Social Networking Over Disease

"Social networking" is one of the Web 2.0 buzzwords that's very much in the air now (not to mention in my in-box). Lots of Web startups claim to do it, around all sorts of themes (Youth! School! Relationships!) but the question always comes down to this: Will the people come? Can you foster a community? And once you have the community, how do you tap it, leverage it? An interesting twist on the theme that does, in fact, seem to be taking is called PatientsLikeMe, a website for people with ALS (Lou Gehrig's Disease), Parkinson's, and MS. The website lets members chart their disease progress, note treatments, and most significantly track their data and progress against other Patients with some neat analytics. And of course you can chat and exchange advice with other patients. It makes a lot of sense. These are scary, degenerative diseases, and people often feel isolated and alone. Forging a community around them offers support. What's more, it offers information - the social network is also acting like a data network, aggregating information into ever-more useful amounts. As the tagline says, they're "harnessing collective knowledge to improve medicine." Other diseases seem to be on the way.