Thanksgiving 2013

TL;DR: tradition you don’t know about, y’all rock, mic drop.

Happy Thanksgiving American friends! Happy Unbirthday non-American friends!

So, I’ve got this little tradition of giving you a quick behind the scenes peek at life behind the Face of the Matter, and what a better time to do it than on Thanksgiving. Here’s the story from last year:

Years ago, there was a public health blog, Effect Measure, that had a nice little Thanksgiving tradition. On Thanksgiving, the author would give an update on the blog and thank the many people who he interacted with over the previous year. The story was that the (pseudononymous) author, while waiting for his wife to finish Thanksgiving dinner, started a blog on a whim. The result was wildly successful. I consider that the very first public health blog (without minimizing the amazing contributions of Jordan Barab’s Confined Space blog, which technically started first). The author’s gusto and pseudonymity gave me the courage to blog.

And here we are, nearly SEVEN years later. Am I officially Internet-old now? I keep looking for my Logan’s Run jewel, but nothing yet. I thought last year was great, but this year has been a humdinger. And isn’t that how things are supposed to go?

I got the opportunity to travel and present to amazing audiences all over the country. Meet dozens of amazing people and see friends from too long ago. No pandemic still (yay!), and my Program has great plans for the future. The blog is wildly successful, better than I ever thought it would be. And probably the biggest news is that kid #3 is rapidly winging her way into my burgeoning family’s arms (February 2nd!).

But the news that’s probably most relevant to you, dear reader, is my new job. I’ve been given the okay to let the world know that, as of January 1, I will be moving out of the public health preparedness world and into a brand new position, Director of Digital Public Health, here at my health department.

My job will be to oversee the identification, feasibility, implementation and integration of digital goodness (everything from social media to apps, to APIs to crowdsourcing to mobile and beyond) into our department. I! Am! So! Excited!

With every grand, new endeavor comes change, unfortunately, and the blog is one of those things that will change. (Seriously, new kid AND a new job? I’ll probably sell my soul for a few hours of sleep.) I’m not abandoning it. I love you guys too, too much. But I’m going to be dialing things back a bit. No more three posts a week, at least not for a while. Instead, if I can do a post a week, I’ll be over the moon. Because social media and public information and risk communication is still within my professional purview, we’ll keep talking about them, but we might sprinkle in some of that digital goodness I talked about earlier, too.

Until the new year, though, I wanted to give you a present, something to remember me by. For the next four weeks, I’m going into the stacks of the blog and will be reposting the best posts, the most popular, the ones that–oops–I got wrong, my personal favorites. Three of the best of Jim Garrow, for four weeks. Almost like a countdown.

Which, not exactly coincidentally, is the other tradition we have around these parts. For the last couple of years, Patrice Cloutier, Kim Stephens and I have done a sort of end-of-year holiday countdown. This will be my contribution, and will hopefully serve to demonstrate how far our field of emergency communications and response have come. I’ll definitely be highlighting their work constantly on Twitter, so keep an eye out for that.

And now for the behind the scenes. My traffic this year has been out of this world. I set a new personal daily record, and broke it (302 views). I set new records in weekly and monthly views (3,013 views). I’ve got the most subscribers I’ve ever had (110). Last year, I reported that I’d seen 16,000 views all time, and in just this calendar year, I’ve seen more than 20,600, more than doubling my previous three years of views.


Other than longevity, only two things changed this year. First, I’ve presented more, and I direct folks to my page in most of my presentations. But unless I’m the best, most persuasive presenter in the world (hey, it’s possible), that’s doesn’t nearly account for the huge surge in viewership starting in April. What did happen in April was the other thing that changed: I started posting more often. Usually three times a week, sometimes four. Consistently, for weeks on end. And my traffic skyrocketed. For the non-astute among you, there’s a lesson there, I think.

And just to close, I want to thank you all. For everything. You make my work enjoyable, you make me happy. I’m so excited to start on this new adventure with you and hope that you’ll stick around while I get my feet under me. (And wish me luck!)

Whole Community: Approachability

I’m in Lisle, Illinois this week presenting on social media at the 2013 Whole Community Preparedness Conference, sponsored by the Illinois-Indiana-Wisconsin Combined Statistical Area. I wanted to talk this opportunity to talk about messaging to our whole community messaging and making our messages easier to understand and receive. As the week goes on, I’ll update this post with links to the other posts.


One of my favorite bloggers in the whole world is also one of my favorite tweeters (Perhaps not coincidentally). Wendy Sue Swanson, or as she’s known on the internet, Seattle Mama Doc, dispenses daily information on health, health care and life raising kids.

I love Dr. Swanson’s real life approach to communication. There is nary a poorly-lit head shot of some white coat to be found anywhere. Her Twitter feed is full of pictures, personal stories, links to health care stories and–gasp–conversations! Dr. Swanson is a real person! That’s step one, and it’s a big one, though really it shouldn’t be.

Her blog, though, is what I want to focus on. It’s a testament to how healthcare providers and healthcare organizations should be blogging. It demonstrates the very essence of approachability.

Blog posts about emotional wellbeing start off like this:

I’ve had an enormously stressful week or so. Seriously maxed out in a way I haven’t been in some time — smooooshed if you will. The reason I mention my stress is that I’ve found in the past, like this week, these stressful episodes are often peppered with moments of mindfulness that penetrate into my life and stick.

Thankfully there are buoys around us that get us through these stressful episodes. A joke our child makes while running by, a story on the radio that allows us to pause, the simple beauty of a red tree passing into sight on the side of the road. Sometimes when we’re most amped and stressed our lenses on life de-fog in a way where the beauty is just crystal clear.

Or a video post about violence in movies:

I was in fourth grade when Red Dawn debuted as the first PG-13 rated movie back in 1985. At the time Red Dawn was released, it was considered one of the most violent films by The National Coalition on Television Violence, with a rate of 134 acts of violence per hour, or 2.23 per minute. And although not every PG-13 movie has had significant violence (think Pretty in Pink) it turns out PG-13 and gun violence have become close bedfellows over the last 28 years.

Yes, she writes beautifully, but the reason she writes so well is because she writes from the heart. The blog posts aren’t full of stern faces and finger-wagging. It’s fun and engaging and personal. And successful. There’s a lesson we can all learn from that. A lesson about approachability.

Whole Community #1: The New Digital Divide