With so many new social networks cropping up seemingly every week, it takes a bit of ingenuity to come up with something unique. The latest to join the club of online diabetes support networks is Phrendo, an invitation-only online social network from the folks at the diabetic athletes' organization Insulindependence.  Launched in March 2009, Phrendo's charter is to pull together all sorts of people with diabetes who like to work out hard — many of whom are already members of various diabetic athlete groups around the country — and give them a shared platform and meeting place online.

Phrendo users can create profiles, host events and swap health management strategies.  They're also invited to join one of four online "clubs" within the community, with mega-clever names: "Glucomotive" for runners, "Testing Limits" for climbers and hikers, "Triabetes" for triathletes, and "A1Sea" for divers, swimmers and other aquatic-loving folks.

I bumped into President and Founder of Insulindependence Peter Nerothin, who's also a PWD, at this summer's CWD Conference. From a recent chat with him, here's a behind-the-scenes look at what's up with Phrendo:

DM) With so many diabetes community sites out there already, why was Phrendo created?

PN) Phrendo is an online training network for athletes with diabetes. It was created so that disparate diabetes groups and organizations could collaborate, without forfeiting any of their community cultures. It was intentionally not branded "Insulindependence." This way specific interest groups could host their own subnetworks, while cross-pollinating other organizations who are also doing great things in the diabetes space.

Currently Phrendo is a resource for anyone interested in learning more about managing their diabetes through exercise and recreation. Developers are working to integrate diabetes and other bio devices (i.e. heart rate monitors) to make communication easier and more effective.

What are some of the unique features of Phrendo?

The defining features are:

* Exclusivity to people with diabetes

* Structure that allows users to easily find others who share their locality and life interests

Otherwise — at this point in time — Phrendo offers a basic social networking user interface: profiles, messaging, instant messaging, chat, photo uploads and sharing, groups, events, "phrendships," blogs, and news feeds.

You say it's 'invitation only,' so how does someone become a member? Do they have to be officially a part of Insulindependence?

Yes, you have to join Insulindepence first, which is a $40 fee per year. Members get access to the physical training group, discounts on sports gear, and of course access to any conversations taking place on Phrendo.com.  You can read the specifics on the Membership page.

Importantly, Phrendo allows members to filter out information based on their recreational interests. New members select a home "subnetwork," which automatically updates them on happenings within their Club (for example, members of the Triabetes group get updates and news feeds from other triathletes; Testing Limits from other climbers and hikers). Members are still always welcome to enter and view other subnetworks, join other groups, and learn about other opportunities outside of their Club.

Again, membership is exclusive to people with diabetes, btw. You may be interested in reading the answer to this question in our FAQ, "Why are iD Club memberships exclusive to people with diabetes?"

So it's all about working out, yet you're encouraging people to spend a lot of time online?

{chuckles} Yes. Ironically, our goal is to use Phrendo to get people off the computer, so they can get out and exercise!

To clarify, Insulindependence considers its Phrendo groups to be a 'virtual reality' for fitness and recreation programs taking place across the country through its various clubs. We offer formal training for local volunteer leaders, who are available on Phrendo to answer questions and direct people to programs taking place in their local communities. We see this as a support network for the PWDs engaging in strenuous sports.

Finally, the name contains the word 'endo.'  Are there any doctors moderating conversations or people in charge of the groups? If so, who are they and what do they do?

No, there's no doctor involvment at this time. We just liked the play-on words.

We are in the process of getting 3rd party organizations on Phrendo, but are still in preliminary conversations. Technically, we're able to add subnetworks, but still need to determine what that means. We anticipate that we'll see other groups beta testing the system by the end of 2010. If organizations are interested, they can email us at info@insulindependence.org. Future organizations hosting their own subnetworks will have full administrative control of their own communities.

Talk about your networking niches! Thank you, Peter, for helping PWDs in this very specialized way.

Disclaimer: Content created by the Diabetes Mine team. For more details click here.


This content is created for Diabetes Mine, a consumer health blog focused on the diabetes community. The content is not medically reviewed and doesn't adhere to Healthline's editorial guidelines. For more information about Healthline's partnership with Diabetes Mine, please click here.