I realize I’ve already spent lots of blogtime talking up social bookmarking, but I just could not pass this up!  I hope you’ve all become familiar with del.icio.us and the great stuff it can do, but for any of you who are still scratching your head as to what the fuss is all about, take a look at this amazing video from Common Craft that explains in about 3 minutes what it took me two whole blog posts to get across!

Social Bookmarking in Plain English (just click the image to start the video) is definitely a fun trip!  These guys have hit the nail on the head with this and all their other videos – they’re quick, informative and fun to watch.  To me, that meets pretty much all the requirements for learning – enjoy!

 If you’re looking for a health-related resource that seems to “have it all”, the Canadian Health Network is definitely worth your time!  Brought to you by the Public Health Agency of Canada, and available in both English and French, the CHN is a truly comprehensive website covering all areas of health information, providing links to resources, offering tips on healthy eating and disease prevention, highlighting articles on current health topics and…well, how about a guided tour?

From the main page you can select what interests you.  The heading “Groups” allows you to choose from the sub-groups of Children, Youth, Seniors, Aboriginal Peoples, Women or Men.  Selecting one of the CHN’s groups will take you to detailed health information specific to that group.  “Topics” lists a variety of health topics from Active Living, Health Promotion, Mental Health, and Workplace Health, to disease prevention topics such as Diabetes, AIDS/HIV and more.  If it sounds like a lot of information, it really is!  Fortunately, the site is well-organized and finding information isn’t difficult once you give it a try.

For starters, let’s begin with “Groups”.  When you choose a link – let’s use “Seniors” – topics like preventing falls, dealing with loneliness, and active living are presented.  There are also current articles, statistics on Canada’s seniors and a FAQ (frequently asked question) section.  You can also perform a Guided Search, which will lead you to even more articles and information; these can be organized alphabetically, by date (for the most current info) or by organization (Alzheimer Society of Canada, for example).  At this point you can even narrow down your search to one of the topics listed on the right side, including limiting to organizations and information specific to your province – handy!  As well, the “Quick Search” option leads to right to specific current and relevant topics like “Seniors and Exercise” or “Caregiving & Seniors”.  The CHN definitely gives you lots of ways to search for and find the information you need!

Selecting a “Topic” from the main page pulls up similar kinds of resources and information.  Let’s try “Environment and Health” this time.  The “Guided Search” option is still there, and pulls up the same list of “Topics” as we saw for the “Seniors” page, leading you to more relevant subject areas.  The “Quick Search” also gives you a list of “hot” topics such as “Enjoy the sun in safety”, and “Cancer and the environment”.  How great to have news articles, support groups and services and results of studies accessible from one web page – it’s a wealth of information right at your fingertips!

It’s also worth signing up for Healthlink, the CHN’s monthly e-newsletter.  All you need is an email address to stay up-to-date with current health news, and be sure to keep an eye on the site over the next few weeks.  Fun additions such as podcasts, games and videos are coming – what could be better?

Now, having raved about the CHN for most of this post, I do have one little complaint – the site is jampacked with information and graphics, and as a result can be extremely slow to load.  Slowness aside, it’s a excellent resource, and one you know you can trust.  So, as I said at the start, the Canadian Health Network is well worth your time – take the time to get to know and use it!

Tag – you’re it!

As promised, I’m going to talk about tags and tagging in this post.  We’re nothing here if not reliable!  For those of you who may have gone out and got acquainted with del.icio.us, you’ll probably already know about tags, as it’s a fairly easy concept to grasp when you’re working with it.  For everyone else, read on, and tagging will become clear!

 I talked about bookmarks in the last post, and the frustration of not having them available when you need them, and how social bookmarking basically eliminates this problem.  Going back to chatting about bookmarks then, how are yours organized?  Do you have a big looooong list of sites?  Or do you organize them so you can find them more efficiently?  I used the examples of “Travel”, “Cooking” and “Sports” and hopefully that gave you the  picture about the organization of websites into folders.  Keeping like sites together; makes sense, right?  Well, tagging is quite similar.  With tagging though, instead of clicking and adding a link to a particular folder, you give it a “tag” or description. 

 Have a look at the Patient & Family Resource Centre’s del.icio.us page.  Check out the grey box on the right hand side – the blue words are all the tags I’ve given to the different sites I’ve added.  They’re mostly cancer-related, as you would expect, and the great thing is that they’re hyperlinks, so clicking on the tag “Teenagers&Cancer” from the page will take you to all the sites that I’ve added that I’ve given that tag.  You’ll see that the tag you’ve chosen now appears in red on the right side, and sites that are tagged “Teenagers&Cancer” show up in the main area of the screen.  Now all you need to do is click a link title and the page will open – too easy!

Some sites may have more than one tag.  For example, I use the tags “Radiation” and “Cancer – drugs & treatments”, so for a site like “RT Answers – Answers to Your Radiation Therapy Questions“, it makes sense to tag it with both of those. 

Your tags may not be nearly as structured, but it’s still a good idea to think ahead when you’re tagging, to how you might look for something down the road.  There’s really no right or wrong way to tag, it’s all very personal.  But if you’re part of a group or team that is planning to use a social bookmarking site to stay in touch, share research, etc. you might want to agree on some tags to start with,  just so everyone is on the same page – metaphorically speaking, of course!

To take tagging a step further, you can even add notes to each site.  This allows the reader to scan through the list of links and determine which ones they want to visit, based on the description you’ve given.  I’d like to get to that eventually on our del.icio.us site, but with over 200 links already there, it could take me awhile! 

So there you have it!  Social bookmarking and tagging made easy – I hope!  Be sure to check our site often at: http://del.icio.us/jccpfrc when you’re looking for information on a specific topic, as we’re always adding to our lists of links!  Also, if you have a site you’d like to recommend, please get in touch with us at jccpfrcentre@hrcc.on.ca.  Social bookmarking is only social if others get involved, so always feel free to let us know what sites you like, what’s working for you or what’s on your mind!

Whew, well the past few months have just whizzed past here at the Patient & Family Resource Centre and suddenly it’s summer!  We’ve been busy working on a wide variety of projects, including creating our very own website – big news indeed!  So watch this space for information about that…coming very soon!

In the meantime, one of the topics that comes up frequently here is the subject of bookmarks, our favourite websites.  We’ve all got them, and I admit freely that I am a bookmark addict, with well over 200 sites added as favourites on my computer, so it’s a little hard to keep up!  If I like a site and figure I’ll probably use it again, or will recommend it to someone else, I’ll bookmark it.  I’m even getting pretty good at organizing these bookmarks into folders – keeping websites on the same subject together for easier and more efficient access.  But sometimes that isn’t good enough. 

I’m sure most of you reading this blog have bookmarked your favourites, and many of you probably have folders as well, where you keep all your most-used travel sites, cooking sites, medical sites or sports sites together.  Does that sound familiar?

Now, think about your computer at work.  Probably not the same sorts of bookmarks at all.  Here you most likely have work-related stuff (although I suppose you might have some recreational bookmarks and shhh I won’t tell!)  But for the most part, I’m sure you’ve got a collection of links that will help with your job – associations you belong to, other organizations you do business with, news links to keep current in your area of expertise, etc. 

Now I’m sure this has happened to you as many times as it’s happened to us here at the Patient & Family Resource Centre…you’re at home and need a link, and sure enough you KNOW you have it bookmarked…but it’s at work.  Or vice versa.  Frustrating, no?  But it doesn’t have to be that way!

 Enter the world of social bookmarking! 

With social bookmarking tools you can access your bookmarks from any computer, anywhere!  And as if that isn’t cool enough, you can also give your page to anyone and then they are able to access your bookmarks too, so there’s no more emailing links to people, trying to give loooooong URLs out over the phone – it’s just all right there on your page!  Not only that, you can see what other people have bookmarked and get ideas from them – that’s the social part of this whole endeavour, and it’s really useful for students, research groups, teams, etc. – anyone who might need to share information.

My favourite social bookmarking tool is del.icio.us – and not just because of it’s cool name!  It has a lot of great features, but it’s relatively easy to use, and if you’re interested in getting started, keep reading…

Navigate to del.icio.us and sign up as a user – it’s free to register, and all you need is an email address.  Once you’re signed up you can start adding links!  And just like in your Favourites, you can organize your links with “tags”.  Don’t worry too much about tags just yet, I’ll be featuring tagging in my next post.  For now, browse around and see what’s out there.  Check out what other people are bookmarking, and see who has the same bookmarks as you!

Once you get started social bookmarking, you’ll be hooked.  The convenience of having all your links at any time wherever you are is fantastic.   It’s also great to be able to share your favourites with your colleagues, friends or anyone else who has the same sorts of interests.  Very, very social!

Too get you started, have a look at our page:  http://del.icio.us/jccpfrc  The main page might look a bit random, but browse through the tag cloud (the keywords on the right-hand side) and see if there are any that interest you.  See what I mean about having access to all your links on one page, accessible from anywhere? 

There are even some specialty social bookmarking sites that let you save .pdfs, articles from journals and many more.  I’ll try to cover those another time…once you’re all really, really advanced with del.icio.us!

Next topic:  tagging – what it is, why it’s important, how it can change your life!  Okay, maybe not that last one, but you’ll want to tune in anyway!

MedlinePlus, that wonderful resource from the National Library of Medicine in the US, has just launched some great new features on its Health Topics pages!  So what’s new?  Lots!

From the site:

The Health Topic pages now feature images, summaries, synonyms, a new category labeled “Start here”, and a redesigned table of contents.  These additions, informed by customer feedback and extensive usability testing, enhance the user experience on the MedlinePlus Health Topic pages.


  • High quality medical illustrations and photographs featured on every page.


  • Just enough information to get you started on your topic!
  • Written just for MedinePlus, these overviews will introduce you to our topics in easy to understand language. The information comes from the National Institutes of Health, Centers for Disease Control and Prevention and other federal government sources.
  • Links in the summary guide you to related topics. Maybe you were really looking for allergy, not asthma.
  • Summaries are in the public domain, so you can reproduce them if you like.
  • All 740 English topics will have a summary soon – and Spanish too!


  • Your doctor said you have “pruritus” but all you know is you itch.  We’ve added synonyms to our topics, so you’ll see both the medical name and commonly used words.

Start Here

  • MedlinePlus pages are full of information – sometimes too full!  If you aren’t sure where to begin your research, we suggest the links under “Start Here”.  These should help first time visitors to our page!

Table of Contents

  • See everything we cover at-a-glance and use these links to quickly get right to the information you were looking for!

This is fantastic stuff.  They’ve really gone and made a great site even greater!  If you’re not already familiar with MedlinePlus, I highly recommend you check it out next time you’re looking for health-related information.  Everything is easy to read and understand – it’s all written for consumers, so you’re not going to get too much “medical-speak”.  It’s easy to find your way around and there are lots of interactive tutorials, slideshows, health news, and much more.  Browse around for the answers to your questions, and always feel free to let me know what you think!

In my last post I talked about the merits of keeping a journal, and how writing can be freeing – and even therapeutic – especially during times of stress or illness.  In this post I’d like to take the idea of writing one step further into the electronic world, or blogosphere, as it’s often known.  “Now just hang on!”, you might be saying.  “You just convinced me to start a diary and now you want me to publish it?  On the web?  For everyone to see it?”  Okay, point taken.  If you’re new to the journaling/writing game, it may have been a big enough step to buy yourself a notebook and write a few lines a day.  Perhaps making the jump to weblog (or blog) creation is a bit steep.  But for those of you who are eager to branch out, do keep reading, because the world of electronic publishing is exciting!  It’s social and powerful, and…well, let’s start from the beginning, shall we?

Blogging has been around for a few years now.  Blogs (short for weblogs) are basically online journals that are regularly updated, and they can be about absolutely anything.  Sometimes they’re the author’s thoughts and feelings, rants and raves; other times they’re academic in scope, with several people contributing research findings, articles and more.  Companies often have blogs that allow customers to see recent news and information about products or services.  Truly, the possibilities for blogs are limitless.  One of the great things about blogging is that it’s about as easy as using a word processing software, and you don’t have to fuss with hosting a website yourself.  There are several free blogging tools out there such as WordPress (the fabulous tool I use for this blog), Blogger, TypePad, LiveJournal and probably a host of others that I just don’t know about yet!  Basically you register with a username and password and you’re set.  That’s about all there is to it…really!  Now, you can go on and get creative by adding photos, links and videos and by customizing your blog with avatars and loads of other cool toys.  This stuff takes a bit more savvy, but you can learn as you go.  It’s the words that matter most, and if you’ve got something to get off your chest, a blog can be really helpful.

It’s good to know that blogging is considered to be a social networking kind of thing.  That is, people can browse around on the web and may just happen to stumble across your blog.  They can read your posts and your profile, and can even make comments.  If you’re uncomfortable about complete strangers reading your thoughts, you can choose to keep your blog private, just giving out the address to friends, family, or others you trust and want to keep in the loop.

 Another strategy is to use a special type of blogging software that by default keeps your information private and secure.  These types of sites are becoming more and more popular, and cater to a specific audience.  Sites like CaringBridge and Care Pages allow you to create a web page and journal that they will host for you at no cost, and the contents are never searchable, everything is protected for the safety and privacy of their users.  If you choose to use CaringBridge, you will set up your site with a unique web address that you can then give out to people you want to stay in touch with during your treatment.  The benefit of a site such as CaringBridge is that it allows relatives, friends, co-workers, etc. to keep up to date with your situation without you having to make dozens of calls or send dozens of emails every few days.  You can publish updates and they can leave comments offering support and encouragement, which everyone can use, right? 

Care Pages operates in pretty much the same way – you create and update your personal website with it’s unique address, and users must log in to be able to view it.  Care Pages also offers features such as online support communities called “emotional resource centers”, relevant articles, tips for caregivers, a newsletter and more.  It’s easy to get started and Care Pages is dedicated to providing a safe place for you to communicate with friends and family or others who may be sharing similar experiences.

From blogs and online journals to social networks and personal web pages, the internet can be a powerful means of communication.  Stay in touch, let others know how you’re doing, post some photos of your family, ask for – or give – support, rant, vent and laugh.  If you’re interested in starting a blog or a personal web page, enjoy!  I can tell you from experience it’s that first post that is the toughest – after that, things become much easier.  And when you surround yourself with the people that matter to you, you’ll be amazed how great it feels to be able to let them in on how things are in your world. 

If you have questions, or need more information, please feel free to contact me via the comments section or at jccpfrcentre@hrcc.on.ca.  Thanks for reading!

There’s a lot to be said for journaling your experiences.  Most of us have kept a diary or journal at one point in our lives, and few can argue with the feeling of satisfaction that comes with being able to express thoughts freely with pen and paper.  Sometimes the words can flow on to the page with amazing speed and clarity, like they have a desperate need to be said.  At other times, the process is slower and more thoughtful; you may have to think harder about what you want to say, go over it in your mind a bit before committing it to the page.  It just depends – on your mood, your energy level, your need at the time.  Every day is different, and every diarist different as well. 

If you’ve ever thought about journaling your experiences and documenting your cancer journey but weren’t sure how to begin, there are some great resources to help you get started.  The Patient & Family Resource Centre has a fantastic book called Writing Your Way Through Cancer, by Chia Martin (call number 5.1.1).  The author, who was diagnosed with colon cancer in 1998, shares her experiences and provides encouragement and guidance to the reader through her words.  There is a great deal of information within her pages, and she offers suggestions and starting points all intended to get your creative juices flowing!

Another tactic that can often help you on your path to writing can be to read the journals of others who have experienced something similar.  Two other books in the Patient & Family Resource Centre’s collection are the published journals and writings of cancer patients.  These books don’t offer instruction in how to get started in journal writing, but sometimes just reading another’s thoughts can be extremely motivating.  Both Spiritual Warrior, by Dan Blasutti (call number 5.1.20) and How Could I Not Be Among You? by Ted Rosenthal (call number 5.3.1) are moving accounts, through words, poetry and photographs, of the authors’ experiences living with cancer, handling treatment, fostering relationships and so much more. 

These are, of course, just a few examples of the many resources out there to help jumpstart the writing process.  Some of you may already be journaling away, and congratulations!  We’d love to hear how you got started and where you found your inspiration!  We’re always adding to our collection, so if you have book or other resource recommendations, please feel free to pass them along via the comments section of this website.

I hope this has sparked your interest, and encouraged to you tell your unique story.  Best of luck…and happy writing!


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