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The Seed

One morning on a bike commute, I noticed my daughter's school playground lacked shade.  This clearly needed correcting.  But  . . .  then things became complicated.  Children should be warned about UV danger.  Next would be partnering with the school to educate children about sunscreen, we'd need to build shade structures, and plant trees.  This might be an unwieldy effort to convince the school they needed shade, start an education campaign, find funding, recruit shade structure architects, a construction firm, a landscape company, buy trees and materials, and recruit volunteers to make it happen.  What if someone were hurt during construction; did I need a lawyer?  It seemed formidable ... where to begin?  Would I spend time and effort only to fail?

That afternoon, sitting in my office, I wrote a letter stating that dermatologists should be 'advocates for skin.'  I thought of the term 'skin advocate,' and purchased the domain name (later, dermAdvocate followed).  Instead of spinning wheels on a single project, I hoped to construct a manageable, web-based application.  Advocacy might then be liberated.


          began a manic 3 weeks.  In bed at 2 am some nights, up at 5 am some mornings.  All of the major ideas of the site took shape. 

I thought of the Internet's role as disseminator of information and builder of community. 

Early on, it had a frontier feeling.  There was little e-commerce: communication and information ruled.  The web was liberating, egalitarian and free. 

Some sites have continued the tradition.  However, much of that experience was lost with the rise of .com, e-commerce, and web 2.0.  It became about commercialism, and later about 'me'.  What happened to education and collaboration, ethics and charity, and giving back to the world community?  What about the ability of the Internet to engage persons with differing viewpoints?

I flew to Seattle to meet a college friend.  Tom has been involved in marketing and the Internet for 15 years.  He thought the idea had merit and added initial thoughts.  Then, I had the fortune to mention it to a friend and neighbor, Kevin.  He knew that open-source tools, particularly Plone, would be the way to go.  We went to Boulder to meet with Ray and Paul of Kaivo Software, and an initial discussion of dermAdvocate.  Later, John, Bill, and Mark of Kaivo contributed the project.  To my amazement, nearly every time I mentioned an idea, they were able to put it on the site.


        sites on the Internet disseminate information.  Some recruit volunteers.  There are community sites.  But information not put to a purpose is 'knowledge for knowledge's sake.'  Purposes are lost without information to drive them forward (or back them up).  Individuals are hard-pressed to make differences alone.

dermAdvocate is about all three; information, purpose, and community.  Here, the ultimate goal is advocacy

The library section is the information source to empower members.  The advocacy section is to make a difference.  The community section facilitates collaboration.  The profile section gives members a chance to track activities and contributions, and give themselves a pat on the back.  (So, there is some 'me' here...)


         lies the ideal of the Intenet.  Of course, things go full circle.  Commerce is here to stay, and me/my/I isn't going away.  But the Internet has unlimited potential to do good by educating and empowering the world . . . giving each surfer the opportunity to ride a more perfect wave. 

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