Thursday, 31 January 2008

Health 2.0 : No Website is an Island

I like the film 'About a Boy', based on the book by Nick Hornby, not because it is hilariously funny, gripping to watch or beautifully directed (I actually found it somewhat amusing and enjoyable), but because I took away from it a contemplation of the meaning behind John Donne's famous words 'No man is an island'.

I now often hear Hugh Grant's protest at the back of my mind as he tries to argue the case that he is an island (which he comes to realise during the course of the story that he could not actually continue to be), and also the dialog from the young boy in the film as he comes to the conclusion that one parent is not enough - you need backup (his point not being that you need two parents, but in fact a whole network of people to give you the support you need if you are to be happy in life).

I am by nature an extremely independent person, always someone to try and work something out myself before asking for help – in fact, I could probably count the number of times I have asked for help in this life, and each time it was a difficult thing to do. I'm the type that will always look to the map rather than ask for directions and finds it incredibly difficult to admit when I don't know something, much preferring to quickly dig deep into a manual somewhere to find the answer myself. I guess I am also a bit of a perfectionist and probably am reluctant to delegate a job, especially when I think I can do better myself. And because of these traits, I guess I also could easily fall into the trap of arguing that I too, and my work, is an island - I don't need anyone else because I can do it all on my own - in fact, other people would probably slow me down.

Add to this character another trait that is fiercely competitive. If anyone has the same ideas as me, does something similar, or worse still, better, I can't help but fume inside - something close to hate, or envy, maybe some feeling of inadequacy - I simply have to be the best, or at least hold within me the belief that I am the best, or else remain ignorant of the reality of the situation - maybe that is why I sometimes don't like to look at competitor sites, for fear that they might be better than mine!

But all these sentiments are strictly not Health or Medicine 2.0

Health 2.0 in my mind is all about forming relationships in order to build a framework that might release the full power of the internet (3.0!) and take us that step closer towards the healthy utopia of which we all dream. This takes some courage when many entrepreneurs are often by nature both independent and competitive. It means opening up a little, sharing ideas, looking at building partnerships and new ways of working with other people and other websites, some of whom may be considered potential competitors and others that you may never have considered as relevant to what you are doing at all. Any websites that follow this ethos I believe will grow - those that hang on to their NDA's (non-disclosure agreements) as some kind of armour in an attempt to keep their company ideas under lock and key I do think will likely wither over time and die. Sure there has to be a little balance - I'm not talking about broadcasting your 5 year business plan to the world - but I am talking about throwing a little caution to the wind and saying 'what the heck - maybe this other person/website might be competing with me somehow somewhere in the future? (especially since we all have similar ideas about what we should be building – honestly, there really isn’t much in the way of original ideas), but if we can find some way of helping each other out, chances are we can actually help each other get to where we want to be a little faster, and build something much more powerful than we originally thought'.

Think about relationships with other websites, and relationships with your site visitors - who may not always be who you think they are - think relationships both vertically and horizontally - near and far - outside the box - functional and philosophical. Remember that the Internet is a web and I think you'll be keeping on the right track.

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