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

Friday, 27 March 2015

Things I can't do on Firefox 36.0.4 - you?

I think I have a new version of Firefox, it seems fairly awful so far - must have unwittingly updated it earlier this evening.

Here's a list of things that I've found I can no longer do with the latest version of Firefox (36.0.4) but which I could do fine on the previous one. Not sure how to fix this, short of waiting for the next update, which I hope will be soon.

Things I don't seem to be able to do include...
  • view my Wordpress.com sites' stats pages - they all show up as a blank grey page (fine on Safari)
  • use FlightRadar.com - no aircraft appear and although I can zoom in or out I can't use the grab and move tool to move the map (fine on Safari)
  • use Storify properly - it stops at the end of the first page and the 'read next page' link doesn't click to go anywhere (infinite scrolling works fine on Safari so I never see this button, it worked fine on the previous version of Firefox too)

Tuesday, 24 March 2015

Ways of making sections of or elements in a picture clickable or hover-overable for more info, eg thinglink

For years I've wanted to be able to do this but had no idea how and then this year I've seen two examples that have intrigued me. The way I understand these services is as a cross between a Pinterest board and Google maps where a circle is 'dropped' onto an area of a picture and you can overlay information. When the person looking at the photo hovers over that circle they'll get the information, and with 'thinglink' they can actually click through to a linked website.

I think this is terribly clever and am keen to try it out myself.

The first example I ever heard of was from @Documentally who used thinglink to show "What's in my kitbag (Early 2015)?". I can't think of a more perfect use of the app / technology for that sort of thing, here's a before hovering and after hovering screenshot. On Documentally's post you can click on the blue circle to visit the Tom Bihn website.

The other example I've seen relates to this problem that politicians have with their posh kitchens. Here, The Telegraph has gone through items in a photograph of David Cameron fetching something from his fridge and labelled them with further info. As far as I can tell each bit of information isn't clickable though.

As far as I can tell the graphic, made by Mark Oliver, hasn't come from something I can play around with on the web - I didn't find anything obvious in the source code at least (tho not that certain what I'm looking for).

What other examples are there of this sort of thing? Free? Paid-for?

Thursday, 12 March 2015

In honour of Terry Pratchett I am renaming my "It's probably in here" box to "We had one once but the bit you unscrew fell off and got lost"

Lifehacker would have liked my mum. She instituted the "It's probably in here" box a few years ago and filled it with fuses, odd screws, batteries and other random household things that didn't really fit anywhere in our own home taxonomy. It was an immediate hit in the Brodie household and I have continued the tradition with a box of my own (a shoe box, currently sitting on a bookshelf).

I've added one of my favourite Terry Pratchett quotes to the side of the box (in a pen that I found inside it which is nearly running out of ink). It comes from Witches Abroad and was said by Old Mother Dismass, though no-one knew what she was talking about :)

"We had one once but the bit you unscrew fell off and got lost" - I feel this captures the contents of the box very well.

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)