Health Is Social

Infusing Social Media into Healthcare

Invisible Tweets and Health Data

I recently asked followers to take this poll about a hypothetical feature on Twitter which would enable individual tweets to be marked private. Note: this would not be the same as a DM.

Why would anyone want this feature?

Well, let’s say you use Twitter…a lot. Some people do – to the point where they’ll even tweet their weight, and perhaps rally support.

But what if you wanted to use Twitter to collect data – say your weight, or glucose reading or mood – but you don’t want that data shared publicly?

What if you wanted to mark certain tweets private – or invisible to followers? And not just be able to mark individual tweets invisible, but also automatic tweets, like the kind from machines like the WiFi Body Scale?

Nick Dawson said he would like someone to build an app that would pull his tweets into his health record. Assuming applications like that could be built and adopted by his provider (won’t discuss that here), being able to mark individual tweets Invisible could be useful.

These Invisible tweets could be viewed either only by the user, or could be securely pulled into another database via the API (say a PHR).

Why not just enter this data into its own database? Absolutely – that’s definitely an option.

This is by no means a secure way to collect data. But this is a matter of convenience: many people just want to track basic data without the hassle of yet another application. For people who tweet daily, it’s just a simple way to integrate their health tracking into their routine.

Now I don’t know if marking tweets Invisible could be accomplished by an analogue to a hashtag, or as a native feature of Twitter and through its API, but it would be interesting to test out.

On a related note, right after I posted this, Howard Luks brought to my attention an interesting service called Follow Me by Zemoga. Check it out.

By the way, another method is to set up another Twitter account so that you can Direct Message data to it. Then those direct messages can be downloaded as an Excel compatible file using a backup service like Tweetake. Then the data can be sorted and diced any way you like.

Sorting by keywords, you could track and graph moods, glucose readings, notes from doctor visits, medication history – whatever you think is relevant to tracking your health data.

Still, being able to mark tweets private (this is nothing new: you can do the same with traditional blogs and other services) could simplify the process. In fact, you could go a step farther: if there was an option like “Mark tweet as private and send to PHR”.

I know, I know: Crazy Deranged Fool stuff.

What do you think? Good idea? Dumb? Or does the answer depend on individual taste and needs? (Bear in mind: not everybody sees the world the same way 🙂 )

@PhilBaumann@HealthIsSocial

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  • Great post! I think you nailed it with this line:
    “… this is a matter of convenience: many people just want to track basic data without the hassle of yet another application.”

    We are surrounded by and give off so much data on a daily basis. Anything we can do to harness and make use of it, particularly when it may positively impact our health, has to be a good thing. The trick is making it easy – both for the person contributing the data and the person analyzing it.

    You have suggested a couple clever hacks including a separate, private account to send DMs to. Very clever! I also like the idea of being able to mark something invisible – and perhaps it is as easy as who you reply to or what words/hashtags are included in the post.

    thought provoking, Phil! nicely done

    • Phil Baumann

      Hi Nick

      It’s interesting how Twitter can be repurposed – I still don’t think we’ve tapped the full potential of the API.

      And I think it’s the convenience factor which is most appealing. Eventually, Twitter will mature (and hopefully without compromising its simplicity).

      Now, I want to develop some apps. I like what Zemoga is trying to do.

      Phil

  • The Zemoga stuff looks cool! Who (if anyone) is doing data visualization stuff around twitter? We need some wolfram alpha style engine to be able to say “whats the average blood pressure being reported on twitter?” – not sure anything has that view/power yet… or am I wrong?

    • Phil Baumann

      That would be interesting – and it is do-able actually.

      Pixels and Pills has Health Tweeder –

      http://www.pixelsandpills.com/tweeder/

      Also, have you seen this HTML5 experiment that integrates Twitter keyword ‘water’? Very cool:

      http://www.hakim.se/experiments/html5/wave/03/

      You can just generate variations on the theme and pull in any kind of data. The key is creating some sort of way to produce results with some data integrity.

      Phil