A few weeks ago I published an article on Blogging the Pandemic. Today I'm blogging about blogging, in particular about what this blog is teaching me.
First, it's making me addictively hungry for news. Over in the left column is a list of links. Some of them I rarely visit because they change so rarely; others I check several times a day. NewsNow is especially helpful since it updates so often. Alas, the updates often include mere repetition of the same story in various media. The warning from Trust for America's Health ("500,000 dead Americans!") is now itself pandemic, picked up by many newspapers and TV and radio news outlets.
When I can, therefore, I'm now trying to go through the website news stories to the originators of those stories—like the TFAH's actual report, or the Fraser Health Authority's actual pandemic plan. What did we ever do before Google?
Running this blog is also making me increasingly reliant on other flu bloggers, whose sites are listed in the left-hand column. Declan at Connotea is doing great work. So are Revere at Effect Measure and Henry Niman at Recombinomics. I admire the terseness of the anonymous creator of The Coming Flu Pandemic? (which can probably drop the question mark). EpidemiCA is lively and readable. The people who run Avian Flu—What We Need to Know are digging out material rarely found elsewhere.
One issue in flu blogging might be called the "exformation" problem. Exformation is the information you leave out of a message because you know your reader/listener already knows it. Some flu bloggers know a hell of a lot, and don't always explain some of their terms. Newbies like me are sometimes unsure just what the experts are talking about, but we can try to keep up.
In this regard, I can already see a new dialect forming: Pandemish. It has a vocabulary full of terms like "effect measure," "recombination," "surge," and "cytokine storm."
Some fluent speaker of Pandemish should start compiling an online glossary/FAQ of technical words and phrases. (I'm already grateful to Revere for the definition of "effect measure.") For every specialist who feels right at home in these blogs, a dozen anxious civilians like me must be turning up and wondering what the heck is going on. Judging from my own traffic, a lot of non-native English speakers are visiting our sites; I hope we can start supplying them with links to sites in many other languages.
Seeing events in historical context is important, and hard to achieve in the rush of news stories, but I'm going to try to do at least a little of that. The mini-review of books about the Spanish flu was a start, and I hope to do a more detailed review of The Great Influenza, which despite its rhetorical flaws is clearly the must-read book of the year.
Some flu bloggers may need to become more aggressive: Rather than waiting for the politicians, media, and health experts to come to us, we should be relaying news to them as we get it. Links to health agencies, media, and governments may become an essential part of at least some of our blogs. If nothing else, our readers can use such links to bang on some doors.
While I don't look forward to the likely outcome of the next pandemic, I feel greatly reassured (and honoured) to have access to so many well-informed and thoughtful colleagues in this new community.