Inhaling the web – UPDATED
NOTE: this posting has been updated to include reference to HealthMash, which went public on 7th October 2009. Health on the Net Foundation search tools are also mentioned.
“Instantaneously create a custom page with the latest buzz on any topic” is the strap line for Addict-o-matic. And it’s true, you can rapidly create a webportal to social media relating to your target topic. In the space of time it takes to type “human papilloma virus + HPV” I created the webpage on this topic: try the link. It is as easy as ‘inhaling the web’. However, Addictomatic is not the only tool available to give you an over of a particular area. This posting looks at some of the available options.
With Addictomatic, the sources for the HPV page include posted news articles, Twitters, videos from Youtube and other filesharing sites, blog mentions, links from Wikis and flickr images. No sign up is necessary. Of course ‘hard data’ (such as journal articles) are missing from this single-topic webportal but if you only want to gather opinion and comment on a topic to which you are new, what an amazingly rapid way to do it!
Alternatives to Addictomatic
Similar applications include Squidoo (create your own ‘lens’ on a topic), twine and now HealthMash. Squidoo provides all that’s new on a topic on one webpage. Twine helps you track one strand (twine or topic) or multiple strands (two Twines, or strands, are shown in the image reproduced here).
Both Squidoo and Twine take longer than Addict-o-matic (or HealthMash) to set up – you really need to go to the trouble of signing up for an account – but they are more customisable and interactive. For instance, with Twine you can add your own sources of information (webpages), view twines on the same topic by other people and even interact with like-minded people. Nevertheless, although there is virtually no customisation available unless you sign up, you can do a quick Squidoo topic search without an account and I liked the feature where you could refine your search (the ‘Get picky’ box on the right hand side of the image reproduced here).
The reason for updating this posting is to include the recently public HealthMash tool, which is said to provide relevant health information from trusted sites. For more information on the unique features of HealthMash, try reading medical librarian Hope Leman’s interview with HealthMash CEO Endre Jofoldi.
I am still unsure exactly why the sites found with HealthMash are ‘trusted’. For the purposes of this blog, this is not its main feature because, after all, it is not the only searchtool that provides search results from trusted sites – for example we know that sites found with SearchMedica are ‘handpicked’ by doctors or nurses and the Health on the Net Foundation HONcode certified sites adhere to basic ethical standards in the presentation of information as well as ensure readers know the source and purpose of the data they are reading.
The advantage of HealthMash searches over HONcode certified sites found with HONsearch is the range of media searched – including twitters and blogs. This means that HealthMash (like Addictomatic, Twine and Squidoo) provides glimpse of the current ‘buzz’ surrounding a topic, rather than a ‘drier’ perspective derived from a Medline search.
Nevertheless, users of HealthMash should be aware that all the ‘trusted information sources’ appear to be almost exclusively US sites. For those looking for information with a more international flavour (ex-US information), SearchMedica or the HONsearch facility (aimed at patients) may be useful. You can even install, through HONtools, an HONcode search bar plugin for your browser. Although the range of media searched by HONsearch is not as comprehensive as HealthMash, it does have some useful features. For instance, it is possible to view only information from congresses or switch between information aimed at healthcare professionals and that aimed at patients at the click of a button.
Finally, although it is previously noted that sites found with an HONsearch are likely to be more international than those found with HealthMash, it is striking that both these web-based tools found similar sites with the test search: “human papilloma virus + HPV”. Many of the sites found were FDA or CDC sites, for example.