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99nicu – a Forum with a Future

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Stefan Johansson

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Since the October issue of Neonatology Today, I and @Francesco Cardona will alternate in writing a column where we will share bits and pieces from the 99nicu community, mixed with more general reflections. This column is the start of a extended partnership between 99nicu and Neonatology Today. 

In case you don't know, Neonatology Today is a peer-reviewed monthly newsletter that is available free of charge, and has a mission to provide timely news and information the care of newborns and the diagnosis and treatment of premature and/or sick infants. Subscribe here!

Maybe you have already read my first column in (here on page 46-47), but I also want to share my text here, on why 99nicu has a great future despite that there is "an app for everything" :) 

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"As a starting point, I would like to share some background for those who are not familiar with 99nicu. The online community 99nicu.org started off with a few colleagues in my kitchen in late 2005. This was a time before the social web was on everyone’s fingertip. Instead, Internet-savvy people gathered on so-called Bulletin Boards or Discussion Forums, often niched to specific topics or interests and managed by enthusiasts. Being an active member of a computer forum, I got the idea to bring neonatal staff together online. After plenty of hours, fiddling with software and web stuff, we opened the 99nicu web site on May 11, 2006. But what did the “99” stand for? That people would gather to discuss 99% of neonatology, and 1% of everything else :)

Since the launch in 2006, I think we have reached the main purpose: to create an international neonatal community for sharing experience and expertise, not restricted by geographical boundaries. We now count more than 7.000 registered members. Although the majority are doctors, members represent all neonatal staff categories. Moreover, our server gets a lot of traffic! During the latest 3-month period, there were 42.000 pageviews, from all over the world (Fig 1.)

What’s the future of online forums, when there’s an app for everything? Will 99nicu be out-competed by the big players of the social web? Services like WhatsApp and Twitter do offer great tools for discussions in closed and open groups. But still, I believe that niched forums will outlive social media platforms when it comes to professional content. For two principal reasons. First, I assume that professionals will want to keep out of the business model of the social media companies, where free-of-charge turns users into data-for-sale (“if it is free online, you are the product”). Second, social media companies, despite smart algorithms, will not bring enough focus to your feeds. If you are primarily interested in neonatal medicine, your content will still be diluted with images of pets and food plates. On the contrary, “old-school” communities are comprehensible and focused. You know why you are there, you know why other people are there, and you know what content to expect.

While 99nicu gravitates around the website, we have also realized the potential in meeting up IRL. Getting to know each other online is fantastic, but personal meetings will always be very powerful for networking and sharing. That is why we are now preparing our third conference “Future of Neonatal Care.” At our previous conference in Vienna, we had 150 delegates from 33 countries. When we meet up in Copenhagen, 7-10 April 2019, we hope to bring more than 250 people together, from an even larger number of countries.

Interested in joining us in Copenhagen? Keep updated on 99nicu.org!

SJ_2018-10-02Geo.png

Figure 1 The geographical distribution of 42.000 pageviews on 99nicu.org during 1 July – 30 Sept 2018. The color coding represent the number of pageviews.

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