I've dithered for weeks over whether to write this post. As my longtime readers know, I've maintained a strict formula for what makes it onto this blog: I don't discuss my other Wired stories, or the news of the day, or how I feel about the state of the nation. Above all, I've conscientiously kept my personal life off these pages, for the excellent, time-honored reason that stories are almost invariably more interesting than the personalities who report on them. The crowdsourcing blog is devoted, simply, to crowdsourcing, in all its various manifestations and implications.
Today I'm going to break with tradition, for two reasons: First, I believe in transparency; Second, believing in crowdsourcing as I do, I think it has applications in my own life, which is another way of saying I have faith in communities of people I've never met. I'll make the relevance of these principles clear in what follows.
My son Finn, born in September of last year, has significant developmental delays. While we don't know the specific cause for the delays, he lags well behind his peers on all fronts: His social, verbal and motor skills are all impaired. He was first diagnosed in February, when he was four months old. At that point we enrolled him in an early intervention program, which sends physical, speech and occupational therapists into our home twice a week. We also began the rounds of doctor visits. Delays impact every aspect of a child's development, so we had to take him to see an ophthalmologist, a gastroentererologist, a genetic counselor, a neurologist and, of course, a pediatrician. All this presented an enormous logistical challenge, especially as I was working seven days a week editing my book. So my wife bore that brunt of the burden.
This month it was my turn. Unhappy with much of the medical care our son has received, we've been finding new doctors, or pursuing a more aggressive course with the doctors we have, as well as procuring a (fourth) therapist. This has obviously taken a (temporary) toll on my work life, noticeable most clearly on this blog. So for all of you who've asked whether I'm working on my next book, the answer is, probably not. (While the thought of a book about Finn has its appeal, it's hard to write the biography of a one year old.)
At any rate, this is where transparency comes in. Have you had trouble getting me to answer your questions, or do an interview, or even just respond to your email? Now you know why. I'm not abandoning crowdsourcing—the blog or the subject in general. I'm not on to the next big thing. And I still love hearing about all your bright, shiny ideas for how crowdsourcing could be applied to agriculture, gastronomy and third world development. Keep the emails coming; I promise to respond when time permits.
And now for the crowdsourcing bit: I never intended to relay any of this in such an impersonal format as the crowdsourcing blog. We remained mostly silent about our circumstance, telling only close friends and family. But a recent email exchange with a reader changed my mind. It turns out he has extensive experience working with kids with developmental delays. It turns out a lot of people do. And our silence hasn't served us. And it defintely hasn't served our son. We've been so busy the past nine months that we've failed to make contact with other parents in similar situations, or even identify the kinds of support networks that would provide us with invaluable information about Finn's condition.
I'm not crowdsourcing for your sympathy. Raising Finn may be mind bendingly difficult, but there are far better candidates for pity. He's healthy, active and calendar-grade cute. I am crowdsourcing for your information. Know of a Brooklyn-based support group for special needs caretakers? Bring it on. How about special therapies to increase social engagement in toddlers? I want to know about it. I am, in short, hoping to make contact. I strongly suspect that many of you have experience—far more experience than us—trodding this strange road we've found ourselves on. And just maybe, some of you have a map. We'd love to see it.