One for All: The PatientsLikeMe “Welcome Wagon”

Posted December 8th, 2010 by

plm_ms_comments_diamondlil582

In yesterday’s post, we looked at some of the ways members of the PatientsLikeMe community are connecting with other patients and the value they are getting from it.  Today, we’ll highlight how one person can make an enormous difference and inspire you with her ability to connect with others.

One method of reaching out to another member on PatientsLikeMe is by leaving a comment on their profile page.  Often, you exchange comments to inquire about specific data on someone’s profile or to thank them for sharing.  However, one of the most common uses of the comments functionality is for existing members to welcome new members to the community.  This is has been affectionately coined the “Welcome Wagon,” and it is most prominent in our MS community.  Today, more than 71% of members in that community get a comment within the first 2 days.  Receiving a comment from a veteran PatientsLikeMe member when you first join the site is a great way to “welcome” you aboard and make you feel a part of the community.

A large part of the effectiveness of the MS Welcome Wagon can be attributed to a member named Diamondlil58.  Of the 150,000 comments that have been left on PatientsLikeMe, Diamondlil58 has left a staggering 16,000 of them, addressed to over 15,000 different members.  The graph above shows just how extensively Diamondlil58 has connected with the community through commenting.  In the graph, the dots represents patients in our MS community, and the lines represent a comment between them.  Diamondlil58 is the large green dot near the center.  Notice how she has touched both the inter-connected network of patients (on the right), as well as sent out a huge number of comments to others who aren’t yet as well-connected (the moon-like diagram on the left).  A large portion of these comments were part of the Welcome Wagon.

While the Welcome Wagon was started in the MS community, it has definitely caught on in other communities.  Here is a look at how Babsie, an active member in our Fibromyalgia community, has reached out to welcome new members.  Like Diamondlil38, Babsie has helped create a network of dialogue and connection between patients like you.

plm_fibro_comments_babsie

It’s inspiring to see how one person can touch so many.  Members often tell us how beneficial it is to have a way to find “patients like me.”  (In fact, we cited a few examples yesterday from our research study that shows just how valuable that can be to one’s health).  However, that “find” functionality alone is not what makes this community what it is today.  It’s the people who are using it.  It’s the people who are willing to openly share with one another; the people who reach out to make those connections (sometimes initiated by beacons, like Diamondlil58); it’s people like you who make the most of being a member of PatientsLikeMe.

The next two blogs in this series will include interviews with Diamondlil58 and Babsie.  Stay tuned as we climb aboard the Welcome Wagon and hear what they have to say.

PatientsLikeMe member jcole


4 Comments

  1. Interesting visualizations.

    I’m not surprised to learn that “Welcome Wagons” are so successful to the success of these PatientsLikeMe communities. Kevin Marks makes the case for Tummlers, Geishas, Animateurs and Chief Conversation Officers in the cultivation of online communities:

    “The key to this [i.e., successful vs. unsuccessful online communities] is finding people who play the role of conversational catalyst within a group, to welcome newcomers, rein in old hands and set the tone of the conversation so that it can become a community.”

    I also remember reading a Fast Company interview with Flickr co-founder Caterina Fake, where she noted the importance of this kind of greeting at the early stages of a community:

    “Georgina (George) Oates, an early employee of Flickr, and I greeted everyone who came into the instant messaging conversations or posted on the site. We said, “Oh you know, I notice you’re into Norwegian Metal and I noticed you live in Pittsburgh–here’s another person from Pittsburgh. Communities take on the kind of character of a party at the outset and you need to be a good host.”

  2. Hey Joe, thanks for pointing out the Kevin Marks article. I agree about the importance of the welcomers. What I find interesting is that in the very beginning the Welcome Wagon was me and other PLM’ers. But at some point the community started taking over that role themselves. I wonder what other communities’ experiences are with that transition–when does it happen?

  3. I love this visualization of what I believe is true: Altruism spreads in networks (and could be the saving grace for health & health care).

    QuitNet (for people trying to quit smoking) has cultivated a similar culture of welcome: one woman, Jeri, says she tries to reach out to 2 new people per day. I wrote about it in this post: http://e-patients.net/archives/2010/10/building-a-research-agenda-for-participatory-medicine.html

  4. […] on hundreds of patient profiles to date (which is highlighted in a graphic on Jeff Cole’s earlier blog here).   Read on to hear what Babsie has to say about why she joined the Fibromyalgia welcome wagon and […]

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