theorycast.05 :: The FluWiki Interview

theorycast.05 :: Interview with FluWiki editor, DemfromCTtheorycast itunes artwork

Download theorycast05 :: The FluWiki Interview (MP3/45MB/48min).
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Featured on CNN and Science magazine, the Flu Wiki is a wiki aimed at helping local communities prepare for and perhaps cope with a possible influenza pandemic (H5N1). This is a task previously ceded to local, state and national governmental public health agencies. Their goal is to be a reliable, neutral source of information about important facts useful for a public health approach to pandemic influenza, a venue for anticipating the vast range of problems that may arise if a pandemic does occur, as well as a venue for thinking about implementable solutions to foreseeable problems.

For the fifth episode of theorycast, I had an interesting conversation with DemfromCT, one of three Flu Wiki founders/editors. He spoke about their wiki in which people around the world are constantly contributing information related to the Bird Flu pandemic. We also talked about how wikis transfer power from authority to the masses, force us to reassess ideas of trust, as well as how Flu Wiki demonstrates the transfer of online reputation across spheres of interest (i.e. political to health). Plenty of topics were covered in this extended podcast so do take a look at the transcript and related links by reading on.


Here’s a brief transcript for the interview:
02.12 – Fluwiki and the 52 year old lady
02.55 – Who’s running Fluwiki?
03.55 – How Fluwiki got started
07.25 – The success & issues of Fluwiki
08.55 – Fluwiki Demographics: Wiki Contributors, Forums Posters, Readers
11.25 – Why did Fluwiki become so popular?
12.25 – The Intentions of Fluwiki
12.55 – The “depth” advantage of Fluwiki over official sources (US Govt)
15.15 – Citizens can be educated, interactive debate for valuable feedback
16.45 – Wiki and the Power Shift from Govt to the People
17.25 – The authority cannot say “I don’t know”; they simply have no answer
18.22 – Fluwiki’s relationship with the World Health Organization (WHO)
19.08 – Getting Responses: Authorities might not reply, but they do read Fluwiki
20:40 – Fluwiki isn’t about getting credit, but about getting the best and most accurate information available when someone needs it.
20:47 – The Synergy of Fluwiki and the Government
21:28 – Proportion of Fluwiki Contributors vs. Readers
22:15 – Vandalism / Spamming = minor annoyance for Fluwiki
23:40 – Technical limitations for Forum and PMwiki (i.e. social affordances)
25.54 – Wikis are good places to start your research, not end it
27.25 – Difference in motivations behind Wikipedia and Fluwiki (content matter reflect different impetus for editing content)
28:00 – Three groups of people interested in Fluwiki: People who were interested in influenza, IT people interested in combining technical platform with encyclopedia-like content, and surprisingly, the library science people who started an argument about authoritative sources.
29.40 – Responsibility of reader to challenge sources
30.15 – The legitimate / honorable reasons for anonymity. The illusions of trust. Even if a doctor were to say something, the content should be justified by itself.
33.05 – Wikis change so fast, we are grappling with the new idea of trust.
33.53 – Will Fluwiki ever become a trustworthy source?
34:20 – The political example of trustworthy sources (e.g. CNN, Fox, Daily Show)
35:25 – Fluwiki brings everyone together, whether you are a liberal or conservative. Cuts across socio-political barriers in daily life. This builds trust!
37:15 – The Transfer of Reputation… across spheres of interests (e.g. political to health)
38:48 – How Fluwiki creates the sense of reputation. By being cited by notable sources. Brings medical professional eyeballs to the site, who then endorse Fluwiki (e.g. ProMed, Science magazine, Nature).
43:14 – Online search accounts for a lot of hits to Fluwiki
43.54 – Editors focus on making content understandable by anyone (less jargon, more accessibility)
44.55 – Future of Fluwiki : Wishing for more relationship with authorities. Wish to build communities within States, Towns, and Hospitals.
46.18 – Thanks & Goodbyes… what’s this interview for?

Historical background on Flu Wiki:
http://effectmeasure.blogspot.com/2006/03/what-is-effect-measure-all-about-part_16.html
http://effectmeasure.blogspot.com/2005/11/in-defense-of-flu-wiki-reply-to.html
http://thenexthurrah.typepad.com/the_next_hurrah/2005/09/pandemic_flu_aw.html
http://thenexthurrah.typepad.com/the_next_hurrah/2005/07/the_flu_wiki__a.html

Related Links:
Flu Wiki: http://www.fluwikie.com
CDC bird flu page: http://www.cdc.gov/flu/avian/
World Health Organization: http://www.who.int/csr/disease/avian_influenza/en/
Disease-monitoring site: http://www.promedmail.org
Britannica Bites Back (Britannica’s response to Nature about Wikipedia’s comparison)

Send Me A MessageDo you love or hate what you hear? Do leave me a comment. If you have something interesting to share and would like to be heard in the next theorycast, feel free to leave voice message by hitting the ODEO button on the left. If I’m really interested, I’ll interview you via iChat, Skype or Gizmo Project.

  • http://jennimi.blogspot.com/ jennimi

    Great interview Kevin and I am glad to hear you bringing up many of the points we have all discussed about source citation and evaluation. Evaluating the credibility of sources is a valuable and necessary process, and you asked some excellent questions here. It was also great that you gave Flu Wiki a forum for “their own words”. Keep up the great work Kevin!

    And I see your blog already tracked back my post on my school blog, Library Matters. Thanks again, jenn :)

  • http://ramblinglibrarian.blogspot.com Ivan Chew

    Thanks for alerting me to this, Kevin. I blogged about it here.

  • http://health20.typepad.com Allen Searls

    Is fluwiki powered by Wetpaint? By MediaWiki? Tried getting on to fluwiki this afternoon and got a server time-out on firefox, hopefully it’s just because they have so much traffic from this interview :)

  • http://theory.isthereason.com Kevin

    Allen: DemfromCT explained that Fluwiki ran on PBwiki, and its outage today was annouced as a change of server. At the rate they are going, they are probably upgrading to a better one! Fluwiki was popular way before I got to interview one of its founders. :D

  • http://www.fluwikie.com DemFromCT

    Running on PmWiki, and yeah, we’re changing servers. Back by tomorrow!

    I really enjoyed this.

    -DemFromCT