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, 25 April 2014

I'm almost embarrassed by how much this made me giggle: Bus stopping 'ping'

A couple of years ago while on a bus I noticed that the bus's 'Stopping' indicator sign, which lights up and pings whenever someone presses the 'let me off' button, had managed to lose its first four letters. This meant that the indicator just said '.......ping' while actually making a pinging sound. I have to admit that I was overcome with childish giggling every time it was pressed and had to escort myself off the bus, before I finally managed a journey without laughing for just long enough to record a brief video. Here it is, just under three seconds long.

I wonder if this is a case of determinative nominism ;)

Wednesday, 23 April 2014

April 2014, finding hashtagged tweets from November 2013 - a case study

Earlier today I spotted (I have a saved search on Twitter for my own blog) that someone (@PH_AdvocateEU) had been trying to uncover old tweets from a conference, using information in an even older blog post of mine which is now ridiculously out of date.

Since I like trying to find old tweets and haven't done it for a while I got in touch and asked if I could use it as a case study, to see what could be found. They agreed and I had a look - not much through usual methods but a 'handsearch' (combing through participants' tweets) looks the most promising, but it is the most labour-intensive unfortunately.

The hashtag in question is #EUCOPDBrx13

All the tweets that I've collected (there are more out there, but fiddly to uncover) are in this Storify:
#EUCOPDBrx13 - a collection of conference tweets

1. Has anyone already done the work for you - not in this case
It's possible that someone else has collected the tweets together and embedded them into a blog post or Storify etc, so search for the tag there first (you can use Google's Blog Search tool http://www.google.co.uk/blogsearch) - I didn't find anything on either site in this particular case though.

Sometimes people add a widget to their website which feeds in hashtagged tweets and stuff can be picked up from them (not in this case though it seems).

Note that there may be paid-for services that do this, but I'm afraid I don't know about them. If you have a server and know what an API is you may be able to call them up from Twitter's servers.

2. Twitter.com - a few
Twitter's own search box is a really good place to start, I've recently been surprised and delighted to find really old tweets on it - note though that I'm using the web browser version, not a smartphone or tablet app.

When you first search anything on Twitter you're shown the 'top tweets', you need to click on 'All' to see what else is available... and then you need to scroll down to the end (and keep scrolling until you're met with a note saying 'Back to top' which is Twitter's way of telling you that all available tweets are loaded).

You can see them here (although as time passes fewer of them will appear presumably) https://twitter.com/search?q=%23EUCOPDBrx13%20&src=typd&f=realtime

Doing this brought up 21 tweets - one was @PH_AdvocateEU telling me which hashtag to look for and seven of them were from 'bots' (automated accounts) reporting that the tag was (at the time of the tweet being sent) trending, which certainly suggests that there should be quite a lot of tweets.

Below was the earliest tweet I could find (it's a picture of the tweet with its address beneath it because embedding tweets doesn't seem to work very well on this blog. Subsequent tweets are embedded and show up as plain text).


If you are using Storify or Wordpress.com you don't need to use the Embed Code to add a tweet, just its URL. Here are the URLs of the tweets above. If you hover over the datestamp (or timestamp) of the tweet you can then right click / copy link location to get the URL.

https://twitter.com/EPHA_EU/status/406044863554019328 (this is the one shown as a picture above)

I may have missed one or two!

3. Search Google - a couple
An ordinary search on Google can also bring up tweets. Don't forget to investigate cached copies of things - if you see a tiny green arrow to the right of a site's address click on that and choose cache (this is an archived copy of the page).

I found a couple that didn't show up when searching directly on Twitter

4. Targeted search restricted to names - not much, not tried all!
We know who was tweeting about the conference

We know from the content of their tweets who else was there, or participating
@imi_Ju, @karinkadenbach, @IPCRG, @yankeeu, @EU_H2020, @mikegalsworthy, @mikakosinska, @NABedlington, @humedsci

Although it doesn't bring up much in this case it's worth adding these names to the hashtag (one by one alas, this is fairly laborious I'm afraid) to see if you can find any other tweets that they sent or were mentioned in.

To find tweets they sent
from:imi_Ju #EUCOPDBrx13

To find tweets mentioning them
@imi_Ju #EUCOPDBrx13

I'd have to concede that this hasn't been particularly successful in this case though!

4. Manually scroll back to the relevant point of people's timelines - very promising, but hard work
Twitter will let you scroll back 3,200 tweets' worth on anyone's page. If they're very chatty this might not help if you're looking five or six months later of course.

I tried this for @EU_COPD, and found this - they've published fewer than 500 tweets so scrolling through wasn't too onerous. Each of these could be captured in a storify by collecting the URL (where it says 28 Nov, in grey - that's the timestamp that has the unique address for the tweet).

I'm not going to collect all of the URLs but a couple are (the last two in this pic)

5. Instagram and other tools - haven't checked
People take pictures, they tag them - have a look on Instagram for the same tag and see if there's any info there (you can include these in Storify stories I think).

Wednesday, 16 April 2014

Is there a "metadata protection act"? How do we think about metadata

by @JoBrodie

Recently I have spotted some tweets about an alternative health magazine (What Doctors Don't Tell You) which is offering its readers a taped recording of discussions with various people about cancer treatments. The implication in the advert is that the magazine can't say too much about the contents of the tape in the text of the offer because doing so would bring the Cancer Act 1939 upon them.

They're probably right, in two senses. Offering advice, to the public, about cancer treatment falls within the Act but the text as seen in this bit of marketing does not itself offer any advice about treatment, so is fine. I've no idea if the recording itself would breach the Act (regardless of how it's acquired by members of the public) or if it's problematic because receiving it is contingent on taking out a subscription... or in fact not at all (I'm not a lawyer).

This made me wonder: what's the deal with not saying something but just linking to it or inferring it? Does that count? No idea.

It reminded me of a small collection I've been making that relates to jigsaw ID and how all sorts of things can be inferred from metadata. Efforts can be made to conceal your data but the metadata about your can be leaky.

The jigsaw ID and metadata stuff is quite separate though from an advert about cancer information - this is about me thinking through some thoughts about the way in which we consider indirect information. But I suppose both would be covered by my notion of a 'metadata protection act' in which everyone had to be super careful about how they point to things.

Convinced that others might have thought this exact same thought I searched on Twitter for the jokey phrase "metadata protection act" but found nothing on Twitter and only two hits on Google. So I've sort of stumbled upon a sort of Googlewhack if nothing else ;)

Newspapers have guidelines on reporting abuse cases, to avoid indirectly implying the victim without naming them directly. Do we have anything else for metadata? If we did, I wonder what difference it would make to this advert. 

Friday, 11 April 2014

I'm seeing a lot of people asking this: "Do you know about the Cancer Act of 1939?"

This question seems to have cropped up rather a lot in recent weeks*. If you type "cancer act" 1939 into Twitter you'll see a stream of tweets about it - most of them seem to be pointing to only one or two forum posts, and they all seem to say the same thing. There seem to be a few convergent conspiracy theories about it.

I'm intrigued as to why there's a sudden (apparent) interest in the Act.

Briefly, it's an Act of Parliament that makes it an offence to offer to treat someone for cancer or give advice about treatment...

"4 Prohibition of certain advertisements.

(1)No person shall take any part in the publication of any advertisement—

(a) containing an offer to treat any person for cancer, or to prescribe any remedy therefor, or to give any advice in connection with the treatment thereof;"
...unless you are making the information available for healthcare practitioners.

There haven't been very many prosecutions under the Act, though things probably don't get that far as most people will remove misleading claims after discussions with Trading Standards. A few websites have closed down, events have tried to move venues (doesn't really work, still illegal) or speakers have been removed from the programme - it all seems to be quite low level stuff really.

Incidentally I've known of the Act since at least 2010, it's fairly well-known among skeptic bloggers I think.

*to be fair I've not really been looking for it before now so I don't know if it's always been this much talked about, or if this is a real and recent increase.

Additional comments policy - note that any approved comments are very likely to be published as plain text with no website hyperlinks. This is both an anti-spam and anti-conspiracy-theory strategy.

Tuesday, 8 April 2014

Complaining via the ASA (Advertising Standards Authority) or European ASA about a non-UK advert

by @JoBrodie

You can complain about adverts appearing in other countries (eg on non-UK websites).

The UK's Advertising Standards Authority is a member of the European Advertising Standards Alliance (EASA) along with 23 other European countries. If an advert appears in another country you can report it to the ASA and they'll pass it on to the EASA while liaising with you, thanks to their cross-border complaints arrangement, or you can also complain directly through the EASA.

I discovered this by accident when complaining about an advert for a diabetes clinic that appeared on Facebook - even though it was based in another country I reported it as it was clearly targeting a UK audience (and making misleading claims). I wasn't sure if there was much that could be done, but there was. The ASA told me they were passing it on to the regulator in that country and they kept me informed throughout - and my complaint was upheld.

The 23 European countries other than the UK are:

Austria, Belgium, Bulgaria, Czech Republic, Finland, France, Germany, Greece, Hungary, Ireland, Italy, Lithuania, Luxembourg, The Netherlands, Poland, Portugal, Romania, Slovakia, Slovenia, Spain, Sweden, Switzerland and Turkey.

There are also 7 non-European countries that have regulatory links:

Australia, Brazil, Canada, Chile, India, New Zealand and South Africa.

Some examples of adjudications appearing on the ASA's website where the trading address isn't in the UK.

South Africa
Consumer code | Complaint form
If advertisers don't play fair then the ASASA will take out an ad-alert.