History of Health Policy Blog.
Although since the 1990s I had been informally using the name Kentucky Health Policy Institute for my first health policy research efforts, I registered the name as a Kentucky non-profit corporation in 2005. My first public internet presence was a relatively crude website in early 2007. Once I added a blog function to present material, I did very little with the khpi.org homepage that functions today only to hold “About Us” material and a Vision for Healthcare that I wrote in 1997 that still drives my thinking today. The old homepage also contains a button to enable PayPal contributions in support of our initiatives. (Except for my own initial “test” contribution, no one else has done so!)
As I learned more about maintaining a website, I discovered WordPress, a widely used open-source blogging and content-management software package. I installed the it on my own server and published my first policy blog in 2009. It was not until 2012 that things caught fire. Over the last three years alone I posted 275 articles containing research, analysis, and opinion on a variety of subjects. The signature matter that got me in the habit of writing was the attempted sale by the University of Louisville of its hospital to Catholic Health Initiatives. The (continuing) failure of that initiative has led to many articles since. I also like to analyze public databases. Playing with pivot tables and spread sheets satisfies the old scientist in me and seems more productive than Sudoku.
Success, but issues.
I have been much more successful than I imagined. My comments and research have been reprinted or referred to by national print and electronic media including the New York Times, Bloomberg News, USA Today, Forbes, the Courier Journal, and others. I am continually approached at parties and meetings by people who read my work, and who have encouraged me to continue. A large proportion of these are people who work for the University or its Hospital but who do not feel it is safe to speak publicly in their own voice. I understand why. Of course occasionally paid internet trolls come out of the woodwork to attack me personally— a tactic I try to avoid as I write about institutions whose policy or activities I disagree with.
I have not been as successful in generating on-line replies or comments as I hoped. There have been 177 comments, but the majority of these were written by me as addenda to main articles! Traffic has risen steadily and, according to my internet host, 1&1, the website was averaging 1500 or more “hits” per day. However, the fact that up to a third of these visits were coming from China or Russia, and that the anti-spam function of the website was fending off hundreds of fake comments a week attempting to sell counterfeit handbags or worse led me to believe that not all visitors were interested in what I had to say! The most commonly referenced single page was the one I wrote about using horse liniment for arthritis. For this and other reasons described below, it became clear that I had to upgrade the basic mechanics of the website. WordPress makes it easy to add functionality with plug-ins and other tools. Last week I did so. I hope you approve.
Subscription & Notification.
Although some people arrive at the website via a Google or other search, the majority come directly to the first page of the blog. I took this as a good sign that I have an interested group of readers. Since my articles tend to be on the long side, I do not have time to write a major piece every day. Folks taking a look will visit and see nothing new. I have often been asked if I could add some sort of notification system. The WordPress software has a built-in RSS function, but I do not know how to use it myself!
Users now have the option to Subscribe to the Policy Blog. At the bottom of the sidebar of the blog’s first page on larger screens, or at the bottom on mobile devices, the reader is invited to enter an email address to which links to new articles (or also new comments) will be sent. You can unsubscribe at any time. I am not aware that I can look at the list of subscribers, but even if I can I, will never share it. I think I have earned your trust.
More secure comments.
Because I still want to make commenting as easy as possible, I do not require registration to read articles or to make comments. One result was a firehose of spam that remains unseen by readers, but which is of concern to me with regard to the integrity of the site. I have just installed a “captcha” mechanism to ensure that it is a human and not a robot that is interacting with the site. There is still no impediment to read any of the articles, but to leave a reply or comment (the same thing) the contributor to a discussion must calculate a simple arithmetic problem to distinguish between human and machine.
Anonymous comments accepted.
It is still not necessary to enter your name in the comment form to contribute. Do not enter your name in the comment form unless you want it to be public. With or without a name, if you choose to enter an email address, it will not in either case be visible to anyone except me. Do this if you are willing for me to contact you privately, or to lend more credibility to your comment. If you do not leave an email address, I have no way of knowing who you are. I will not accept comments that contain obscenity or are abusive towards anyone.
Communicate with KHPI confidentially.
I know, with good reason, that some folks will not feel comfortable discussing the topics of this blog series in their own name no matter how important the material is to them or the public. Nonetheless, I and our other readers want to hear your opinions. If you email me your comments confidentially, I can re-write them into the series for you. If you want to suggest topics to cover, correct my errors, or even just encourage me to continue– contact me confidentially. You can bypass the “Comment/Reply” form altogether and email me directly from the “Contact KHPI Confidentially” link in the blogroll on the sidebar of the blog home page, or with its underlying email address: phasselbacher @ khpi.org. No one sees these emails except me. I would not use your computer at work to contact KHPI confidentially. At least some employers expect access to employees personal devices and can certainly track computer accounts. If you wish, you may call or message me at 502 802- 5092. You will find my postal address in the phone book under my name. I want to hear from you.
Many have told me I need a presence on social media. Consequently, a year ago I opened a KHPI FaceBook page. However, after a few months, no one liked me and I forgot to use it. As it happens, I failed to push the button that makes the page viewable to the public! Pretty dumb on my part. It is now live and beginning to attract attention. At the bottom of the blog homepage and at the end of every article is a link to the KHPI Facebook page. Like me to spread the word. There is also a “Share This” button associated with every blog article that allows you to send a link to your own social media page, or to anyone by email. I now also have a KHPI Twitter site KHPI Twitter account. Please help me learn how to use this social media! I obviously need your guidance.
Most readers come to the site directly, but some find me through Google or other search engines. The default URL of the articles up until now contains nonsense database text that gives no indication of the contents of the articles. Although the articles are recognized by Google within an hour of their posting, I am led to believe that our ranking in the infinite scheme of things would be better if the URLs were semantically meaningful. As of this week, the URL of an article is derived from its headline title. This change also makes it easier to retrieve saved articles.
What would you like to see? Up to now, I have been the only contributor. Should I consider contributions from others? Two established journalists that I admire have told me I am writing for industry, not the public. Should I be writing shorter pieces? . Am I too technical? Should I put shorter comments on the Facebook page and save the Blog for more substantial pieces? Both on the same? I expect to try out other plug-ins and tools to enhance the site.
I have been writing about things that are of interest to me or that I think are important. What other topics should I consider? (Just today someone sent be a sheaf of papers about something they thought I should consider. I will.) At least I am past the point where I am writing only for myself. Help me write for you better.
13 Dec 2014