Friday, July 17, 2009

An Open Letter to Clinical Reader

July 19 '09 7:00am edit

Twitter links below have broken due to constantly changing Clinical Reader accounts so I have linked to screenshots.

The latest account on Twitter states that the previous account is unaffiliated with the real website and that they haven't officially started tweeting yet.

A screencast of the website's Google cache, dated July 17, 2009 1:43:11 GMT, scrolls to the bottom of the page to show their link to a Twitter account with a url of

July 17 '09 6:40pm edit

Twitter links below have been changed from @clinicalreader to @clinical_tweets. The original account was apparently deleted then reinstated with a new name, and there's a different @clinicalreader account now.

Dear Whoever Is In Charge,

Previously, with your permission, I posted your co-founder's email apology for your company threatening me on Twitter. That was as a result of my critique of your online information resource that implied an endorsement from a United States government agency that does not issue them to commercial services, and using copyrighted images without permission from their creators.

I found two of those images although there were three including the image your company took, altered, told the owner of the image it was a purchased stock photo, then finally removed it.

I replied to accept your co-founder's apology (my reply is here) and stated at the time I also accept inclusion in the medical librarian's section of your page. At the time I believed your company was sincere, learning from mistakes made, and intending to conduct both your online information resource and social media communication channel with integrity and professional responsibility.

That was a false belief as your company has shown over the course of this week.

I have edited a Google Doc that I believe is the source information for the proposed medical librarian section. I no longer wish to be included. Some of the reasons why include your company making a mockery of your threat to me as 'all very funny and great PR', falsely attributing it to Ben Henley, then after 'taking control from... Canadians' (screenshot) once more twisting the words of others to imply endorsement for your company. I have permission from Martha to post the following screenshots since she has a private account:

Your company refers to your information resource as an 'authoritative source' (Beginnings, About) yet nowhere within your website do you identify yourselves by name nor the institutions you are affiliated with so users may verify your level of authority for themselves. Who are you and your Editorial Team (screenshot)? Where are you located?

Your contact information says to contact you via email and Twitter (your 'dedicated beta feedback form' goes to and nothing specific), yet your company now says 'pls use official channels' (screenshot). What are those official channels? Why are you 'happy to be open' one moment then 'not like your predecessors pls use official channels' (screenshot) the next since taking control from the Canadians? When will you decide upon your 'official channels' and have a consistent message to send across all of them?

How is Clinical Reader is an 'authoritative' resource that 'respects all copyrights and legal restrictions on content and access'? (source)

It is not by assessment measures for health information website quality I'm aware of as a librarian. Your website fails all of the Medical Library Association's suggested criteria for identifying sponsorship, for example.

Clinical Reader has, however, become a case study for why a company's social media presence should be included as part of information resource quality assessment measures. Iris is right on track except for one thing: it's not 'hundreds of people have gone from knowing nothing about this service to being sure that everyone at Clinical Reader is completely insane.'

As of Friday morning it's 3,031 people with 3,990 page views on Monday's critique according to Google Analytics.


Nicole Dettmar, MSIS


Anonymous said...

One should also note that your original post is now hit #6 in a Google search for "Clinical Reader" (at least at my corner of the internet at this point in time). It will probably stay there -- as long as your blog is around -- as a reality check for those that want to learn more about the company.

Iris said...

Excellent letter. I was just going to write about how I teach people to evaluate credibility on the web... and you took the words right out of my mouth.

And wow, that's a whole lot of pageviews.

Martha Hardy said...

Echoing what Iris said, I've also been thinking lots about what I teach students to look for when evaluating Web sites or online tools for credibility. I'll be covering this in my information literacy and research skills class next Wednesday. Social Media shenanigans aside, Clinical Reader does not meet the standards for transparency I ask my students to look for. For example, referencing an editorial board and not disclosing who is on it is a big fail.

Excellent post as always, Nikki. You rock :)

Punk Librarian said...

Sheesh. It seems like CR didn't consult any librarians/information professionals before launch.

Pam said...

You should forward this to Mashable. A total case study in "how not to use social media".

Jere said...

Good letter. Designers of slick websites that take note - there are no short cuts to real credibility.

Jenny Reiswig said...

Wow.. what is going on over there? A third Twitter account that claims to have nothing to do with the other two that were OBVIOUSLY connected to the product... has the founding team split up? It's just baffling. The way they've tried to get away with stuff wrt Twitter and the image use really "read" like teenagers, yet the product itself is a cool idea that should have a lot of promise. Jere's comment is right on.