The social network space for people with diabetes lags well behind the Internet’s superb ability to provide information. Websites like HealthCentral far exceed the older sources of information that we have — including our health care teams, our books, and our magazines — in the quantity and often even the quality of information that we seek about diabetes.
But the Internet hasn’t been doing a good job in connecting the real people who have diabetes with other real people. Those of us who have diabetes often feel isolated from our communities because of the special need we have to control our condition. Many of us, particularly those who live in small towns or rural areas, don’t have anyone with whom to discuss our dietary, activity, and medication requirements.
Local support groups often fail to provide positive reinforcement when they exist at all. Many of us in fact lack that option within a reasonable driving distance.
Support and communication are functions that the Internet can provide to people with diabetes on a much larger scale than even the best local support groups. But even the so-called social networking sites are instead top heavy on information.
My own website, mendosa.com, since 1995 has focused on providing information to help people with diabetes control it. While it provides some interaction through the comment function, which HealthCentral also uses well, my site is information heavy. Just like the other 300,000 website about diabetes that other people have created in the past 15 years.
Now, however, a true social networking site for people with diabetes has surfaced. This site, MyDiaBlog, is in beta test right now, but is already looking great.
A computer whiz named David Wolf created MyDiaBlog as a gift for a friend and for the entire diabetes Internet community. “I have a young friend who has type 2 diabetes who told me that there wasn’t any social networking website that she could relate to,” he says. ” She asked me to build one, so I built it.”
David called me from his office in Bremen, Germany, to tell me about MyDiaBlog. The driving force behind the site, he said, was his disappointment with the existing diabetes websites from the perspective of true social networking.
“A true social networking site,” he says, “is built upon the ability to connect with others, using a variety of tools such as blogs, forums, instant messaging, in-site email, videos, photos, comments, and other clever tools such as YingYang. The site’s members also need to be able to establish groups, create events, and make requests, rather than just receive masses of information. I think people want to talk and not just to get information.”
David’s vision is to see that the website will organically grow, develop, and be directed according to what the community wants. He wants it to always be a friendly and positive place to share ideas with other people.
He says that his challenge was to create a true social networking diabetes site that was intuitive and easy to use, was free of advertising, and was one that offers the highest levels of privacy. He is committed to delivering a safe, friendly, and positive social networking space for all those who have been affected by diabetes.
So that is the kind of site that David is building. I have joined his site and am an active participant and have made good connections. A few early adopters have already established deep friendships through MyDiaBlog. While diabetes is the common link, these friendships run even deeper.
David is thinking big. For example he told me that he is looking for 100 moderators to play a key role in making sure that the content and direction of the site stay clean, colorful, and fun. The moderators don’t have to have any experience in website moderation. They do, however, need to be really interested in diabetes and have a desire to help create a unique website that really connects people from all walks of life.
David wrote me that he has decided to give away 1 percent of the site to each of the first 100 moderators who join up. This will be held in trust, for which he has created a legal entity.
“I see the site being handed back to the community who created it,” David says. “I am not sure yet how that can be done, but that is the long term plan.”
Many people who read this care both about information and social networking and will appreciate both what HealthCentral and MyDiaBlog have to offer. And about 100 of you can make a major contribution by becoming moderators of the MyDiaBlog site.
HealthCentral published an earlier version of this article.