Health social networks have been growing steadily over the last few years – the leader PatientsLikeMe now has 100,000 patients and 500 conditions listed. Numerous other personal health collaboration communities exist.
The health social network segment is now getting mature enough to expand its focus from deep, specific interest communities, often around disease, to also thinking about going mainstream to attract hundreds of thousands, and eventually millions of people to explore a wide variety of physical and mental performance areas.
At the first Quantified Self conference held in Mountain View CA May 28-29, 2011, an important area of discussion was regarding the best ways to build and engage community participation, whatever the topic. Here are some ways that large numbers of individuals might be enticed to come together for self-directed health exploration:
- Crowd-sourcing each piece of the value chain: the data, the questions, the financing, and the analysis
- Technology-mediated tools to make participation easy and automated
- Fun: making participation fun by using the contemporary ubiquity of gaming principles in persuasive behavior and group activity design
- Market-tools: using market design principles such as scarcity, value exchange, and currency (e.g.; reputational, points, monetary, etc.) amassing for community stickiness
- Enhancement-focus: offering many topical and aspirational frames (e.g.; performance enhancement) since not everyone is interested in “health” or “wellness”
- Low-friction interactions funneled into tiers of increasingly committed participation: making it very easy for potential participants to like, join, interact, and commit to health communities