Thursday, January 22, 2009

A tweet for change: #Pubmed

The official communication portal for your feedback to the National Library of Medicine (NLM) about PubMed is 'Write to the Help Desk' at the bottom of each PubMed page or via email to This mechanism is helpful for NLM to have trackable data, much like the tickets that are generated by calls to the hospital IT services help desk, however this format doesn't allow for others to see what insights and challenges their colleagues are having.

Medical information professionals have multiple channels of communication ranging from international to regional, state & association listservs, reading each others' blogs, and social networking tools such as Twitter. We can and do share among ourselves! However, each of these communication methods can carry high levels of noise, or information that is neither concise nor relevant to what we are looking for in terms of helpful input.

As I previously explained in my PubMed and the Discovery Initiative post, behind-the-scenes work for the past few years is now manifesting itself in visible changes with PubMed. The main channel for communication from NLM regarding these changes is the NLM Technical Bulletin, where you can quickly browse PubMed-specific entries.

A thought I had for a quick, easy-to-contribute, low-noise feedback mechanism for everyone to see, participate in, and track via a webpage or RSS regarding PubMed is the use of hashtags on Twitter by including #pubmed in your tweet. The hashtagged word works for both a regular message (such as the one from me) and a reply, or @, message (such as the one from dial_m)

Going to
currently brings up the results since I pitched this idea to medlibs, a group Twitter account that David Rothman started & I now moderate:

The RSS feed is #pubmed - Twitter Search

Caveat 1: The 'hashtags' I'm referring to in my tweet is, where currently nothing is displayed. It should since there is reciprocal following of @hashtags on my Twitter account, which displays your hashtags even if you have a private Twitter account. Maybe their system is currently lagged when it comes to new entries?

Caveat 2: If you have a private Twitter account or are sending a group tweet message (such as on medlibs), your #Pubmed tag won't appear on the Twitter search results.

If all of the above didn't make much sense, check out Alison Aldrich's post on the Dragonfly for a great Twitter 101 introduction.

If it did make sense, please contribute your #pubmed thoughts on Twitter separate from your usual discussion of Pubmed (which is still searchable here)! To my knowledge there is not an official NLM presence on Twitter, but I will share this with NLM and encourage them to consider this as a type of social network feedback that is targeted and concise so they won't have to wade through a bunch of noise to get to the point.