Medpedia to go live today
The announcement that Medpedia, a Wikipedia-style medical resource, is going live this week (read today's NYT article), made me think about Jimmy Wales. Medpedia is not affiliated with Wales' Wikipedia (it's associated with Harvard Medical School and Stanford School of Medicine, among others), and, unlike Wikipedia, only PhDs or Physicians can edit it. Others can suggest changes that have to be ok'd by the editors. A few years back, in interview with the Media Giraffe Project, Wales talked about the possibility of an open medical resource. He said that it would pose different challenges than Wikipedia because the level of accuracy would have to be close to perfect. You could tell he was interested in this in a philosophical sense, questioning: Who could edit it? How open could it be?
"Thinking about how you do that in a collaborative, freely licensed context is breaking new ground," he said then. "You want to make it really easy for people to participate, but you want to make it really easy for the right people to participate." He went on to say he didn't think that only qualified physicians should be able to edit it, saying that a group like nurses would also be able to spot errors and add expertise. All those inputs are valuable, he said. Then he switched again and said the difficulty was that the more you open it, the more you risk bad information coming in.
The magic with Wikipedia was that everyone met on a level ground.
Wales was always suspicious of gatekeepers, expert-led review processes, and academic distinctions. How do you define an expert? Why does someone with a degree necessarily mean they know more?
Medpedia has picked on the side of a controlled, gatekeeper model. It will be interesting to watch if the restrictions prevent it from growing large enough to be comprehensive and effective. Or perhaps this was the only way to create a resource with a high enough degree of accuracy.