Mean what you say, say what you mean

February 29, 2008

The Google Health Announcement has a few yellow (just before red) flags for me. is using language that sounds open, but it isn’t. This is the most recent example of this sort of language manipulation and it needs to be clarified.

From the announcement about Google Health:

Under a heading named ‘Portability’,

“Our Internet presence ultimately means that through Google Health, you will be able to have access and control over your health data from anywhere. Through the Cleveland Clinic pilot, we have already found great use-cases in which, for example, people spend 6 months of the year in Ohio, and 6 months of the year in Florida or Arizona, and will now be able to move their health data between their various health providers seamlessly and with total control. Previously, this would have required carrying paper records back and forth.”

It seems to me that Marissa is using the word ‘Portability’ to invoke the concept of Data Portability.

Data Portability is not about access to your data from any Internet connected device. Rather, Data Portability is about using established best practices so that users can bring their data with them and, more importantly, share or export that data back out.

Her post does not explicitly deal with the question of best-practice data interchange between various health record systems – only that their platform strategy will allow you to connect to (some?) services and tools. Will these connections be proprietary and lock us into a Google Health enabled record keeping system? Or will they be based on common Data Portability best practices?

15 Responses to “Mean what you say, say what you mean”


  1. Hi Chris,

    Good points all. One more question that remains – when I decide to take my records off Google Health will they retain a copy of my data for ever a sthey do with GMail etc.

  2. Grendel Says:

    Uhh… You might need to actually have a standard and have some implementations before you assume people are trying to cash in on your cachet. It sounds like they actually have something that works already, so…

    But, by all means, spend your time on tilting at windmills.

  3. chrissaad Says:

    @Grendel it’s clear that ‘Portability’ is not about being able to access a website from any Internet connected device.

    So my point is don’t invoke the brand unless you are truly talking about the brand philosophy.

  4. Grendel Says:

    @Chris: You know that the word “Portability” had a meaning before you started your ill-fated standards expedition, right? You really can’t trademark words out of the dictionary.

  5. Aaron Says:

    I don’t think portability will be an issue. The data will follow the HL7 spec – it has to in order to interface with standard EMR apps.

    The issue is whether or not Google could properly silo off this data from its advertising interests. I don’t see how that’s possible and fully expect the government and / or the large hospital systems to squash this effort before it gains any momentum.

  6. chrissaad Says:

    @Aaron, thats the problem with having the mission to organize the worlds data *and* using that data directly to target advertising and monetize users. It’s a slight conflict of interest.

    That being said, though, I, for one, would prefer better targeted ads. So if Google gave me an opt in, I would gladly do so without concern.

    The key, though, is to give the user the explicit choice.

  7. Aaron Says:

    I don’t think explicit choice is enough when it comes to medical conditions. There’s an additional level of responsibility involved.

    Can you imagine your hospital forms having a checkbox allowing advertisers to contact you?

    Oh, and then there’s HIPAA.

  8. chrissaad Says:

    @Aaron well that’s permission marketing though – but I am talking more about the Google style of advertising where the ad is on the page, you can choose to ignore it, but if you do take a glance, at least the information is relevant based on your data.

    The data isn’t shared with the advertiser, it is just used in a blind algorithmic process to better refine the message/ad selection.

    Maybe medical data is too sensitive, but ultimately if I have a serious medical condition, and someone has the cure, I’d want to know about it. If they pay to reach me, then so much the better.

    But obviously I don’t want them sending me mail🙂


  9. Greetings Chris. I agree that health records are separate from DataPortability. To be clear, this is very private data and does not fall in the realm of DataPortability.org.

    It is nice that people are working on health care issues. But this is not the sort of thing you’d want to pull in and display on a Facebook page.🙂

    I agree with your points, thanks for the clarification.

    Cheers,
    Mike

  10. Charlie Says:

    While she is likely to have heard of dataportability.org at some point, I seriously doubt that Marissa Mayer had that on her mind when making those comments. I don’t know enough about how Google Health works to know whether it was a good use of the word or not, but I would guess it has to do with granting a new provider access by logging into a web page and clicking a few buttons.

  11. Derrick Kwa Says:

    I’ve got to agree with Charlie and Gendel and the rest. I don’t think she was thinking about Data Portability when she said that. I would expect that she meant “portability” in the sense of “portable apps”, etc, with reference to the ability to use it anywhere.

    Of course, none of us are mindreaders, so all this is pure speculation, I guess.

  12. Leslie Says:

    I agree with the others that “portability”, the existing word and concept, existed long before the company you are currently in process of branding, DataPortability.org. Much like Apple and its losing battle to copyright the existing word “pod”, you can’t really get upset at people for having a good vocabulary.

    Also, while I appreciate your love of your DataPortability project and look forward to it being completed in future, may I ask what has happened to Particls? Tweets from you have been full of radio silence on your existing application that was was seeing some success, and filled with DataPortability lately.

  13. Chris Saad Says:

    @Leslie and others – I am not claiming that DP owns the word Portability (of course) I am saying that some words come to mean something specific in given contexts.

    For example, Syndication meant a lot of things, however in the context of web content it came to mean something specific.

    In regards to Particls, we are working on version 2 and we will be releasing it slowly to users over time. It is coming, I promise🙂

  14. Christopher Says:

    Revelance is everything in ads.


  15. My friend on Orkut shared this link and I’m not dissapointed that I came to your blog.


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