New Social Network Idea: BarfWatch

Despite my interest in social networks and location-based services, I’ve come to realize that their actual utility to my regular everyday life has, at least so far, been somewhat limited. This may be due to the nascent nature of these tools. It may be due to my location (where the social utility of Plazes for me is limited to knowing where Cynthia Dunsford is all the time). Social networks might also be of more use to, well, social people.

That all said, I’ve come up with a killer social networking application that takes my Genealogy of Influence idea to the next level.


In my imagination, this is a web-based social networking tool that aggregates three sets of information:

  1. Information about the people in my real, physical life — friends, family, colleagues.
  2. Information about the location of these people.
  3. Information about the health of these people, especially as regards infectious conditions like cold and flu.

The idea is that, by aggregating this information, I can, when struck with a cold or cough, both record this information in the tool, and also use the tool to find likely vectors for what ails me.

In other words, if 25% of the people in my office are out with a a cold, it’s likely, perhaps, that I caught the cold at work.

Because members of this network would also record the severity of their condition, information about remedies they’d tried, and a signal when they were feeling better — “mild headache, severe cough; rested for 3 days and drank only clear liquids and felt better on the fourth day” — there would be practical utility in the tool.

Indeed, over time the tool could become a sort of “personal health forecast” that would look at past trends and infection vectors — “whenever Peter gets strep, Oliver gets it 3 days later” — and predict future health, and suggest evasive maneuvers (“Your personal threat level for flu is up 15% today; suggest increased duration for hand washing”).

Of course there are significant barriers to something like this actually working, not the least of which would be the reticence of friends, family and colleagues to share information about their illnesses (and even if they were willing, perhaps the last thing a barfing person wants to do is to update their BarfWatch profile).

But, nonetheless, I think it’s an interesting idea to think about because in there somewhere I think there are some actual practical notions for how we can share health information with ourselves outside of the formal health care system.


oliver's picture
oliver on March 16, 2007 - 16:40 Permalink

Hmmm. I diagnose a hyperactive irony gland. Or a polyanna mutation of the cynicism gene. Nothing contagious, I hope.