Health Hashtags: A Microsyntax for People and Machines

With the explosion of microblogging, tweeting, and status updates, it is clear that embedding personal metrics in social tools is on the tips of our fingers and is a natural extension to the personal toolbox. This post explores the opportunity of OHME (Open Mobile Health Exchange), a first-mover in the new world of Microsyntax, and a new entry into the working group.

How it works
Taking Twitter as the backdrop, and the #hash being the first example, Microsyntax might be termed ‘in-line metadata’.  It is a self enclosed tag that associates this post with other like tagged posts.   It helps search, and it helps set context and find-ability.   
The first version of OHME adds more meaning to a set of personal metrics, including blood pressure, weight, steps per day, pain, and about 20 metrics a person can log using SMS, Twitter, devices, or nearly any tool that sends messages.  The project offers royalty free libraries for schemas and parsers.

Where it fits in today (person to machine)
When micro-blogging, or posting personal status, hashes can be used to help systems (machine readable) tools use these tags and syntax to facilitate actions.   For example, posting #spd=13045 suggests that a person has walked the equivalent of 13,045 steps in this day.   

With microsyntax there is a new dialog on how to aggregate device manufacturers, software vendors, and users to grow a vocabulary that thrives and rewards them with good tools and increased connection to their community.


Where it leads in future (machine to machine)
The advent of microsyntax, and OHME provides a new rhythm to the stream.   Mashups made from diverse streams of personal data allow new contexts to emerge, and new possibilities for action and specialization.  How will the health care system respond?  Will it become more patient centric, or merely use data generated automatically by various devices to make us more “hospital ready?”  Microsyntax such as the OHME project highlight the opportunity for every person to have quality streams of personal metrics.   Health loggers are already using microsyntax today.  Now is the time to build tools that aggregate and share these streams in meaningful ways.

Some considerations (machine to person is person to person)
In observing the landscape, it looks promising that natural alliances can form around syntax and vocabularies, giving rise to tools that support each other’s streams and have graceful hand-off from system to system.   In this new world model of data stewardship, a future can be seen where the microsyntax stream becomes more a critical resource.   It is in this context that enterprise class systems may emerge to help guide microsyntax systems towards reliable services.    

Today, our social web may be a bit fragile for such un-fettered live results about personal metrics.   A community designed sandbox for moving services gradually into the consciousness and letting first-adopters set the terms is a promise for microsyntax.   

Even though it is easy to type #911 #Robbery, our social and operational systems may not be as easy to accept the consequences of the message until we set rules and contexts of reliability – and the sender is authenticated in a way that grows

In this arena, microsyntax has both the honor of being extremely easy for the user (can do it without a mouse or selection) and to locate (parsers and search ala Twitter).   It also on the cutting edge of personal utility and personal safety and asks the question of how do we communicate personal streams.   

Speaking for one logger, this is a great step forward, the start of an the ecosystem that supports people and patients everywhere.   #OM+1!

Disclosure:  Mike Kirkwood‘s first post on Quantified Self, he is CEO of Polka a personal health platform. twitterhashtagblack.jpg
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2 Responses to Health Hashtags: A Microsyntax for People and Machines

  1. Dave Stone says:

    Tagging -> Hash tagging
    Machine tagging -> Machine hash tagging?
    “a namespace, a predicate, and a value”

  2. Mike says:

    Dave, like where you’re headed with the formation of the grammar.
    how about also (me:spd=12345), which could be default ala Twitter and other self reporting tools.
    and, (MyNamedPedometer:bp=150/75). like the formation of the grammar.

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