Mayo Clinic Health Reform Symposium

Waiting for the start

For the next two days, I will be live blogging the Mayo Clinic National Symposium on Health Care Reform, which is being held at Lansdowne Resort in Leesburg, Va., just outside of Washington, D.C.

If you’re interested in seeing the streaming video, you can watch it here. After the sessions, the archived video will be here. I will be having a comment thread open during each session, so you can comment on the proceedings as they are happening. Your questions for the panelists would be welcome, too. I think it would be fantastic if we could get some questions from the blog included in the live discussion.

We’ve worked really hard in our Mayo Clinic Health Policy Center to bring patient perspectives to the health reform discussion. Since all of the readers of this blog are health care consumers, I hope you’ll check out the health policy blog and chime in with your comments and questions.

Launching the Mayo Clinic Health Policy Blog

In my work for Mayo Clinic, my major responsibilities are for our Mayo Clinic Medical Edge syndicated news products and for leadership of our social media team. Last week I wrote about our Mayo Clinic fan page in Facebook, which has been successful so far. After a low-key start, we’ve seen strong growth in our number of fans, with 376 as of this writing, and have also had some gratifying wall posts. Check out our page here.

Now we’re starting our first major blogging initiative, as part of our Mayo Clinic National Symposium on Health Care Reform, which will be held next week in Leesburg, Va. You can read about it here.

I hope regular readers of this blog also will check out the Mayo Clinic Health Policy Blog, and will participate in the discussion. While we had a low-key start with the Facebook fan page, I expect the Health Policy blog to get active much more quickly. With live streaming of the general sessions, with a high-profile keynote speaker and moderator in Tom Brokaw and with the work that has gone into developing a first-rate program, hopefully the blog will have high visibility.

I’m planning to connect with bloggers who write about health policy, health reform, health insurance, health care quality and related issues. We also will be linking the blog from the symposium site starting next Monday, so people can watch the streaming live (or archived) video and share their ideas.

You can subscribe here to RSS updates from the symposium blog, or click here to sign up for e-mail updates.

What other suggestions do you have? How can we most effectively engage people in this health reform discussion, so we can begin to build the consensus for effective health reform?

SMUG Week in Review 2-24-08

It was a full week for Social Media University, Global (SMUG) students, of whom there are now 49 (up from 34 just a week ago!)

The Facebook Hacker Challenge was updated and expanded. Then a commenter raised the issue of whether encouraging someone to try to hack the group would constitute a violation of Facebook’s Terms of Service. Your Chancellor decided it may be worth up to $200 to find out how secure Facebook’s secret groups are, but it’s not worth getting his Facebook account suspended, so I brought the challenge to an end.

Which is, I guess, a way of saying Facebook (even though it’s free), is worth more than $200 to me. That got me thinking that maybe a $15 billion valuation for Facebook isn’t all that outlandish; if you multiply 65 million active users by $200 each, that’s $13 billion. I may not be typical; there may be lots of users who would walk away from Facebook forever if you offered them five bucks. But I suspect many others wouldn’t trade their access to Facebook for $500 or even $1,000.

In one way, this back-of-the-envelope calculation doesn’t mean much. The fact that I perceive Facebook as being worth more than $200 to me doesn’t directly put money in Mark Zuckerberg’s pockets. But it does suggest that there will be a reasonable tolerance for Facebook trying to monetize its service, even if it means some minor annoyances, because users find Facebook so personally valuable anyway. Of course, the best scenario is one in which the targeting of relevant advertising actually enhances Facebook’s perceived value to users.

In other developments this week, SMUG got a great new URL: This is part of growing up from a blog that started on a whim about 19 months ago to an on-line higher education institution (even if it’s not accredited). The process was pretty painless on my end, and the total cost was $19 (although I did spend another $10 for the .com version of the domain, too.) I hope it’s not too painful for those who had subscribed to the original feed from, or the one that had been burned through Feedburner. I would appreciate any feedback from anyone for whom this has caused a problem (but then, if it has cut off their feed they wouldn’t know about this request, would they?)

We also added two new courses, for which there are homework assignments:

Remember, SMUG is built on the principle of self-paced, hands-on learning. Don’t worry if you get behind. The Curriculum section will always have an up-to-date listing of available courses in sequential order. Complete the coursework as you have the time and inclination.

Unlike traditional colleges and universities that offer degree completion through cohort programs, you don’t have to work at the same pace as everyone else. The SMUG cohort is always growing and accepting new students (15 in the last week alone). So you can’t get behind, because there’s no pace you’re expected to match.

Of course the other major difference between SMUG and other universities is they actually give you a real, accredited degree. And even the cheapest public universities charge tens of thousands of dollars for it.

At SMUG, the B.S. degree you earn has a double meaning. But since it’s free, and since you’ll be gaining a lot of practical knowledge and experience through the process, I’m confident you will find it an exceptional value.

Happy studies!

Intro to Blogs

Note: This Social Media University, Global course is cross-posted as Social Media 105 and Blogging 101.

Many people have misconceptions about blogs. Some of this is based on misinformation or disinformation from the mainstream media about mysterious “bloggers.” Like we’re a completely different breed, if not a full-fledged new species that should be prevented from procreating.

In essence, a blog is just a Web site that allows comment and conversations. Thanks again to Lee LeFever for his “plain English” overview:


The best part about blogs is that if you are reading this, you can have one. And it won’t cost you anything, except perhaps two minutes of your time. But we’ll let you prove that as part of your homework assignment.

So, if you don’t already have a blog, SMUG can help you get started. You can pay to have a TypePad account if you wish, or you can get a free one from Blogger, a Google service. In the spirit of academic freedom, SMUG doesn’t require that you use for your blog. But we do recommend Why?

  • It’s free. Not a 14-day free trial, but completely free for the basic service.
  • You get 3 GIGABYTES of storage at no extra charge, and there is no limit on bandwidth, which is pretty impressive.
  • SMUG uses Everything you see here (except for our domain name) has been accomplished without spending a penny, and with no support from an IT department. So if you see something you’d like to replicate on your blog, you can just ask the Chancellor (see box at upper right, or put your questions in the comments) how to do it. does have some limitations on the kinds of scripts or widgets you can embed. And you can’t use Google’s AdSense program to monetize your content. (If you’re seeing Google ads on this blog, they’re from, not SMUG.) But then again, the service offers an astonishing level of benefits at no charge to me, so I think it’s great.

If you really think you’re going into blogging as a for-profit enterprise, you might consider TypePad. Or, you could start on, register your own domain (like I did with and use domain mapping. Then if you decide you want to move on to full-blown WordPress on a leased server for maximum customization, you can move it and re-map without breaking any links or losing Google juice.

Homework Assignments:

If you don’t already have a blog:

  1. Think a few minutes about a name and URL for your blog. But don’t think so long that it keeps you from taking the plunge and actually starting. If you later decide you don’t like your URL, you can always get another blog on They’re free.
  2. Get a timing device of some kind. It can be an old-fashioned analog wristwatch, or better yet one of those digital athletic ones. If you have some kind of stopwatch function that would be ideal. But don’t spend any money for it (you could even use the clock function on your computer, if necessary.) We just want to get a rough idea of how long step four takes.
  3. Start your timer.
  4. Start your blog on In the curriculum for the SMUG Blogging major we will be working through lots of lessons that will use WordPress as the blogging platform. So if you use WordPress instead of Blogger or TypePad it will all look more familiar as you doing your homework. Click here to get a preview of what it will look like when you start your WordPress blog, and click here to actually sign up for your account.
  5. Stop your timer.
  6. Add a comment to this post, including the URL of your new blog and how long it took you to get started. Was it two minutes or less?

For All Students:

I plan to create a post of SMUG student blogs, so if you don’t want your blog listed there, please also indicate that in your comment.

If you already have a blog:

You’re one of our advanced students, so help please help your classmates by sharing your experience. Leave a comment below indicating

  1. what blogging platform you’re using,
  2. what you like and dislike about it,
  3. how long you’ve been blogging and
  4. your URL.

SMUG Extension Classes


Social Media University, Global (SMUG) is built on the distance-learning paradigm. And unlike traditional universities with on-line programs, we don’t have a requirement that some of the credits be taken on campus in a group setting.

Frankly, we don’t have room for all y’all. (I understand that’s the plural for the singular Texas “y’all.”)

Don’t get me wrong, we’d love to have you visit… one at a time. While you’re here in Austin, Minn. you can also see the world-famous SPAM museum. People have been known to come from as far as Hawaii and Guam to visit the birthplace of the canned meat that saved Western civilization during WW II.

So if they’ll travel that far for SPAM, maybe you’d want to do it for SMUG, right?

If not, and if you’d like to organize a group to have SMUG’s Extension Service bring an intensive session of classes to your community or company, let’s talk. Face-to-face dialogue is still the most effective way to learn.

We can do a Blogging Bootcamp. A Facebook Forum. A Wiki Workshop. A Twitter Tutorial. A Podcasting Program. Or we could tie it all together into a Social Media Summit.

Then you can continue your SMUG education through our on-line courses.

The map above, which is from my Facebook Cities I’ve Visited application, is useful in three respects:

  1. If you see a pin on the map for your city, I’ve been there before. Not for SMUG classes, but I know how to get there. I’d be glad to visit again.
  2. If you don’t see a pin for your city (or if your continent isn’t even shown!), it would be a new adventure for me. That would be fun, too.
  3. All blog posts should have a graphic or video of some kind to make them more interesting. Having the map accomplished that for this post.

If you’re interested in SMUG Extension, see the “Contact the Chancellor” box on this page.