Insight in Unexpected Places

Originally published at Health, Science and Libraries.

“Health is personal. Health Care is not. The term is a euphemism for Condition Treatment, and it’s not about patients. It’s about systems, and most of those are both proprietary and closed.”
Doc Searls. “The Patient as the Platform” LINUX Journal.

I have for years been pondering the difference between the professional and personal views of the patient experience. I have read many articles about it, had many discussions, have many long-winded ways I describe it, and even touch on the topic in the intro to my book. I don’t know that I have ever seen the topic described so succinctly and elegantly as in the above quotation. I don’t know that a geek-oriented computer programming, software, hardware journal would be very last place I would look for this type of insight (geeks are awful smart folk, after all!), but it is probably getting close to the end!
Part of what interests me about the quote is what it says, part is where I found it, part is how I found it, part is how other might find it. For myself, I was following a conversation on Twitter, which lead to a person I didn’t know, who said they were reading this. In other words, serendipity – accidental discovery. Or was it?

In my younger years, I made a point of routinely scanning journal Table of Contents that published in areas that most interest me. I also liked to skim the new books shelves in the libraries I frequented, ask other people what they were reading, and generally laid the framework of my activities to keep me engaged and current with my interests. When the Internet became more prominent, these behaviors changed — I searched databases, set up SDI searches and autoalerts, had Table of Contents from journals emailed to me, registered to receive email alerts when articles of interest were cited, and joined email groups that discussed and shared information on my areas of interest. Even more recently, this has changed again. As technologies have evolved the ways have continued to change in which I keep current and engage with other persons with common interests. I like to tell people that my top productivity tools are (1); (2) Twitter; (3) Second Life. Then I add in Google, Flickr and Slideshare.

The point is that I built habits to bring useful and relevant information to me, remaining engaged with communities and individuals who shared my interests, so perhaps, my discovery of this very interesting article in an unusual place was less accidental and more a case of the prepared mind. [footnote 1]
Or perhaps it is that being engaged with a topic means being engaged with other people also interested in that topic? A popular phrase in the social media community is about being “engaged in the conversation.” Ah, but where is the conversation? For science, the published journals have traditionally been a way to capture and record the thoughts of different knowledgeable people working in related areas. Recently I’ve wondered if the scientific conversation is still primarily being held in research journals, or is it moving (little by little) into other venues? [footnote 2] I had a discussion over lunch with a research faculty member about this very topic, roaming around issues of whether peer review actually offers the benefits claimed for it, the failing economic models of academic publication, and is the model of journal publication a practical and sustainable model for the future. Then there is the looming question of if the “traditional” models are no longer viable, what are our other options? All excellent questions to ponder for future discussions.

Back to the discovery of Doc Searl’s interesting healthcare article in the LINUX Journal. I cast my net widely – engaging ing discussion with communities in healthcare, technologies, education, and more. I could have found this through any of those, but found it through an overlap — a geek type that does Twittering for a healthcare organization (MD Anderson).

Doc Searls article Tweet.

Now ask yourself, how did you find this article? What habits or connections or conversations lead you here?

1. “Dans les champs de l’observation le hasard ne favorise que les esprits préparés.” “In the fields of observation chance favors only the prepared mind.”
WikiQuote: Louis Pasteur. Lecture, University of Lille (7 December 1854).
2. Emerging Technologies Librarian. “Science as Conversation, Part 2: Evolution of Scientific Conversation.”


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