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Trust, Transparency & Knowledge: A Conversation With OrganizedWisdom's Unity Stoakes
Over the past few weeks, I have been talking extensively about the benefits and drawbacks of health-focused user-generated content.  In a couple of posts, I focused on, an innovative new social networking Website that encourages people to develop and share their personal "wisdom" about healthcare.

Recently, I asked Unity Stoakes, the co-founder of the OrganizedWisdom, to speak with me via e-mail about his new service and why it is important.  He graciously accepted my invitation.  My interview with him appears below.

A Conversation With Unity Stoakes

Q1: Please tell me a little bit about why you decided to develop

A1: We developed OrganizedWisdom to help make user-generated health wisdom a trusted source of available health information so that people can help each other make better health decisions. The Internet has tons of organized expert health content on every conceivable disease, illness and condition but actually has very little organized, trustworthy user-generated health content. We launched OrganizedWisdom to change that.

A few years ago, my business partner, Steven Krein, and his wife were having trouble conceiving their first child. They had been seeing an infertility specialist for almost two years and had spent countless hours searching the Internet for different approaches to consider as they approached year two in their struggles. Searching Google and WebMD led them to plenty of resources for expert health content, and even message boards and chat rooms with user content in them, but they didn’t find what they were looking for.

They were searching to find out what other couples facing a similar situation were doing. What decisions were they making…What was working for them…What wasn’t working… What were the biggest lessons learned…Who were the best resources to turn to. Fortunately for Steven, it was turning to friends, not the Internet, that led him to a solution. As a result of several friends and friends of friends sharing their own personal wisdom about what worked and didn’t work, Steven and his wife were able to conceive and now have two beautiful daughters.

With millions of people, like Steven, turning to the Internet for answers to health questions, very often the best advice, insights and recommendations to our health questions comes from our trusted friends and family and other people who have real practical life experience. This important category of health information is trusted and exchanged offline, but isn’t online in a meaningful way yet. We intend to change that and inspire everyone to begin sharing their health wisdom online with their friends and family.

Q2: What are the major differences between OrganizedWisdom and other health search engines like Healia and Healthline?

A2: OrganizedWisdom is a community centered around sharing user-generated health wisdom. We use social networking tools to help people connect with people whose wisdom they trust. If we do our job right, and we are already seeing this happen, people will find OrganizedWisdom content (our members’ health wisdom), inside the search results on any search engine they use or prefer, whether it’s Google, Healia or Healthline.

Our focus is to build the world’s most comprehensive knowledgebase of health wisdom from real people. People can start that search at OrganizedWisdom or they can start somewhere else and end up at OrganizedWisdom. Everyone wants practical answers to health questions. Yes, they want in-depth information from physicians, but they also want to know more. They want to find out what experiences, recommendations and advice that real people have gone through. They want ideas, they want suggestions, they want support from people who can relate to them. Over time, as we publish more user content, we will have assembled the world’s first structured and organized health library that aligns doctor-reviewed health information with user contributed wisdom.

Q3: OrganizedWisdom relies on users to develop health content.  What are the benefits and drawbacks of this strategy?

A3: The good news is that people have been sharing health wisdom with each other since the beginning of time. There is no shortage of health wisdom around the world. Friends and family members are always helping each other learn about new treatments, great doctors or even important books to read.

The problem is that not enough people are exchanging that wisdom online yet. Our biggest challenge, therefore, is that it will take a lot of time to move enough people online to share and exchange this wisdom and build a comprehensive knowledgebase.

The benefits to relying on a community of people who want to share are tremendous. We are finding that when people begin to share their wisdom online, it makes them feel better, and it really can help a lot of people, even people outside of their own community. Also people are able to share practical recommendations and inspirational stories that text-book health documents simply can’t. The community can offer alternative points of view, uplifting support, and the wisdom that often only comes from life experience.

Q4: How do you ensure that users contribute high-quality content?

A4: In order to ensure users contribute high-quality content we’ve created unique publishing tools for users to share wisdom and developed a unique ranking, rating system for the community to provide feedback to those users. All of the content can be rated as helpful or not helpful and also flagged for inappropriate content. This is the most important part of our model and one that we will continue to work on, improve and innovate.

We developed and filed a patent for our WisdomWizard™, a step by step publishing tool that helps people transform their personal experience into a single web page (aka WisdomCard) containing all of the nuggets of wisdom they’ve shared on a specific topic. We specifically didn’t want open-ended bulletin boards and random chat rooms. We want structured content, aligned and organized around the same set of health topics that the best health encyclopedias use to teach us about diseases, drugs, treatments, conditions, etc. This unique organizing structure, and a focused set of questions, helps people publish their very best inspirations and recommendations.

We are also turning to the community to help ensure we have great content from users. Everyone who shares wisdom is subject to our community guidelines, and we already mentioned, they can also rate and rank the best wisdom and report content that they believe should be flagged for review. At the end of the day it is a community effort, and we are confident that our members will care about the success of this mission as much as we do.

Q5:  What do you think it will take for people to view OrganizedWisdom as a trusted source of health information?

A5: Our goal is to our help our members, not just OrganizedWisdom, become the trusted source of health information for their friends and family. We realize asking people to trust a web site is not as powerful as asking them to trust each other. We see our users as the providers of health information, just like doctors, pharmaceutical companies and other medical professionals. We’re simply a conduit for this exchange and hope people will trust us to help connect them with wisdom and the people who shared the wisdom.

Many people feel that WebMD provides trusted expert content so we’ve partnered with their leading source of doctor-reviewed health content, Healthwise, which we feel is very important to our initial credibility. They have a tremendous reputation and, in fact, license content to not only WebMD, but Yahoo!, AOL, MSN and many other credible health sites. Also, we have joined the TrustE seal program and are in the process of joining other third party health organizations like HON and URAC to independently review our site.

We think the best way for us to build credibility is to keep focused on making it easy for anyone to find and share their health wisdom. As the community develops great content, and they invite their friends and family to join this movement. OrganizedWisdom will gain credibility and trust as a result of the community that builds. We believe if we stay focused on helping people, the credibility will grow over time.

Q6: How can marketers ensure that they are engaging people using and resources like it appropriately?

A6: We have taken a new approach to this issue by developing a special program called SponsoredWisdom. This program labels wisdom or information shared by corporations just like it sounds…as “SponsoredWisdom.”

We actually want the pharmaceutical industry to participate in this community and share their best research, educational information, and patient advocate stories, and we want them to do so in a transparent way. We feel that people should be able to come to one place (OrganizedWisdom) and read what medical professionals have to say (Expert Wisdom), what people with life experience have to say (User Wisdom), and what the industries corporations have to say (Sponsored Wisdom) on any health topic . The key here is that we think there should be total disclosure about the source of information so that consumers or physicians can easily identify who is publishing it. Our program segments the different types of information and clearly labels each type of content.

Q7: In recent months, some marketers have posted content on Wikipedia without disclosing that they are doing so for commercial reasons.  What is your opinion of this practice and do you think it could occur on

A7: We believe it’s terrible and in some cases even illegal. The pharmaceutical industry is pretty heavily regulated when it comes to posting information online and therefore we have developed programs for them to do so legitimately and legally. Many people and companies have important wisdom to share and we want them to share it. We believe in full disclosure so everyone can have access to all of the information and the judge for themselves the value of the information to their situation. We believe that transparent content, community reviews and ratings, will help readers identify the best content quickly so they can make the best decisions possible with their doctor.

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