Darwin Social Networking And Publishing

The way I work, research, and meet people has changed radically over the last few months, except that in principle it is the same as I have been doing since I learned to walk. It goes like this: I have some information, I share it, I get some back, I rate it, and depending on whether I like it or not I decide whether the relationship continues. Through this I build my network whether I’m in the school playground or building it on the internet.

In Darwinian terms we want to optimize what we do for the most gain (see an excellent post on this by @Precordialthump, ‘Nothing in Medicine Makes Sense… ) and what we can now do on the web has enabled this to be fast and powerful.

In this case we are optimizing gain by building our social/professional networks (and the boundaries are hard to define) by offering information to our peer group in the hope that what we have to offer is rated, and we get something back, whether friendship, knowledge, or products.

Sites we use to do this provide us with information feeds and sharing facilities — GoogleReader, Twitter, Digg, StumbleUpon, Diigo… They allow us to rationalize what we find and importantly enable us to share it. Sites like Twitter give us scope to rapidly pass on information and interact with people — it is the two together that make sites like Twitter a powerful tool. If people like what they read they become more interested in who we are and what we have to say.

It’s Darwin on the Internet.

In my world of health profession publishing, before information sharing sites like GoogleReader, Twitter or Digg were around, people may have become well regarded through publishing their research in books and papers or presenting at conferences. Now you can do the same thing through blogs and make it known through social networking sites. Increased reputation leads to recognition and people wanting what you have to offer (whether knowledge or actual products).

One of the implications for publishing houses is that this circle of networking and sharing information can now be done independently. Making our information inaccessible, or pay per view, or subscription only, immediately locks us out of this information and social network circle. It is like attending a conference as an exhibitor, displaying our wares, but not being allowed into the sessions. We are excluding ourselves by locking up our content.

I love this tweet from Jemima Kiss of the Guardian Newspaper:

“Clicked on link + page asks for subscription = close page + go to another site. Conclusion: Not good business model.”

Simply pushing products does not bring nearly the same return as building a relevant and meaningful network by interacting, connecting and adding to people’s knowledge and there are many ways that we can. Personally I hope that I can continue to learn from and contribute to this circle of knowledge, it is rewarding and fulfilling.

I’ll finish with one of my favourite tweets of the moment by Ves Dimov M.D. (@AllergyNotes)

“Multitasking: Checking Google Reader feeds, posting interesting links on Twitter, listening to Robert Plant on YouTube”

Tweeted 10 January 2009. That’s it in a nutshell.