The Digital Revolution!
The wealth of knowledge traditionally stored in books, articles or other printed media is increasingly being digitalized. In fact, reading a journal, picking up a textbook, or carrying around paper manuscripts is becoming so rare these days, it could be viewed as rather a, ‘Do you remember when…’, sort of reminiscence. Whether researching for a manuscript, preparing for a lecture, constructing a teaching session or simply keeping yourself up-to-date, you need not leave the comfort of your office chair.
We are never more than a click/tap away from almost everything we require. Shelves of textbooks previously stored in libraries can now be accessed as digital downloads and journals can be accessed within their own websites, whether free open access or subscription based. When faced with a knowledge deficit, whilst the library still exists, most learners would sooner consult the Internet on their mobile device. This may be even before consulting the textbooks sitting on their own book shelves. All of this has vastly improved productivity and may indeed be part of the reason why the flow of new publications seems endless. As sad as it may be, libraries are also becoming the victims of their own definition – quiet places.
SoMe, FOAM & #
SoMe describes the myriad of cloud- and web-based applications that allow people to create and exchange content. The UK’s General Medical Council guidance use the term to include blogs and microblogs (such as Twitter), internet forums (such as doctors.net), content communities (such as YouTube and Flickr), and social networking sites (such as Facebook and LinkedIn). This term however is very broad and is constantly evolving.
Closely related to SoMe is the concept or principle of Free Open Access Medical education (FOAM), where online resources (articles, videos, podcasts, etc) are shared freely and openly to the wider audience. It forms a collection of resources, a community and an ethos. The FOAM community spontaneously emerged from the collection of constantly evolving, collaborative and interactive open access medical education resources being distributed on the web with one objective — to make the world a better place! It is independent of platform or media and has a personalized, continuously expanding database of resources for medical education: it includes blogs, podcasts, tweets, Google hangouts, online videos, text documents, photographs, Facebook groups, and a whole lot more.
Placing a hashtag (#) symbol before an item being described allows every Twitter user rapid access anything associated with it. It has become a rapid way of filtering the relevant cohorts of information on Twitter, and here is where FOAM comes in. Anything related to Ultrasound (#FOAMus), anything relating to Emergency medicine (#FOAMem), and anything critical care (#FOAMcc) and so on (Table 1). A revolution has also occurred in the area of point of care ultrasound (#POCUS), where live ultrasound clips are posted promoting remote learning and discussion.
Table 1 – Relevant hashtags and their descriptors
|Hashtag term||Specialty or subject|
|#POCUS||Point of care ultrasound|
How to start in social media
- Find what you are interested in, activate Twitter
Twitter forms a fabulous platform from which to access a vast amount of information. Set up an account and pick a catchy username. This may or may not relate to what you do from day-to-day, or it may simply be your name. Be identifiable, don’t be anonymous and be professional. We must mention caution over the use of pseudonyms or false identities, as it has been known for people to hide behind such aliases when *trolling others. (*A troll is someone who sets out to pass deliberate and controversial, often inflammatory comments on other users and their opinions). Using a short number of lines to let people know who you are, with a nice image of yourself, travels miles. One could view it in the same way you would introduce yourself at a meeting; after all, merely stating your name probably will not stimulate much interest. Those without a descriptor paragraph tend to pick up fewer followers. People want to know who you are and what you are about. Register as a FOAM user and promoter.
- Search the hashtags (#)
This is similar to searching for a generic term in a search engine and forms an excellent filter. As mentioned above, there are many identifiable hashtags out there. Searching for #FOAMed will highlight anything to do with Free Open Access Medicine, #POCUS, point of care ultrasound related posts and so on (see Table 1). You can also have a look at the Symplur Healthcare Hashtag project to see what is trending.
- Follow people
Look for people within the hashtag searches who seem to be putting information out there that appeals to you (Table 2). In this way, you form a link and others can find you. The person who you follow can then follow you and so on, until a multiplicative effect occurs whereby a network is formed and you are reaching out to many more people than you first started with. Personal learning/social media groups have thus been created, paving the way to extremely useful networking, learning and productivity.
- Download or subscribe to a podcast
Podcasts are audio recordings that can be downloaded and listened to at a later date. They are very useful when travelling, biking, running or generally passing time. Some find this an excellent medium for learning. They can be found on each user platform, whether Android or Apple on various stores, or by following links on sites that provide the casts themselves.
- Follow or subscribe to a blog
There are many out there to choose from, over 300 within critical care alone. Look for a RSS feed icon and use this to alert/stream appropriate material to you. Perhaps an easier way is to look for the ‘subscribe’ button on the site itself. Most will have these enabled and you can then receive brand new updates/news/blogs direct to your inbox, rather than checking each day and missing new posts. Apps such as Feedly will help you to filter what you want to look at. If you find you are enjoying this side of FOAM, then perhaps start your own website/blog and accrue followers of your own.
- Subscribe to video channels
There are many video feed channels readily available, such as YouTube and Vimeo. Simply search for interesting topics and save them into your own playlists. These can be embedded into any website, should you start your own. You can also subscribe to selected users and their content, again, with alerts on release of new material. Videos offer an immersive and intricate learning platform and many come highly recommended.
- General rules
Be generous with your criticism and with what you share. The more you put in, the more you get out. Use filters to beat information overload, and be a filter yourself. Have fun and don’t take it too seriously
Table 2 – Key people to follow on Twitter (not exhaustive)
|Adrian Wong||@avkwong||ICM / Anesthesia Consultant|
|Ashley Miller||@icmteaching||ICM / Anesthesia Consultant|
|Cian McDermott||@cianmcdermott||EM Consultant|
|David Lyness||@Gas_Craic||ICM Anesthesia Trainee|
|Duncan Chambler||@DuncanChambler||ICM / Anesthesia Consultant|
|John Myburgh||@JAMyburgh||ICM / Anesthesia Consultant|
|Jonathan Downham||@ccpractitioner||Critical Care Practitioner|
|Jonny Wilkinson||@wilkinsonjonny||ICM / Anesthesia Consultant|
|Justin Kirk-Bailey||@PARADicmSHIFT||ICM / Anesthesia Consultant|
|Manu Malbrain||@manu_malbrain||ICM / Anesthesia Consultant|
|Marcus Peck||@ICultrasonica||ICM / Anesthesia Consultant|
|Matt Rowland||@matthewjrowland||ICM / Anesthesia Trainee|
|Nitin Arora||@Aroradrn||ICM / Anesthesia Consultant|
|Rob Mac Sweeney||@CritCareReviews||ICM / Anesthesia Consultant|
|Rupert Pearse||@rupert_pearse||ICM Consultant|
|Salim Rezaie||@srrezaie||EM Consultant|
|Segun Olusanya||@iceman_ex||ICM / Anesthesia Trainee|
|Steve Mathieu||@stevemathieu75||ICM / Anesthesia Consultant|
In part 2 of this series, the authors discuss the FOAM resources available and whether, ultimately, it could even replace peer review.