Mis establos!!!

None of the science or medical information I might post to this blog should be taken as medical advice (I'm not medically trained). Think of this blog as a sort of nursery for my half-baked ideas hence 'stuff that occurs to me'.

I work on the EPSRC-funded @CHI_MED project; all views are my own. I used to work at Diabetes UK (until 22 June 2012) as a Science Information Officer (effectively a science-specialist librarian but not quite a clinical librarian). Before that it was ScienceLine and back in the mists of time it was lipid chemistry & neuroscience.

Contact: @JoBrodie or reconfigure this email address me.meeeee @ gmail.com (replace me and meeeee with obvious letters, eg... jo.brodie@ etc).

Oh OK then it's jo dot brodie at gmail dot com

Wednesday, 23 July 2014

Fun with promoted tweets - remember you can comment on them

The shortened version
The way Twitter handles threaded conversations means that any reply you post to a promoted tweet can be seen by anyone else, if you want to have a little bit of fun with particularly irritating and poorly targeted (and persistent) ones.

The post
I have used Twitter for six years and benefited hugely from it yet I've never paid them a bean. It would be churlish to begrudge them revenue and I wish them well in collecting it.

One of the ways I think they're doing this is to charge people to promote tweets - they've been doing it since at least July 2011. Note that I said people and not advertisers or companies. Anyone can pay to promote their tweet to a bunch of people. And they do, and some of them are ... well, a bit pointless.

Initially it was mostly companies promoting a product or service through Twitter but now it seems that anyone with less sense than money can join in.

Here are some that I've had promoted into my timeline.

None of them appear to be advertising anything (the last one has a link but it's just to a picture of a bit of plastic-coated wire). I suppose this is a modern-day calling card of sorts. 

Genuine company-promoted tweets are a bit different. Some are useful, interesting and relevant others are poorly targeted and there seems to be no way of avoiding them. Blocking the sender makes no difference as far as I can see, and replying to them rarely makes much of a difference, but doing so did give me an idea for some mild sneakery.

You can comment on promoted tweets
Thanks to the way Twitter threads conversations a tweet becomes part of a conversation once anyone replies to it. When you click on the tweet you can see most(1) of the other tweets that people have sent in reply. This means that, merely by replying, you can 'graffiti' a promoted tweet. Unless Twitter makes it so that promoted tweets can't have replies there's not much the company can do to stop this commentary - unless they delete that tweet.

To be honest I think this sort of thing should probably be reserved for only the really irritating tweets that are irrelevant and persistent - let's not all be mean to people who mis-send a tweet every now and again.
Do promoters understand this?
Having clicked on a few promoted tweets now (both from companies and people who seem to have promoted a tweet by accident), and seen the replies, it seems that sending out a promoted tweet can really open you up to some unpleasant responses. I don't know if Twitter is warning advertisers - I assume they're being told that their tweets are being targeted to relevant people but having received so many that are so off-target this system might need to iron out a few glitches. Mis-targeted tweets probably increases the unpleasantness of responses as people find these promoted tweets pretty irritating. The problem, for advertisers, is not just the unpleasant replies ('snark yes, unpleasantness no' would be my motto) but the fact that others can see the unpleasant replies thanks to threading.

Skeptical activism - an opportunity
This could backfire horribly. I got the idea from a disgruntled air passenger who paid for a tweet to be promoted to people telling them that the airline he travelled on had terrible customer service. About a year ago the Advertising Standards Authority adjudicated against an advert for a company that makes a tape that you stick to your skin to prevent muscular problems and injury. It's utter nonsense (aka kinesio tape) but the products sell well despite this. I jokingly suggested that a bunch of people crowdsource funds to pay for a promoted tweet that sends the link of the ASA's adjudication on kinesio tape nonsense to people on Twitter who mention the tape. Though I'd certainly not want the tweet to come from my account ;-)

(1) Twitter no longer shows the entirety of a conversation, you have to go on a bit of a hunt if you want to see branched conversations.

Tuesday, 15 July 2014

What I'm listening to today, the #Harkive project

The first tweet I saw today was this from Pete Paphides, followed by the second one.

I'm going to take part and will update this blog post today with the music and sounds I chose to listen to today, how I listened to it and why.

7.30am - first three minutes (instrumental) of 'Matthew the Man' by Iona, on YouTube viewed on iPhone. Link copied from desktop to Pocket, picked up on phone app - YouTube plays in-app it seems.

This is a song I discovered in a shop that had some awful muzak, but occasionally brightened listeners' ears with this track that reminded me a bit of Porcupine Tree. It was noticeably different from the other musical fare on offer so tended to stick out. Not that long ago I discovered that the only reason I ever heard it in the first place was because the shop was trying to stream music but the stream had failed and the device was playing this, its default track - so I learned a little bit about muzak infrastructure too. More about the Imagesound AHD1 here: If you've ever heard this piece of music in a chainstore this is probably why. - with some very nerdy comments.

8am - 9.30am - no music, having my gas meter changed and had Radio 4 (on a DAB radio* that I'm not that fond of) on in the kitchen. Off the top of my head I can't think of any songs about, or featuring, gas that I particularly like so nothing to report.

9.30 - well now I'm listening to Tracking the Lincolnshire poacher (see appendix below) cos I started playing it on YouTube. It is a bit spooky.

10.00 - and of course that reminded me of the spooky going on from the BBC's Radiophonic Workshop, 'Alchemists of Sound'. It used to be on YouTube but isn't anymore, which is a shame as they've no plans to release it as a DVD (I asked 2 Entertain who deal with that sort of thing for the BBC and they said no).

11am-12.43pm - no music played, made the foolish mistake to try and tackle my work inbox but in the process I seem to have deleted almost all of my emails (all the ones that I'd carefully put into folders). Most irritating.

12.44pm - listening to Clannad's 'Robin the Hooded Man' theme tune for the ITV series about Robin Hood that was on in the mid 1980s. This was played in a background window on YouTube, next up is the theme tune for ITV's Sherlock Holmes series (example from The Musgrave Ritual). Last week I went to a rather good concert where they played some of the music for the current BBC Sherlock series, here's 'Redbeard' from Series 3.

2pm - trying to recover some lost emails so not listening to much music in a carefree fashion, but generally peeved ;) Pink Floyd's 'Comfortably Numb' was something a friend introduced me to when I was 12 at school. I spent ages listening to it on a cassette tape recorder device under my pillow (boarding school) and saving battery by rewinding the tape with a biro. My mum always told me I'd grow out of the music I liked as a child (this also includes Jean-Michel Jarre) but so far, no.

Didn't listen to anything until a bit of music was played at a meeting at 5.30pm, don't know what it was but can probably find out.

Heard a bit of piped music in Royal Festival Hall when I popped in there on my way home, then on way to ferry heard some live music (a singer and a guitarist, separately).

Back home, watching the film Made in Dagenham on BBC Four - enjoying the music for that. The last time I watched it I couldn't hear it cos it was so cold I had my small fan heater on :)

*other than televisions I have a constitutional dislike of presets and prefer to be able to take in the entire radio spectrum. I quite like finding oddities down the back of the broadcast spectrum though I've never actually heard one of the numbers stations (hear 'Tracking the Lincolnshire Poacher' below for more about these and their assumed use in cryptography / covert communications).

Sunday, 13 July 2014

Dr Nancy Malik's homeopathy-supporting website mistakenly implies that it is HON accredited

Health on the Net (HON) accredit websites that offer health information if the website's content passes eight criteria (the 'HON Code'). Once this has been demonstrated the owner is given a bit of code (a 'widget') to add to their site which confirms that their site has been certified as giving good-quality information. This shows on the certified website as a side-panel badge which, if clicked, takes you to a page on HON's website that confirms the validated certificate.

There is another way of checking if a site is accredited. HON have created toolbar widgets for browsers that light up when the browser is visiting a HON-accredited site.

Here's what it looks like when visiting Patient.co.uk

and here's what it looks like when visiting Dr Nancy Malik's Science-based Homeopathy site

If you look for the blue and red icon on the right the difference is clear.

The website, Science-based Homeopathy, is not accredited by Health on the Net - though it was previously.

Health on the Net's certificate for Dr Malik's website currently says 'invalid' in bright red letters: https://www.healthonnet.org/HONcode/Conduct.html?HONConduct822331

Interestingly Dr Malik (or her webmaster) has removed the badge from her website and replaced it with the picture below. The text of the link on her site is 'verify here' which implies that visitors clicking that link will be able to check the validity of the certificate.

In fact visitors are now taken to a screenshot of the earlier certificate (when the site was still validated). The screenshot is hosted on Google, not Health on the Net and so is not 'live' as a valid certificate.

The person running this website (it may not be Dr Malik) appears to have removed a now-invalid certificate in order to replace it with an older once-valid copy to give the impression that the site is still certificated. Perhaps this is an honest mistake and not done deliberately but now that so many have pointed this out it seems strange for the error not to have been fixed.

In short, Dr Nancy Malik's website 'Science-based Homeopathy' has lost its HONCode certification.

Strangely, the site also hosts a blog and one of the posts* attempts to explain this away. The old certificate is shown on the post and the text around it implies that re-certification is imminent after a short audit period. This seems to be quite unlikely.

During the audit period HON did not rescind the certificate but instead stated that it was under review ('re-exam'). The fact that it has now been changed to 'invalid' strongly suggests that the audit period has finished and that there will be no re-certification unless significant changes are made on the website to bring it in line with the HON Code. However, the strange behaviour regarding the way the real (invalid) certificate has been obscured on the site doesn't really suggest that this site would be trusted again in future.


Friday, 11 July 2014

Once embedded in a blog post a tweet will stay there even if deleted from Twitter (in theory)

This is another one of those posts that's really just for me ;)

On 1 May 2011 I sent a tweet and then, a day later I deleted it. It's still there though because before deleting it I added it to Storify, and now it's trapped there forever. The take-home lesson from this is that even if a tweet's later deleted, once it's been saved in Storify it's permanently saved (you can also take screenshots etc).

I've never tried it in a blog post but am expecting it to work because Twitter's help files indicate that it should*. An embedded tweet inherits all the information that lets someone who's reading it on a blog post (instead of on Twitter) interact with it - they can favourite or RT it. If the tweet is deleted from Twitter this is no longer possible but the text of the tweet (and who sent it and when) remains.

Let's see... I just sent this and will soon delete it.

URL of tweet: https://twitter.com/JoBrodie/status/487658994925072385

Embedded version:

Now to delete it and see what happens. (According to the info below if I made my account private that would have the same effect).

Now that the tweet is deleted you can see what it looks like above, and this is how it had appeared on this post before I deleted it from Twitter.


*"What if a user deletes a Tweet after it has been embedded on another website? Similarly, what happens to Tweets from users that change their Tweets from public to protected (or become suspended)?

In all of these cases, Twitter branding and Tweet actions will be removed from the embedded Tweet, but the content of the Tweet will still be visible."

Wednesday, 9 July 2014

How does Google's 'right to be forgotten' work? Actual question, not rhetorical trope :) #R2BF

Possibly this will be solved by 'reading more around the topic' but I've not spotted the answer yet and someone must know.

How does Google's "right to be forgotten" info removal service actually work?

If there is a web page that says stuff you don't like do you ask Google to
(a) stop indexing that page / those pages in the searches (ie provide Google with a list of pages for it to hide)
(b) not show in its search results any pages that mention specific keywords
(c) some other method

If (a) then presumably this can easily be thwarted by reposting the content onto a new page with a new address.

Also Google indexes most things on Twitter (admittedly transiently) so if someone was determined they could keep posting stuff there and it would show up in Google (as well as, obviously, on Twitter).

I can see (b) being mildly more successful but Google would have to throttle at the level of search, to prevent each new page with those words showing up. This seems like a lot of hard work.

Also, aren't there sites that monitor the requests made (similar to the ChillingEffects.org site that monitors requests for material under copyright to be removed). They've written on the right to be forgotten but I've not spotted the method Google's using.

If there are, don't bother looking in Google, just go to the relevant site and search there. Eg a Telegraph article I read this morning on R2BF suggests that Google has removed some of the Telegraph's links (suggesting method [a]...) on its search results about someone after they requested it, but searching on the Telegraph's site for the person mentioned in the article brings up other information, whether or not it's indexed on Google.

I'm sure the ethics, privacy, free speech aspects of this are all very interesting but what I'm actually intrigued by is just the practicalities.