Earlier today I tweeted about blogger Jeff Hamilton’s hare-brained idea that the recently implemented top-of-the-search links to NLM’s PubMed Health is some kind of government-Google conspiracy. I tweeted about Hamilton’s tweet, which had a link to his article on his own blog — Ha Ha, funny, right?

The way I came across Hamilton’s article, however, gives it a bit more seriousness — I found it when I was searching in Google for pubmed health, as in the screenshot at left — The first 6 hits are links that are well-known to the medical library community. But #7 is Hamilton’s article — that seemed so laughable on his own blog — in PageRank-powered Psychology Today, which means Google takes it seriously!

The lesson here, I think, is that NLM needs to say something about PubMed Health! As I discussed in my earlier article on it, and as Nikki Dettmar has discussed, it’s very strange that PubMed Health has been launched and assumed automatic #1 rankings in Google searches with no announcement or discussion of any of it by NLM or Google — If it had been talked about, assuredly it would be reflected in the Google search results in the screenshot. Instead, as these results show, there’s sort of a “vacuum” of information about the whole situation — which is just waiting to be filled by “passing spectators” like Hamilton ;-)

For the record, I’m including a screenshot of Hamilton’s article in Psychology Today that’s linked in the Google search:

Eric Rumsey is at: eric-rumsey AttSign uiowa dott edu and on Twitter @ericrumsey

National Library of Medicine staffer Loren Frant gave a good presentation at the NLM Online Users’ session at the recent MLA annual meeting, on the development of the mobile version of MedlinePlus that launched in January. I was especially interested in Loren’s talking about the decision to make this a mobile-optimized web site instead of an app. This goes along with the trend that I’ve noted — The great disadvantage of making apps for library resources is that separate apps have to be made for each of the many different mobile platforms in existence. Instead of making apps, then, it’s more efficient to make mobile-optimized web sites that will display well on any mobile platform.

When I wrote an article on the newly-launched MLP, I missed the fact that it was an optimized web site instead of an app (being a newbie iTouch user ;-) at the time). After hearing Loren’s talk, I discovered that she wrote a good article on the MLP Mobile launch (that I missed because it came out one day after mine!), in which she discusses its being a mobile web site instead of an app, as at her MLA talk.

With the booming popularity of the iPad that was launched two months ago, of course the same discussion of app vs optimized web site is being repeated, although with the larger screen size there’s much less that needs to be done to optimize web pages than on the iPhone. I’ll be watching to see whether NLM does anything to tweek MLP for the iPad.

Eric Rumsey is at: eric-rumsey AttSign uiowa dott edu and on Twitter @ericrumsey

The mobile version of MedlinePlus that was released by the National Library of Medicine last week is an elegant example of what I’ve been talking about in recents posts on libraries making their sites mobile-friendly. Mobile is a great opportunity for libraries because the overriding consideration in creating a mobile-friendly site is SIMPLE Design — Eliminate everything but the bare essentials of the information being communicated — I think NLM has done an excellent job of this with Mobile MedlinePlus. What I especially like is the efficient use of screen space, as shown in the screenshots below — In going from portrait to landscape view, the text and picture grow larger to fit the screen (and the transition between views is very smooth, which can only be appreciated using a real device). … Simple mobile-friendly design like this comes naturally, I think, to librarians. So what are we waiting for?

Malaria – Top with Picture

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Malaria – Text

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Fifth Disease – Top with Picture

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Fifth Disease – Text

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Piercing & Tattoos -  Top with Picture

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Eric Rumsey is at: eric-rumsey AttSign uiowa dott edu and on Twitter @ericrumsey

Google Health OneBox is a boost for NLM’s MedlinePlus — As discussed previously, though, a few tweaks could make it an even bigger boost. A problem not discussed in the previous article is the “MedlinePlus” name — It has little user recognition, and therefore gets considerably less traffic than it might with a better name. In the NLM Update at the recent Midwest Chapter/Medical Library Association meeting, NLM staffer Paula Kitendaugh said some people at NLM are aware of this, and that a different name would likely do better in Google OneBox, but that so far bureaucratic inertia has prevented a name-change.

Realizing how slowly the wheels turn in a large organization like NLM, then, a better name for MedlinPlus is probably unlikely to happen soon. But how about a quick fix for the name of the link in Google OneBox, to take advantage of the fire-hose of potential traffic from Google? My idea for a simple change, that I think would draw more traffic, as shown in the enhanced screen shot here, is to change the link name from “Medline Plus” to “Natl Lib Med.” I think this simple abbreviation would be recognized and respected by users, and boost clicks to NLM.

As far as a new name for MedlinePlus, I don’t have any ideas so far. If anyone else does, please make a comment, or send to me via email or Twitter.

Accompanying article: MedlinePlus & Google Health OneBox

Eric Rumsey is at: eric-rumsey AttSign uiowa dott edu and on Twitter @ericrumsey

In August, Google launched Google Health OneBox (left). This puts the National Library of Medicine’s Medline Plus right at the top of the search results, and is potentially a valuable new source of traffic for NLM.

There are factors, however, that work against MLP — The three prominent links on the left, which are likely to get the bulk of OneBox clicks (Asthma, Google Health, & thumbnail) go to the Google Health Topics page (below). This has the same text and pictures as the MLP Encyclopedia/ADAM page that’s linked from the OneBox Medline Plus link. But there’s an important difference — The Google Health version of ADAM has Symptoms as the first section after Overview. The MLP version of ADAM, on the other hand (see further down on this page) has Causes as the first section. …

This may seem to be a minor difference. But I’ve learned — through long experience with Hardin MD and brief experience with the short-lived Medical Library Association-Google Health Coop project — that symptoms are a very popular, heavily searched topic for users (which Google certainly knows!). So I suspect that users who try out the Google Health and Medline Plus OneBox links will quickly learn to prefer Google Health because it features the symptoms information they’re looking for. It IS a positive for NLM that the Google Health page has a prominent link to MLP. But it’s rather surprising that there’s no clear credit given to ADAM as the original provider of the information — ADAM is credited only at the bottom of the page, where few users will see it (and I suspect many will consider it copyright-free, since they’ll presume that it’s from a government site.)

MedlinePlus & Google Health OneBox — How NLM can boost traffic

Change the order of sections on ADAM Encyclopedia pages, to put Symptoms at the top, as Google does. This would make the pages more interesting to most users.

Surprisingly, MLP Encyclopedia pages, which is what Google OneBox links to, have no links to equivalent MLP Health Topic pages (Example: there is no link between the Asthma pages in the Encyclopedia and in Health Topics) — After all, it’s the MLP Health Topic pages that NLM staff creates and maintains, so how about making links to them from Encyclopedia pages, so the surging clickers from Google OneBox can find them!

See follow-up article: MedlinePlus Needs a New Name

Eric Rumsey is at: eric-rumsey AttSign uiowa dott edu and on Twitter @ericrumsey