The Social Information Wars

Click the image below and read it. You can also read it over here.

This is part of the war I referenced in my partially snarky post on how to work in the Attention Me-conomy. Rather than re-hash the background to the link above, you can get up to speed on what the above image is all about over on GigaOm and then come back here.

Think about Healthcare data.

Think about where that data resides, where it goes and how it travels from one place to another.

Let’s suppose that a magic wand were to be waved and that all of Healthcare came into the 21st Century: your health data is electronically recorded, you and your provider have swift and safe access to it; and you can use the Web and mobile and other kinds of applications to do amazing things related to your health (and life).

Picture that world for a moment: seamless integration of your healthcare data wherever it needs to go.

Now ask: what happens when competing interests war for that data?

To illustrate, say that you conduct a fair amount of health-related activity on two fictional sites: Hoogle and HealthBunch.

Hoogle is the world’s largest repository of searchable and vetted healthcare information. It has other services integrated into it like PHR and some social features, but it’s mostly a search engine for healthcare.

HealthBunch is the world’s largest online healthcare social network. It’s where people who are newly diagnosed go, “check-in” to disease states, search for others with similar conditions, etc. In other words, it has a huge amount of social relationship data.

Now, you want to port a lot of the data and connections you made on Hoogle over to HealthBunch – or vice versa but neither company allows you to do that. Or they make it very hard, and not without some hidden but vaguely mentioned cost. They each want to be the kings of online healthcare.

What do you do? On one service you’ve accumulated a lot of specific healthcare data, while on the other you’ve established important social relations. And now, you’ve decided that you’d like it all in one place (because you are an unabashed brave new worlder).

The thought experiment here is intentionally absurd and extreme. But the basic point is: even if we get to a point where healthcare data flows the way we want it to – for the benefit of patients and providers and, well, everyone – will we still have to contend with data wars?

Google and Facebook’s war – which will likely intensify as Google yet again grabs for the Social Pie in spite of previous failures – may offer us a lesson in the future of healthcare data and social networking.

In a wider sense, I think the Social Information Wars will turn out to be key historical elements of the 21st Century.

Why? Because war and struggle and competition have always been inherent in our social DNA.

Twitter and Facebook and all other social media will not inactivate those tiny pernicious genes and memes of our bodies and cultures. In fact, they will amplify some, while enabling others to be shined upon, examined and – maybe – tempered.

The Social Information Wars – which are wars for the data about us – is, ironically, being fought on the very fields in which we emit that very same data.

Not all of this Social Media stuff is good (and I”m not an Anti Social Median). There are instances when it can be dangerous.  There’s much we must consider and flesh out and mindfully observe.

What are we lording over when we share our data with the world?

More importantly: who actually becomes in charge of our data? Because if we aren’t the ones making the rules, others will.

I’ll start closing with a quote from someone who knew a few things about war and politics and human nature:

…the heaviest penalty for declining to rule is to be ruled by someone inferior to yourself. – Plato

Can we rule the country of Facebook once we’re all inside?

@PhilBaumann – @HealthIsSocial

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