Thursday 5 December 2013

Online mutual mentorship for GPs - the where

Draft working document. Please suggest revisions in comments

There are many social media platforms available. What features would the ideal platform have?


Private groups
Accessible from commonly-used devices and networks
Easy to use
 - this needs to be balanced against accessibility


Threading of conversations
 - so that each case can have it's own discussion thread
Vehicle for anonymous posts
Free of charge
 - to allow for scalability
 - for ease of admininstration

It is difficult to find a platform which fulfils all of these criteria. One could host a system on one's own servers, either using existing forum-type software (such as phpBB) or bespoke software. A completely bespoke solution would be extremely expensive, and even existing software would need customising in a way few GPs have the skills for.

Any costs would have to be borne by group members or sponsors. A sponsor is unlikely to be interested in advertising on the group unless there was a substantial membership. This immediately presents a considerable hurdle: how can one fund the development and promotion of a new platform until then?

Of course, there are several social media platforms already available, funded by advertising (or will be), free of charge to the user.


The 140 character limitation and lack of private groups really render Twitter unsuitable for this application.


Facebook is attractive as it is the most widely used. I would argue, however, that there is a limit to how much it can be trusted.

Its funding model has apparently not yet been finalised, and so it is uncertain how it will use users' data for monetary gain.

Users have been suspended as a result of posts on private groups, implying a lack of respect for privacy from Facebook staff of content within these groups.

I can find no way of permitting anonymous posts. Users can post "as" Pages but not within groups.

Google Plus

For me, Google Plus seems to tick all the boxes. Its funding model is well established (serving advertisements to users based upon words they use or search for).

Its downsides are that fewer GPs in the UK are yet familiar with it. Also, many seem to be concerned about privacy in relation to sharing their data with Google. However, as far as I am aware, this data is only parsed by computers, not staff, to determine advertisements likely to be of interest. I have not heard of any instances of monitoring by Google staff of content within private groups.

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