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Online communities a prevailing theme at Medicine 2.0 Boston – A surprise?

September 21, 2012

The room was packed. I had been fretting about giving this talk since my abstract was accepted back in March. How I was going to deliver something meaningful in 10 minutes? But, much to my surprise, the standing-room-only crowd was calming.

It would appear that people at Medicine 2.0 wanted to know about community management and how to build and sustain thriving online communities. The importance of this topic was revealed by the sheer number of presentations and posters about online community at the congress.

Medicine 2.0 2012 Congress program at a glance

Knowing that I had quoted Susannah Fox in my opening slide fortified me:

“PewInternet Project data shows that if you can enable an environment in which people can share, they will and the benefits will entice others to join.”

Surprise number 2: Susannah Fox was in the room in real life, as were so many others, like Gonzalo Bacigalupe, who until then I had only known as avatars. The smiling faces encouraged me. I put my notes aside and talked about the importance of the enabler – the community manager.

Surprise number 3: I won the 2012 JMIR Award, which is given for the best presentation of unpublished research presented at Medicine 2.0. Thank you, Gunter Eysenbach and the JMIR editorial board for awarding me this honour. I look forward to fleshing out evidence-informed community management practices for publication.

Surprise number 4: Presenters like Osman Hassan Ahmed, Jackie Bender, Pam Ressler and Alex Djuricich made impromptu reference to my talk during their presentations.Hallway conversations with Raphaelle Laubie, Ari-Matti Auvinen, Paul Wicks, Catherine Heilferty, Mike Massissmi, Rob Fraser, and so many more, further underlined the interest and necessity of effective community management. The conversation even continued in the air post-conference when I found myself seated next to Trevor D Van Mierlo, Founder of Evolution Health, developers of customizable community platforms.

A community is defined by its members and the relationships they build, regardless of platform. It was encouraging to see many research initiatives that had built close-knit groups of people who share a profound sense of community.

But, do you have an adoption plan? What happens to your community when the research project is no longer able to maintain the management of the community or the platform is no longer supported? When starting a community, I encourage you to develop a plan for sustainability, mitosis and adoption. The health and well-being of real people may depend on it.

6 Comments leave one →
  1. September 22, 2012 7:27 am

    A well deserved honor. I have been telling anyone I have met with an interest in social media about the importance of community management. I also tell them that you are one the best community managers in the world.

    Michael Martineau


    • September 23, 2012 1:53 pm

      Thank you Michael. I appreciate your unwavering support. And for you, I will put all modesty aside and admit, I’m darn proud of having received this award. I remember witnessing Jeanna Frost and colleagues from Patientslikeme win the JMIR Award at Medicine 2.0 2009. At the time, I thought, “I want to win that award some day”, but I didn’t actually expect it to happen.


  2. September 22, 2012 8:14 am

    Congratulations again on the award! I think it and that SRO crowd were a testament to how many people want to learn about online community management.

    I was honored to have my words on that slide, but they weren’t really my words — they came from all the patients and caregivers who have shared their stories with me and from my colleagues’ work at the Pew Internet Project. We are vessels for what we learn from our communities and your presentation was an excellent illustration of that, too.


    • September 23, 2012 1:58 pm

      Susannah, Thank you for taking the time to comment here. Regardless of the genesis of the quote, it was a great link between Medicine 2.0 2011 and 2012 and the growing recognition of the value of online communities and essential role of community management.

      Thank you for your support, especially on the day of my presentation. While I looked out in to the room, your nodding head in my periphery encouraged me and I thoroughly enjoyed myself.


  3. September 26, 2012 2:16 pm

    Once again, impressive work and a great link between theory and pratice as you fetch inspiration from both sides which dramatically enrich your models. I will be very interested in continuing our discussion on these issues.


    • September 27, 2012 9:34 am

      Merci mille fois mon amie. Connecting with you at Medicine 2.0 was a highlight. I also hope to explore with you the difference in participation in online communities between anglophones and francophones. Several of my community manager colleagues who manage bilingual communities are talking about this. We have interesting observations and challenges to share.


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