Sermo Strikes Back: A Physicians’ Online Community Lashes Out Against Bloggers Who Publicize Security Gap

When I saw over the weekend that two different blogs had posted on the apparent ease of hacking into Sermo, the password-protected social network for physicians, my first thought was: “Those docs are going to be pissed.” Sermo, after all, promises physicians a secure, closed environment where they can consult with their peers, and if there’s one thing I know about doctors, it’s that they take the peer part—that whole MD thing—awfully seriously. So I was thinking that the Cambridge, MA-based startup and its founder and CEO, Daniel Palestrant, must be getting inundated with feedback from angry physicians taking them to task for evidently leaving a door open to the riff-raff.

As is my track record with Sermo, I got things partly right. According to Palestrant, “all hell broke loose” when word of the blog entries—one including step-by-step instructions for gaining access to Sermo without having an actual MD, and one claiming to have done so without spelling out exactly how—reached the Sermo community. And from comment threads on Sermo (no I didn’t hack in; Sermo provided screenshots), and on the blogs themselves, it seems that many Sermo users are indeed angry—but at the bloggers, not Sermo.

A comment on Sermo, directed toward the authors of the how-to post, is typical in its sentiment, if not in its relatively mild language: “Why would you publish the method for subverting SERMO to the public? This forum is something I value. How dare you compromise that! Shame on you.” Another asks: “Can’t we meet at least one place as peers, without malpractice lawyers, MD wannabes, and certified dogooders horning in to tell us how we should be doing things?” (Elsewhere, journalists are also singled out as persona non grata. Ouch.)

A few of the Sermo comments defend the bloggers, mainly on the grounds that they’re benefiting the community by exposing an important security loophole, but by and large the contempt for them is eye-popping. One user suggests waging an advertiser boycott against Medgadget, an MD-authored blog on emerging medical technologies, which published the how-to post. Others offer thinly veiled suggestions that the post’s authors be reported to their state medical board and the Drug Enforcement Agency for outlining how non-physicians can “impersonate” a physician on Sermo, in part by obtaining a real doctor’s DEA prescribing number. (Medgadget defends itself in an open letter to Palestrant posted this morning.)

Palestrant swears, by the way, that none of Sermo’s employees are anonymously weighing in to tip the discussion in the company’s favor, a la Whole Foods or Constant Contact. And of the 10 to 20 calls he and his team have fielded so far, he says, “we haven’t had one physician who isn’t supportive of Sermo.” To Palestrant, the fact that many Sermo users have circled the wagons to protect the site is an indicator of the year-old online community’s vitality. “As a scientist,” he says, “one of the signs of life is seeing an organism defending itself.” My sense is that Palestrant is a lemons-to-lemonade sort of guy to begin with, and that he’s really enjoying the fact that, rather than blaming him, Sermo users are helping him squeeze the fruit.

As of yesterday, Palestrant says, Sermo had installed a patch (already in the works before all the drama, evidently) that should render Medgadget’s instructions for gaming Sermo’s physician-authentication system useless. Where the previous system required registrants to provide several publicly available pieces of information to prove that they’re licensed physicians, the new system requires some data that should be available only to the individuals. (Previously registered users will have to be re-authenticated the next time the log in, Palestrant says.) Still, Palestrant says, “there’s no such thing as bulletproof security”—and putting up more roadblocks for poseurs inevitably raises the barrier to entry for legitimate users.

At the risk of drawing fire from the “Sermaphrodites” (their term, not mine), I think all the focus on exposing and patching the security gap misses a key point: there are plenty of people with MDs who are also lawyers, pharma reps, industry consultants, and (heaven forfend!) journalists. Which begs the question of just how closed a closed community needs to be in order to function and thrive. And with Sermo looking to use the information generated by its community in more and more ways—including as the basis of a Wikipedia-like medical reference source and in partnerships with the AMA and FDA—I think it will become increasingly important to understand the influence of those legitimate users whose first priority is not patient care.

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  • From a computer security point of view, this discussion reminds me of the one that took place in the industry a few years back. Matt Blaze, at AT&T Labs published a highly controversial paper on security vulnerabilities in a master-key lock system. This made a lot of people upset – customers, because they just found out that their locks could be picked in 10 minutes or less, locksmiths, because customers would not buy the locks anymore, and criminals, because they could not break into the office anymore.

    There was a lot of discussion of the paper in the academic circles and in the main stream media. I remeber that the NY Times published an article on the paper. However, the key item to remember is that until Matt publicized the security vulnerability, no one tried to do anything about it. Locksmiths (and criminals) knew about it for decades and kept it as a secret.

    My point is that if the MDs at Sermo actually want to have private discussions, then they definetly want all security vulnerabilities publisized. Ideally, of course, you’d expect the white-hat hackers to notify the company first and give them a chance to fix the problem. However, when that doesn’t work, public exposure of the attack is necessary to get companies to change their security measures.

  • Thank you for publishing this, and deciding to join Medgadget and PsychCentral in revealing the security problems by directly linking to the posts that describe them.
    Sermo might speak of “security holes”, but the issue is willfull blindness on their part for having had the system so setup for so long. They knew they were using public databases, and we did not reveal anything new to them. We made them address the issue by raising a stink about it. It is only because of our efforts that this is being looked into.

    In terms of creating a completely secure environment, Sermo can become one if proper checking is done, and doctors disclose their conflicts of interest. By the terms of the agreement, users expect others to be real doctors. Under the current regime this is simply unknown to be true. Sermo should focus their attention more on security than public relations, and spend more time fixing the system, and less time fighting bloggers and fellow doctors.

  • My only concern now is how seemingly disingenuous the CEO of the company is apparently being, and how some in the media are taking his words to be true at face value, while not bothering to ask any hardball questions.

    If Sermo’s CEO believes the real problem was with the publication of the weak security model, rather than the decision to actually implement the weak security model, well, that’s pretty telling where one’s priorities lie in my opinion.

    “Your product broke. Why? We’d like to ask the guy who made it. Your corporate strategy makes no sense. We’d like to have a chat with your CEO. What do you mean she’s not in?” — Cluetrain Manifesto

    So the simple hardball questions are —

    “Why did a company who’s foundation is based upon a secure, closed community choose a registration security model based upon authentication tokens that were common public knowledge?”

    “Why did it take over a year, publication of the security model, and 30,000 registrants (I won’t say doctors) before deciding to add a new field to the registration?”

  • Dr. Palestrant cannot with a straight face tell anyone that the new security patch features are based on authentication of the data that should be available only to the individuals themselves.

    The truth of the matter is that Sermo does not have any better information about US MDs than anyone else. Hence, they still rely on publicly available data.

    On the other hand, if it is true that they do have our private data, I want to know what private data they have and where they got it from.

    Michael Ostrovsky, MD
    Editor
    Medgadget.com

  • “Sermaphrodites” is one of the dumbest things I’ve ever read. Seriously.

    Instead of going “holy crap!” when your security model is busted, they went after the messengers. I wouldn’t say that this behavior is signs of life in defending itself, but rather a sign of unprofessionalism. And like any social network, you have a group of people who act like moronic children that run the network.

    How they managed to raise all of this VC funding is beyond me.

  • john

    This is rediculous. These guys published a “how to” manual on how to find information about physicians and then use that information for the purposes of impersonating that physician’s identity. This is dangerous, reckless, and irresponsible. I don’t care if Sermo was willingly allowing nonphysicians onto their site (which they clearly were not), you medgadget crossed and ethical, moral, and most likely legal line doing what they did. I hope that they are prosecuted to the full extent of the law for their actions!!!

  • James

    The point made on Sermo by many of the members was that it was not presented to the members on the Sermo web site to alert them and to get their input, but was posted on the public web site of Medgadget. Was the concern one for the members of Sermo or for increasing the exposure of Medgadget.

    If you actually read the thread in which “Sermaphrodites” came up, you will see it was filled with jokes, plays on words and puns and not meant to be serious and so reporting that as serious is not responsible reporting and not presenting the whole story.

    The author of the post from Medgadget was asked many times as to why it was not posted first on Sermo for the members before going public and so far there is no answer.

    One more thing about “Medgadget” the author that has just come up. In medicine being “boarded” means being board certified in one of the specialties approved by the American Board of Medical Specialties not one of the many other agencies that give a “board” certification and he said he was double boarded, but only one was by the American Board of Medical Specialties and the second was by someone else not in the American Board of Medical Specialties. Wonder why Dr. Medgadget did that?

  • DrO

    I am a diplomat of American Board of Anesthesiology, and I am a diplomat if American Board of Echocardiography. That’s double boarded. Any more personal attacks?

    Also, any journalist wanting to take a look at the amount of vitriol, hatred, and denigration that our staff members suffered personally on Sermo website, please contact us at medgadget–at–medgadget dot com, we have pictures, screen shots, and emails.

  • James

    DrO –

    First, if we are going to have a discussion, we have to agree on the meaning of the terms we use otherwise it becomes meaningless. In medicine being “boarded” is understood to mean being boarded in one of the American Board of Medical Specialty boards of which your board of National Board of Echocardiography is NOT one of them. From Sermo your reference to their site which says National not American Board.

    http://www.echoboards.org/pte/exam.html

    Second, will you at least respond here as to why you did not post your concerns first on Sermo to see if you could get the support of the membership in getting this taken care of?

    Third, you took part in that “vitriol, hatred, and denigration” yourself in your responces so you lowered yourself to their level.

  • James,

    If you’d have actually read what Medgadget has written in a number of places defending itself, including our site and Sermo, you’d have discovered why we didn’t notify Sermo of this first. And that is because Sermo already KNEW OF THE PROBLEM AND DECIDED TO DO NOTHING ABOUT IT. It was already discussed before on Sermo, as some comments have stated, and Sermo DECIDED TO DO NOTHING ABOUT IT. Why is this so difficult for people to understand? Would you not complain at your bank if it decided to leave the back door to the safe open overnight? Or you’d only get worked at the person who mentions the fact? As far as we can tell, Sermo employees are spreading vitriol using fake names on sites like this and others. Having had their fortunes rise by millions through lies and cheatery, they don’t want to lose the sugary pie they got their hands on. Well done, boys. Remember though, its not fixing your security hole, and I hope you enjoy sharing your clinical cases with teenagers and pharma representatives who’ve long ago infiltrated Sermo.

  • James

    Bruder –

    The question was why it was not posted as a thread to make the membership aware and push for changes before posting on Dr O’s own web site – Sermo does seem to listen when the members talk. If they did not act, then go public to get them to act..

    Any comments on my second and third comments

  • James

    Bruder

    Sorry – Correction – any comments on my first and third comments

  • James,

    Seriously, are you not reading what I’m writing? Here I will again paste a bit of what I wrote in the last post. Try not to skip this part:
    “If you’d have actually read what Medgadget has written in a number of places defending itself, including our site and Sermo, you’d have discovered why we didn’t notify Sermo of this first. And that is because Sermo already KNEW OF THE PROBLEM AND DECIDED TO DO NOTHING ABOUT IT. It was already discussed before on Sermo, as some comments have stated, and Sermo DECIDED TO DO NOTHING ABOUT IT.”

    Now, would you like us to start a new thread on Sermo for you folks to understand that you’re all still compromised? Why don’t you ask Sermo what they’re doing about this instead of directing your issues at us? They are the ones with the security problem, not us. They’re the ones who chose and continue to choose it to be that way. They are the ones who are lying to their users, the press, and investors. They are the ones who are making millions on this. They are the ones with a team of lawyers trying to hush this up. Sir, if you actually care about security at Sermo, really, stop wasting our time and direct your questions to them. Here’s one you might consider that is better than ‘why we didn’t post a thread first’ – “Sermo, why are you still using public databases for authentication?”
    Have you written a letter of complaint since you learned of the problem? Has Sermo done anything to actually deal with this since the community learned? Your hypotheticals of what Sermo would do once the community found out, which had every chance to play out, did not. You’re still talking to pharma reps and teenagers over there. Enjoy the learning experience.

  • James

    Bruder –

    Let me repeat it again. I am talking about posting it on the Sermo first before going public not jus reporting it to the powers at Sermo. It was posted for the members AFTER it was made public and the question that was asked, and still not answered, was why not post that first on Sermo for the members and perhaps get the membership behind getting the changes and then if not successful going public. The concern seemed to more with the order it was done not what was said.

    I noticed that you did not comment on my other two points, especially the first.

  • James

    Bruder –

    One more quick question. What if the doctors on Sermo did not care and were happy by having a free forum and already realized that there were non-doctors and could drop out anytime it got out of hand and now with all the publicity that you have generated the problem might get much worse. Do you at medgadget really feel that you know what is best for all the doctors on Sermo and therefore chose to act for the doctors without even there input.

    There is an old saying “we are from the government and here to help you” should be changed “we are from medgadget and here to help you.”

    Why don’t you at medgadget tackle the budget, social security, medicare, health care and world peace – yes I am being sarcastic.

  • James,

    The fundamental problem lies with Sermo. Why do you blame us more for pointing out the problem rather than those that chose voluntarily to create it? Have you complained to Sermo that they lied to you when they said its a physician only network? We gave you the honest truth. It is obvious what you prefer to be fed. Its not clear to me why you’re even using Sermo, when Myspace and Facebook is available for all your qualified medical research. Their security model confirming doctor authenticity is as solid as Sermo’s.
    In any case, you obviously don’t care, and act in parallel to people running Sermo. It gives me the impression that you’re an operative of theirs trying to argue your way out of a very real situation. You understand that the FDA is currently reviewing Sermo, and I’m looking forward to their opinion of Sermo’s authentication methodology. Actually, that interests me more than your opinion on our journalistic practices.

  • Joe

    I think much of this back and forth about how the security flaw should have been reported and whether it was unethical to publish a “how to” gain access to sermo publicly is a minor, tangential point that largely missed the key issue. The original post begins to address the main issue here:

    “I think all the focus on exposing and patching the security gap misses a key point: there are plenty of people with MDs who are also lawyers, pharma reps, industry consultants, and (heaven forfend!) journalists. Which begs the question of just how closed a closed community needs to be in order to function and thrive.”

    However, a more fundamental problem than “the influence of those legitimate users whose first priority is not patient care,” is Sermo’s business model. Sermo was created to give hedge funds, the government – and yes, even pharma – a voyeur’s view of physicians’ thoughts and observations. If the very platform – so benevolently provided free of charge to physicians – is a shell for physicians to be spied upon by very people that the security features and restricted access are designed to keep out, what’s the difference? The very purpose of the question and answer post format is to generate information that is easily packaged and sold to pharma. No amount of marketing can change the fact that Sermo was created so that pharma, hedge funds, and government can survey a large number of physicians quickly and cheaply. And when Sermo feels guilty about it, they send physicians a small cut in the form of an honorarium, with a note that says, “We made money off your post, so we thought we’d share some with you.”

    As has been said before, even if Sermo could design and implement a “bulletproof security” system – which Palestrant admits is impossible – pharma companies will pay physicians to post questions and report upon results. Even more sadly, Sermo turns out to be the most egregious offender, cashing in on physicians’ trust, selling data to the highest bidder, and turning their so-called “safe haven” for physicians into the industry’s fishbowl.

    In conclusion, let’s not argue over whether medgadget and others have let the proverbial fox into the henhouse. The bedrock of Sermo, the platform itself, is a wolf in sheep’s clothing.

  • James

    Joe –

    All your points could have been addressed by presenting it first on Sermo, like it was presented after being in the public first, to inform the doctors on Sermo and let each doctor decide for him/herself what to do.

    The way it was done raises the question whether the goal was for the doctors or for medgadget.com and that is that is part of the problem.

    Certainly those on Sermo now are aware of the problem and are certainly able to decide what to do without without outside help. If the problem is not taken care of to the satisfaction of the doctors on Sermo, many will leave and will hurt the owners of Sermo. Web sites, like Sermo, medgadgets and this one depends on “hits” and traffic.

    Perhaps it is time to let Sermo and their doctors to decide and for medgadget.com to move on.

  • James,

    I’d like to point out that we did not reveal anything new to Sermo. Sermo knew about this security hole. They voluntarily chose to use public information. So, Medgadget did not reveal anything new to Sermo, and there were discussions within Sermo’s threads about this before we got on the scene. Looks to me like the only difference between then and now is that it was made known to more people, and only because of that did Sermo decide to even consider dealing with it. Its not clear whether they have, seeing how they don’t reply to us and are not notifying their users, investors, or customers about any changes. So, if you’re actually concerned about it being a doctor only network, you should thank Medgadget for forcing Sermo to take a look at this. They could have done it earlier, but decided not to.

  • Joe,

    You do make good points about the business model, but frankly its not our position to judge them too much on that. What they’re doing is interesting, and could potentially be useful. We’ll see.
    Regarding non-MD’s entering the site, the issue is not that outsiders can get access to read what’s there, but rather that outsiders can actually post. So, imagine a new drug, a pharma that implants a couple dozen trolls into Sermo, and then some investors ask Sermo’s doctors questions about the drug. Lo and behold, these trolls have substantial experience and great accolades for the new drug. Also, since the FDA is conducting a review of Sermo of whether they can milk it for early info on unknown side effects, imagine a competitor that gets some people in to write libel against a drug or device. This can lead to all sorts of hassles for the company.
    So, the point is, if its a doctors only network, and because people are paying tens of thousands for the network’s opinions, then you need to get a better system, or call yourself a fraudster.
    As for Dr Palestrant’s opinion that guaranteed security is impossible, I’d like to ask him how he got his MD license, and what methods that agency used to verify that he actually is Mr. Palestrant. Until then, I can only be sure that he is a white male with a knack for starting and selling companies very quickly. Also, it is not clear whether he actually wants to be a doctor, seeing how he’s only 33, and his last two jobs have been starting and then selling internet companies. You’re probably also wondering when was the last time he saw a patient, and how many he has had since being boarded. Oh, wait, I don’t think he finished his residency, as is gently implied in his bio:
    “…completed medical school at Duke University, and trained in General Surgery at Beth Israel-Deaconess Hospital, in Boston before leaving to launch Sermo.”

    Last question. How much would you put down on whether he will ever practice medicine again after he sells Sermo to some fools for $100 million?

    Mr Palestrant, since you’re reading this, I do like that smirk on your face as you agree with me and do enjoy your achievements so much. Much luck, and may you never work a day in your life.

  • Michael

    Been following this discussion on the web. I am not an owner or work for Sermo but am in the health field and interested in technology – not sure about others posting so perhaps they will say if post anymore

    Evidently the people at Medgadget thought they were doing the right thing in helping the doctors in Sermo, but rather than being greeted as heroes and liberators and welcomed with flowers (think Bush, Cheney and Rumsfeld in Iraq) by the doctors (not the owners) in Sermo, Medgadget was viewed invaders and bad and evidently the doctors in Sermo do not want help. So just “withdraw” and leave them to there own their own devices and move on to where you will be appreciated and wanted.

  • Michael,

    Your analogy is incorrect. We are not outsiders. We are doctors, and are being sold fake goods. Moreover, investors are being sold fake goods, as are the customers who pay to get info out of Sermo. Remember, the purpose of Sermo is not for doctors to meet and greet, but to make money off of consulting and investment companies that want to peek in. They are charged tens of thousands of dollars for this service. We simply don’t like to be used as tools of fraud, and don’t like seeing others defrauded.

  • Michael

    Bruder – would like to make comments about your 7:52pm post above. The link on your name leads to medgadget.com so I guess you are part of medgadget.com

    There has been criticism of doctors on Sermo being critical of the medgadget (Dr O it seems) and yet you are equally critical of Dr. Palestrant, so are you no better than the doctors on Sermo or do two wrongs make a rigth or just revenge. That demeans you.

  • Michael,

    I am not Dr O. Dr O’s concern about information about him at Sermo is that it is libelous and private. I do not reveal anything about Mr Palestrant, and I do not libel or slander him. I am critical of his approach to us because it is inappropriate and, frankly, goes against the principles he so loudly proclaims.
    Again, Dr O simply requested to take the libel and personal material off of Sermo. Instead of doing so, Sermo sent in their legal team to write us a letter, explaining the acts and court cases that they claim allow for libel to exist on their site. It would have been far easier, and surely more gentlemanly, to have simply erased the anonymous post. That’s Mr Daniel Palestrant for you. Judge for yourself.

  • Joe

    James, Bruder, Medgadget, Sermo, et al –

    James and Bruder are absolutely correct. To Bruder’s point, the fundamental premise of Sermo is undermined – from both a physician’s perspective and a data validity perspective – if “outsiders” can post on Sermo or directly influence what is posted. To James’ point, physicians should be able to make informed decisions about whether and how to use Sermo.

    However, to make an informed decision, physicians need full disclosure and transparency about how Sermo and its clients are collecting, using, sharing, selling, and otherwise leveraging the insights gleaned from the Sermo community. Though their marketing may have you believe that aggregate (monetizable) trends are simply emerging from the normal interactions between practicing physicians, I would venture to guess that most posts are originating from Sermo’s clients and being posted by the client’s or Sermo’s staffers. Remember Sermo’s description of “what makes a good post” immediately after their launch? They instructed so called sermaphrodites to include brand names of products, using pharmaceutical drugs as examples – the unspoken message was clear that a post is only good to the degree that it serves Sermo’s clients.

    So, I would ask Sermo for the following information, so that physicians can make an informed decision with regard to their use of Sermo.

    First, since Sermo’s clients have access to physicians’ information, let physicians (both current and prospective users) have access to theirs. Where are the demos and screen shots of the “looking glass” side of Sermo? If Sermo is to be truly upfront about their business model, let us see what their client portal looks like. I wonder how many physicians would sign up if they were able to view the industry dashboard before they shared their personal information.

    Second, once we have access to the looking glass, let us see what percentage of posts on Sermo are aligned with the interests of their clients. Again, I would venture that – even beyond those clearly marked as industry questions – a vast majority of the posts on Sermo originate from Sermo’s clients and staff, and many of the replies might be generated from legitimate users employed by them as well. (note, this is the very problem that Bruder alludes to).

    Finally, and related to the second point, let us see a list of their clients. In the spirit of transparency, and so we may better understand who are behind the questions before deciding to participate, let us see a list of the organizations and people that have access to the data obtained from the Sermo community.

    The very problem that Bruder points out – that industry members may sway the results of polls on Sermo if they have the ability to post (or influence what is posted) within the community – cannot be solved with a security patch. The problem lies with the information arbitrage model itself. The conundrum for Sermo is whether their loyalty lies with the physicians (as their marketing would have you believe) or their clients (as their business model leads us to conclude) – though Sermo might wish them to be complementary, these two groups’ interests – under the information arbitrage model – are radically different and often diametrically opposed. Unfortunately, Sermo’s inattention and reaction to the security issues raised by medgadget and others would suggest that their loyalty does not lie with the former…

  • Michael

    Bruder –

    Understand your point. Did Dr O make any charges or insults against any of the doctors who responded unfavorably to him and who did not say anything personal about him first?

    Since you were not greeted as good guys, as I pointed out before, by the doctor members, then why not move on.

    Recently on medgadget.com was the statement:

    “As you can assume, we will be working on the Sermo story for the foreseeable future. Stay tuned.”

    If you are not wanted, just leave them alone and move on to where you are appreciated and wanted – why “stay the course”

  • Michael

    Joe –

    Regarding your statement above: “So, I would ask Sermo for the following information, so that physicians can make an informed decision with regard to their use of Sermo” and then you want certain information from Sermo. Sermo is a private company and why would they give you information and what is your justification for asking for that. If it were a publicly held company and you were a stock holder, then ask away.

    If you are not a doctor on Sermo, then why is it your business what doctors do on Sermo and how does it affect you in a negative way.

    It seems that the doctors on Sermo do not want yours and medgasdget’s help, so why meddle.

    If you are a doctor on Sermo, then quit and that will lower their numbers of members and hurt them financially.

  • Michael

    Is there any financial or business relationship between this site and http://www.medgadget.com.

  • Michael,

    No, there is no financial or business relationship between Xconomy and Medgadget. Xconomy is an entirely independent, privately held media and events company with a (small) staff of full-time professional writers and editors. Click on “About” at the top of the page for more on our mission, team, and ethical standards, and feel free to post again or email us at editors@xconomy.com if you have any other questions.

    Best,
    Rebecca

  • Michael

    Rebecca –

    Thanks for clarifying that.

    You have an impressive resume – as an MIT graduate in the days of yore (when there were only a few “co-eds”as they were called, I like the part about MIT.

  • First of all, Rebecca is right, Medgadget and Xconomy probably found out about each other only this week, and we have no business relations. Nevertheless, Rebecca, does Xconomy make any editorial statements? If it does, I’d love to hear it on this issue.

    Secondly, Joe, thank you for your post and suggestions regarding seeing that looking glass. It led me to envision scientifically observed laboratory rats more concerned about the next feeding time than the concept that they’re in the cage at all.
    Also, I’d like to reiterate your point about this not being an issue solved by a security patch. What a lot of commenters here and elsewhere don’t realize, partially because they’re doctors, is that this is not a technical hole that we found. Its not a new discovery. This is not a hack. This is simply us pointing out that if you hide keys under the welcome mat, you shouldn’t leave a note on the door saying that the keys are under the mat. This does not require a security consultant to understand, nor a hacker to circumvent. A company that wants FDA’s approval of its methods will hopefully need to do a bit more.
    Again, I’d like to say that we have nothing fundamentally against the Sermo business model. The free market will play itself out. But the free market depends on disclosure and trust. Joe, I second your calls for more disclosure for everyone’s, including Sermo’s, sake.

  • Michael

    Bruber –

    Sermo, like this site, is a private company and under no obligation, except to its owners, to you, to me, to medgadget or this site.

    No doctor is forced to join or to stay and with all this exposure they are certainly aware of it and can decide for themselves.

    There becomes a time when adults need to be let to act as they want, within the law, and accept the consequences.

    Now if Sermo was a publicly held company, then it would change.

    Is medgadget is privately held company?

  • Michael

    Question for medgadget.com et al

    If Sermo is a privately owned company doing nothing illegal and your actions hurt them financially, are you at any risk?

  • Justin B

    This really doesn’t have anything to do with the Sermo community, which I’m sure is fun to be a part of and (when not talking about medgadget) a friendly group of people.

    I do care about fradulent information, conflicts of interest, and potential harm to patients.

    If somehow fradulent information leaks from sermo to a patient’s bedside, the results could be quite disasterous, and it probably wouldn’t be Sermo who was liable.

    Secondly, I agree, no security system is bulletproof. But that’s no excuse to not try! I mean, if anyone could log into my bank account, online banking would be pretty useless. But they have a good system set-up, which isn’t perfect, but works quite well.

    Obviously, Sermo’s system does not work well. They can change one of two things. They can change the product that they provide (the guarantee that all information contained on the site is from actual physicians), or they can improve the security. Neither seems to be taking place.

    I don’t want to insult Sermo’s community by any means, this is a criticism of the company. I just don’t want anyone to be harmed by misinformation.

  • Michael

    Bruber -“A company that wants FDA’s approval of its methods will hopefully need to do a bit more.” Is Sermo trying to get FDA approval?

    Justin B – the doctors on Sermo could have been informed which would have met one of the two things you offer for change if medgadget had posted the problem on Sermo without the need togo public. It seems there was more disapproval of the way it was done rather than what was said.

    Most people who are in the least internet savvy, and that includes doctors, know that there is no complete security and privacy in the internet. Notifying the doctors by posting would have warned the doctors who were not internet savvy.

    Medgadget has his own internet site and maybe some of the complaints was that he was hurting Sermo for his own personal gain rather than warning fellow doctors on Sermo.

  • Michael

    Rebecca –

    Did you yourself actually read the entire thread about what they should call themselves before just picking “Sermaphrodites” as the one to use in your above article and that there had been previous humorous discussions before that one?

  • Michael,

    No, I didn’t read the entire thread about what Sermo users should call themselves—in fact I didn’t know such a thread existed. I didn’t hack in to the site, as I mentioned in my post, and I neither have nor claim to have an MD, so my access to Sermo was limited to screen-grabs of the threads related to the Medgadget and PsychCentral posts. In one of those threads “Sermaphrodites” was used in passing as if it were a generally accepted term. I quoted it because I thought it was clever and funny and seemed to nicely reflect the irreverent banter that, from what I’ve seen and heard from others, runs through many discussions on the site. If there are other, preferred, terms, I’d love to know about them.

    Best,
    Rebecca

  • Michael

    Rebecca –

    Would like to ask you an “editor” question as you are the Executive Editor and were Knight Science Journalism Fellow at MIT.

    James in an above comment to Dr O raises some interesting questions as to how Dr. O stated his credentials. Does that as an editor at least raise concerns and since you are reporting about his site, have you looked into that?

    As an editor how would you view reporters under you who “padded” or misrepresented their CV?

  • Michael

    Rebecca –

    Sorry, I misspoke – you did not report about Dr O’s site – the links from Bruder and Michael Ostrovsky, MD lead to the website, medgadget.com, so please ignore my first question, but still interested in your opinion as an editor about my second question.

    A free press is a great safeguard, but if the press loses any, or even any of its appearance, of its creditability or impartiality, then it becomes much harder for the press to do its job. This should also apply to reporting on the internet as it does in the older media.

  • As an editor, I’d certainly have a problem with a journalist who wrote for my publication padding his resume or otherwise misrepresenting his professional background–that holds whether the publication is online or in print.

  • Michael,

    Dr. O never padded his resume. You must be one of the persons who fell for the libel posted on Sermo. This only proves our point. Also you’re obsessed about us, and obviously are protecting Sermo because of some interests you have. My suggestions is to stop looking stupid and have them address real issues rather than continue droning about who we should have contacted first. You’re a broken record sir.
    You seem to forget that everything we wrote is true and fact, and that Sermo is still broken. We are still run by the same editors, using bulletproof security we’ve been running for a while now. And we have $0 in funding.
    Sir, you’re not a journalist, and you’re starting to act like you’re on a story. I suggest when you get back to work on monday, you spend your time addressing the vulnerability rather than us.
    Or do you want to discuss where we should have posted this information first, cause that’s obviously so much more important?

  • Michael

    Joe – you said (9/28/07 6:52 pm): “Sermo was created to give hedge funds, the government – and yes, even pharma – a voyeur’s view of physicians’ thoughts and observations.”

    Did you know that the Sermo website FAQ which gives information to the members about “clients” so every member is aware that there are non-doctors reading what they said – that is a different issue from non-doctors joining as doctors.

    What I am interested in is your statement, not stated as your opinion, of the reason Sermo was started. Can you give us any sources or website where this is shown?

  • Michael,

    Here’s a link to the announcement this month that the FDA is reviewing Sermo: http://sermo.com/about/news/press/FDA
    Remember, this is not Myspace. The standards should be higher.
    As for the purpose of Sermo, it really is not for doctors to talk. It is for Mr Palestrant and others to make money. And the way money is made at Sermo, is to let very rich clients read what doctors are writing. That is why Mr Palestrant patented his system that supposedly reads the mind of the crowd. He could have just created a facebook for doctors, but that wouldn’t have made the millions that are required to retire in your mid 30’s.

  • Michael

    Talking about reasons for Sermo …. how about venture capitalists?

    Xconomy, a Boston-area-based technology and news blog, has received funding in a Series A round, led by CommonAngels. CommonAngels is an investment group in Lexington, MA, and it contributed funds from its investment pool as well as individual members. The financial terms were not disclosed.

    The blog was only launched about a month ago by Robert Buderi, the former Editor-in-Chief for MIT’s Technology Review. Xconomy’s publisher, Steve Woit, is a founder of Riga Ventures, which is a venture capital firm. We’re seeing a wave of investment of blogs and acquisitions, too–and we’re not complaining! There was Freakanomics, TreeHugger and World Hum.

    http://mashable.com/2007/08/09/xconomy-funded/

  • DrO

    Questioning my credentials is an atrocious personal attack, the first of the kind that I’ve ever experienced. It is perpetuated by anonymous Sermo members and trolls like James (for all I know,. Mr. Palestrant’s alternative identity). I have finished residency, cardiac fellowship, and a diplomat of 2 medical boards. I have medical licenses in 2 states. I am a director of cardiac anesthesia in my hospital.

    Hence, I will not engage into discussions about my identity with anonymous cretins.

  • Michael

    Dr O –

    My comments are not a personal attack against you as a doctor, but simply a question of your credibility in stating your CV. You seem to be the one to readily attack when even questioned. I am in no way being critical of your abilities as a doctor, only your assertion of being double boarded which is meant in as a credibility, not quality, question

    In the medical world, being boarded means being boarded by one of the boards approved by the American Board of Medical Specialties and only your anesthesia board is listed there. Your other board is not.

    Rebecca, and others on xconomy.com, or perhaps they have friends in the media and other internet sites, are in Boston and may very well deal with doctors at Harvard, BU and Tufts and the Mass General and other hospitals and may be able to add to this question by doing a report on what doctors mean when saying board certified.

    With the addition of non-doctors giving medical care, such as nurses and physician assistants, the rise of different Boards will increase and cause confusion and this is something the public needs to be made aware of and may be a good report for the old media and internet.

  • Michael

    Dr O

    I went back and read some of what you have said, and it seems my simply questioning you on what you stated in your CV has lead to, in your own words such “vitriol, hatred, and denigration” towards me.

  • Michael, or Daniel, or whoever you really are. Lets see your CV and what credentials you have to talk about what we’re talking about. What is your name, moreover? Please also provide your phone number, last four digits of your ss, and what elementary and high schools you attended. Once we’re done checking that, you’ll be able to continue beating a dead horse as you’re doing now. Until then, you’re closer to a broken record than a doctor.
    Terribly sorry, but whether Dr O is single or double boarded makes no difference to the fact that Sermo is broken. Again, go back to the office, call a meeting, and get it fixed instead of wasting time here.

  • Andrew

    I think Michael’s point that this debate is more about Sermo’s lack of security, and failure to respond in the interest of its members, is correct. I also agree with the points he and others have made that this lack of security is the Achilles heel of their business model. Remember that Sermo’s business model must serve the needs of both the physicians and those interested in observing physicians. Lack of security on the front end and the methodology of anonymous posts on the back end ultimately fail to serve both. That is, anonymous posts/responses “naturally generated in the day-to-day interactions of [by] physicians for physicians” solving real clinical problems in the interest of patient care is compelling in theory, but difficult to accommodate in practice. Not only because every anonymous Sermo member must be acting in the interest of his/her patients and not a third party (as theory/marketing would suggest), but, more importantly, the stakes for those interested (i.e., industry) in the attitudes, behaviors, and thoughts of physicians and how it may or may not affect a particular products success or failure is too high (reality). For example, billions are spent on getting products through clinical trials, so the temptation of a company to influence posts or responses it too great to ignore and ultimately will lead to those with deep pockets to infiltrate an anonymous community to generate desired outcomes. Theoretically, I very much like Sermo’s model as it attempts to serve both the physician and pharmaceutical companies, but it may not be possible in an always vulnerable community of highly motivated/paid industry physicians who must serve the need of their clients rather than their patients (if they actually see patients). Ultimately I hope Sermo can crack the nut and use their money to solve their security/credibility issues, but I think the problem is much bigger than a technical fix.

  • Michael

    Bruder –

    I am not the one making claims about my CV to justify my comments.

    Certainly whether Dr O is single or double boarded, or even a doctor, makes no difference to his comments about Sermo, BUT it was Dr. O, himself, who was the one who brought up being double boarded in the discussion and so exactly what being boarded means then becomes relevant.

    In a “reporting” web site, like the media, the credibility of the reporter is crucial and that is the issue I am raising – not Sermo or Dr. O’s qualifications, but question of credibility due to his use of the term boarded.

  • Michael,

    What’s amusing is that you seem to think its more relevant whether Dr O is single or double boarded than whether those thousands on Sermo are MD’s at all. Dr O was simply defending his own credibility while under attack of not even being a doctor.
    I think this is the real question you’re avoiding: do you care whether the doctors on Sermo are real doctors or not? Or is only Dr O’s double boarding important to verify?

  • Michael

    Bruder –

    Lets put the question of Sermo aside and put aside or even for the sake of the argumetn agree with you that Dr O is an excellent, well trained doctor and is Director at his hospital unit because he is recognized by all in the hospital as being the brightest and the best doctor and leader.

    OK, lets get down to the issue I keep trying to raise.

    You are the editor of medgadget.com or any other media, including an internet site, and you have hired Dr. O to be a reporter. Later on you find in his CV that he said he was double board by the American Board of Anesthesiology and the American Board of Echocardiography.

    You now find out that in medical circles and in hospitals that the term boarded is taken to mean boarded in one of the specialties recognized by the American Board of Medical Specialties and his Anesthesia board is recognized but his Echocardiography is not and it is called the National Board of Echocardiography on its web site NOT the American Board of Echocardiography.

    As an editor, would that concern you? That is the question I hope you will answer.

  • Michael

    Bruder

    Let me make it even easier for you to answer, and lets says it was not Dr O but another completely different doctor, a Dr. X. and the site is not medgadget.com but brudermedtechreport.com

  • Michael

    Bruder –

    Separate from my questions above, which I hope you will answer, regarding your comments on 9/29/07 2:15 pm, I would like to make some points.

    You seem readily willing to question the credibility of Dr. P on Sermo, but not Dr O on Medgadget.

    The FAQ on Sermo make everyone aware that non-doctors may post and monitor what is going on, and now they are aware that non-doctors may join and post as doctors and now the doctors know and would imagine they can come to their own conclusions and decide what they want to do.

    If the purpose of medgadget is to report news, then you have. If the purpose is to play hardball with Sermo and DR. P, then why are you surprised that some will want to play hardball back in regards to medgadget and Dr. O.

    I guess Dr. O et al at medgadget need to decide just what is the purpose of medgadget.

    No, I do not know what is Dr P’s purpose at Sermo – only talking about medgadget now.

  • Judy

    Fundamental Points raised by the Sermo’s “questioners”: (Ostrovsky, Grohol, Nick, Bruder, Joe, Justin, Andrew (while Andrew says he agrees with Michael, his points clearly don’t)

    Fundamental Proposition (as it seems to me at least) – Sermo is Not Acting in a Trustworthy Fashion:

    1. There’s no way to confirm that every doctor on Sermo is a real practicing MD using publicly available information on Doctors
    2. Sermo already knew there were problems and did nothing about it
    3. Sermo and its supporters should have welcomed this information as an opportunity to make positive changes to its business vs. attacking those who discovered the flaws
    4. Sermo’s method of making money and its reaction to these challenges to its credibility over the past week demonstrates an inherent conflict of interest with how the vast majority of physicians want to leverage Sermo’s service. Additional points I found interesting:
    a. Even if you could assure everyone was an MD with whatever security patch you could imagine, it still would be not be sufficient because so many MDs actually work for Industry – and these MDs would have a high degree of motivation to affect what’s being “talked about” on Sermo
    b. Because Sermo earns its money by selling physician data (and therefore obviously the information being sold is cannot be made public or else there would be nothing to sell), there’s no way to be sure how legitimate the questions and answers on Sermo are beyond taking Sermo’s word for it (see bullet C)
    c. Based on Sermo and its anonymous supporters’ reactions to the holes in how it operates, and that to earn an ROI for its shareholders necessitates them at least appearing to be credible, taking Sermo’s word for it seems increasingly hard to justify based on the empirical facts (as opposed perhaps to personal knowledge of Sermo’s management team).

    Fundamental points raised by Sermo’s “supporters” in addressing the fundamental issue of a conflict of interest: (John, James, Michael, and excerpts from Dr. P’s original comments in the first post)

    Basic responses to these questions:
    1. MedGagdet and others should not have told anyone beyond Sermo about their discovery
    2. The MedGagdet author pads his resume, so his arguments must be wrong
    3. We should all please stop talking about this and move on
    4. Sermo is a private company so doesn’t need to share information with anyone
    5. Rebecca Zacks, editor of this site, I think you are impressive!

    Hmmm… I’ll score the first round Questioners 1, Sermo Supporters 0

  • Michael,

    Again you’re forgetting that this is an issue with Sermo, not Medgadget. And we’re satisfied with Dr O’s credentials.
    Judy, thank you for the summary of the points, and I think they make clear that the issue is being obfuscated by certain parties. Also, I’d give the Sermo Supporters a partial point for their opinion of Rebecca Zacks.
    Moreover, I just discovered an article from a year ago which points to this very fact that fakesters have infiltrated Sermo long ago and try to undermine the products of certain companies over others.
    http://www.democrats.org/page/community/post_group/CampaignPoliticialJobs/CLrp

  • Michael

    Bruder –

    If you are satisfied with how Dr O represented his credentials and it meets the standards of medgadget.com, then so be it.

    Everyone in this discussion can make up their own mind as to how to view it.

    Are the importance of the words of a doctor in discussing this topic proportional to the number of boards, or his/her position in a hospital or university setting. Certainly if talking about a clinical medical issue, that may carry weight, but this is not about a clinical field, so does it make a difference. I know doctors who are triple boarded in boards recognized by the American Board of Medical Specialties so should we defer to them on this issue because they have triple boarded? How about all the people who are not boarded at all – are their words less valuable. Of course not.

  • Michael

    There are a number of issues here. There is certainly the issue of Sermo of which there are legitimate questions raised about Sermo.

    The other issue deals with credibility.

    To me if you find something that is misleading about something or someone with which you are familiar, then it raises the question about how do you accept things about which you know far less.

    A reporter is only as good as his/her credibility and a site or newspaper, TV or any other media source is as good as their standards.

    There is an old saying: “you pays your money and takes your choice.” Fortunately the internet has given us a large number of choices “to takes.”

  • Judy

    If I understand the last post correctly, let me add another bullet to the Sermo Supporter’s “Basic Reponses” from my earlier post

    6. Relative to other sites that could be taking advantage of you, Sermo is not that unscrupulous

    Err… Still Questioners 1, Sermo Supporters 0 on my scorecard.

  • Michael,

    If you don’t think its relevant whether someone is single or double boarded for this discussion, how about you stop focusing on nitpicking that issue?

    As for you claiming that this has something to do with credibility of Medgadget reporting on this, then you’re just being silly because in the long run, there is no need for credibility here. The issue is very clear that Sermo is compromised. As I said before, you don’t need an expert to see that the door is open. If a ten year old would have noticed this, it would have been just as true. So I say again, stop focusing on Medgadget on this one. Its about Sermo, not Medgadget.

  • Edward

    For Joe 9/28/07 9:07 pm

    You asked for an impression of what the Sermo client side looking glass is like in the interests of disclosure. Well here you are.

    http://www.fda.gov/ohrms/dockets/dockets/07n0016/07n-0016-ts00028-frost.pdf

  • Judy

    OH MY GOD!!! CHECK OUT PAGE 10!

    “Watched Physicians” !?!? I thought Sermo was anonymous??

    We propose posts of interests?!? I thought the content was not influenced???

    Page 11 – Most active taggers – AGAIN BY NAME!

    “Watchlist”… This is like a twisted CIA movie!

    Forget the scorecard metaphor of Questions vs. Sermo Supporters. I no longer want to watch in this game… Glad I’m not a Sermo shareholder.

  • Michael

    Bruder –

    I cannot think of a better statement about the journalism of medgadget.com than to quote your very words as you have said i best:

    “As for you claiming that this has something to do with credibility of Medgadget reporting on this, then you’re just being silly because in the long run, there is no need for credibility here.”

    Being sarcastic, “there is no need for credibility here” might just make a good masthead saying for medgadget.com

    Wonder what Rebecca at xconomy.com would think about that – any response Rebecca?

  • judy

    credibiliy blah blah blah…

    DID YOU SEE PAGE 10 ?!?!?

  • Wow, indeed. It does look like real names being used, because just on page 11, they’re using nick names. How absurd is that, when the doctors themselves don’t know who is who?

  • Michael

    Duh – of course Sermo knows who goes by which user name. They do give out money to the members for different reasons so they have to a real name for the check and an address to which to send it. Talk about a lack of credibility of being knowledgeable.

  • Judy

    Excerpts from Sermo’s privacy policy from http://www.sermo.com:

    3. HOW INFORMATION MAY BE SHARED
    a. Sharing
    Sermo may share aggregated demographic information with Sermo’s partners. This is not linked to any personal information that can identify any individual person.

    e. Forums Including Ticket Titles and Posts, Ticket Votes, Discussion Boards and Blog Comments

    When you participate in a http://www.sermo.com Forum including, but not limited to, Ticket Titles, Ticket Posts, Ticket Votes, Discussion Boards, and Blog Comments, Your name or alias and IP address may be recorded for purposes of maintaining Your own account within the Forums and preventing abuses of the forum (see forum or online community rules for more details). This information is not used to monitor Your activity within a forum, nor is it used to identify You outside http://www.sermo.com in any way.

    I’m no lawyer – but Page 10 and 11 look like they clearly violate the privacy policy they have shared with all of the physicians who have ever used Sermo.

    Anyone out there with a law degree to comment here?

  • Judy

    Michael – time to stop now. No one will believe that FDA is sending checks to Sermo docs, and no one will believe that Sermo built the “watchlist” as shown in Pages 10 and 11 with individual physician names because it makes Sermo’s accounts payable process easier.

    Michael – It’s really time to stop now…

  • Michael

    Judy

    Medgadget showed there was a securiy problem at Sermo, what you and others are now pointing out is known and is evidently on Sermo, so every member on Sermo can read it and decide for him/herself and is not news.

    The issue is an internet security issue which is not a medical issue, so Dr O’s medical CV is irrelevant to this technical issue BUT DR O is the one who brought it up in his and his listing of his qualifications, which has nothing to do with the security issue at Sermo, is a reflection of his credibility and despite what Bruder (whose name links to medgadget) says, in an internet site that wants readers, credibility is important.

  • Michael

    Judy – lets say for the sake of argument that everything you say about Sermo is right.

    Is the credibility of the people reporting and the web site important or is it only the story that matters.

    Bruder has said “there is no need for credibility here.”

    Rebecca has said “As an editor, I’d certainly have a problem with a journalist who wrote for my publication padding his resume or otherwise misrepresenting his professional background–that holds whether the publication is online or in print.”

    Judy what is your opinion?

  • I’m a med student (the 35yo kind, not the 25yo kind) who was a prior computer administration and security professional. I’d list my credentials, but I fear “Michael” might be outside my window with binoculars w/in 12 hours (might not, since there’d be no wireless there to post comments).

    Hey Mikey, Dr. O. (whom I have never met and only email corresponded with briefly yesterday) has everything out there on the table. Who the hell are you? What are your credentials that can be independently verified? Do you have 2+ board certifications that justify the indignation of Dr. O. having “misrepresented” himself? We’ll never know, will we, because your ad-hominem attacks are shielded behind your lame curtain of pseudoanonymity. (at least I have the gonads to post as the real me, complete with a link trail)

    But then I found this, doing a quick comment recap just now: “[Michael is] in the health field and interested in technology.” STOP THE PRESSES! Man, I wish I hadn’t wasted those minutes typing the above. “Health field” can mean anything, but it has big, neon “NOT A PHYSICIAN” blinking behind it. So all of this “high brow” opinion from a non-Sermo user. Yeah, I gotta go back to watching some paint dry now.

  • Michael

    Enrico –

    Most of your comments speak for themselves far better than I could so I will not make any comment.

    There are two issues here and I, of late, have been discussing the one about credibility.

    There certainly is a security problem at Sermo about non-doctors joining, but a lot of the other issues raised are not clear cut at this time.

    With all the media, including the internet and sites like this, it becomes a formidable task to know to whom to listen. That is where the question of credibility comes in. If you are reading something about which you are not completely knowledgeable, the credibility of the reporter and the site are important in deciding how to accept it.

    For whatever reason, Dr O chose to use his medical credentials to strengthen his position in regards to a non-medical issue, so he opened the door to the issue and represented himself to doctors which was not completely forthright.

    As a third year medical student you may very well not understand the meaning of being board certified, in the US, and just what boards are accepted by the medical community and hosptials as legitimate in calling yourself board certified. I would expect in time if you take a residency in the US and become board certified by one of the boards of the American Board of Medical Specialties, you will then understand it.

  • DrO

    Michael:

    How is my credibility compromised? By the fact that I said that I am “double boarded”? I did not even know that double boarded necessarily means being certified by boards that are members of the American Board of Medical Specialties. (for those that still don’t understand, his definition of double means being certified in cardiology and radiology, for example, i.e. medical specialties). I thought once I have two certificate with “Diplomate of … Board,” that’s enough.

    My second board (in addition to American Board of Anesthesiology, a member of American Board of Medical Specialties), is not in holistic medicine, not in acupuncture, not in Chinese medicine, not in foot massage, but in echocardiography from the American Board of Echocardiography. In other words, echocardiography for open heart surgeries.

    SO WHAT CREDIBILITY PROBLEM DO YOU, sir, HAVE?

  • Michael

    Enrico

    As a third year medical student you will over the years be reading a lot medical journals and web sites and you will need to learn how to weed through all them and the credibility of the author and especially the journal in which it is published, will be important. Perhaps in ten years after you have finished all your training you will look back and understand the meaning of board certification and the importance of credibility.

  • DrO

    Michael:

    How is my credibility compromised? By the fact that I said that I am “double boarded”? I did not even know that double boarded necessarily means being certified by boards that are members of the American Board of Medical Specialties. (for those that still don’t understand, his definition of double means being certified in cardiology and radiology, for example, i.e. medical specialties). I thought once I have two certificate with “Diplomate of … Board,” that’s enough.

    My second board (in addition to American Board of Anesthesiology, a member of American Board of Medical Specialties), is not in holistic medicine, not in acupuncture, not in Chinese medicine, not in foot massage, but in echocardiography from the American Board of Echocardiography. In other words, echocardiography for open heart surgeries.

    SO WHAT CREDIBILITY PROBLEM DO YOU, sir, HAVE?

  • Michael

    Dr O – with all due respect, I really find it hard to believe that you were not aware of the meaning of board certification and the American Board of Medical Specialties.

    For whatever reason, you felt that was important in convincing others in regards to your points about Sermo which are not at all related to your medical specialty, to cite your double boards so you opened the door.

    The web site you cited for your second board says “National” not “American” as has been pointed out before but you still use the term “American” (like in the American Boards of Medical Specialties) rather than National. Is that meant to mislead,or just sloppy?

    Everyone can decide for themselves what is important as to credibility. I think your credibility has been hurt. Others may disagree. I hope to learn more about Sermo, but right now would prefer a report from Rebecca at this site rather than you at medgadget – but that is just my opinion. As I said before, “you pays your money and takes your choice” and now I would chose this site and others can pick whatever they want.

  • Michael

    Besides Rebecca with her qualifications, is there anyone else still reading this who has journalistic qualifications who would like to venture into the “lion’s den” and make a comment about credibility in the media.

    Not at this time interested in Sermo or in medical or internet security or technology qualifications, but journalistic qualifications since these internet sites are part of the media.

    I make no claims of any journalistic qualifications like Rebecca has.

  • DrO

    Michael:

    Here’s just for you:

    National Board of Echocardiography. NATIONAL. Thank you very much. Like in National League, not American League, not like in American Boards of Medical Specialties. But more like in National Boards of Medical Specialties.

    Are you boarded through the National Boards of Medical Specialties in “sloppy thinking” category? You should apply.

  • DrO

    I am a journalist. I get press passes. I broke exclusive stories. I write, and I bring news to many people every day: medtech news. Our site is an official Google News source. We are “media sponsors” at different conferences. We were the only news organization reporting from Frost&Sullivan medical devices awards. Companies contact us with press releases, b/c they want us to report about their wares.

    Just because you don’t like us, doesn’t mean we are not journalists.

  • Alice

    Reading through these posts feels a bit like watching a car crash that is so ugly, yet I can’t avert my glance. I think the worst part is that all this vitriol distracts from the important question, which is what can Sermo do to strengthen its security?

    I’m not a doctor; my expertise is around social networking and new technology. I’m intrigued by Sermo’s business model. The idea that this closed community needs to be air tight is a little absurd to me. First, there are no real absolutes in security. Second, and most importantly, a community like Sermo’s tends to be self-correcting. The evil impostors can only wreak so much havoc before the wisdom of the crowd intervenes.

    I think some of the behavior demonstrated here is a shame. Sermo is a great idea. It has taken the model of social networking and given it a powerful context that could be meaningful to so many. I’m not trying to argue that it doesn’t have an achilles heel…look at Microsoft?!

    It appears to me that the Medgadget folks have an agenda; your words about Sermo go beyond the issue at hand; it’s personal. I can’t find any proof that Sermo’s actions are intentionally deceptive or malicious (some of these posts make them out to be down right sinister).

    It would be more interesting and useful to see a dialog that explores the larger question of how innovative companies can be effective while successfully tackling these complex security issues.

  • Michael

    Dr. O

    Since you are a journalist with a press pass I am sure you realize just how important credibility and attention to detail.

    My comment about “sloppy” was not being sloppy about being boarded, but being sloppy by continuing to refer to it by the wrong name in a way that makes it sound like all the American boards which are part of the American Board of Medical Specialties. That is certainly being sloppy with an important detail and raises further questions about credibility.

    I have looked at your website and there is a lot of very good reports about technology and medicine and the latest gadgets in medicine.

    Your response to my use of the word “sloppy” in reference to your using American and not National is very interesting. Rather than just admitting there was an error, you make light of it and attack me.

    If I remember correctly, a while back there were some questions raised about the New England Journal of Medicine (NEJM). If I remember correctly the NEJM quickly admitted the problem and immediately corrected it rather than denying it or attacking those who pointed it out. On the other hand there have been stories in the main stream media about errors, false stories, padded and made up CVs where the newspaper did not admit it quickly and did not quickly take action.

    No one, or media source, is perfect, but quickly admitting and correcting mistakes and not denying or attacking, is part of credibility of a news source, whether it be the NEJM or the New York Times or medgadget.com

    As I have said, these are my opinions. I do not have a press pass or any journalism training or experience like Rebecca has, but that does not mean that what I consider important as regards to credibility is wrong.

    Whether you want to admit the problem and publicly take care of it or just maintain the status quo of not admitting it, making light of it and attacking others is your choice. In my opinion how and what you do also reflects on the issue of credibility.

  • DrO

    Robotic Michael:

    It seems that no matter what I say gives the same result: raises further questions about my credibility within your sloppy thought process.

    What credibility are you talking about?

  • Andrew

    Alice,

    I think your points are well taken, but Sermo’s lack of security is now a minor issue relative to Sermo violating its own privacy policy by disclosing the identity of Sermo users to their industry clients. As Edward discovered in his post of 9/29/07 10:35 pm yesterday –

    http://www.fda.gov/ohrms/dockets/dockets/07n0016/07n-0016-ts00028-frost.pdf

    the FDA (AMA and other clients of Sermo?) are apparently given access and the actual IDENTITY of Sermo users and their activity on Sermo using tracking, surveillance and dashboard capabilities, violating its own terms of service and privacy policy (see page 10 & 11 of the above document). If Sermo’s own marketing and privacy policy states they only disclose AGGREGATE information to their industry clients, yet their products to industry reveal IDENTIFIABLE information that allows them to track individual physicians, then THAT is the bigger problem for Sermo. If full disclosure is Sermo’s policy then the above document outlining exactly how much identifiable information is disclosed to third parties should be made front and center to Sermo users. It is only then that Sermo users can decide whether or not they would like to participate. Thus, this is no longer a technical issue, but a policy issue.

  • Michael

    Dr O

    Regarding your comments “I am a journalist. I get press passes” and “Our site is an official Google News source” :

    There is a local town crier type of newspaper in my area and they used to have a woman with a press pass who would cover the local city and school news.

    Google has many news sources from all over the world, like Aljazeera.net from Qatar and Xinhua News Agency from China and including many in the US who politically slant their news. I am not aware that Google gives a “Good Housekeeping Award” for journalism.

    Google and a press pass have nothing to do with the question of credibility and excellence in journalism

  • Michael

    We need to keep the topics separate for NOW. One topic is Sermo and the other is credibility in journalism. They will ultimately intersect when deciding who to read in the continuing story of Sermo.

  • Alice

    Ok, I’m so intrigued by this that I went back to read Sermo’s privacy policy as well as their FAQs. I don’t get the conflict. They clearly distinguish personal information from a personal profile:

    “Your personal profile shall be available for viewing by other registered participants of Sermo and will be considered non-confidential and non-proprietary. Providing additional information in Your personal profile beyond what is required at registration is entirely optional and can be altered or removed by You at any time.”

    It seems to me they leave it up to the registrants to provide as much or little information as they feel comfortable revealing.

    Again…this just seems to me like a deflection from the real issue of security.

  • Michael

    Alice –

    Yes there is a problem with the security on Sermo as far as non-doctors being able to join. Lets agree to that.

    The question becomes in the on-going story, who and which source(s) are you going to rely on for more information.

    I believe that credibility, attention to detail and impartiality are extremely important in journalism.

    People can determine for themselves just who they will count on to be credible, attentive to details and impartial.

  • Michael,

    Really, how many times do you have to repeat your credibility line? Why is it that if you think credibility is important, you yourself do not provide your credentials? Why should we listen to a word you say if we don’t know a single fact about you? So, first identify yourself, then go after the minutiae details of others. Seriously, you are a figment of our imagination that simply will not drop it. You really are a broken record.
    I bet I have not succeeded in my trying to stop you, so I’ll ask you a question that should ease you into writing that thing you already wrote a number of times: is credibility important when we get our information?

  • Andrew

    Alice,

    You are citing Sermo’s policy as it pertains to the information that may be visible physician to physician, not the information Sermo Inc. may share with industry clients like the FDA, AMA, pharmaceutical companies, hedge funds, etc. The document shared by Edward yesterday was prepared for the FDA by Sermo Inc. and clearly shows on page 10 and 11 of the following document

    http://www.fda.gov/ohrms/dockets/dockets/07n0016/07n-0016-ts00028-frost.pdf

    that the FDA is given access to the identity and activity of INDIVIDUAL physicians using Sermo. This seems to contrast with Sermo’s own privacy policy which states:
    “3. HOW INFORMATION MAY BE SHARED
    a. Sharing
    Sermo may share aggregated demographic information with Sermo’s partners. This is not linked to any personal information that can identify any individual person.”
    And later –
    “Your name or alias and IP address may be recorded for purposes of maintaining Your own account within the Forums and preventing abuses of the forum (see forum or online community rules for more details). This information is not used to monitor Your activity within a forum, nor is it used to identify You outside http://www.sermo.com in any way.”

    I would agree that physicians are keenly aware that the information they choose to share in their profiles is “public” to the other physicians(scratch that) users of Sermo (again, the security problem underscores that a physician is unable to assume that Sermo is a physician-only site with 100% confidence), but the policy makes clear that such information IS NOT to be shared by Sermo outside of the physician-only(scratch that) user community. Sermo users have an expectation that their names, aliases, and other information that may identify them personally and individually shall remain within the confines of the Sermo user community – not the AlphaMD(the looking glass side of Sermo) user community (and Sermo has a contractual obligation to do so). Sermo is posting personally identifiable information – names and aliases – on their customer portals, which IS NOT DISCLOSED in their privacy policy or anywhere else.

    Again, I agree with you that security is a problem. No argument there. However, the second, and probably more important issue, is that Sermo’s own privacy policy appears to be inconsistent with the identifiable information disclosed to their industry clients like the FDA, among others.

  • Michael

    Bruder

    “Why is it that if you think credibility is important, ”

    It is obvious from this statement and what you said before, that in journalism you do not think credibility is important,

    “you yourself do not provide your credentials?”

    I am not claiming to be an expert about internet security matters or to have training and education about journalism or am the one making any claims about my CV, but I am a reader of the media and know the importance of credibility, attention to detail, and impartiality.

    The fact that you and perhaps others at medgadget, do not care about credibility is your choice how you run medgadget.

    Given a choice of reading about something with which you are not familiar, would you pick a news source known to be credible, attentive to detail and impartial or not – simple question.

  • Michael

    Andrew –

    You raise some good points. Hopefully there will be a good news source that will continue to report and keep us up to date.

    Wonder if Rebecca would like to do or oversee an investigative news report at xconomy on Sermo and the additional questions raised?

  • Alice

    Andrew, I’m trying to see your point. I’m looking at page 10 and 11. I’m looking at the privacy policy. I don’t see where you get that the FDA is “given access to the identity and activity of INDIVIDUAL physicans using Sermo.” Maybe I’m missing it.

    It seems that you are inferring the “physician to physician” statement. What I’m reading specifies “registered participants” which in my mind includes physicans and clients. It looks like an alias/user name is viewable in the panel but no other identifying information (unless doctors choose to disclose their identity in the profile, I guess).

    I suppose if anything, their wording might be vague but if a doctor is so concerned with their privacy, they will not provide any identifying information in their personal profile, yes?

  • Michael

    One of the reasons I suggested Rebecca is that her CV regarding journalism is impressive and I have found no reason to question it.

    Another reason is in the above discussion about the term “Sermaphrodites” she was very straight forward in her answer without making light or attacking. Same with her response to the question about any relationship of xconomy and medgadget -very straight forward without any personal attacks.

    These, as a non-professional when it comes to journalism, are some of the things for which I look.

  • Michael,

    What you’re saying is starting to make me think that you think credibility is important. I’d like to hear a little more from you on that.
    Also, you’ll be able to follow all the developments to this story on medgadget.com, all verified, credible, and fair. Or, Michael, you can continue reformulating your last dozen posts, switching words around, and using the thesaurus to get more variety into your singular thought. We’ll be following those developments here.

  • Michael

    Bruder –

    Being sarcastic to make a point, but I would guess, that Joseph Stalin in Stalinist Russia years ago, would have said your exact words about the news in Pravda.

    Quoting you again:
    “there is no need for credibility here”

  • Alice

    Hhhmmm…not to be an instigator but from what I’m reading, I’d lend more credibility for fairness to http://psychcentral.com/blog/archives/2007/09/22/sermos-9m-weak-security-model/
    than to Medgadget.

  • Matilda

    I would like to point out that the above referenced “dashboard” has been taken out of context. This is not an actual snapshot but a proposal over a year old as presented in the post it is taken out of context from.

  • Michael,

    I’m sorry, but you yourself have nothing to add. Your contribution to this conversation is nonexistent. If nothing else, at least we’ve done something. You’re just a stupid repetitive troll who can’t seem to hold more than one argument in his mind. You say A, I respond with B. You say, C, and I respond with D. Then you say, but what about A? And I respond with B… Life must be nauseating for you.
    And yes, Michael, a ten year old’s credibility is good enough to tell me whether my house door is open or not. You probably were not able to discern that when you were 10, but I guess we’re all made of different stuff. I now prod you to continue asking about A.

  • Judy

    Matilda and all,

    How can you indicate that this

    http://www.fda.gov/ohrms/dockets/dockets/07n0016/07n-0016-ts00028-frost.pdf

    is taken out of context, and that is over a year “old” ?

    Point 1: Page 4 of this document states that current 3/07 Sermo is at 10,000 users, That’s 6 months ago, not 12, and clearly after Sermo launched with its current (now demonstrably false) assertion that it does not share specific information.

    Point 2: This is from the FDA’s website, not Sermo’s. There’s no way to argue that this is an internal Sermo document that is not shared beyond Sermo.

    Point 3: If you look at the middle column of Page 10 of this document, you see full physician first ad last names on the “Physician Watchlist” – not nicknames, not aggregate information, but first and last names, and the implication of “Watchlist” is that these physicians are personally tracked as to their activity.

    What more of a smoking gun do you need?

    If its a “context” problem, then maybe Enron was taken out of context too…

  • Michael

    To the Michael above whose name also links to medgadget along with Bruder and Dr O:

    No need for me to comment as your own words, along with Bruder’s and Dr O’s, say it all.

    You at medgadget certainly stick together – guess if all three of you say the same thing in attacking, it must be triply, not merely doubly, true.

    If you have read my posts, they are about credibility issues.

  • Andrew

    Hi Alice,

    No problem, I’m happy to clarify my perspective and see if you agree with what I’m seeing.

    If we look at the pdf again:

    http://www.fda.gov/ohrms/dockets/dockets/07n0016/07n-0016-ts00028-frost.pdf

    I am specifically referring to the “Watched Physicians” section on page 10 (fairly centrally located on the page) and the “Most Active Authors Tagging with Byetta” on page 11 (the upper left most quadrant). The Watched Physicians section names three individuals – not by alias, but by actual name – you can see for yourself Drs. Adriano Floripa, Michael Rich, and Lydia Shrier. The Most Active Authors Tagging with Byetta shows several aliases – Atheroman, Sermodoc, DocMullen, Priollaud, and nreddy – with a link to “show all 24.”

    Now, let’s go back to Sermo’s Privacy Policy:

    Section 3
    “3. HOW INFORMATION MAY BE SHARED
    a. Sharing
    Sermo may share aggregated demographic information with Sermo’s partners. ***This is not linked to any personal information that can identify any individual person***….
    e. Forums Including Ticket Titles and Posts, Ticket Votes, Discussion Boards and Blog Comments
    When you participate in a http://www.sermo.com Forum including, but not limited to, Ticket Titles, Ticket Posts, Ticket Votes, Discussion Boards, and Blog Comments, Your name or alias and IP address may be recorded for purposes of maintaining Your own account within the Forums and preventing abuses of the forum (see forum or online community rules for more details). ****This information is not used to monitor Your activity within a forum, nor is it used to identify You outside http://www.sermo.com in any way.*** In order to diffuse the information in the Site’s Forums to a wider audience, Sermo may, from time to time, collect some of Your postings and group them together to use in a specific publication, print, electronic mailing or other public dissemination. ***At no point however will Your name, alias or IP address be revealed in any publication.***”

    Given that (all aforementioned security problems aside) the FDA and other Sermo partners and clients do not have access to http://www.sermo.com – they gain access from the sister site AlphaMD – names and aliases (like those used in the sample document) are clearly not supposed to appear in “any publication” outside Sermo’s forums, but they are in fact appearing on client dashboards.

    Also, Sermo tells the physician user that such information “is not used to monitor Your activity within a forum, nor is it used to identify You outside http://www.sermo.com in any way.” Again, the aliases and names of individual physicians are not only being shared outside Sermo (a clear violation, but perhaps physicians aren’t too upset that others may know they use Sermo), but activity of individual physicians is being *monitored* (though Sermo tells us it won’t be) and this activity is being reported to third parties *with individual identifiers* (and I’m sure that physicians who sign up for Sermo’s service would not be pleased if they were aware that their activity – their personal, not aggregate activity – is being tracked and reported to Sermo’s clients).

    And even the section you quote from, Section1, talks about two different types of data that are collected.
    “1. WHAT PERSONALLY IDENTIFIABLE INFORMATION OF YOURS IS COLLECTED
    a. Information collection and use
    Sermo is the sole owner of the information collected on this Site. ***We will not sell, share, transfer or rent any personal information to others in ways different from what is disclosed in this statement.*** Sermo collects information from You on the Profile and Registration pages (“Profile pages”) on our Site. ***Sermo reserves the right to collect, disseminate, sell or otherwise disclose non-personal information provided by You.***”

    Sermo is telling the user that they will sell non-personal information (in the industry, personally identifiable information or PII is defined as information that could perceivable be used to identify an individual – such as name, email address, address, social security number, etc., and in some cases user ids). Therefore, names are still sacrosanct.

    The specific lines you cite are related to the personal profile and come from this paragraph:
    “c. Personal Profile
    Once a registered participant, You may provide additional information in Your personal profile describing your credentials, professional experiences, academic background, biography and the like. Your personal profile shall be available for viewing by other registered participants of Sermo and will be considered non-confidential and non-proprietary. Providing additional information in Your personal profile beyond what is required at registration is entirely optional and can be altered or removed by You at any time.”

    Now, perhaps Sermo is pulling a quick one on us with the loophole that “Your personal profile shall be available for viewing by other registered participants of Sermo and will be considered non-confidential and non-proprietary” IF it would be commonly accepted that “other registered participants of Sermo” includes clients. However, if you look at Sermo’s Terms of Service, paragraph 4, we get a better understand of what a registered participant is:

    “4. CONDITIONS OF USE AND TERMS
    To use any Materials on this Site, You must (a) be a currently licensed physician in the US, (b) be a registered participant of Sermo.com, and (c) be a resident in the 50 states of the United States of America, exclusive of its commonwealths, territories and possessions (“United States”).”

    In sum, the general understanding is that profile information is public to registered, physician users on Sermo – not the paying clients and affiliated accessing portals and dashboards via AlphaMD, a separate site that resides at http://www.alphamd.com/

    I apologize for the long post, but I really think this issue deserves attention, because as I think everyone here will agree – regardless of your position – credibility and honesty in disclosure is very important – not just for journalists, but for companies, too.

  • Michael,

    You do seem to believe in the concept that the more you write the same thing over and over the more meaningful and important it’ll become. In reality that’s a sign of madness on your part.
    Personally, I’d like to hear your opinion on what Medgadget’s role should with regards to credibility. Maybe you can touch upon your credibility, and how that relates to you being a troll.

  • Michael

    Bruder –

    Perhaps studying and taking courses in journalism are good places to start if you do not know.

    Using Google as one starting point and going to Harvard’s Kennedy School:

    Kennedy School Conference: Blogging, Journalism and Credibility

    From the article:

    “For both journalists and bloggers, credibility is key,” said Alex Jones, Laurence M. Lombard lecturer in the press and public policy and director of the Joan Shorenstein Center on the Press, Politics and Public Policy

    http://www.ksg.harvard.edu/news/news/2005/blogging_012105.htm

  • Michael

    Quoting Andrew above:

    “credibility and honesty in disclosure is very important – not just for journalists, but for companies, too.”

    Absolutely!!!!!!!

  • Michael

    What Andrew is pointing out is legal jargon and need good legal advice from lawyers experienced in this area, just what that can mean, realizing in the law, there are often different interpretations of words and phrases.

    I am not a lawyer and not claiming to be even remotely qualified to understand legalese or express a legal opinion.

  • Matilda

    Pages you reference are mock ups.

  • Michael,

    Sounds like you’re not qualified in much of anything, and therefore do not contribute to this conversation. I’m not sure how you go about your life having to have everything translated to you by a lawyer, while the fact that your alarm clock is ringing needs verification from a professional journalist to get you out of bed.
    You obviously can’t trust your own eyes to see and your own head to understand.

  • Michael,

    I updated your comment on Medgadget to include my whole quote, not out of context like you decided to do. I hope that helps with the credibility and understanding. You can take a look here: http://www.medgadget.com/archives/2007/09/medgadget_guide_to_hacking_into_social_networks_for_doctors.html

  • Chris

    Michael says,
    “I am not a lawyer and not claiming to be even remotely qualified to understand legalese or express a legal opinion.” [or finish a sentence]

    Reading the above and applying your logic, since you aren’t a doctor, a journalist, or a private investigator either, that pretty much takes you out of every facet of this conversation so far. Maybe now sane discussion can continue.

  • Michael

    Bruder –

    Very interesting what you did. Rather than adding a comment below to clarify the situation or noting on my comment what exactly you added so others would know what I said, the public now does not.

    Rather than repeating it here, I will post my response on that page:

    For the record Bruder of medgadget added to what I said above without any editorial notation of doing that so the reader should realize that medgadget has edited my comments.

    Is there a place on this site where it is stated that medgadget can edit comments – many of the newspapers do state that letters to the editor can be edited so does that apply in these discussion groups. It does say above “Open comments are not moderated, although abusive and vulgar remarks may be deleted. Opinions expressed do not necessarily reflect the views of Medgadget.com. Please consult our disclaimer.” and I do not think I have been abusive or vulgar, but obviously there seems to be moderation

  • Michael

    Chris – My comments and concerns have been about credibility issues in the media. If you are incapable of determining that, then how do you evaluate the myriad of conflicting news sources in the old media and the internet. There are certainly those, not accusing anyone but making a statement, who decide on whether what is written or said agrees or disagrees their views.

    Go back and read what I have said about my concerns about Dr O’s credibility and his responses, and give my your opinion of his credibility.

  • Michael,

    I did not edit your comment. I included my own whole quote which you cut in half. It is my professional journalistic opinion that that was an abusive method on your part to misrepresent what I said.
    You can continue writing whatever opinions you have as before.
    Oh, and again, this discussion is not about Medgadget, but about Sermo. Check out the title of this article. Your comments about credibility interest no one beside yourself.

  • Michael

    Bruder – the way to do that is to let the read know you have changed what they said otherwise how can they know who really said what – comes back to credibility again. You can simply add in CAPs what you have added and note that. The better solution is to add a rebuttal.

    Certainly taking a quote out of context is far less abusive than some of the charges made against me here.

    There are questions about what Sermo says on their web site and what they do, please give me the medgadget web site where it says the medgadget can change what someone writes in without any notation of what exactly was changed and the web site where it says you can edit what is said. All comes back to credibility of can you trust what is written.

  • Michael,

    The heat in Texas must be getting to you. Again, I did not change a word you wrote. You were the ones that changed what I wrote. I thought I’d fix it back to how it was. Or am I missing something?
    You all of a sudden seem to understand the “legalese” found on Medgadget, but the words at Sermo are just too hard for you. You are a hypocrite, pretending to fight some cause only you care about.

  • Michael

    Bruder –

    Hmmm …. changing what someone writes in a web page where comments are welcomed and not letting other readers know what has been changed and why, raises the question of how does anyone know what is said in the other comments is what was said by the responder and not people at medgadget to make medgadget look better – isn’t that an issue of credibility?

    If stories on your web pages are changed, is there a notation or an addendum like would be done in the print media or does the late reader not know it has been changed.

  • Michael,

    You must have skipped that section where I said I did not edit a single word of yours. You were the one that edited me, and frankly, I think that only speaks to your methods and your moral code.
    Anything else to discuss Michael? Shall we do another 100 comments?

  • Michael

    Bruder you said above: “I did not edit your comment. I included my own whole quote which you cut in half. It is my professional journalistic opinion that that was an abusive method on your part to misrepresent what I said.”

    The way that should be done is to add an editorial note to my comment, and perhaps add in CAPs what you added or to cite the whole quote or to make a comment below in rebuttal.

    I do not know if Rebecca will get this far in reading this thread, but would like to know just what is xconomy’s policy regarding what is said in these readers comments and how xconomy and sites respond to misquotes or quotes taken out of context that they feel wrongly misrepresent them ?

    Also, if there is a correction to a story on a web page, how is that handled?

  • Michael

    Bruder –

    Editing seems to me to be changing what is said rather than simply taking something out of context.

    All the same, even in an obvious straight forward story, credibility is still the backbone of journalism so credibility does matter.

    Still without my comments on your website, how is the new reader to know that my comments, misquote and all, were changed by medgadget. Should not the reader know that?

  • Michael,

    You say that “The way that should be done is…” Exactly what are your qualifications to be telling a professional journalist how to edit his publication? What are your qualifications to read and understand our Terms of Use statement? I thought you were after credibility, disclosure, professionalism, and all that? Or do those things again not apply to you?

  • Michael

    Bruder

    Please give me the web site in which your “Terms of Use statement” are and where it says that you can change, with no notification, what a reader writes in the comments section.

    So everyone in the public who is not a “professional journalist” is not qualified to make an opinion about the credibility of a journalist, newspaper, radio/tv station or internet media site.

    Being sarcastic again, “Hi, I am a professional journalist and you can trust me about my credibility” is what is taught to professional journalists.

  • Michael

    This whole issue of credibility could have been avoided if when the first questions about the meaning of being boarded and official name of Dr. O’s second board came up, if Dr, O had immediately looked into and at that time, rather than now much later saying he was not aware of the difference and the name of his second board.

    If Dr O had quickly realized what doctors meant about being boarded and the name of his second board, he could have quickly posted on Sermo, that he misspoke about that, then the discussion might have been more on the message rather than the messenger. He is being portrayed as the victim, but that is of his own doing.

    I am not a political scientist or a professional politician, but it seems in politics politicians get into far more trouble by trying to cover up or dispute things rather than just admitting the error and letting the furor die down and moving on.

    Far be for me to recommend what Dr O should do, but if he now realizes he was mistaken about the issue of boards and sees how what he said could be misinterpreted and posted his correction on his web site (not hidden away on a “back page”) and made a correction on Sermo, that would be a good start – of course as it will be pointed out I have no qualifications my opinion.

  • Michael, the unverified, anonymous troll without any credibility or qualification for anything: since you haven’t proven yourself to be even human, why should anyone have to answer your question?

  • Michael

    Hmmmm ….. Only qualified journalists should even try to express an opinion above journalism and to carry it further, unless qualified about anything, should not express an opinion. I am not talking about rocket science, but about fields such as the media, politics, etc.

    I keep expressing my view and get insulted back and respond and I am the one accused of being a troll.

    Bruder let me save you time responding and perhaps ending this:

    Michael:

    You evidently do not have qualifications about anything and am not even sure if you know your gluteus maximus from your olecranon so just who are you to even be in the same web site with us professionals, no less for us professionals take the time to respond to your unqualified comments. Become a professional and then make comments

  • Funny how you switch sides when the spotlight is on you. You, old chap, were the one demanding credentials from us for reporting a story that doesn’t need those credentials to be true. As you said it, its not rocket science.

    Michael, really, do you any longer know what you want, what issue you’re trying to raise?

  • Michael

    Bruder –

    Dr O was the one by mentioning his credentials as a doctor, not his qualifications as a journalist or his technical/internet/security qualifications, brought up the issue and now those pointing it out are the enemy.

    Bruder –

    General question: can the average, non-professional journalist, citizen have a legitimate opinion about credibility in the media?

  • Michael

    Bruder –

    Saw on your web site you added in brackets the following editorial comment:

    “[nothing was added to Michael’s writing. The quote he attributed to Bruder was inserted how it appeared originally. This was an action to prevent Michael from censoring Bruder]”

    I am not a journalist and trying to learn, so hopefully you can tell me, but just how can a person in the public comments section possible censor someone from the web site. I do not have any control over what is NOT posted on the web site or comments sections?

  • You’ve both raised several thought-provoking issues, and I’m thrilled that you’ve both taken so much of your time to participate in this discussion. Right now, I’m afraid the discussion is no longer moving forward, and I think that the voices of other participants might be drowned out. Any chance you guys could agree to disagree at this point?

  • Thank you Rebecca,

    I’m done.

    Cheers.

  • Michael

    Good point Rebecca and sorry for my part in drowning others out. I am guilty as these do tend to get going and feed off each other almost by reflex, so I agree to disagree.

  • I just wanted to thank whoever is Edward, Andrew, and Judy for your commentary. We coagulated and presented a lot of your findings here:
    http://www.medgadget.com/archives/2007/10/sermo_confidential.html

    If you’d like to be less anonymous, we’ll give full credit for the work.

  • Michael

    Bruder – I guess you were not really done.

    I would have thought as a journalist, you would have wanted to present a “fair and balanced” report on your web site and present some of the postings of those who disagreed with you. I guess your site (which you view as part of the media) is one of advocacy rather than reporting. That is fine, just as long as the readers know that.

    I do not know if you need it, but you have permission to quote me providing you do not edit what I say as you did on your web site. You can add rebuttals, but do not change my words.

  • Jason

    I am a physician and a member of Sermo and have been following this discussion on Sermo and medgadget.com and through a link on Sermo, this site.

    There seems to be a consensus on Sermo that Sermo is like a doctor’s lounge where doctors meet and talk about cases in their field, listen and ask questions and learn about other fields, discuss common non-medical practiced related topics and family and personal things. Doctors were aware of who might be listening in. Doctors know who is who and can evaluate what other doctors say about medicine, their CV and medically related things. This is probably the same as any group of similar professionals, such as journalists, would do. I do not know if, as Dr O said, his press pass and listing on Google puts him in the same class of journalism as the NY Times, Wall Street Journal, Washington Post or CNET.com, HuffingtonPost.com etc or not, but doctors can evaluate other doctors as I am sure journalists can evaluate his journalism.

    Dr O has a problem with Dr. P and Sermo (Dr P is like the doctor-administrator of Sermo) and when Dr O did not get satisfaction, he went public rather than going to the other doctors in the lounge first to tell them of the problem. Add to this that he used his own web site (just as Sermo is a web site), which he wants to grow for his financial gain and that which raises questions coupled with the his medical (not journalism or Internet security) CV which the average doctor saw right through, and so it should not be a surprise that he was not welcomed as the savior but with some skepticism.

    So just who should a doctor on Sermo believe. Dr P or Dr O. Taking into consideration the above, maybe Dr P has no pluses, but Dr O had negatives so it seems Dr P is ahead in credibility at this time

    It seems to me that Dr O and medgadget.com have become part of the story and therefore may not be the best source for the rest of the story. Certainly worth reading what is said on medgadget.com , but I believe there is enough to raise questions of impartiality to justify looking to other sources for the continuing story.

  • Hi all,

    Just wanted to let you know that Sermo CEO Daniel Palestrant has answered many of the questions you folks raised about Sermo’s privacy policies here:

    http://www.xconomy.com/2007/10/02/sermo-ceo-offers-answers-to-xconomy-readers-questions-about-privacy/

  • Please e-mail sermo’s address so I can send them some articles I have written.
    Office address:
    20 Hospital Dr. Suite #10
    Toms River, NJ 08755

  • B

    Sermo is a biased community!! You get kicked out for expressing your opinion!! I hope they rot in hell!!!