As CEO of Sickweather, Graham Dodge utilizes the social web to collect and share the locations of the symptoms of disease in a way that can potentially change the way communities understand and respond to the spread of illnesses.
“I’ve learned that the really good ideas don’t go away, and if I don’t pursue them then someone else will.”
Graham Dodge had a stomachache and took to Facebook to see whether anyone else in his city was also coming down with the flu. It’s not unusual for people to be curious about sickness in their community (who is not guilty of having sighed, “It’s going around”?) and this is precisely what inspired Graham to start Sickweather, a site that scours social networks for information on everything from the common cold to malaria, as well as direct user reports. But Sickweather goes beyond commiseration — it sources, tracks, and shares information that could actually help prevent the spread of illnesses.
Information mapping is not a new effort for Graham; he was the first to utilize census crime data in map form with Crime.com in 1998. “After the first dot-com bubble burst, and my startup NotFilms folded, I pretty much gave up on the web,” Graham says. “I went into television and marketing and stayed there for a while.” This granted Graham diverse experience in design, marketing and business, though starting his own venture was always on his mind. “I probably had a million ideas for startups during that time with a million more excuses not to pursue them,” he admits. “But I’ve learned that the really good ideas don’t go away, and if I don’t pursue them then someone else will. That’s what motivates me to keep going and what got me back in the game.”
In their first major beta test this year, Sickweather collected and compared social data about illness in Dayton, OH and Super Bowl XLVI host city Indianapolis, IN. The system collected over 3,000 updates containing keywords related to Common Cold, Flu, Bronchitis, Sore Throat, Cough and Fever, and discovered a clear increase in sicknesses leading up to and during the sporting event. Graham hopes that studies like this will create awareness of the hidden costs that hosting a major event can have on a city’s residents.
“Altruistic goals aside,” Graham reflects, “I’ll retire when my experience and idealism are no longer relevant to the needs of the marketplace.”