Monthly Archives: December 2008

Social Networks and Health Care Reform: An Experiment

Between Christmas and New Year’s I decided to try a “noble” experiment. I decided to invite people from my Facebook and Twitter networks to an Obama Health Care Reform party at my home. I want to see if the Obama administration’s social networks are real, and if the information flows both ways. You have to understand that my friends are an eclectic group of everything from ordinary senior citizens to A-list bloggers to idealists barely out of their teens, because each person belongs to several categories.

We have the power to help Obama in a big way if he truly wants to produce health care reform, because we understand the virality of social networks.
Example: People who couldn’t come for one reason or another wrote on the wall for my event. One man was even going to fly his plane from Arizon to California to attend, although he was ill on the day of the event. (He sent copious background information for us, because he’s a retired health care executive.)

And immediately before the event, an edition of NewsgangLive devoted part of its discussion to health care reform. If the show’s not posted yet, it will be up by the end of today.

Two of the people on the show shared their personal stories about the need for health care reform. If they want to identify themselves, they will☺

There’s a section in the reporting document that asks the moderator to fill out the answers to questions the Obama people are thinking about. Below is my summation of what I think the group(s) discussed. I could be wrong, because I was both note taker and hostess. But the great thing about the blogosphere is that if I am wrong, I will be corrected below in the comments!

Caveat: these guests were not really ordinary people. They are Silicon Valleyites. One is a health writer, one an A-list blogger, Scobleizer. I’m trying to get him and Fast Company interested in this issue, which is a big one for Fast Company’s viewers and readers since many of them are without insurance. There’s a place to ask if the press showed up. What should I say? Half of my friends could be considered “the press.”

The major takeaway: we can help, if the government lets us. The social networks would like nothing more than to use their power to good end. MyBarackObama was cited as an example of the use of social networks for social good.

What does the group perceive as the biggest problem in the health system?
Access and expense. Our economy, one person pointed out, it moving from employed to self-employed, and insurance is still mainly provided through employers. As a nation of self-employed, we need to create a large enough risk pool to provide ourselves insurance. Organizations such as the NASE were considered “scams” that provided only minimal insurance and did not cover what people thought should be covered: primary care and prevention. One participant proposed a back door system, in which hospitals and doctors allowed use of equipment and facilities for reduced prices at odd hours in order to better use equipment. And people would pay cash☺ An Underground Economy of health care.

How do attendees choose a doctor or hospital? Informal networks.
Where do attendees get information in
making that decision? From friends and doctors.
How should public policy promote quality providers? Personally, I think Health 2.0 is moving in that direction, through companies Matthew Holt can talk about. Several startups are doing quality ratings on doctors, including Yelp.

People discussed their problems with Stanford as a teaching hospital and other good hospitals in the valley for childbirth (some new parents in the room). Teaching hospitals were said NOT to provide quality care in most situations. Sequoia Hospital and Mills Peninsula were considered great places to have a baby. People got their information from word of mouth, their doulas, their friends, and their OBGYNs.

Have attendees or their family members experienced difficulty paying medical bills? Start back further in the process: people are having trouble making their premiums and paying their co-pays. Everyone has had trouble paying their medical bills, or knows someone who has. More important, everyone is terrified of losing their jobs and getting sick. We have all seen how sick people are economically ravaged by health care expenses or forego treatment.

How can policy makers address this problem? By encouraging different use of the heath care system that lowers costs, such as rationing care at end of life, eliminating unnecessary treatments that have no outcome studies to prove them effective, automating the health care system through things like remote patient monitoring and patient education and electronic health records.

In addition to employer-based coverage, would the group like the option to purchase a
private plan through an insurance-exchange or a public plan like Medicare? YES!!!!
The most common suggestion here was to expand the government (Congressional) health care program to people who want to be on a government-sponsored plan. Put the people on a single payer system who believe in it, and let others choose private plans.

Did attendees know how much they or their employer pays for health insurance? What
should employer’s role be in a reformed health care system?
Everyone would hope the employer would have a role in a reformed plan, but so many of the people were “unemployed” in the sense of lacking employer-provided health insurance that there wasn’t much discussion about the employer. There was a real tacit divide in the room between people with conventional jobs and health insurance (who are generally less interested and informed on the issue) and people who are self-employed.

Were attendees familiar with the types of preventive services Americans should receive?
Had attendees gotten the recommended prevention? If not, how can public policy help?
This is where the boldest ideas surfaced, including using Facebook and MySpace to promote prevention and distribute educational materials to using iPhones to monitor workouts and food intake. One of the attendees suggested giving “reward points” for good behavior, and allowing people to develop social capital for healthy lifestyles.

How can public policy promote healthier lifestyles?
There was a real divide between idealists who thought education and public pressure could promote healthier lifestyles and cynics who thought people would never change, and should just be denied heart and liver transplants if they smoked and drank. Holding people responsible for their own health habits and how those habits cost the entire system money is a desire, but everyone thought it would be politically impossible to do.

I found this a personally inspiring and awesome experience, especially since my family came and shared its own experiences, and my ten-day old grandson was in attendance, proving the importance of the subject for the future☺


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The Aftermath of Christmas: the Deployment

My family knows they can’t just give me pajamas or sweaters for Christmas, so they wildly search catalogs and online sites for the edgy, technologically advanced (and imperfect) geeky gift they know I will like. This year I got a couple of doozies (in addition to the organic nail care kit and the perfect Lululemon Pilates outfit).

The easiest to deploy was the Easy Bloom Plant Sensor, a USB device that helps you pick plants for your location and season, monitor ailing plants, and create a custom plant library.

This is perfect for me, because I live in a desert environment in Phoenix, and a salty, cold, foggy climate in Half Moon Bay. When I moved into my house, the woman next door told me that because my plants would all be exposed to salt spray, many of them wouldn’t survive. Of course she was right, and I lost half my front yard garden during the first winter.

After three years, the survivors have grown bigger and taken up the empty spaces, but I would like to try some plants that take less water as my landscape people have my sprinklers set to something not ecologically or economically feasible over the long term.

So I installed the EasyBloom software, synced it with the USB sensor, and entered my zipcode. Then I unplugged the sensor, plugged it into a little plastic stand, and stuck it in my front garden for 24 hours. When I took it in, it magically read the data it had collected about sun, shade, humidity, temperature, precipitation, and whatever, and gave me back a list of plants that would grow in my environment. The list can be filtered for season, color of bloom, annual or perennial, ground cover, vegetable of flow, and lots of other criteria. I filtered down to drought tolerant, insect tolerant, winter, and 2 feet tall before I reduced my selection to “none.” (Winter is the rainy season in HMB)

Through the magic of software, I could download either a photo view or a list view of the plants, and I can even order them.

If it’s a plant I already own, I can find out 1)what it is 2)how to keep it alive or 3) how to bring it back to health.

The interface is childlike, so it takes only minutes to get the EasyBloom Plant Sensor working.

But don’t get me started on the Panasonic Networked Camera. I’ll save that for another post, or whenever I either successfully deploy it or throw it back at the manufacturer. It required a MAC address to follow the stupid instructions, and the Windows-only software it came with was obsolete and tried to connect the camera via the internet using IE7, a browser I have tried to remove from the machine many times because I use Chrome on my PC. No one could have easily set this up by following the “EasySetup” instructions in the software, or by RTFM (reading the friggin manual). It violated all my principles for a good product.

But I have to conquer it. Not only because my daughter gave it to me, but because it’s designed to monitor Buppy the Puppy and his pals as they TPs my house and eat the Christmas tree ornaments when I leave the house. We need to know which dog is the culprit, and who might need his stomach pumped.

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I Love You Jason, But You are Wrong

And so are you, Loren Feldman.

I listened to you on the Gillmor Gang, and though I enjoyed the conversation immensely — I agree with Jason that it’s the best Gang in quite a while– I really disagree that blogging is dead. Sure there are a lot of blogs, and sure there are a lot of trolls, but that’s no reason to diss the entire thing. That would be like saying “I’m tired of having friends.” Or worse, “I’m tired of making friends.”

I do enjoy Jason’s email list, and indeed I have one of my own that pre-dates my blog, which itself started in 1999. I have some subscribers to my blog, and some people who read it through feeds, and no ads, and no direct means of monetizing it. Nothing special or big, nothing I even consult Alexa, Compete, or even Technorati about, and I have looked at Google Analytics once. I’ve probably never been on Techmeme or Memeorandum, and I wouldn’t know if I were. I don’t look.

That’s because I love writing. I’m a trained writer who didn’t have a voice, and I’m damned happy to have one. I blog to convey information and opinion, and every once in a while to impart news if it falls in my lap. I read blogs to learn. Steve Gillmor is my teacher. Robert Scoble is my filter. So are many other people: Marc Canter, Louis Gray. And so are the major blogs. I’m taking a crash course in software development (50,000 ft. view) from them.

But I’m also reading and posting on non-tech sites: Earth911, EmpowHer, BlogHer, Huffpo, and Fast Company, because I’m also interested in the environment, health care, women’s issues, and politics. (BTW, Huffpo doesn’t scrape my blog; they gave me a password and I cross-post what I think their audience might be intererested in). I learn a lot from them, too. I guess I’m most like Robert, who likes to talk to smart people all the time. So do I.

Now. Is this a waste of my time? Hell no. I have a rich and interesting life. I am currently out of money to invest, but not out of cash flow, because all this blogging generates consulting. It generates reputation, probably the most important currency of all. It also generates deal flow, and while I can only advise at present, I know I can and will invest again, and in the mean time I get to see a lot of good stuff and meet wonderful people.

You guys who get a lot of traffic and have tried to monetize your blogs directly have asked for the trolls. In the early days, you link-loved, link-baited, and trackbacked yourselves to death. YOU established the conventions for what constitutes successful blogging by starting and fomenting the bitch-memes during the dull times. Now you have angry mobs shaking their verbal fists at you, but you stirred them up.

I wouldn’t spend too much time complaining about the current state of the blogosphere, information overload, wasting time, etc. While the signal-to-noise filters are primitive now, they are getting better every day, and this, too, shall pass.

Loren, I know those mice in the French kitchen were not a cgi script. I’ve been to Paris:-)

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What Financial Crises Reveal About the Real Nature of Money

It has been interesting watching the last six months through the lens of my life philosophy. I practice non-attachment (as best I can, since no one's perfect). This has been an incredible time to watch what happens to people who do not.

It all started on June 2, when my friend Scott Coles in Phoenix committed suicide, and his business unraveled upon his death like a roll of toilet paper being spread around my house by Buppy the Puppy. Not only were all the furnishings of his elaborate home in Arizona sold at a live auction yesterday for pennies on the dollar (I didn't watch the auction on the web, but I was told that was possible, and that you could even bid online), but all the projects he funded have ground to a halt, and everyone involved is suing everybody else.  The lawyers are at full employment, while many people who trusted Scott to provide them with 10% returns find themselves adjusting their lifestyles.

Scott was only a bellweather. I have always wondered, as the owner of several businesses, how people made as much money as he did, or as the guys I knew who retired from Goldman Sachs in their forties after grueling years of sleepless nights and unbearable stress (and huge bonuses) did. There seemed to be a secret I didn't know. They didn't deal in nickels and dimes. They didn't have to call after their invoices. They didn't have to endure the coming and going of happy or unhappy customers.  They just "made" money.

But over the summer, as I watched Bear Stearns, Lehmann Brothers, Citigroup, AIG, and all the others unravel at the hands of the masters of the universe, I began to realize that people DON'T actually "make" that much money. They "rent" it or they "borrow" it. They temporarily have the use of it. But as the Native Americans always thought, the land is entrusted to them temporarily, and belongs to the deities. So does the money.

Bernie Madoff, nice Jewish guy from New York who worked with regulators and gave to charities, is just another guy who rented a lot of money, used it, and now will commit virtual suicide by paying the penalties of shame, guilt, and perhaps prison for the rest of his life. He thought the money was his. It wasn't. The people who invested in his funds thought the money was theirs, but it wasn't theirs, either.

This question of what "money" actually is and where it comes from has always fascinated me, because I seem to be happy with and without it. I'm finally coming to the conclusion that "money," like its cousin "retirement," is a creation of the imagination.

UPDATE: Dashiell Hardaway Richard was born to my daughter Samantha and her husband Daniel yesterday at 10:54. he weighs 9 lbs., 7 oz., is 21.5" long, has all his fingers and toes, and seems beautiful to us!

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Hello World! was born today… content coming soon… 🙂
Picture 5

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7 Things You Probably Don’t Need to Know About Me

I got tagged by Jason Baer to post about seven things most people don't know about me, and I know I've done this before — I think for Social Media Club– but since I can't find the post, here I go again. This will definitely be too much information:

1)I've been married five times. In my day, you married guys you slept with. It took me a long time to realize that might not be a good way to live life; however, each marriage was fascinating in its own way, and each taught be something. I regret nothing.  I have also never used a divorce attorney and never taken a dime from a husband in a divorce. The last marriage made me a widow, and that was very sad, and a fitting finish. I loved him very much.

2)My first divorce took place when divorce was still not permitted in New York unless you could prove your husband committed adultery ( he did, but I didn't want to have to trail him around with a private eye), so I went to Juarez and got a Mexican divorce.  Last night I heard on the news that conditions in Juarez haven't changed a bit in forty years; I was terrified the whole time I was there, and I was quite young to be in a Mexican border town with unpaved streets, drug dealers, and pigs running loose. My brother, even younger, was sent to accompany me by my mother.

3)Mexican divorces took were granted in large outdoor groups, where you stood in front of a Justice-of-the-Peace type dude with about fifty other people, and the official pretty much waved a wand over you and issued you a piece of paper in Spanish and English. This took attorneys on both sides of the border and was quite costly. My mother, who had orchestrated the divorce, paid for it, too. When it was over, Brad and I got on the first plane leaving Juarez, which was headed for Houston. Very humid, good seafood.

4) I spent the Summer of Love in San Francisco, and I remember nothing about it except the music. Big Brother and the Holding Company.

5) I was the first (volunteer) film reviewer for Phoenix New Times, now Village Voice Media.
It cost me more to attend the movies than they could afford to pay.

6) Shares in the New Times were also my first "alternative" investment in a startup. I was sure I'd be kissing the money goodbye, but Lacey bought the shares back from me in some "corporate coup" many years later.- I made a small amount of money.

7)My next investment in a startup was in Richard Lang's GoVideo. That's the one that hooked me. $5000 became $50,000.

You know the rest of the story:-)


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!2 Days of Bailouts: Don’t Miss This

YouTube never fails to be a fount of creativity.

A finely honed sense of irony has gotten me through many bad times before, and it will again. Try this one:

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