May 7, 2009

How the CDC is using Social Media to Fight Social Media

Naimul's Note: This post does not intend to convey any medical advice. The opinions within are my own and do not reflect the positions of my employer.

Misinformation is a powerful thing. The other day I had a conversation with a friend who was vacillating on whether or not she should visit Mexico. The tickets were purchased and non refundable, but something was holding her back. I could tell she hated to lose the chance to bask in sunny Cancún, but another part of her shouted that it was a small price to pay to avoid being a multiplier in what might be a pandemic. I reinforced that little voice.

“You know,” I said with all the confidence of a Master from the Harvard School of Public Health, “they’re saying the Swine Flu has a 50% death rate.”

“No it doesn’t,” she replied.

“No, I’m pretty sure it does" (here is the clincher): “I read about it online.”

I mean come on, right? That’s where everyone gets their information these days.

At this point she reminded me that she was in fact a Master of Public Health from Harvard and roundly condemned my research methodology. I actually thought that the 50% statistic sounded accurate. After all, I could have sworn I had heard something similar about the Bird Flu, or the Hoof and Mouth...or the Cholera, or something. As she deconstructed the likelihood of there being a 50% death rate to Swine Flu through statistical analysis, I started to realize that I had probably read the "fact" about death rates on twitter.

There is an uproar in the blogging and health community about the popular micro blogging service's role in causing panic ( While fantastic for spreading bite size information, twitter isn't held to the same journalistic standard as most newspapers. Newspaper articles are often accompanied by expert advice or well researched statistics. That isn't to say you should believe everything in the paper--but it is far more likely that you'll find real numbers there than on a blog or on twitter. So how do the people in charge of informing us about these health crisis combat the groundswell of untruth? By reaching us in the places we already frequent.

The popular social media blog Mashable recently published an article with four ways to track Swine Flu ( These days we don't have to wait around for our local paperboy to hawk the latest headline--the technology of information sharing has become swift and collaborative. According to the article on Mashable, the World Health Organization has an online disease outbreak center that releases breaking news on potential epidemics. The site is equipped with an RSS feed ( to disperse the information even further. If that isn't enough there are Google News Alerts that you can port right into your Google Reader, the CDC has a travel alert bulletin on their website, and other comprehensive disease related news feeds are free for syndication.

Photo Source: Google Experimental Flu Trends for Mexico

For the visual types, we're now able to map out where outbreaks are occurring in real time thanks to websites like If you want both geographic and chronological mapping of the spread of disease, you can visit where disease is charted over time with reference to points of activity on the map. has revolutionized the concept of trend tracking by monitoring what people are searching for in specific geographic locations. Their flu tracker ( has been shown to have incredible accuracy (by someone credible, like the CDC) in monitoring where flu outbreaks are occurring. The technology is simpler here: track the search terms "flu, symptoms, flu cure, flu treatment, etc" and you know what people are wondering about in a certain part of the country. Brilliant.

Health leaders are starting to combat the spread of misinformation by providing reliable information in its place. Both the CDC and the aforementioned Healthmap are on Twitter ( and respectively) with updates on the latest outbreaks of Swine Flu and other health related issues. Rather than trying to stem the tide of bad data out there, they're going with the flow to offer a safer alternative.

Photo Source:

If you don't have time visit all those sites, the good people at have put it all in one place. There you can find tweets, blogs, videos, news, and even photos related to Swine Flu without ever having to click a link or open a new tab.

I used to read Wikipedia with disdain--looking to it as a false beacon in the desert of complicated research tools. Now I find myself taking the advice of potentially inebriated bloggers and sharing it with others. What I have to find is a balance of credulity and incredulousness--we can't go around being gullible all the time. I've checked, gullible IS on and it is NOT a good thing.

But, if I somehow find myself in a Swine Flu infected township despite the best efforts of social media-wielding public health analysts, at least I'll always have opportunistic medical supply companies offering me Swine Flu Pandemic Kits!

The technology exists to put public health reporting directly in the hands of the people. Will this technology change the way we react to disease?

Follow me on twitter: @naimul

January 20, 2009

President Barack Obama

created at

Today at 12 PM ET President-Elect Barack Obama officially became President Barack Obama. This means a lot to me--its been a long time coming. I remember the first time I heard about Mr. Obama, it was in the weeks leading up to the Democratic Convention. I read an article about the Purple Party--how Barack Obama could potentially unite two opposing parties in a way this country hasn't seen since Thomas Jefferson was inaugurated and declared "We are all Republicans, We are all Federalists." From that point on I would drop his name in conversations and hear skepticism about his potential. The thought died down until he announced his run for President on the steps of the Illinois capital.

I was reminded that no other candidate had made me smile like Obama before the election season started. Iowa was an awesome rush because the long shot became a possibility. On Super Tuesday my roommates and I held a fundraiser in conjunction with a policy think tank in Chapel Hill and I sang a song about Obama to a rowdy group of cheering supporters. I remember watching every debate, despite the interference with my studies. I remember waiting in line on election day only to see my new state of Kentucky go red as expected. But the end of the night wasn't stressed, it wasn't nervous, it was hopeful. And the raucous celebration that followed shook my building. People were joyful.

Under Obama, we are a new nation; his speech today was a call to reification, a commandment to start fresh under one flag, together. In the tag cloud above you can see the words most commonly used in his speech. Nation stands out above all others. Preserving this nation will ensure our future and rebuilding this nation will bring us to new unforeseen glory. My prognostications are really just guesses and hopes, but they're what I'm going to cling to in the coming years. Wondering and hoping. How audacious of me.

Happy Inauguration Day!

January 19, 2009

Social Gaming and Service

I promise I won’t often use this space to promote things or be political often, but I’ve been feeling the need to do so lately. We’re on the eve of an historic event that will change the world forever and millions of Americans are happy and hopeful. I’m one of them, but it still pains me to see horrible atrocities committed around the world. I feel aches in my heart for the people of Palestine. Listening to the news and radio reports from the ground now that Israel is starting to withdraw troops, hearing the anguish of the women and children who are sifting through the rubble of their former lives to bury their children, it tears at me. But there are many people out there dedicated to aiding these people, like the Saudi government (donating a billion to rebuild Gaza). But I’m not going to talk about Saudis; I want to mention a friend of mine who is doing something cool where he could be making money.

A few months ago my friend Monjurul started a site call Pikagame ( where people can play flash games and be social while earning points that they can eventually trade in for prizes. The revenue part is that he hopes to get ads. Right now he has none so anything you earn out of the site comes from him. Including his most recent prize. 500 points will get you a $5 donation to Palestine via the charity of your choice from the list he provides. I’m not going to tell you that you need to go out and start playing on this site to save Palestine, but I do want to take note of proactive work. It’s MLK day for a few more hours and it’s officially America’s day of service. What did you do today to serve others less fortunate? How have you been living Dr. King’s ideals? I think the use of technology and fun to motivate people to serve is fantastic. People who play on this site make a choice—to give up points in order help people who need it, or keep them for their own gain. Five hundred points isn’t easy to get, and giving away five dollars isn’t too easy either. So props to Monjurul and call to creativity for anyone looking to serve others in the New Year.

If you want to sign up for the site use this link—any points I get for referral are going to Palestine for sure:

Pikagame Palestine

January 7, 2009

Here at CES

Just so you all know, I'm going to be blogging about CES later on tonight. For all you non technophiles out there, its the biggest consumer electronics show in the world. I was there to special study Social Media and I did a lot of this at the Social Media Jungle. For a teaser this is some of the things that it was about:

Look there to find a video from Chris Heuer about Social Media Principles and his slideshare presentation. Which you can see here.

Social Media Principles
View SlideShare presentation or Upload your own. (tags: attitude principles)

I'll also be sharing what I learned about Vegas hotels, a cool upgrade trick. I'll have a video later tonight. Right now I'm going to try and fraternize with some bloggers. Peace.


January 5, 2009

Post of the New Year, Naimul Update

Jeff beat me to it. I started writing the first wandy post of the year but then I went to lunch. When I came back Jeff had already put up his long awaited best of 2008. Which I have had the fortune of being in for the last six years. This years entry is no less awesome than any in the past

Its amazing, going through those old photos, thinking about how much we've all grown up. Jeff is still an internet guru but now a money making sort. Joel still writes but now for the News Papers. I'm not sure what I did that compares with what I do now, but yeah, lots has changed. I'm not really sure what to say. I work in an innovation center now and I want to be a doctor someday. I write for a think tank and I'll probably share those articles here. I'm going to CES in Vegas tomorrow so that should be fun. If anyone is down there give me a call. I'm working out a lot and taking pictures so in a few months check back and I'll hopefully show you some kind of body transformation. I'm going to keep making You Tube videos. Finally, I twitter regularly, so please follow by clicking the image below. This blog is going to get a lot more interesting so check in every once in a while.

November 28, 2008

The Hottest Triplets in the World

....can you guess who made this list?

wow. I actually found this on digg....

November 20, 2008

This is where I work!

Here are photos from my office.

See more at or visit the innovation center website

Actually I don't think the site will be live till noon. But until then...

This is what is going on in my life. :)

November 4, 2008

Get Out and VOTE!

Sorry Jeff, its time for propaganda.

Get out and Vote!

Obama 2008!

October 22, 2008

Scan Me.


Can't read me? Get a reading lesson

August 18, 2008

The Dark Knight Meets Bike Sharing

Found this cool video about bike sharing online.

Wandyteeth Community

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