Tuesday, 3 February 2015

Sometimes knowledge just grows - Radiopaedia

Thanks to Lisandro Gaertner (@lisandro) for alerting me to this amazing article on spontaneous, bottom-up wiki-enabled knowledge sharing. 

X-ray published in ABC news, taken from Radiopaedia 
Radiopaedia is an online wiki where Radiologists all over the globe share online X-rays that are interesting, unusual, or demonstrate particular aspects of patient cases that others might lean from.

Radiopaedia was started in 2005 by Dr Frank Gaillard, as a way of storing online his digital radiographic images. Dr Gaillard had the inspiration to make this store an open resource, and in 2007 made it accessible to other radiologists.

  • Now, in 2015, Radiopaedia has 
  • 7 million hits a month 
  • 2 million unique users 
  • users in every country in the world 
  • more than 10,600 Twitter followers
  • 17,660 cases sorted into 7,636 articles. 

The vision of Radiopaedia is
"to create the best possible radiology reference and teaching site and make it available to everyone, for ever, for free..... By pooling our collective knowledge and experience we can make a real difference in how people all over the world are imaged and diagnosed".

So what can we learn from this?

I think the primary lesson is that a simple technology solution which serves a knowledge need for a large user base can grow quickly and organically. The barrier to entry is low, and the benefit for users is very high.

Secondly, the starting point for this was one person choosing to open his personal collection to the public. Despite the well-known behaviour of knowledge hoarding, Dr Galliard's decision to open his knowledge base not just resulted in value to other radiologists; he himself benefited from the massive outpouring of knowledge sharing.

The value is particularly great for radiologists, in that many of them work as lone specialists. A global community provides them with a very welcome link to other practitioners.

Also radiologists are visual workers. Their chief tool is images. The more images they can see, the greater their knowledge base. The best radiologist is the one who has seen the most Xrays.  A wiki is an ideal way to share visual imagery, and to make tens of thousands of Xrays available to view.

Also the wiki is not a standalone, but part of a system. This includes
For those of you working in knowledge management, this case history provides a model for how you can connect a large community of lone practitioners, for whom a shared library of images is a massively useful resources.

Are there people like this in your company? If so, then Radiopaedia may give you some pointers in how to build a system to support them.

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