The newsgroup called misc.health.diabetes is only one of more than 16,000 newsgroups. But the importance of this group to diabetics is incalculable. Misc.health.diabetes is easy to find so it is usually the first place that diabetics go when they get on the Internet. And it is by far the biggest forum where diabetics can meet and exchange information.
The main function is continuous education.
Newsgroups are technically a part of Usenet, which is not the Internet. But the overlap is considerable, because almost all Internet accounts will give access to at least some newsgroups.
About 63 percent of Internet sites receive misc.health.diabetes, according to those Internet sites that keep track of this sort of thing. It's read by 16,000 people.
That's a lot more people than the number that reads the Diabetic and Diabetes mailing lists. Those lists are the closest comparison to misc.health.diabetes.
The differences are that for misc.health.diabetes you don't have to go through a process of subscribing, which is required by mailing lists, and that you do have to go and find the new messages, while mailing lists send their messages to your e-mail box. Otherwise, the content is pretty similar.
Steve Kirchoefer, an electronics engineer living in Bowie, Maryland, took the lead in creating misc.health.diabetes in early 1993. Steve is a 41-year-old type 1 diabetic and still an active participant on the group.
The charter that led to the creation of the newsgroup in May 1993 says its purpose is to provide a forum for the discussion of diabetes management of people with both type 1 and type 2 diabetes. This includes diet, exercise, and blood glucose control. Both technical and support discussion is welcome.
The group's FAQs (frequently asked questions) are posted every two weeks. Mostly written by Edward Reid, the FAQs also include discussions of insulin pumps and diabetes software.
The group itself doesn't have a formal archive of past postings. But the Deja News Web site has collected the thousands of the misc.health.diabetes messages since Deja News began in March 1995.
Misc.health.diabetes isn't the only newsgroup concerned with diabetes. A younger, less active but more tightly focused group is alt.support.diabetes.kids, which as its name implies relates to diabetic concerns of children and their parents. Deja News also collects its old messages. De.sci.medizin.diabetes is a German-language newsgroup focusing on diabetes, and has only limited availability outside of Europe.
If you once read misc.health.diabetes but stopped because of the high level of flames and personal attacks, please note that the group is a lot more positive these days. Carl Lydick, who called himself "Speaker to Minerals," did a lot to set people straight by countering misinformation. But because of his strident tone, many people stopped using misc.health.diabetes, where he posted 998 messages between March 1995 and June 1996. He died in August.
"Carl was known as someone not afraid to ruffle feathers, and not afraid to speak his mind," according to The Eternal Flame: A Carl Lydick Memorial.
Now, misc.health.diabetes has become so positive that Consumer Reports singled it out for praise in its February article "Finding medical help online." The article said that compared with other newsgroups, misc.health.diabetes "contained generally accurate, informative posts."
Not everyone agrees. That statement was the "biggest mistake of the article," says Dr. Arturo Rolla, an endocrinologist active on several diabetes-related mailing lists. "Imagine how the other newsgroups were!" he exclaimed.
Still, many of the thousands of people who read misc.health.diabetes every day praise it for the information and support available there. The main function of groups like these, says Dr. Rolla, is continuous education for people with diabetes and other chronic illnesses and support sources for those with unusual conditions.
The American Diabetes Association originally published this article in its Diabetes Insider magazine and subsequently on its Web site as the third of my “About the Internet” columns.
Deja News no longer archives newsgroup messages. However, Google Groups has taken over that function.
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