Stuff that occurs to me

All of my 'how to' posts are tagged here. The most popular posts are about blocking and private accounts on Twitter, also the science communication jobs list. 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'.

Contact: @JoBrodie Email: jo DOT brodie AT gmx DOT com

Science in London: The 2016 scientific society talks in London blog post

Saturday, 30 July 2011

Why does Facebook disobey me?

Shortened link for this post is

In my Facebook settings (think Fort Knox) I have switched off all platform applications so am a bit surprised to be presented with an opportunity, on other pages, to comment as me on Facebook and to simultaneously post to my wall. I'd have assumed this wasn't possible. When I log out of Facebook this option disappears from these pages (if I reload them post logout) - but I have never authorised these pages to know that I'm logged in to Facebook in the first place and I've told Facebook not to indicate that I am. What am I doing wrong?

Here's a pic of my settings - Blogger used to let me add images that were of a reasonable size, sorry it's so teeny (possibly Blogger's lying to me about my settings too!) - hopefully if you click on it the image will open up larger in Twitpic...

...and below is an example of the comment form, again sorry about its teenyness.

Thursday, 28 July 2011

Update on skeptical sneakery - using Flickr images as creative commons Trojan horses on sites selling woo

Shortened link:

A little while ago I discovered, while doing a vanity google of my Flickr photos, that a couple of my pictures had found their way onto website pages selling food supplements, herbal remedies or homeopathy and I wrote about it here.

I was surprised to see that in a few of them they'd not only pinched the title I'd given the photo but also the comments that I'd added to my own Flickr page. Some of my comments were critical of the types of products that they were using the photograph to advertise, which amused me. Naturally the cogs began to whir and I wondered if i could exploit this by uploading the equivalent of photographic Trojan horses.

While I don't really think I'm stopping people from buying nonsense (and I doubt I'd be able to get any evidence) I've been refining the process to try and put my photos to work.

From what I can gather, the most fun can be had with:
1. Images (I created mine in PowerPoint) that are available under a Creative Commons license, tagged with weight loss or diet pills (or whatever fraudulent woo you want to target). I've created a basic image of a 'diet patch' with text on it saying that they don't work.
2. A title and description that are overtly critical of the product, ie 'diet patches don't work'
3. Addition of a comment that you've added, for the websites to pinch and pretend it was added by someone commenting on their page - I amused myself with "If this comment appears on a website other than..."
4. Adding to the comment an unformatted URL that readers can copy and paste (html'ed links don't seem to work when the comment is copied to its new location). I might even try drawing attention to it.

I'm also thinking about adding in a fake positive comment, that links to the blogpost I mentioned in the first paragraph.

An example of what I'd call a 'successful hit' is this one - my image appears near the top of the page and then there's some text advertising the product. For some reason a smaller version of my image appears again but this time it has my title "Diet and weight loss patches – they don’t really work, save your money" and critical description "Nicotine is a small plant-based alkaloid that easily dissolves in water and non-polar solvents. This does not mean that all plant-based molecules, or mixtures of molecules, can get across the skin and there’s no evidence that herbal diet patches are of any use beyond extracting money from your wallet. Avoid."

My comment appears there too "If this comment appears on a website other than my Flickr stream then it’s been pinched from this page and posted without permission. You may well be looking at a website that’s hoping to cheat you out of some money. Run away", and just in case it gets deleted I've frozen the page here

There are two reasons that I'm particularly pleased to find that this particular page has unwittingly used my critical title and description.

One is the link that can be found within the phrase "Weight Loss Diet Patches" - it's from MoreNiche and is an affiliate marketing tracker

The other is that the page redirects to Roduve's Slimweight patch

I've written about both MoreNiche and Slimweight patches here "Do Slimweight patches work? How?"

Wednesday, 27 July 2011

How to embed audio in PowerPoint presentations and convert m4a to mp3

Shortened link for this post is:

I've just discovered how to do this so I'm writing it down in my blogojournal as an aide memoire for when I find that I have to do it again.

As part of a workshop that my colleagues on the CHI+MED project are running we've been asked to put together a single slide to tell delegates who we are and what we do. For those not attending the workshop to deliver the slide in person we can add the audio and set it to run for us.

I've definitely done this before as we've previously used digital stories (we're a large project stretching over four universities and two hospitals and it's helpful to know who everyone is when we all get together as there are always new people) but could I remember how? No.

On Twitter @cvelhas was kind enough to give me the answer: "Hey Jodie, go to Insert, then Audio, then Record Audio :)" and she's right.

On my version of PowerPoint, clicking the Insert tab brings up a range of icons the last of which is the Audio one - clicking that brings up the option to:

Insert audio from file...
Clipart audio... (yikes!)
Record audio...

At first I tried to record but it turns out that my microphone and recording system aren't working very well on this computer.

So I recorded it on my iPhone (using the Voice Memos app that comes with it) and emailed the resulting .m4a file to myself (click on the icon with three lines, select the relevant memo, click the blue Share button and choose email - you can also do this via USB / iTunes).

It did sort of work when I embedded it into the slide but it was a struggle, and rather than appearing as an attractive 'play audio' icon it looked like a black box. When it was eventually persuaded to play the audio file it wiggled a little green line across the box, in time with my voice. Odd.

Then I googled "convert m4a to mp3" and found this free software which I've downloaded and used and it was all quick and painless. Once I'd remembered where I'd saved the output .mp3 I was able to embed it in the PowerPoint and send it to my colleague.


I also got a message from @liamgh who suggested "have a look at handbrake, vlc and ffmpeg too. All great for converting files - and open source."

I've not tried the others but VLC is amazing.

Saturday, 9 July 2011

Quick post for @tom_hartley and other events organisers, on capturing tweets

I have made a study of some Twitter tools (for events mostly) but since every time I go looking for more I find more I'm pretty certain that I have but scratched the surface etc. etc. and there may well be more suitable tools than the ones mentioned below, that I don't even know of.

1. Displaying delegates' tweets attractively on a display screen in the foyer
Twitterfountain looks a bit fancy, quite nice, screen refreshes with a different tweet.
Twitterfall drops new tweets into a downwards scrolling page of tweets, users can see theirs appear soon after pressing send.

2. Displaying delegates' tweets in the conference
If you must - it can be a bit distracting to be honest, but many like it. I'd recommend Twitterfall for this. Monitter can also be used.

3. Being a delegate and tweeting from a laptop
Use, Tweetdeck or - if you really want to focus on the hashtag - use Tweetchat which will auto-add the hashtag to save you having to type it each time, will show you nothing other than the hashtag, and will pause for you as you scroll back.

4. Capturing the tweets as a permanent record
I always do more than one. SearchHash is my new favourite (now that What the Hashtag has stopped doing this). You can copy and paste the search results somewhere else or download as a .csv. They are not pretty though, they look like a tabulated data set rather than a range of tweets - this may not matter. You can set this up within a day of the conference starting as it seems to handle about 1,000 plus tweets in one go, but I don't recommend leaving it too late. New tweets will eventually push out older ones so download regularly and remove duplicates later.

For prettiness I am smitten with Twilert - set up soon after or before your hashtag is being used and it will send you daily, hourly, 15-minutely updates with new tweets since the last update (you can determine what rate you think you need). The tweets look lovely and the avatar is there and it's all full colour.

With such prettiness I wish it was easier to transfer the contents of the email into some other format eg a website. I can email to a blog post and it comes out fine but it would be nice to access the html and edit it to combine a run of alerts together. I don't know how to access the html though - if someone does, let me know.

Another good tool for collecting a bunch of hashtagged tweets together is Chirpstory - log in with Twitter, clear the current timeline (you don't want to add any of them if you're just looking to collect hashtags), then search for your tagged word and choose the option to move the whole page over to the collecting panel on the right.

Then go back in time to collect previous ones by pressing page 2... page 3 and so on - eventually you won't be able to go back any further. Once you've collected them all you can remove duplicates (in case you've inadvertently copied page 15 twice, say) and then you can reorder them, using the up and down arrows, so the latest tweet's at the top (default) or at the bottom (which I think is nicer for reading). Then make sure you click the pale blue button on the bottom right that says 'Create story'.

A very similar, and more frequently used, service is Storify however the last time I checked it didn't let you move a page of tweets in one go nor reorder them. Hence I prefer Chirpstory for collection. Storify is used to add commentary in between tweets which I don't think you can do with Chirpstory.

For searching a bit further back in time try Topsy. It's unlikely to give you a neat thread of them though.

This is a much shorter version of the post linked above - that one has a list of all the tools I've come across and a brief description of what they do.

Monday, 4 July 2011

Twitter Stempra talk - Thursday 7 July 2011

The shortened URL for this blog post will be and I shall bung relevant stuff here after the talk.


Well that was fun! As the event coincided with the Royal Society's black tie Summer Science soiree (is that what it's called?) there were a few rather well dressed people in the audience and on the panel (I can assure you I wasn't one of them ho ho).

Anyway I mentioned SearchHash during the talk, in response to @lulucrumble who was livetweeting it (thanks!, and in a fabulous frock too) and was trying to get the name. This is something created by @lesteph and @davebriggs in October 2010 I think and which I only discovered a month or two ago around the time of great wailing and gnashing of teeth when wthashtag (what the hashtag) and Twapperkeeper found themselves in difficulties with Twitter, who said "no more downloading of archives". Fortunately SearchHash does let you do this, but the search is cached for an hour or so, so you can't keep refreshing and hoping to add to it before you download - older tweets will fall off the bottom! So monitor it carefully.

I've also found that Twilert achieves a similar purpose but in a different way. You can set up an email alert that will send you updates containing 100 tweets (including RTs, don't think there's a way to get rid of them) and if it's a busy event with many tweets you can set it to send them every 15 minutes.

The event is actually free, but I would encourage you to pay £15 and join Stempra cos it's cool. Foolishly I let my membership lapse (solely because I have to find a chequebook and a pen as I don't think it's PayPal-able) so I will be paying to attend myself ;)

Please note that although they've listed me as a Diabetes UK employee I'm not speaking about Diabetes UK stuff (I don't have anything to do with our Twitter account) and blethering more generally about the use of Twitter and possibly archiving (if they let me). I also work at UCL.

Twitter: A black hole for time OR a great tool for engaging?
Love it or loathe it, Twitter and other social media are here and demanding our attention. Join us as we consider the big questions:
  • Is Twitter a torrent of irrelevant gubbins with a negligible signal-to-noise ratio...
  • ... or an exciting fluid new medium that’s enabled you to engage a whole new audience?
  • Do you have no idea, but would like to know more so you make a judgement call?
  • Are Twitter-haters at a competitive disadvantage in the science communication job market?
  • Anything else social media related that’s preying on your mind...
Kicking off the evening with their thoughts and opinions are:
  • Jo Brodie (Diabetes UK {and UCL}) who’s been Tweeting for 3 years and curates the best of the bunch
  • Henry Scowcroft (Cancer Research UK), blogs for Cancer Research UK and is part of the charity’s Internet & New Media department
  • {and possibly someone else too...}
Come prepared with your anecdotes and experiences at the ready (Twitter virgins excepted).
Date: Thursday 7 July 2011
Time: 18:30 - 19:00 (registration from 17:30 and followed by refreshments in a nearby pub)

Venue: Society of Biology, Charles Darwin House, 12 Roger Street, WC1N 2JU
Cost: Free to Stempra members, £15 to non-members (which includes the membership fee)
To register: please email