11. Blogs, podcasts and vodcasts

You all know what blogs are but what you probably don’t know is that emergency physicians around the world are [probably - to make this statement politically right!] the most active bloggers in the medical field. It follows the EM mentality of 'patients first' - if your learn something interesting you think can make a change you spread it out, for free.

The blogosphere

Collectively, the multiple of blogs build up what is called a blogosphere - from the words “blog” and “atmosphere”. It kind of gives you the idea that there is a world out there - a layer in the skies - full of individuals who like to think out loud, share their ideas, opinions and learnings.

Can I trust the blogs?

Anyone can start a blog and unlike the academic journals, there is no etiquette or rules to follow. Thus I am often asked if blogs can be trusted and my answer is definitely yes. Because, a blog will not survive if it is dirty. The blogosphere is a very active one, commonly referring and linking to other blogs so that once you read one you will very soon find yourself reading another one in the same category. An emergency physician would never risk his or her authority by writing some crap because the survival of the blog is depending on the feedback of the community. So no, at least where we all are aware of sound conclusions and legitimate facts, quality does not worry me.
After a while in the blogging society, you will find yourself coming back to some while forgetting the others. Just like in the old days you would favour some specialists more than others and the same applies here - you will find yourself reading more from some bloggers than others because you find them trustworthy. For me fo example, I read everything coming from Amal Mattu, Scott Weingart and Stuart Swadron (especially their podcasts).

Never miss a thing

One of the greatest advantages of following the medical blogosphere is that you will never miss a major event in the emergency medicine field, like a breakthrough journal article or major conference. Because the bloggers collectively scan every piece of information published that concerns your speciality. Like the sentinel machines in The Matrix.

Great way to reach out

Then I could write my own blogpost and be part of that community of enthusiastic emergency physicians all around the world. Be it an interesting article or maybe a recent case where something was unclear. This way I can reach out to my colleges around the world and ask for discussions, inviting yet more clinical pearls or learning points right on my blog. This way I have now established contact with colleges in Australia, San Francisco, Malaysia to name a few.. not beer buddies maybe but certainly e-buddies!

And then some RSS

When you’re not busy working you most probably go through your favorite websites to scan the headlines and find out what’s happening. Going through tens of websites is very time consuming and unproductive. Old habits are hard to break but if you’re serious about your productivity you will have to break this one!
With RSS you define what websites you like to read and then a "virtual robot" will work 24/7 to scan all these sites and collect new headlines into a single collection. The idea is that you can follow all these websites from one single place whenever you like. RSS is amazingly one of the least known IT tools when I speak with my colleges, yet one of the most potent. Read more about it in LITFL's excellent RSS for dummies article.
There are various RSS tools out there but my absolute favorite is Google’s RSS reader because of it’s intuitive yet versatile interface. You can define an endless amount of sources and yet read through these with ease. Google Reader suffices another special post some day to explain it's clockwork and how to apply in medicine. I just couldn't resist to tip you about it's Play function - just try it out here and you see what I mean.
UPDATE 2013: Reader has been disabandoned (and the Internet is still furious!). I'm using http://www.feddly.com instead, there are lots of others.

Using RSS you can unsubscribe from all the newsletters you have signed up through the years, freeing your email from a lot of unnecessary clutter, after all, email was built for personal communication between people.

From blogs to podcasts

src: munfitnessblog.com Podcast is an audio-recording brought online for you to download and listen to anytime (unlike what many think - it is NOT an iPhone-only technique!). In contrast to the traditional "broadcast" which was radio-ed at a specific time and if you missed it you missed it. There is no clear-cut line differentiating blogs and podcasts, a blog might include an occasional podcast or even be  podcast only. Blog is just a type of medium while podcast is an audio recording, usually in a mp3 file.

EmCrit Ever increasingly we are starting to see podcasts in emergency medicine, many of them audio recordings from the big and respectful conferences such as ACEP and USC Essentials. While the blogosphere is revolutionizing the way we learn and stay up-to-date in our field, podcasts are revolutionizing the way we inhale all this information. With hands free, we can enjoy learning while doing almost anything else. When I go out jogging I listen to a podcast. When I'm on the train I listen to a podcast.

Gone are the days I would groan and moan when the house needed to be cleaned, today I look forward to my time of peace and tranquility with Amal Mattu masterfully reviewing the years’ most important journal articles in cardiology. Or Scott Weingart with his inspiring rants about the bleeding trauma patient.
With podcasts I have so to speak been to more conferences the last winter then total in my last 10 years!

Vodcasts

Amal Mattu speaking at USC Essentials Vodcast is the same concept as podcast except that it is a video file you can download to watch on your computer or in any modern smartphone. More commonly, we are seeing video recordings from conferences coming online. Surely seeing the speaker, the slides and even the audience is an excellent way to feel the atmosphere. Especially I have learned a whole lot of ultrasound-techniques this way, Tom Mailhot being a favorite with his brilliant talks. My clinic would never have paid for me attending all the ultrasound lectures I’ve now seen right home in the comfort of my living-room sofa.
Did you know that it has been said that only 10% of what you hear in a lecture will stay? I wonder how much more you can gain when having full control through your video-player to pause, rewind and adjust playback speed.

I prefer the simplicity of podcasts but videos have their own potentials. This winter I will be displaying a selected talk from USC Essentials in the morning meetings, feeding hungry medical student with clinical inspiration from the emergency medicine world to hopefully help them enjoy their stay in the ED instead of seeing it as a period of slavery.

Now that you know everything about blogs, podcasts and videos you are ready to try out the best sites in emergency medicine and believe me - there is a lot to choose from! If you want a raw list of links you can check my primary resources: Stayin' alive section. For a little more entertaining list I recommend you to read my post "E-learning in emergency medicine". Happy times!