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, 11 February 2015

[Twitter glitch - fixed] Some users were unable to tweet, got an error message or were locked out

A few of the people I follow on Twitter have mentioned that they've been unable to tweet when using the desktop version of Twitter and it turns out they're not alone.

Twitter's issued a status update for Tue Feb 10th 2015 (sent '18 minutes ago' which I'm reading at 00.28pm UK time on Wed 11th Feb) which acknowledges that

Some users unable to Tweet 18 minutes ago

We are aware of an issue where some users are unable to Tweet and have received a notice telling them they’ve been locked out. 
Our engineers are currently investigating this issue.

Examples of errors seen include

Locked account
"Your account has been locked. Your account appears to have exhibited automated behaviour that violates the Twitter Rules. To unlock your account, please click the button below and confirm that you are the valid account owner. [Unlock my account]"

Unable to tweet
"This request looks like it might be automated. To protect our users from spam and other malicious activity, we can't complete this action right now. Please try again later."

I've been able to tweet from desktop Twitter during this glitch (though I've only sent replies to people, no 'new tweets'), but those who did have difficulty seemed to be able to send tweets from Tweetbot for iOS or Twitter for Android, but this might not be particularly reliable information if the glitch crops up somewhere else.

Oh, and as I am about to press 'Publish', it appears to have been solved (I am now reading this at 00:36) and am making the post title reflect the 'past tense' status of this glitch :)

Some users unable to Tweet 28 minutes ago

[ Update 16:21 PST ]
Between 15:18 and 16:11 PST today, some users were unable to Tweet and received a notice telling them they’ve been locked out.

This issue has now been fully resolved. We apologize for any inconvenience caused by this.

We are aware of an issue where some users are unable to Tweet and have received a notice telling them they’ve been locked out. 
Our engineers are currently investigating this issue.

Friday, 6 February 2015

Twitter and trolls - a small, incidental suggestion (yes of course it's about the block function)

by @JoBrodie, brodiesnotes.blogspot.com

Yesterday I read with interest that Twitter's CEO, Dick Costolo, had been quoted as saying to colleagues(1,2) that the company could do a lot more to tackle persistent irritants on Twitter. Despite some cynicism and wariness many commenters seem buoyed by the tone and urgency of the acknowledgement and of Costolo's apology.

My small contribution won't solve much but I think it would make the limitations of the block clearer to Twitter's users. An understanding of the limitations is important because many users believe (wrongly) that the block offers a stronger protection against annoying people than it actually does.

From the hundreds of tweets saying some variant of "if you block someone they can no longer see your tweets" it is clear that the block's limitations are not obvious. 

How did people come to that (wrong) conclusion?
Since an update in early December those who are using Twitter's official platforms will now see an empty page when they click on the profile of someone who's blocked them. It says 'You are blocked from following @XYZ and viewing @XYZ's Tweets. Learn more'.

This has quite understandably given many users the impression that the people they've blocked would see the same thing when visiting their profile and led to the understanding that someone can no longer see your tweets if you block them.

I have two suggestions
1. Add some extra information to the 'learn more' help page, and to the article it links to about the limitations
2. When a user blocks someone, add a popup* that includes some extra information about the block and its limitations

*with a 'got it, don't show me this again' option

What's this information that's currently missing?
While many people do know this a fairly large amount of people don't seem to be aware that if you block someone they can still see your tweets...
  • by searching for from:yourname (even if they're logged in) 
  • via a hashtag search, or if someone else RTs your tweets into their timeline 
  • by using non-Twitter apps* (such as Echofon, Janetter, Osfoora, Tweetdeck etc) which will show profiles
  • by logging out or using a second account or a private browsing session

For most people a block works fine to stop someone's tweets from arriving, but if you really want to avoid them reading your tweets then a private account is probably more suitable. It is not possible to prevent one person from being able to read your tweets.

 *perhaps Twitter will require these third-party apps to observe the block function in future updates - however not everyone automatically updates their apps (and there are plenty of other workarounds).

1) Twitter CEO: 'We suck at dealing with abuse and it's all my fault' Jezebel (4 Feb 2015) 
2) Dick Costolo says trolls are costing Twitter users The Verge (4 Feb 2015)

Sunday, 1 February 2015

Orchestras tuning up - what a magical sound

Being a fan of music used in film (ie music that has a narrative purpose as which often happens to be lovely to listen to beyond that) I've been getting out to quite a few film music concerts of late with Alexandre Desplat in the Barbican a few weeks ago and David Arnold in Dublin just last week (he's also doing the Barbican in June as part of a series of concerts).

Many of these concerts involve many tens of musicians (an orchestra) playing the music live and it's all ridiculously enjoyable - I am at peak squee soon after taking up my seat, hoovering up my micro-pack of ice-cream and having a look at the concert programme in anticipation.

Whatever the lovely music I'm going to hear (I died and went to heaven when the orchestras played Desplat's Birth and Arnold's Stargate and Wing Commander not to mention Sherlock) I always really really enjoy the bit just before the concert starts when the orchestra tunes up.

It's a magical thing, perhaps a little like a flashmob - in that an otherwise disparate group of people suddenly come together to create something harmonious, and move from just being on stage with their instruments to being part of a performance. Well.. it's halfway between being part of the performance, and not being part of it, and I find this 'between worlds' ritual rather thrilling.  

I half-joked on Twitter that if someone released a CD of orchestras tuning up I'd probably buy it. I don't think that exists and perhaps it's a limited market (though a couple of people favourited my tweet) but the 'Baby Einstein' CDs do have an orchestra tuning up track (found via YouTube). It's a much more saccharine version than the real thing.

To be honest I had suspected it was more for show than being absolutely necessary as I'd have to assume professional orchestra folk tune their instruments before heading out on stage, however some comments here explain why it has a useful function, beyond quietening the metaphoric crisp-packet-rustling of pre-concert chatter. I'm just surprised that - given the hugely positive comments on YouTube - that there aren't more videos or sound clips of it, there seems to be a consensus that it's a lovely sound.

Concert pitch
Orchestras tune their instruments to Concert pitch, which is usually A (set at 440Hz) above Middle C though the A pitch can vary a bit. Here's Wikipedia on concert pitch:
"Despite such confusion, A = 440 Hz is the only official standard and is widely used around the world. Many orchestras in the United Kingdom adhere to this standard as concert pitch. In the United States some orchestras use A = 440 Hz, while others, such as New York Philharmonic and the Boston Symphony Orchestra, use A = 442 Hz. The latter is also often used as tuning frequency in Europe, especially in Denmark, France, Hungary, Italy, Norway and Switzerland. Nearly all modern symphony orchestras in Germany and Austria and many in other countries in continental Europe (such as Russia, Sweden and Spain) tune to A = 443 Hz."
Further tone fun
Online tuning fork  329.6Hz (E), 440Hz (A), 523.3Hz (C)
Online tone generator - you can have quite a bit of fun with this one if you open up multiple tabs. Two frequencies a few Hz apart will give you beats and the comments on the binaural page are fun too with suggested frequencies to try out, eg to recreate the sound of a touch-tone telephone dialling sound.

Film music concerts
The site Movies in Concert has a massive list of film music concerts from around the world.

Further reading
Bit that didn't fit anywhere else
I found out about 'Concert A' by accident. A couple of years ago I wrote a post about tuning fork therapy in response to a misleading advert that claimed special tuning forks could be used to diagnose and correct health imbalances. Utter nonsense of course but the act of writing it (and responding to the tedious comments) made me find out a lot more about tuning forks than I otherwise might have done. Played with them at home, played with them at school but still plenty of gaps in my tuning fork knowledge.

Friday, 30 January 2015

Why are these flies spinning on their backs?

Over Christmas and New Year I was in three different houses over a three week period: my own, my family's and a friend's. In my own and my family's house I witnessed a (single) fly flying past erratically, landing on its back and spinning at great speed. In my friend's house I heard my friend's husband wonder out loud what on earth a fly was doing - "is it spinning on its back?" I asked him - "yes".

What's this all about?

Are the flies trying to right themselves, recovering from a stunning injury, trying to free themselves from something, dying (seems awfully effortful, poor things), spinning for the hell of it or having some other neurological problem?

After a chat about it on Twitter it seems that it might be the effects of a pesticide that's causing a neurological effect. Perfectly plausible although none of us in the houses mentioned were using it, however flies do fly and they may have been sprayed elsewhere and arrived later at our respective houses in their agitated state.

A few months ago I had a wasps' nest sprayed with a white powder via a puffer. Shortly after the powder had been puffed on the nest the wasps left and swarmed outside it before dropping down and twitching (slowly) before dying.

This thing with the flies is very strange to see, I've never seen anything move that quickly under its own power - as you can see in the videos below it's quite a remarkable performance. This is just a selection of several videos on YouTube showing this phenomenon.

Friday, 2 January 2015

Blog stats for this blog part 5 (31 December 2014)

I've had this blog since June 2009 and in May 2010 I added Google Analytics. Blogger (which hosts this blog and is owned by Google) also has its own 'Blogger stats' which began in July 2010.

Google Analytics are generally believed to be the more accurate figures, whereas Blogger stats are approximately 3x the figure - Blogger counts every time a search engine indexes the site (a regular occurrence).

For the last five years I've reported, on a roughly annual basis, my stats according to both Google Analytics and Blogger. I do this in case anyone else is curious / nosey. Although the largest figure (1.6m views) sounds bonkersly massive (well it does to me) this is a cumulative figure over 5 years of blogging, and is probably inflated threefold.

My blog is visited and indexed by Google and for some search terms it appears on the first page, however it is certainly not a big hitter but it does get a few hundred visits each day, which amazes and delights me given that it's not really about anything. Niche blogs generally build an audience and do useful things, I just witter on and record stuff for later. Most of my blog posts get tiny numbers of views but one or two are very popular and the 'hits' are almost entirely due to them ;)

Figures in brackets next to each month are the number of posts published in that month.

Month Blogger Stats Google Analytics
January (11) 59,624 17,103
February (2) 58,153 17,792
March (10) 71,487 18,697
April (7) 65,703 18,040
May (12) 62,413 16,351
June (7) 65,194 15,781
July (11) 73,391 17,243
August (8)  68,295 16,540
September (8) 61,177 14,835
October (12) 69,856 12,950
November (2) 57,221 10,920
December (10) 67,118 11,455
Totals 779,632 187,707
Monthly avg 64,969 15,642

Total blog visitors (lifetime) is 424,084 according to Google Analytics, this is a much smaller figure than the 1.6m (pageviews, not visitors) that Blogger Stats currently displays. As you can see in the pic below up until March 2014 this blog had had about 300,000 visitors so there have been around 120,000 since then (187,000 from Jan-Dec 2014 in total).

Almost all traffic is from Google with a pitifully small amount of traffic from Twitter. I do share some of my posts on Twitter but because my blog deals with a lot of techy stuff and the people who follow me are probably quite techy themselves it's not surprising that Twitter visits are much lower.

The picture above shows the stats for this blog according to Blogger with the marker for December 2014 (at 67,118 visits). There was a dip in October 2013 (16 posts) with 37,909 pageviews, which still sounds like lots of page visits to me!

Previous blog stats posts