This paper contains reviews on two websites devoted to the topic of Schizophrenia. Both sites were visited multiply through December 2-6, 2012.
The first site is Schizophrenia.com and it declares itself as a non-profit source of information, support and education. It was created as a Tides Center project in 1995 and is now still successfully operating. The Executive Director, Brian Chiko, is an experienced business administrator who had a schizophrenic family member – John Chiko. The website is actually devoted to his memory. The Editor and main contributors and writers are mainly psychology and psychiatry students. However, the contents are additionally supervised by volunteer specialists from all over the world thus making the information highly reliable. The sponsorship of the site is fulfilled by private donations and quite limited advertising. As it is declared, neither of them have any influence on the contents of the site. It is also worth mentioning, that the advertisements appearing on the main page offer only recommended reading on the topic of schizophrenia, no extrinsic topics draw attention.
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The overall design is rather professionally looking, austere and reserved. From the first sight it is clear that the site was not created for entertainment, but research. There are no distracting details or “inspiring” pictures that are frequently seen on websites offering help to people with various disorders. The colors are rare and calm, mostly in grey shades. The layout surprises by the extensive menu which is rather hard to get through as it is divided into several sections. On the top menu there are common areas about the project such as contacts, information about the project’s history, available jobs, etc. Then, there is a small box with Schizophrenia-focused community links, blogs and discussion forums in the top middle part. And finally, the vastest menu is found on the left part containing all types of topics on Schizophrenia starting from the overview and first aid to statistics, history and events. The menu can hardly be called easy-to-read as each line is an obvious bright blue underlined hyperlink. Also, the menu could greatly benefit from classification or at least logical regulation. The texts are mostly given in a comfortable to read way with logical paragraph separation, bullet points and highlighting of important ideas.
The second site is Schizophrenia.org founded by the American Schizophrenic Association of the Huxley Institute for Biosocial Research. It is managed by the institute’s team, though no exact names are mentioned for responsible persons. The articles contain authors’ names; however, not always additional information on their background is provided. There are no sponsors indicated and advertising is absolutely absent on the site.
Similar to the first site, Schizophrenia.org has a very reserved design, almost ascetic – there are no colors or decorations except for the bullet points of the menu. No images are found in support of articles or general information besides the set of pictures painted by a young schizophrenic artist. Almost all articles present plain text in a single piece hard to read and search through.
It should be mentioned that while having obviously different layouts both sites fail to create a visitor-friendly browsing navigation. Neither Schizophrenia.com nor Schizophrenia.org has convenient way to return back to the main menu or the previous page.
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Concerning the contents of the two sites it may be concluded that Schizophrenia.com gives a more in-depth look into the topic, there are various aspects enlightened and plenty of topics covered while Schizophrenia.org has less than ten articles in total. It makes an impression of an abandoned project as no news or recent publications can be found – most articles are dated 70-80’ies and those without exact date still do not mention or cite any research or resources younger than that. Meanwhile Schizophrenia.com still actively publishes news and has rather active social networking environment. It can be easily recommended to anyone interested in the topic as a main source to get acquainted with the basis and learn the most diverse aspects of the issue starting from the famous people who had the illness to brain pictures and the effect smoking cigarettes and marijuana have on the disorder. In this context, Schizophrenia.org can be useful for those in search of particular questions that are covered in its articles or as a source of original texts of the reprinted articles. Also, it is not a good resource to start the research with as it offers only a limited scope of information leaving it to the visitor to continue asking questions and browsing further. Articles in this site can hardly be called a good academic source, for example the article Why Young Adults Crack-Up by Lawrence Galton states that schizophrenia is the most widespread mental disorder in the United States and Canada with 1 person in every 100 affected while there is no date under the article and it is impossible to suggest whether the figure is still current. Also, this article tells about the history of schizophrenia causes research and the reader frequently comes across such phrases as “twenty years ago”, “today”, etc. which are senseless without a reference point. Another article found in the Symptoms and Diagnosis section and expected to provide a list and description contains a long expatiate text about aspirin influence on hyperactivity. The reader has to go through numerous stories to find the conclusion stating that salicylate-related products are one of the possible causes of schizophrenia. Once again, even this piece of information is useless for a starting researcher if he does not know when the article was written.
As for the quality of the information provided, its reliability is supported by the scientific background of the authors. However, if taking a close look at the overall quality of the texts Schizophrenia.org fails to pass the test – there is a grammar mistake on its main page and more on other pages which proves lack of proofreading and attention to details. Moreover, one of its links does not lead anywhere (the article Niacin – also known as Nicotinic Acid or Vitamin B3). Similarly, Schizophrenia.com fails to play one of its videos (Genes and Schizophrenia: What is the Connection). It can boast other grammar errors; however, they are not so obvious as the site contains a huge volume of information.
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Schizophrenia.com offers a wide choice of media – articles, videos, forums and discussion boards, blogs, etc. Unlike, Schizophrenia.org has plaintexts. At the same time, it was much unexpected to see the striking set of schizophrenic artist paintings which gives an insight into how person’s perception alters being affected by the developing disorder. These paintings are worth the time spent browsing the site. Schizophrenia.com in its turn provides a lot of useful and captivating information. One of the most impressive things found on this website is its list of famous people leaving with the diagnosis as their stories may be interesting as a research topic and inspiring. Another interesting thing found here is the diagram of the increased relative risk of the illness in correlation with some of the most-researched factors (“odds ratio”). Finally, the third surprising article found on Schizophrenia.com is Nicotine Use as a Young Adult, May Reduce Schizophrenia Risk. It describes a long-term research of over 50,000 Swedish military conscripts and suggests that early smoking may help prevent developing schizophrenia.
To summarize, Schizophrenia.org is a poor resource allowing limited research opportunities with not currency and full picture. This site looks unkempt and should not be used as an academic resource for citation or research. Meanwhile Schizophrenia.com is definitely a better source of information on the topic. Despite several faults, such as the inconvenient layout, incoherent listing of topics and minor grammar mistakes, it has great coverage of the theme and most of its information is current. It does have a reliable verifying and editing team and provides recent studies. This site can be a good base to start research and supplement an old one with new details and findings.