough, our very own NHS is getting involved. According to the Guardian “the entire NHS library is to be loaded up on a wiki site called Medpedia.” Does that add to the authority of Medpedia? Of course it does – fancy having to ask.

Google, not wanting to be out of the news for more than a second, are also getting in on the wiki act; they are launching Knol, Google’s “answer to Wikipedia”. Unlike Wikipedia, Knol has authors with “names, faces, and reputations”. Users can rate and comment on ‘Knols’ (individual, topic based entries on Knol) and give them stars, and you can suggest changes to the author, but the author remains the owner of the content. It’s not the open, anyone-can-edit, Wikipedia model.

But what, then, if you’re reading a ‘knol’ on Evidence Based Medicine and you think hang on, this is rubbish, I could do better than this. Well, you can just write and submit your own ‘knol’ on Evidence Based Medicine. After time, there will therefore be two, three, four, ten, four hundred and seventy seven ‘knols’ on Evidence Based Medicine – all vying for the readers attention. How to sort? Well, you can sort by authority, or by how many stars other users have rated different knols.

What do you think? While this anyone-can-post and anyone-can-rank approach might be OK for restaurant reviews, I’m not so sure it’ll help people get the best health care information. Is it not going to just be the mess of the web all over again? In fact, come to think of it, I never look at anyone-can-post restaurant reviews on the web any more precisely because they are so biased, contrary and, ultimately, totally unhelpful. Would I be an insufferable elitist if I argued for the return of the expert? Well, maybe I’ve not understood the model precisely – let’s wait and see what happens…

Oh, and while we’re on Wikis, don’t forget DrWiki of course. The good Dr seems to have been around for ages, compared to these upstarts.

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