iMedix: Social search that creeps me out

Oh, geez. Deb21 wants to chat again. Stoltz

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.

Livongo’s Post Ad Banner 728*90

Leave a Reply

5 Comment threads
0 Thread replies
Most reacted comment
Hottest comment thread
5 Comment authors
Randy Brightonkmostlanonymouslouis siegel, m.d.Dhruv Gami Recent comment authors
newest oldest most voted
Randy Brighton

Good info on Tinnitus can also be found at http://tinnitusremedy.blogspot.com


what a breath of fresh air..technology is like the old child’s tale of the emporer’s new clothes..every once in a while somebody has to got shout but he’s naked!!!


I completely agree with you, Craig. iMedix has focused on things that just aren’t important to people with health problems that are seeking information and community. There is no sense of community on the site – a sense of community comes from belonging to something bigger than you… personally, I find it really difficult to ‘belong’ when I’m only talking with one person at a time. I find it even more difficult to belong when that one person is interested in “crump dancing” and has no health concerns (yep, this person really did try to chat with me). Most popular… Read more »

louis siegel, m.d.

I agree there are way to many healthcare web spaces out there, whether simple links to ‘impetigo’ or weblogs discussing the social ramifications of ‘impetigo’. I think the abundance of these web spaces is motivated by, of course, the economics of potential ad revenue, and the reinforcing properties of obtaining ’15 minutes of fame’ by either creating a weblog or conversing on one. The ‘seeing your name in lights’ phenomenon. However there is a deeper issue not readily apparent and that is the crying need of people as patients to find their way through the disintegrating and ‘cloaked in secrecy’,… Read more »

Dhruv Gami

You’ve touched upon a very good point – about the quality of members on social networks specific to a certain community. This is certainly becoming a challenge, and has infact had negative impact on many new users who get excited enough to log on to such social sites hoping to find out what the buzz is all about, only to have experiences similar to the ones you recounted above. You’ve survived them … but most others don’t, and solemnly pledge to never return. Not all networks are creeps, though. A recent new entrant is a medical networking site GreySynapses.com which… Read more »