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Here’s how tech guru Tim O’Reilly describes his work:

So often, signs of the future are all around us, but it isn’t until much later that most of the world realizes their significance. Meanwhile, the innovators who are busy inventing that future live in a world of their own. They see and act on premises that are not yet apparent to others.

In the computer industry, these are the folks I affectionately call “the alpha geeks”, the hackers who have such mastery of their tools that they “roll their own” when existing products don’t give them what they need.

Watching the alpha geeks — people whom more traditional marketing analysts might call “lead users” — can give insights into the future directions of technology, gaps in existing products, and new market opportunities.

Who are the alpha geeks in health care?

Off the top of my head, I’d name a lot of the people who founded this site or founded organizations we talk about all the time.

Thinking more deeply, though, I realized that there are multiple categories: patients, caregivers, clinicians, pharma, public health workers, librarians, government (comments please: other categories?)

Re-reading Tim’s description, especially the line about how alpha geeks “live in a world of their own,”  I thought about the people I’ve met who most closely fit that description, who make a way out of no way — people living with rare disease. They are in the crucible. They “roll their own” by creating communities of health information exchange where none had existed.

Who would you call an alpha geek? What can the clinician alpha geeks learn from the patient alpha geeks? Is there a mechanism for that information exchange? What can the pharma alpha geeks learn from the public health alpha geeks? Is there a way to connect the disparate tribes? Or maybe you know about connections that I haven’t seen yet, in which case, do tell!


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