Red Maxwell is father of 15-year-old Cassie, diagnosed with type 1 diabetes as a toddler. He serves as National Chair of Online Communications for JDRF and spearheads their Juvenation social network. Despite being new on my radar, he's also been blogging about diabetes since 2004, at his own site called Daddybetes.
On top of being a supercharged D-parent, Red happens to know a thing or two about collaboration. With over 20 years of design and branding experience, Red currently runs his own branding and interactive marketing agency in North Carolina. He's the co-author, along with Seth Godin, Malcolm Gladwell, Guy Kawasaki and Mark Cuban, of the Amazon and Wall Street Journal bestseller "The Big Moo." He's also a three-time winner of the London International Advertising Awards, and has developed major brand introductions for LEE Jeans, Danone Foods, Foster's Brewing Company and Planters LifeSavers. Now he's channeling his communication skills into diabetes. Today, Red shares a little about why he got started and how you can help make a difference:
A Guest Post by Red Maxwell
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Have you ever run into a geeky guy who could argue the finer points of HTML5's advantages over FLASH? That's me. But unlike the other nerds who fit that mold, I'm also a dad whose daughter was diagnosed with type 1 diabetes when she was an 18-month-old baby. Since that fateful day, I've tried to channel my penchant for technology towards battling this disease.
In 2004, I started the Daddybetes blog to share helpful nuggets of advice to other parents with children who have diabetes. For over a decade, I've volunteered with JDRF to help take advantage of internet technology to meet their mission. I serve as JDRF's National Chair for Online Communications and am the volunteer founder of Juvenation, the leading type 1 social network on the planet. Combined with 14 years of helping to manage my daughter Cassie's diabetes, you'd probably expect me to be pretty smart on the subject. But there's someone smarter than me, and that's all of you. Together you've shown me that the wisdom of the diabetes online community outweighs that of any individual.
All of us are smarter than any one of us. Think about that for a second.
If you took 50 moms who take care of children with diabetes, and 50 people who live with diabetes, their combined knowledge would be greater than the smartest endocrinologist in the world.
After running Juvenation for almost two years, I've seen evidence of this firsthand. Juvenation is an online diabetes community made of incredibly wise and experienced "normal people" (not experts) who generously share their stories and advice to each other. We've gotten stories of PWDs whose A1Cs have dropped to healthy levels after joining the site and getting continued support from their peers. We've gotten great insight from folks who own diabetes sniffing dogs, switched to a particular insulin regimen, or have found the perfect hiding spot to tuck away a pump in an evening gown. The membership has even averted three (3 !) separate suicide attempts by members who were in the throes of diabetes depression.
Even though I started this site, I can't take a bow for any of these amazing feats. The credit and kudos belong to the community that make up Juvenation. Moreover, there's an underlying dynamic behind these results — an emerging internet phenomena called crowdsourcing.
Crowdsourcing is the act of contracting out problems to large groups rather than tapping individual experts. But can the wisdom of crowds help cure diabetes?
If we look to find a cure for diabetes, we can't expect the doctors and scientists to do all the heavy lifting. It's going to take ALL of us, the PWDs, to get involved and help in some way. Finding a cure will require crowdsourcing.
Crowdsourcing is the wave of the future and it's already happening now. Here's a case in point:
The Encyclopedia Brittanica has been effectively run out of business. This wasn't achieved by a competing encyclopedia company. Wikipedia, one of the internet's most popular websites, struck the Encyclopedia Brittanica its death blow. Wikipedia didn't do it with a paid army of professional editors and writers. Instead, Wikipedia is crowdsourced. It is collaboratively written by mostly anonymous internet volunteers. The funny thing is, many Wikipedia articles have been found to be more accurate than encyclopedia articles written by the experts.
I think crowdsourcing can help us move the needle towards better diabetes care and curative therapeutics. I'm not the only one in this camp. The Leona M. and Harry B. Helmsley Charitable Trust recently sponsored a crowdsourcing experiment at Harvard called the Challenge, where winners of the competition would receive a $2,500 prize. They asked all members of the Harvard community, as well as members of the general public to answer one question: "What do we not know to cure Type 1 Diabetes?" The Challenge resulted in 12 revolutionary concepts that came from a patient, an undergraduate student, an MD/PhD student, a human resources representative, and researchers who are not experts in the field. All of us are smarter than any one of us.
So here's my challenge to anyone reading Amy's hugely popular blog: What are YOU doing to be part of the crowdsourced solution? Are you helping take part in online discussions? Are you enrolling in clinical trials or research projects? Are you sharing your unique talents to get us closer to a cure?
Fixing this disease can't be a spectator sport. If you're currently on the sidelines, how fast can you get in the game?
Thanks, Red! We're certainly no strangers to crowdsourcing at the 'Mine, with the DiabetesMine Design Challenge competition having recently been featured in the Chicago Tribune. Stay tuned for more details about the 4th annual Challenge — coming Spring 2011!