Illumination

I *just* this second had a stunning revelation, out of the blue, I just realised something of personality-shattering importance.

Of course, like most revelations it is only significant to me, but writing it down makes me feel good plus I get a kick out of imagining there are dozens of people reading this and going “ah ha!”.

My childhood was shrouded in all sorts of secrets, from who my father was, to why my mother left when I was two years old, plus all the Jehovah’s Witness nonsense, being in a cult doesn’t help one’s sense of transparency. Those people have secrets like you wouldn’t believe, and I was one of them. To this day, I can’t forget my stepmother telling me there was some big secret I would learn when I was 16, but unfortunately she followed the trend and bailed when I was 14. I got kicked out of the house at 15 so I never did learn the big secret. Maybe they were going to tell me who my father is/was. I’ll never know.

So, anyway, I was just mulling over my bio and how it is completely devoid of anything from the most interesting parts of my life, but how do you incorporate window cleaning into health care transparency?

Then I started thinking about how wacky and diverse some of my jobs have been.

Then it hit me.

My first job was about transparency.

What is more transparent than a freshly cleaned window?

I know, kind of a stretch, obviously more handy metaphor than self-actualisation, but bear with me. I washed windows.

My next job?

I put the occult on the high street. “Occult” means hidden. I opened a witchcraft shop on the main drag in my town.

Witchcraft.

Shop.

I sold spell books and cauldrons and crystals and tarot cards, and I tried to make it as normal an experience for anyone who walked in as I could.

In my own way, I was trying to “out” the occult.

What next?

I actually worked as a spotlight operator for a short while. Seriously. I did. I shone light on people and things.

Weird. Next?

Open source software development. I had grown up with a sense of sharing between programmers, and it was slowly being stripped away as proprietary, closed source software became the norm. We became the fringe, instead of the norm.

Every piece of software I’ve ever written is open and free to use or improve. My Web company, MerlinWeb, was founded on the principle that the Web and all it’s trappings shouldn’t be so scary. I opened the first Web hosting company on the high street.

I wanted to make it all simple and easy, and the thing I kept telling my employees was that the best client was one that needed us less and less, in essence, teaching them how to do our job.

Then what?

I built and launched Jeny, a health care quality improvement Web community. I was getting more and more involved in health care QI, and after looking for the community to join and not finding one, did what any self-respecting hacker would do. I built one.

Over the years, I’ve come to learn that health care providers prefer to network and share in dark, secluded corners behind things like credentialing and 19 page privacy agreements.

I built Jeny to change all that, and I now have over 7,000 registered users freely sharing and discussing quality improvement in the health care sector.

And now, finally, I am health care transparency man. I find data on hospitals and doctors and HMOs and and I interpret it and package it nicely and make it easy to chew. I make Web sites that deliver details on mortality rates, infections and costs.

Apparently, I viciously hate secrets.

I was invited to address a Health Care Quality group last week, and after the presentation, which seemed to go down very well, lots of good questions from the audience which is always a good sign, anyway, after the presentation a few people came up to me to ask some more questions and one lovely woman asked me what my background is.

I didn’t really know how to answer. I don’t consider myself as being in possession of a background, other than a few dubious arrests and some rugby, my instinct was to say I’m Welsh, which I knew wasn’t the answer she was looking for.

I think in the future, I’m just going to say “transparency”, and if anyone wants to know how I got started I’ll tell them.

Washing windows.

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