Medical Publisher Launches Beta Health Wiki

By Sharon Linsenbach  |  Posted 2008-01-25 Print this article Print

title=The Trust Factor}

"Talking about your health in a public forum is something that's very new -- there's an adoption curve there," she said. Well-vetted and qualified sources like WiserWiki could help overcome some consumers' hesitation, Snyder said, since consumers could be sure the authors and editors were board certified physicians.

"Consumers equate trust very closely with the medical community. They take recommendations from their doctors as to where to go for health information," Snyder said.

She said the consumer "trust factor" for online health information could increase if consumers could verify that qualified, verified and vetted "real doctors" were providing that information.

The wiki process isn't that much different from the traditional, collaborative effort involved in putting together a large textbook, said Scott Virkler, vice president of Web strategy with Elsevier.

The verification process is also nearly identical, he said, making WiserWiki a natural extension of what Elsevier does as a publisher. "We have to qualify editors and authors for the wiki just like we vet and qualify them to be published in our medical journals," Virkler said.

There are also multiple contributors to large medical textbooks like Noble's, he added, which made the new wiki collaboration process very similar to the old book collaboration process.

"We are also trying to see how wiki processes can be applied to our offline processes as well," he said, adding that the idea for WiserWiki came out of the publisher's book unit, the core of the publisher's business, though his group played a role.

"My group sets our online strategy, optimizing search engines to get better exposure for our content," Virkler said. "We also help business units bring neat ideas, like the wiki, to fruition, so we can try some new things online."

WiserWiki is currently in beta, and Virkler said that though site statistics show that individual user sessions last longer than the company anticipated, and has attracted close to a hundred contributors so far, the publisher does not have a date slated for an "alpha" release, or plans to create wikis for other fields.

"There's no current plan to extend into other fields, but we'll cross those bridges when we come to them. We're going to follow the lead of other online companies who put things out in beta for an indefinite period," he said.

Sharon Linsenbach Sharon Linsenbach is a staff writer for eWEEK and eWEEK Channel Insider. Prior to joining Ziff Davis, Sharon was Assistant Managing Editor for CRN, a weekly magazine for PC and technology resellers. Before joining CRN, Sharon was an Acquisitions Editor for The Coriolis Group and later, Editorial Director with Paraglyph Press, both in Scottsdale, AZ. She holds a BA in English from Drew University and lives in the Philadelphia suburbs with her significant other and two neurotic cats. When she's not reading or writing about technology, Sharon enjoys yoga, knitting, traveling and live music. Sharon can be reached at

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