My take: What makes a good medical blog?

Maria writes: “I’d like your take on what you think constitutes a ‘good’ medblog . . . I am continually surprised with what people like about medblogs. Some people like brief links, some people like critical discussions, some people like stories.

This ultimately all boils down to opinion, but I’d like to know what traits you like in medblogs.

Can you start by opining that you strongly dislike the word ‘medblogosphere’?”

My take: Good question. First off, I agree that “medblogopshere” is clumsy, unlike the shorthand for law blogs or “blawgs”. I’m open to suggestions on how we can make “the medical blogging world” or “medblogopshere” sound more cool and elegant.

Blogs essentially boil down into several basic forms. On one end, there is “link-blogging”, where the blog simply links to interesting reading. Examples are my own blog, as well as Instapundit, FARK.com, and kottke.org. On the other extreme, there are blogs with long, thoughtful entries expressing analysis, creative writing, or stories. Respectful Insolence, intueri, and Health Care Renewal fall into this category. There are also hybrid blogs that combine link-blogging with more lengthy entries, such as Freaknomics and the blog at MedPage Today.

I can’t say which is “better”. Each of these forms have their strengths, and it really is a matter of personal preference.

However, there are some common traits that I look for in a successful medical blog.

i) Content. Does it have, or link to, information that I can’t find in mainstream media? I generally read the major newspapers daily, so I’m looking for content that supplements what’s found in the news. This often includes opinions, insight, and personal experiences. I’m interested in reading different takes of a single issue. I also look for offbeat stories or links that are not covered by the major media sites.

For example, I added Buckeye Surgeon today to my blogroll. I read through a few of his April posts and found his experience with a case of Fournier’s Gangrene and a link to a tragic 2001 WSJ story. It was a well-written personal take on a case that can’t be found in mainstream media, as well as a poignant link.

ii) Updates. Whether it is a link-style blog like mine or Orac’s lengthy analytical missives, posting on a regular basis is critical. I would say at least several times a week at minimum.

iii) Comments. Posts often take on a life of their own in the comments. Active comment discussions add another dimension to the blog, and sometimes are more interesting than the blog itself.

iv) Grammar/spelling/formatting. I enjoy reading well-written text, free of grammatical and spelling errors. I tend to tune out long paragraphs without breaks. Inconsistent formatting of the posts also is a pet peeve. Seemingly trivial stuff, but makes a big difference to me.

I try to be conscious of these issues here, although I admit I’m not always successful.

v) Design. Blog template design should allow the reader to focus on the writing, so I find things like widgets and banners to be distracting. One appealing trend of blog design is so-called minimalism, which are blog designs that have a high signal to noise factor. inteuri is a great example. Despite the ads on my site, I try to keep Kevin, M.D. looking as fat-free as possible.

Of these factors, content is by far the most important. It won’t matter if you have a pretty looking blog if you have nothing to say.

So, that’s my take on what makes a “good” medical blog. I’d be interested to hear what readers have to say, or how I can improve my own blog.

View 13 Comments >