Why Social RSS Could Be Huge

This icon, known as the "feed icon" ...
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Ian Rosenwach has a brief post RSS’s potential in which he points out how building a few social features around RSS technology could propel it into a huge micro-content social network.

I don’t know if the  RSS brand will ever get much larger than it is in among the tech community, but I do think as a feature it will be one of the largest components of communications and social relations. Twitter is catchy. RSS isn’t.

Twitter is really simple syndication – way simpler than RSS. A tweet is both the feed’s title and subject. It’s two-way headline news.

If developers can derive inspiration from the social features of the two-way Web and fold the ingredients into RSS, RSS may at last achieve the public awareness it deserves – regardless of whatever its called. Maybe Twitter is what most people will call it.

Twitter enables us to dip into global brain pool (both bright and dim). If we could get deeper into the pool in a quick, consolidated and easy way with the rest of the dynamic Web then we could see a whole new kind of web evolve: a  vast active living intelligence system.

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Using Google Reader As A Twitter Search Engine

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Search.Twitter has a long way to go. It doesn’t store data long-term and it isn’t very stable. Google Reader, which relies on that relic of the Web, RSS, provides an alternative to store and search the data flowing into Twitter. Although it may be in vogue to write-off RSS and Readers, I don’t think they are going away anytime soon- in fact, Twitter itself is a sort of RSS: a reverse chronological listing of headlines.

Anyhoo, if you’re interested in conveniently focusing on a select group of Twitter accounts, search terms or hashtags, there’s an app for that: Google Reader. I use hashtags as an example in the presentation below, but any Twitter feed works, including  Twitter Favorites. I’ll share that process and my ideas about the value of Favorites in a future post. Here’s a short vid on how to set it up:

You can also use FriendFeed to store and search through tweets, Google Reader may be more manageable.

Is this helpful? Or are you satisfied with Search.Twitter?

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How to Use RSS for LinkedIn Answers

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I’m not much of a LinkedIn user, but I dip into the network every once in a while. There’s definitely a big pool of talent to connect with on LinkedIn, but the interface seems a bit claustrophobic for my tastes. Still, I think the Answers feature is a valuable way to help others out and network with others whom you might otherwise never discover.

The easiest way to use Answers is to subscribe via RSS to a few categories of interest. That way you don’t have deal with LinkedIn’s interface, can quickly skim through the most recent questions and decide which ones to answer. If you haven’t used Answers before – or have but found it useless – give this approach a try:

Let me know what you think. Do you find Answers useful? Let me know in the comments or  connect with me on LinkedIn.

[Apologies if the embed is awkward. Here’s the direct link to the screencast.]

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Google Reader Gets More Social: Here’s Who to Follow

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Just days before Facebook acquired FriendFeed, I talked about why FriendFeed is (was) an important tool. Either I was completely wrong or prescient – you decide. FriendFeed.com’s future may be in question – but the social mode it brought onto the web will likely become more ubiquitous as the social web continues to evolve. Which is why I still believe it’s an important tool.

Enter Google Reader (GR). I’ve always thought that RSS could become a powerful social tool if the right features were added. It seems that the Google Reader team is doing just that. Perhaps we’ll see a more FriendFeed-like Google Reader evolving. We will just have to see. The Google Reader team ( @GoogleReader) has its work cut out, but I suspect they’re working towards turning Reader into a powerful social informational tool.

For now, if you’re interested in “following” some smart people in your Google Reader, here is a real-time list of Google Readers from FriendFeed:

Oh, and you’re certainly welcome to follow me on Google Reader :)

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Elements of Hospital Blogging…Some of the

Intensive care bed after a trauma intervention, showing the highly technical equipment of modern hospitals.

Image via Wikipedia

My post on Blog ROI generated some excellent questions about how to face the specific challenges of hospital blogging. There’s a lot of unchartered territory, and I doubt that any one person or group has all the answers. But I’ll pound out some on-the-fly thoughts.

A Little Internal Trackbacking
Before offering thoughts on how to address the specific problems of hospital blogging, it should be noted that whether or not a blog itself is ultimately worth burning the candle, there can be merit to the process of blogging.

There’s something about the discipline of blogging that confers benefits worth considering.

Just as the process of writing and reading can help you become a better communicator, thinker, problem-solver or just a more awakened animal, blogging can polish the lens through which you see things. The pliancy of the blogging process offers the ability to zoom-in on details you might otherwise miss or zoom-out to view the larger forest. It also connects you with other people and those people in turn connect you with new ideas or novel mutations of older ideas. And although it can be a solitary discipline, it opens you up to the world around you (if you’re paying attention). (Uh oh, I just caught myself meta-blogging. Shoot!)

Web 2.0 Shmeb 2.0…But: It’s Still Useful
For all the ridicule of Web 2.0’s hype, its tools permit a connection to the rest of the world that is unprecedented. That’s not a small thing. In fact it’s so big that it’s probably going to overwhelm us.

Still, the tools have utility in the right hands. For example, RSS feeds help you to stay on top of what an oncology nurse is thinking. And in conjunction with Twitter and Yahoo Pipes, RSS can help medical students Follow (spy on?) doctors. And I’m sure that there are ways to use FriendFeed similarly, if not even more powerfully.

(Incidentally, if you’re experiencing comment-fragmentation due to FriendFeed, here’s a WordPress plugin that’ll make your day.)

It’s usually blogging around that gets you hooked into these tools. So far, most of the social tools are being used to fuel untreated addictions. But that’s OK: boredom will eventually set in and the tools will evolve refinements that get us back to being more productive with them. For now, it’s a good time to adopt, play around, and figure out what works for you. Just don’t take all it too seriously.

That’s my argument for why hospitals might want to consider blogging. Not necessarily to throw a blog up (especially without seriously thrashing the project about up-front). But the benefits that the blogging process confers might justify its work-up. In the process, your employees might learn things they never knew were possible.

FACING THE CHALLENGES…SOME PROPOSALS

Basics…Start with Them
My primary suggestion for hospital blogging is to keep the focus pretty limited at first. I don’t think being comprehensive all at once is a safe approach. Rather a narrow focus on a topic that has a low risk of causing controversy and legal entanglements is a smart start.

Fear is not a strategy. It’s a paralytic.

Mindfulness is the Antidote.

For example, a CEO’s or CNO’s posts about her plans for her facility could be low risk with a better return than posts about controversial matters. Starting small also gives more wiggle room for the mistakes inevitably needed for learning.

Involving the right people is another important step. Scout for hospital employees who (responsibly) blog on their own time. There are some pretty web-savvy doctors and nurses out there who might just love the opportunity to contribute. Give them permission to be champions!

Ah, Them Lawyers and PR Wizards
Yeah, they blog…some of them do. And they’re smart and helpful…many of them are. Consulting with these resources is another important component of taking the first steps toward a hospital blog. Public relations may have a bad reputation (some of it earned, some of it not) but it’s an important tool in ensuring that the right kinds of messages are sent out.

“The right means in the wrong hands lead to the wrong results.”

That’s what good PR agents help you to avoid: costly and unnecessary wars. So consult with them and solicit their feedback.

In fact, PR and Legal might be able to spot bad operational decisions before they’re implemented since they may have a fresh perspective on a project that even the most capable operational managers can miss. So get them involved in the pre-launch thrashing. Don’t dismiss them. The up-front expenses of remarkable PR are probably lesser than their back-end replacements.

[[Link Update: Seth Godin indirectly invokes to the spirit of what I’m talking about with respect to PR and lawyers.]]

Involve IT, but Don’t Let ‘Em Bone You Out with “Can’t Do”
Strange as it is, the (important) IT component of blogging isn’t the biggest challenge. Blogs can be fairly straightforward, technologically. It depends on what you want. Find out how you might want to grow the blog. Consider the sorts of things should you build in at the beginning in case you want to expand your blog.

Establish strict security protocols. And make sure that the users of the blog can just blog and not have to worry too much about technical tweaks in a shaky system.

Custom-built bogs are one way to go. For smaller entities WordPress.org or Blogger might work. But WordPress, for all of it’s remarkable features, can be quirky and troubling. A simple and stable solution might be TypePad. Sure it’s not as sexy, but sex isn’t what you’re going for here I suspect.

Your Patients (aka Citizens)
Safety First. Always.

Don’t look for home runs or gushing bursts in your revenue streams. Instead, simply enable your community to interface with your facility’s human beings. Give time to sew the seeds and grow as it were. There’s no rush to assault Mount Remarkable. Don’t set high or unrealistic goals. Keep things simple.

Set strict privacy policies for your blogging. There shouldn’t be any reason for a hospital to mention the names of patients in a blog. And in fact, cases probably should not be discussed…at least until your blogging routine becomes well established. Start with fictive cases if that’s an interest.

Develop a Terms of Service policy. On one hand, you want to make it easy for participants to enter your blog; on the other, you need to establish their informed consent. And blog monitoring should ensure that participants do not reveal the names of other patients.

Complaints (legitimate) on a blog are perhaps the single most valuable commodity on a hospital blog. Why? Becuase they’re information. They’re (free) consulting data. Use what’s being given to you. Follow up immediately, whether or not it’s appropriate to do so on your blog. Give your citizens simple and easy choices on how to complain. Invite your complainers to a personal meeting. Ask them for more. And: thank them.

(You know what the Return in ROI really is? It’s “thank you”. Just a thought for all you John von Neumanns of financial ratio fetishes out there.)

ADDING IT UP

This is just a small outline of a larger plan for implementing a blogging strategy for a healthcare facility. These are just open-ended intuition pumps, to be taken more for early project-thrashing than as Gnostic Gospels with precise schematics to blindly follow.

It’s easy to get lost or burned blogging about your hospital activities. But it’s even easier to get burned providing the very services you provide daily. Examples of the risks/costs hospitals face/incur almost every day:

  • Medication Errors
  • Surgical blunders
  • Patient Identification FAIL
  • Protocol Breaches

These are the risks already inherently built into the fundamental operations of a hospital.

Blogging, for all its pitfalls and potentials for blunder, probably won’t harm people as much as the items above. Put things into perspective. If anything, the practice of blogging might:

  • Enable a more efficient dialogue about the risks listed above
  • Provide your facility with the opportunity to explain the challenges of running a hospital that you strive successfully to meet (people love the honesty of competent minds)
  • Offer an information-based incentive for your staff to provide the remarkable services for which you hired (and pay) them

Creatively capitalize on your investments. (And don’t stare at sunk costs. You’ll fall into a black (red?) hole.)

With a successful blog, you just might shine your sincere concern and commitment to safety and efficacy of care. That’s an assurance that’s good for patients. And your tush-line.

So, here are some of my off-the-cuff, very informal and un-researched suggestions for hospital blogging:

  1. Start small…but don’t be afraid to think big
  2. Keep the focus narrow, to one topic perhaps (e.g. fundraising events)
  3. Recruit passionate bloggers internally (or externally)
  4. Establish good blogging hygiene
  5. Monitor comments and vanguard privacy
  6. Promote locally first
  7. Don’t promote too heavily (at least in the beginning)
  8. Involve Legal and PR ahead of time (thrashing)
  9. Don’t get discouraged by setbacks
  10. Invite guest bloggers for consultation and/or posting
  11. Reach out to the community of “Social Media” folks…(but use your common sense and skepticism!)

Don’t blog until you really understand the hard work needed for easy use. The intangible costs of blogging are heavier than the tangible ones (yes, a paradox of physical laws, but that’s blogging). When in doubt bail out and get back in when you’re vision is clearer.

Blogging s an open affair, whose floorboards are set down on the fluid air. But so is life, which is what healthcare is all about serving. What I mean is: you have to acquire the talent and skill to be able to think and respond swiftly but responsibly even if the aren’t established templates or recipes for doing so.

The purpose of a blog (at least this one) is to spread ideas, have them filtered through other brains and watch them grow. My hope is that I encourage free (not hate) speech with critical commenting.

The process is the principle.

For more about integrating emerging technologies into your enterprise, check out Health Is Social here.

TWO MEDICAL BLOGS OF INTEREST I RECOMMEND:
The Efficient MD

CaseBlog

These aren’t “hospital blogs” but they do illustrate what some smart folks are doing with these tools.

Please…comment: it’s free and useful.


Are You Using RSS for Your Job Search?

If you’re not using RSS by now, then you need to find a time machine and press FWD. But even if you are, few people realize that you can use RSS to improve the efficiency of your job search. If you don’t know anything about RSS read RSS Explained.

All you need to do to get the most up-to-date job search results is to find the career sites that you use most often and subscribe to their feeds. If the site doesn’t have a feed, you can have Google Reader do the subscribing for you as you surf the web with its subscribe bookmark:

  1. Go to Manage Subscriptions on the bottom left side of the reader
  2. Click the Goodies tab
  3. Drag the Subscribe bookmark to your browser’s toolbar.

You can find everything you need to do to set up your career feed at at One Day One Job

And while you’re at it, subscribe to my feed to learn more tips on using the web to life better.

 

Questioning The Future of Our Businesses

In a world where customers can blog, Google, StumbleUpon, Digg, Twitter, del.icio.us, Technorati, Mahalo, Furl, Magnolia, Reddit, Sphere, FaceBook or MySpace a business’ products and services, does anyone really believe that email and voicemail will keep our businesses ahead of the merciless curve spiking up through this century?

Wouldn’t it make sense for companies to get their employees up-to-date with the latest Web 2.0 tools? Roll out RSS feeds to employees to keep them posted on the company’s latest news, projects and opportunities? How much value could be generated from a policy that encourages employees to invest 20% of their time at work blogging, social book-marking or otherwise engaged in acquiring the skills needed to stay ahead of the curve? Employees surf the web anyway. Why not tie their downtime to the needs of your business? It has it’s risks, but taking risks is the business of business.

As computer technology shrinks in size and grows in power and portability, the opportunity and necessity for companies to infuse the market with remarkable products and services becomes increasingly unavoidable. The failure of our businesses is not inevitable. But failure does become increasingly inevitable for those businesses that don’t grasp the exponential changes taking place right now.

The democratization of the world is accelerating, it’s cruel, it’s dangerous, but in the end it will be liberating. If your business wants to win, giving your employees the edge is the most remarkable way to thrive in the 21st century.