Oh, geez. Deb21 wants to chat again.
Here I am, trying to look up some information about tinnitus – a.k.a. ringing in the ears, a condition which has recently afflicted a member of my family – and Deb21 [I’ve changed her handle to protect the innocent ] wants to chat. A little photo box pops up on my screen, with the icky solicitation “I’m online! Chat with me now!” There’s even an audible little ping whenever she implores me to spend some time with her.
Welcome to iMedix, a “social search” site in the personal health space.
In concept, social search is powerful: Combine the algorithmically valid but brain-dead health search results of a typical search engine with the “wisdom of the crowds” – the aggregated opinions of real humans who can validate the information they found worthwhile when dealing with the same issue. Add to that the ability to connect with those people, and (goes the theory) you’ve got something good.
Like any 2.0 community, iMedix faces the challenge of creating critical mass: A community with nobody home is in a death spiral from Day One. But building critical mass from scratch is no small task in mid-2008. Early adopters are oversubscribed to social networks and the mainstream hasn’t figured out what all the fuss is about. Every business based on network power needs people. A lot of them. Fast.
Which brings us back to Deb21. iMedix seems to be trying a bit too hard
to get people to join the party, dispatching its youthful crowd to flag
folks into the front door.
First it was Ann, a comely 29-year-old community manager interested in
fitness and lifestyle. I acquiesced to her friend request but haven’t
heard from her since.
I accepted friendship with a fellow calling himself neurosurgeon_55,
figuring it’s never a bad idea to know a brain surgeon. But then I
discovered he’s a 17-year-old guy in India, whose personal statement
reads, in part:
Then we will ve a lots of chat (humourous)but valuable beniffitng both
of us in the long run so what r u thinking of? Hmmmmmmmm..lets go ahead
and chat.Yo man!!
An unsettling number of people who have set up profiles in iMedix are
attractive and young and look, at least to these middle-aged eyes, like
the happy-go-lucky group with cool haircuts and great teeth you see in
ads for premium liquors.
Here is the problem: People with health problems have, well. . .health
problems. They want to see that people like them, people who have
something valuable to share, are in a community.
You will certainly find these people at iMedix: There’s a 53-year-old
woman whose college-age daughter has bipolar and is in an abusive
relationship. Good lord, the woman needs help. Call me too fast to
judgment, but I don’t think neurosurgeon_55 is the guy to offer her
support and guidance.
To be fair: iMedix is in beta. It appears they’ve seeded the site with
the folks they have around their young staff and (it appears) their
social network contacts.
Building a 2.0 health community is hard. Not many people have gotten it
right, and the very concept is fraught with danger. But social networks
are based on the company they keep. And no matter who that company is,
in the health space, I’m not sure they should jump onto your screen
saying “I’m online! Chat with me now!”
As for the search part of the social search: The information on
tinnitus was really pretty good, better than what Brother Google served
up on page one. Link number one was a direct hit.
Along the way I found the profile of someone named Niroo. She is 24 and
says she has hearing loss and is interested in tinnitus. She lives in
Iran. I sent her an e-mail. Haven’t heard from her yet.
> Craig Stoltz blogs regularly at Web 2.0h Really.