Targeted Spam

There should be some name for spam blog comments are actually relevant to the entry to which they respond. Might we someday reach a point when spam becomes so relevant that we actually like it?


More Medical Openness

Via UH: Another good example of the new blog-enabled openness in medicine that I’ve written about before: a local anesthesiologist provides an impassioned defense of her work.

Hospital Thoughts

Hospital CEO Paul Levy is seeking responses to some remarkably frank comments on competition in the hospital industry:

…Please remember that health care is not like other industries, in which companies are rewarded in the marketplace for being the high-quality, low-cost provider. That situation does not yet exist in the health care system. So, am I better off being a industry leader with regard to that approach, or am I better off biding my time and continuing to follow the traditional path until there is a real sign of change in the marketplace?

As I’ve written before, this kind of openness is refreshing and potentially a brilliant business strategy. (It may continue to be so even once every one is doing it.)

Paul’s comments and receptivity to feedback remind me of my numerous concerns about Children’s Hospital Boston, which, as far as I know, has no analogous public forum. I’ve sent in comment cards, but they may just drop into a black hole.

Two principal complaints about Children’s Hospital: television and food. There are TVs everywhere, including in the waiting rooms. They are always on, even if no one is watching them. On one occasion, we were the only ones in the waiting room. When we attempted to turn the TV off, the staff told us we couldn’t. When we went in examination rooms and our daughter was unhappy, the first response by the medical staff was often to turn on a TV.

Our daughter (just over two years old) has never watched TV, and doesn’t find it comforting. Research indicates that TV is not good for young kids, and especially not infants:

Babies are glued to television sets these days, with 40 percent of 3-month- olds and 90 percent of 2-year-olds regularly watching TV, according to a University of Washington study released Monday.

…”While appropriate television viewing at the right age can be helpful for both children and parents, excessive viewing before age 3 has been shown to be associated with problems of attention control, aggressive behavior and poor cognitive development,” Frederick Zimmerman, the UW study’s lead author, said in a news release….

The American Academy of Pediatrics recommends no television for children younger than 2, and only one to two hours a day of quality programming for older children.

Recently, we had to stay over in the hospital for a night. There were no private rooms available, so we requested at least not to be stuck in a room where the TV would always be on. They looked at us like we were from Mars. (In the end, our roommate’s TV was always on. The three month old patient didn’t care, but his private nurse wanted to watch TV.)

Why is a pediatric healthcare facility encouraging TV for infants?

The food complaint is similar: so much of the hospital food provided for children is high in fat, refined sugar, white flour, and artificial ingredients. I was looking for a fruit-juice popsicle for our daughter (what she eats at home), and the only options the hospital could offer had high glucose corn syrup as the first ingredient after water. Again, this is not rocket science — these are not appropriate foods for one- and two-year old children.

I realize in both cases (TV and food), the hospital is just mirroring popular culture in an attempt to provide familiarity for most kids, but I wish they would at least provide an option for those families whose kids don’t watch TV and eat a high-sugar diet.

WordPress Upgrade –> 2.2

Just upgraded to WordPress 2.2. That took all of 18 seconds.


Via Tikirobot, reCAPTCHA. Brilliant:

Over 60 million CAPTCHAs are solved every day by people around the world. reCAPTCHA channels this human effort into helping to digitize books from the Internet Archive. When you solve a reCAPTCHA, you help preserve literature by deciphering a word that was not readable by computers.

Why didn’t I think of that?

Google Reader is the Solution

I was a long-time hold-out user of standalone RSS aggregators (SharpReader for Windows and Straw on GNU/Linux, both of which have been somewhat stagnant over the last couple of years). I’ve finally thrown in the towel and switched to Google Reader. It was a great decision.

The key factor is mobility. I check email and blogs from my personalGoogle Mobile Image laptop; our kitchen computer; my office workstation; and, perhaps most significantly for Google Reader, from my cell phone. The Google Reader cell phone app is quite good (handy “keyboard” shortcuts, efficient presentation), and allows me to catch up during time that is difficult to use for other purposes: waiting for the train, standing in line at Starbucks, on the elevator.

The only real downside is the lack of offline support (although I don’t think it would take a rocket scientist to create it), but this is far outweighed by the mobile functionality. As “access anywhere” becomes more important than “offline access,” I predict we’ll see more users of all applications make this sort of switch.

Running a Hospital

Running a Hospital is a blog actually written (not ghostwritten) by the CEO of a large Boston-area hospital, the Beth Israel Deaconess Medical Center. The blog covers hospital/health-care issues as well as some unrelated topics. The emergence of this sort of open and frank discourse from leaders (particularly in medicine) is a real sea change. Just a few years ago, this sort of relatively unedited discussion would have been shut down by the lawyers. It’s an interesting variation on the “medium is the message” concept. Of course, everything this CEO (and others) are writing doesn’t require the web or weblogs. The same content could easily have been provided in a printed newsletter (setting aside the minor cost issue). Weblogs have established new norms, however, that enable openness even in particularly liability-sensitive areas like medicine.

For example, see this entry about fatal infections resulting from central lines. On a lighter note, should the hospital use cage-free eggs? (I said yes.)

[Tags]Weblogs, Health Care[/Tags]

Fired for Blogging

Via Universal Hub, retail employee fired for blogging. This is not uncommon, but notable in that the blog had no work-related content nor, apparently, was it done on work time:

Drew started his own personal blog. On it he did not mention Mercenary, did not link to Mercenary, did not sell or offer any products or services that might be construed as competing with Mercenary. It just wasn’t about Mercenary. He didn’t even use his own name.

His boss learned about the blog when coworkers passed around the posting with the adorable photo of his newborn son. His boss then fired Drew by leaving him a voicemail that Drew picked up when he got home from the hospital.

Although my employment law is rusty, I doubt the employee has a colorable claim against his previous employer. (Private employment is generally not subject to any First Amendment protections.) Any change here is going to need to be more cultural than legal. Ten (maybe even five) years from now, I suspect people will wonder what all the fuss was about.

(Some have suggested that the blogger was actually fired for having a baby. If that is true, it likely would be actionable.)

[tags] Blogging, Employment, Free Speech[/tags]