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 gmail DOT com

Science in London: The 2017 scientific society talks in London blog post

Friday, 31 May 2013

How to do all sorts of stuff on or with Twitter - my fairly useful posts that are tagged "Twitter tips"


Jump to the list of posts ordered with most recent first.



I've been writing this blog for about four years and covered quite a lot of topics including technology, diabetes, science communication, film music and anything that takes my fancy really. Probably my favourite posts are the ones on how to do something, usually on a computer. They're fun to write (you just write what you did!) and are useful to me, because a year from now I'll have forgotten how to what I did a year ago.

These are what I consider pretty useful posts about using Twitter. I might do a round-up of posts that are about wrestling with Word and the internet more generally. With Twitter and Word it's generally me that's acting as the 'expert' sharing what I've discovered but my posts about the internet are often 'help' and that's where the comments can make life a lot happier.

I thought it also might be interesting for anyone nosey to see exactly how many 'hits' a post actually gets (note I also publish annual statistics for this blog, based on Blogger stats mostly - I think you need to divide by two thirds to get more realistic figures!).

In the first list there are four numbers below each post - the first is the flattering page count that Blogger gives you, the second is the much lower (but much realer) pageview count from Google Analytics. The third number is the number of unique pageviews and the fourth is the average time spent on the page.

In the second list I've just put them in date order (most recent first) in case you just want to look at more recent posts - note that I do tend to amend and update older posts, until it gets to a point that I treat them as archival.

First list

Thursday, 7 June 2012
What happens if you block someone on Twitter? What happens if they block you?
148,500 (an outlier!) / 57,470 pageviews from 55,997 unique visitors spending 4.14 minutes on the page
- the most popular thing I've ever written and, as always, I wrote it very quickly after making the observation that an awful lot of people don't seem to have worked out that blocking someone on Twitter does not stop them from seeing your tweets. Since its initial publication I've added answers to questions that people have sent me, or if I've spotted what they've searched for on Google I've answered that.

Monday, 30 May 2011
A list of tools for finding or capturing tweets
14,396  8,307  5,887  3.03
- pretty useful though about to keel over from its bigness. I update it roughly twice a year. Never get rid of anything though, just block it out, so it's kind of a historical record of all the cool stuff we used to be able to do up until 2011 when social media went a bit crap (personal opinion).

Tuesday, 16 February 2010
Curated posts: liveblogging science conferences - my thoughts on tweeting medical research charity conferences
858  220   162  4.13
- a post that has changed its remit as time's gone on. Initially it was a response to the hoo-ha that ensued when Daniel Macarthur tweeted from a biosciences conference, and my reflections on the 'ethics' of delegates reporting things from medical research conferences (particularly where patients are also watching). Now it includes all sorts of posts about the infrastructure of conference tweeting and is pretty regularly updated.

Saturday, 5 March 2011
Trapping tweets for archiving eg at conferences, or curiosity
593  295  258  2.00
- not bad. A little out of date (need to block out Twapperkeeper) but nicely divided into WHAT (stuff you want to do with tweets) and HOW you can achieve that with the tools).

I've actually written a much more recent post on the work blog about how to use Storify to get conference tweets, see Using Storify to maintain a collection of tweets from events and conferences – a ‘how to’ guide

Friday, 22 March 2013
Thwarting spammers on hashtag livetweeted events
500   140  125 3.42
- I had a flash of inspiration, this one works well.

Thursday, 19 July 2012
Using free tools to capture a handful of tweets or a larger bunch
438    173  132   3.29
- people who say "people often ask me" sound a bit smug but people do often ask me about Twitter tools, and these are the ones I use most often or have played around with most.

Thursday, 17 January 2013
Twitter archives available: what I tweeted about in September 2008 - and how to get the original URL
385 115   91 2.55
- that delightful moment when you can access your entire history of tweets. Mine are four years' worth of me being delighted about stuff on and offline, I enjoyed reading them. There's also How to share your Twitter archive via your public Dropbox though I'm not currently doing so myself (again, ethics).

Wednesday, 4 May 2011
Some quick thoughts on Storify as a mini archive for Tweets
348  191 165  4.48
- still fairly relevant, more about how Storify works rather than a how to (for that see Using Storify to maintain a collection of tweets from events and conferences – a ‘how to’ guide. One of the first things I ever tried with Storify was to find it how it saves tweets, and I discovered that if you save a tweet there and the person deletes it from Twitter it will remain in the Storify story.

Wednesday, 26 October 2011
If you're using Storify for conference or event tweets you *might* be doing it a bit wrong-ish, suggest Chirpstory :)
316   126    105  3.22
- Storify is fantastic and getting better all the time, it's also very pretty. Slightly less pretty, but better for a metric beeptonne of tweets, is Chirpstory. Storify lets you grab 20 at a time and I don't think it lets you easily deduplicate (though you can get rid of RTs). Chirpstory grabs 50 at a go and is easier for captures where you have to come back and add the new tweets. In doing so you end up recapturing some of the older ones as well and it's really easy to get rid of those on Chirpstory, less so on Storify. Both let you reorder tweets in either direction (newest first or oldest first) though Chirpstory already had these features before Storify.

Thursday, 28 March 2013
Things you're doing wrong on Twitter (well not you, obviously)
256 views 54   51 6.04
- an important lesson to learn in life is that others don't think as you do. Despite this I'm still surprised to see people sending @messages when what I suspect they wanted to do was send an .@ message, to 'break' the @ and let the rest of their followers see the message that they're sending to the world while still referencing the @person, as opposed to just sending it to the person. What surprises me is that I just worked this out from spotting a few other people doing it (and realising that I was suddenly able to see messages) and adopting it. I just assumed everyone did, but then I discovered that 90 per cent of computer users don't know about Ctrl+F. That slightly blew my mind - bad enough that people are searching documents by visual scans instead of leaping to their word or phrase of interest - but the fact that it really hadn't occurred to me that everyone didn't already know this.

The post is also a tiny bit about how to use search on Twitter to see what people are saying about your business. 

Sunday, 5 February 2012
Anatomy of a tweet - the New New Twitter version
209  55   47 1.25
- when you hover over, or click on, a tweet - while using Twitter.com - a little world of information opens up. You can get the web address that will let you share the link to that tweet (directly) with someone else, find out when it was sent and do all the usual stuff of retweeting and favouriting.

Sunday, 12 May 2013
How often has that tweet been retweeted? Here are some ways to find out
196 views 51  47 5.27
- another 'people often ask me' one, vaguely related to engagement (as in are people interacting with that tweet). My handle on this is relatively basic - you can pay people / pay for apps that will tell you a great deal more. Useful summary at the top.


Sunday, 11 December 2011
Quora questions I've answered about Twitter and hashtags

118  44   27  3.40
- Love Quora, the sort of thing I'd want on a desert island. 

At the time of writing (the post) here were the questions I'd had a go at answering.




Second list

By date, ordered with most recent posts first

Sunday, 12 May 2013
How often has that tweet been retweeted? Here are some ways to find out

Thursday, 28 March 2013
Things you're doing wrong on Twitter (well not you, obviously)

Friday, 22 March 2013
Thwarting spammers on hashtag livetweeted events

Thursday, 17 January 2013
Twitter archives available: what I tweeted about in September 2008 - and how to get the original URL

Thursday, 19 July 2012
Using free tools to capture a handful of tweets or a larger bunch

Thursday, 7 June 2012
What happens if you block someone on Twitter? What happens if they block you?

Sunday, 5 February 2012
Anatomy of a tweet - the New New Twitter version

Sunday, 11 December 2011
Quora questions I've answered about Twitter and hashtags

Wednesday, 26 October 2011
If you're using Storify for conference or event tweets you *might* be doing it a bit wrong-ish, suggest Chirpstory :)

Monday, 30 May 2011
A list of tools for finding or capturing tweets

Wednesday, 4 May 2011
Some quick thoughts on Storify as a mini archive for Tweets

Saturday, 5 March 2011
Trapping tweets for archiving eg at conferences, or curiosity

Tuesday, 16 February 2010
Curated posts: liveblogging science conferences - my thoughts on tweeting medical research charity conferences




Sunday, 19 May 2013

Music that I discovered from adverts

This one is likely to be endlessly updated.

Adverts try and create good feelings about their product, hopefully leading to future sales - and I'm sure this works well, but the one things adverts usually do for me is sell me the incidental music. I'm sure that's intentional. For example I can't drive but car adverts are doing a roaring trade in selling me music or at least flagging it up to me.

In all cases the band name is in bold, it's not always clear who's the band and which is the song title ;)

1. Woodkid - Run Boy Run

This came from an advert for a mobile phone company that successfully managed to get into my consciousness precisely because I realised I had to pay attention to the advert so I could find out what to search for on YouTube. Well done them.

2. Stealing Sheep - Shut Eye

Saw this on a TV advert for the programme Hollyoaks. It seems to be a fairly unpleasant programme where nobody is nice to anyone else (not quite as awful as Come Dine With Me which is just flat-out unpleasantness, with catering).

3. Leila - Underwaters

From the enchanting Avios advert which turned out to be for Air Miles. Since I don't fly (not for environmental reasons and I love air flights, just hate the accompanying check-in faffy interminableness) they're not doing much business out of me for that reason.

4. ALB - Golden Chains
Since I'm a little bit in love with the guy who's running around with his yellow underpants on I thought I'd post the actual advert too. His name's Tom Bennett and he plays both characters.


Saturday, 18 May 2013

Short course in flying by arm flapping (power of flight not guaranteed)

Recently I was followed by someone on Twitter who I'm sure is a lovely person but who is offering courses in 'theta healing' (1, 2). I pondered on the nature of these things, in terms of their separateness from everything else. It is possible to 'learn' about theta healing and train someone else in it, and so on, and for this all to happen entirely in parallel (so it seems) to the rest of the world, without any worries about science or evidence ever encroaching onto it.

It's the same with homeopathy really, although recently there has been a bit more of a breakdown in the wall between science and homeopathy where the evidence is now having a real-world effect in reducing the impact of homeopathy on NHS spending for example. The ASA's CAP code compliance team even has pages on its website devoted to what homeopaths may or may not imply in their advertising (see Therapies: homeopathy and Medicines: homeopathic medicines).

With things like therapeutic touch or energy healing where the therapist doesn't have to touch the patient but 'directs their energy' towards them it seems to be an uphill struggle to convince adherents that nothing much is going on. The therapist feels that something has happened and the client feels better for it. In one ASA adjudication someone flogging Reiki even "acknowledged there was little or no published or peer-reviewed evidence but argued that anecdotal evidence, such as testimonials, could support efficacy claims.  The ASA rejected that argument and concluded that Reiki had not been shown to treat the listed conditions."

I thought I should get in on the act and have decided to open up to the public my very successful courses on how to fly by flapping your arms. Thanks to whining by skeptics I have had to amend my claims in light of recent CAP code rulings so I am unable to state that I can actually teach you to fly and can only state that I will teach you the best techniques for flapping your arms effectively.
"CAP has not seen robust evidence to suggest that arm flapping results in any significant uplift and practitioners should limit themselves to claims of availability of courses only."
In the course we will focus on upper arm strength and fluid movement. The course may help you with the following:
  • stronger arms
  • a sense of buoyancy and oneupmanship over gravity
  • better skin
  • weight loss
  • getting the best parking spaces
Testimonials from happy customers
"I found the course profoundly moving... mostly in the kinetic sense."

"I didn't actually manage to fly during the sessions but we heard that some of the people on the advanced course did manage it. That one costs £600, I'm saving up."

"The course was great - I learned so much and really enjoyed myself. And the plaster cast comes off next week so I'm keen to have another try."

For those who don't feel ready to commit to learning how to flap your arms properly there are also shorter courses in handwaving. More at the links below.

References
(1) Courses: http://www.whitewavehealing.co.uk/courses.html
(2) about Theta healing:http://www.whitewavehealing.co.uk/theta.html

We're going to need a bigger hashtag (iii) - separate session hashtags for big conferences

Big conference, lots of people tweeting in the first place (and people at home tweeting back on the hashtag) and people tweeting from different sessions too - harder to keep up.

How do other large conferences / attendees / watchers handle this? How can filtering be semi-automated (as it is with the main hashtag)?

I did a spot of research (Google) and haven't really found a satisfactory solution. Clearly the obvious way to do it is to have double hashtags for each session, so if there are 15 sessions throughout a two-day conference you could have

#mainhashtag #sesh1
#mainhashtag #sesh2
...
#mainhashtag #sesh15

and so on, although you may well want something a bit more informative than #sesh1 (however as long as everyone knows what it refers to and it doesn't take up too many letters it really doesn't matter that much).

In terms of filtering, it works perfectly - if you search for two hashtags it returns just those tweets so you can easily pull out all of the tweets from Session 12. (NB It wouldn't work to have one hashtag that covered both, eg #mainhashtagsesh1 #mainhashtagsesh2 as that wouldn't let you pick out all of the #mainhashtag tweets as well.)

How successful is this in real use though? Google pointed me to the BlogHer conference where they tried this last year, but the secondary hashtags didn't get that much use - the tweets were tagged with the primary hashtag of course but people didn't use the second one. Brian Kelly's blog referenced a situation where the conference organisears had suggested secondary hashtags but the ones in their app differed from those being recommended in the pocket guide, so a bit confusing.

Is this a cultural thing? Is it that people just need to know about using two hashtags or see them in use, and it probably helps if it's driven by the conference organisers? Or do people not see it as something to worry much about?

Reading the rest of Brian's post indicates that others have had this conversation and most people don't (or didn't at the time of Brian's first investigations into this in 2009) like the idea of using a second tag. Anyway I recommend reading his post on this, I'm a fan of more hashtags for clarity but I also note his final point "It would, I feel, be unfortunate if valuable Twitter discussions were fragmented across different session hashtags."

My previous ramblings on this topic
We're going to need a bigger hashtag(s) (28 August 2009)
We're going to need a bigger hashtag(s) II (5 September 2009)



Friday, 17 May 2013

Medical research charities, what action do you take against misleading health claims?

I wrote this on the LinkedIn group I moderate for people interested in science communication in the medical research charity sector. Possibly it's more helpful to have it on my blog...

Originally posted here  

Does your charity take action against misleading health claims? Do you involve members and carers in reporting bad advertising to the ASA?

The Advertising Standards Authority (ASA) has just published its annual report and talks about the five things it's focusing on at the moment: free trials, misleading pricing, daily deals, misleading testimonials, misleading health claims.

Of these the latter two are clearly of most obvious relevance to charities that support patients and I wondered if any of you do, or have considered (or 'have rejected the idea of') involving your 'constituency' in scanning the internet for misleading claims and reporting them to the ASA etc?

Yesterday the ASA published an adjudication which was upheld against someone trying to claim that they had a cure for Multiple Sclerosis (MS). I don't know who reported it to the ASA but I'm sure there are many other similar claims that are also in need of reporting.

A couple of weeks ago a different advertiser was told off for claiming to be able to cure Crohn's disease, and almost every week there's an advert for a disease or condition that might be relevant to one or more charities.

These would seem to yield an opportunity for new website content and / or commentary on others' news stories, but also as an opportunity of getting patients and carers involved at the outset.

I see this as being something of multiple potential benefits (though perhaps there are disbenefits that I've not thought of, so you might disagree):

(1) taking action to remove misleading adverts

(2) an opportunity to write a news story about the ASA's actions. My former employer Diabetes UK wrote a news story about Diabetone whose adverts were 'banned' by the ASA for being misleading

(3) an opportunity to go back a step and engage in a mini-campaign with members, getting them (a) to be more aware of the scams that are out there if they're not already and (b) do something about it, perhaps under the umbrella of your charity, perhaps not.

I've reported numerous adverts to the ASA and a couple to Trading Standards and am more than happy to help anyone who wants to put in a complaint themselves. There's also the 'Ask for Evidence' campaign from Sense About Science - they're worth chatting to and they work with many charities already.

Interested to hear if anyone else has tackled bad advertising either individually or as an organisation, and whether or not you've done it internally or involved your supporters.

-----------------

See also The Nightingale Collaboration which "challenges questionable claims made by healthcare practitioners on their websites, in adverts and in their promotional and sales materials by bringing these to the attention of the appropriate regulatory bodies."

Sunday, 12 May 2013

How often has that tweet been retweeted? Here are some ways to find out

People might want to find out the 'reach' of a tweet as part of measuring engagement or something like that, or just curious to see how often someone else's tweet has been retweeted. I'm certain there are clever tools or companies that do this sort of thing for you but here's how I'd go about it, in a fairly basic way, using free tools and a bit of cunning.

This post assumes you're using Twitter via its desktop / web browser version (http://twitter.com) but you can do some of these things on smartphones (presumably tablets too but I've never used one). Twitter is just a tiny part though as people will post information from your tweet on Facebook (or just share content that you've posted directly there) so this shouldn't be taken as covering everything.

Also, as always with these blog posts I'm assuming that there's knowledge and skill I've not discovered yet and if you have it I hope you'll share it in the comments or ping me on Twitter, ta :)

Summary for those who don't need any explanation or detail:
1. Click on tweet to expand, count RTs
2. Search for @mentions of the tweet sender, to pick up manual RTs
3. Favstar
4. If tweet contains URL search for and count those
5. Topsy

A thing that is quite helpful to know
Every tweet has its own web address which can be found in its timestamp (which says things like '4h' if recently tweeted or '10am, 5 April 2013' if more time has elapsed), or in the details link once you've expanded the tweet - the page has lots of information about the tweet including how many people have retweeted it and who they are, and other tweets threaded in conversation with that tweet.

1. Click on tweet to expand, count RTs
Click anywhere on anyone's tweet to expand it and count the number of times it's been retweeted.

If it's your tweet you're interested in then you'll get individual notifications in your 'Connect' page each time someone automatically RTs. Eventually (or if you press refresh) the individual notifications are recombined to show the tweet once with all of the RTs and favourites it's received so far. That tweet will be greyed out so you can't expand it yourself, but you can easily count the numbers.

You'll also get notifications if someone manually RTs your tweet (by copying / pasting and perhaps adding a comment) - but you'll have to add that to the auto-RT total.

Here's an example, from the day I started drafting this post, in which I was surprised to find myself retweeted by the Royal Air Force about a job of theirs I'd spotted.


This tweet has been RTed six times but eventually it will scroll down my mentions page and be harder to find. If it receives another RT later it will pop back up again but if you want to be able to check how it's doing at any time make a note of its address - you can find that in the bit that says 15h just before the text of the tweet starts (that's the time stamp of the tweet, and obviously the time since you sent the tweet will vary but the underlying URL won't). Ignore the bit saying 14h on the top right.

The URL for this particular tweet is https://twitter.com/JoBrodie/status/320098630407163904


and if you go to that page you can see it's since been RTed another time making seven in total, and favourited three times (edit: now back to two, so one person's unfavourited it).

My 'most popular' tweet (according to Favstar) was retweeted 72 times and favourited 18 times - this one is a bit of an outlier!
If it's someone else's tweet that you want to keep your eyes on it you can get its URL from the timestamp in the same way, and you can visit its page to see how it's doing - here's the URL for my Scottish wikipedia tweet: https://twitter.com/JoBrodie/status/182559448697552896


2. Search for at-mentions of the tweet sender, to pick up manual RTs 
Annoying people like me who prefer to add comments to a tweet they're retweeting will muck up your numbers. Everyone who clicks on the 'RT' button will be automatically added in Twitter's own count, however 'manual RTs' won't be so you'll need to count them.

Search for their @name (you're going to have to do this within a reasonable timeframe of the original tweet being sent, if days or weeks later you probably won't find them) and look for manual retweets, an example below:

The above tweet appeared in my mentions page. It contains text from me but the whole tweet was sent by someone else, so the 14h timestamp does contain an active link (compare with mine above which doesn't) and it goes to a page with Sh4zny's tweet on it.

Note: It is also possible that Sh4zny's tweet has itself been retweeted (though it actually hasn't) and you'd need to click on her tweet (or visit its page from the URL in the timestamp) to see this.

For completists you can even try searching for the URL of the tweet itself (as opposed to the URL in the tweet, though you can search for that too) and see if someone's posted a 'have a look at this' tweet, often done to avoid alerting the sender of the tweet that their tweet is being commented on. (Unless they know how to look for it of course).

Here's an example of me linking to an older tweet of mine...


The URL for the tweet in the picture above is https://twitter.com/JoBrodie/status/315604924937420800 (taken from the 23 Mar timestamp on the top right, I'd also be able to get it from Expand > Details). The URL mentioned within the tweet is for https://twitter.com/JoBrodie/statuses/140492913049206784 though when I copied the URL Twitter gave me its shortened version https://t.co/eIwycGBAjf



3. Favstar 
This is a really useful tool that lets you see the most popular tweets from someone (in terms of retweets and favourites) and also recent ones. Most of it is free and doesn't require you to log in but there is a Pro version (I've got a trial version of the pro account as a freebie, this is my conflict of interest statement!)

Favstar.fm is the basic address to which you can add /users/screenname to see the tweets of a particular individual (I'm http://favstar.fm/users/JoBrodie/ and Stephen Fry is http://favstar.fm/users/StephenFry) - by default the 'best of' page is shown first.

Because Favstar only captures tweets that have been favourited or retweeted it makes it a lot easier to browse within a much smaller pool of tweets.

Favstar's address formatting is the same as Twitter's so
http://favstar.fm/users/JoBrodie/status/182559448697552896 is the same as
https://twitter.com/JoBrodie/status/182559448697552896

It also tells you what other tweets someone has posted that have been favourited or retweeted.

4. If tweet contains an address (URL) search for that and count any appear
In the example in (2) above I've referred to an earlier tweet of mine and also to a lipid-related blog. There are three URLs going on there - the URL of the tweet as you see it above, the URL of the earlier tweet that I've mentioned in this tweet and the URL of the blog.

Again, this is really for completists but you can search for the basic root of a website (http://xyz.com) and this will bring up any tweets mentioning (http://xyz.com/blah/blah.php etc).

Incidentally, I assume all business have a search saved on Twitter for their http://www.company.com address (which will pick up any tweet mentioning their company website). Sometimes I'm reminded of this when I tweet something about widgets.com and lo and behold a day or two later Widgets UK favourite it.

5. Topsy 
Sporadically brilliant this one. You can find a fairly random selection of tweets but I have always found it to be pot luck. You can also see where links have been posted on Google Plus.



Hope that helps, remember this is just a handful of ways to find out a bit more about probably a small number of tweets and to do so without spending too much money or time. If you need to get information ('metrics') for how you or your company are doing on Twitter, eg to measure your return on investment as well as reach, then you might need to cough up some cash and use a paid-for service. Alas I know next to nothing about this.



Saturday, 11 May 2013

Reiki (CNHC-registered practitioners) and misleading claims - looking good, fairly few, hooray

I suppose this is the second in what might be a series of CNHC-related posts. The first explains a bit more about what the CNHC, ASA and CAP do, this post assumes the terms are familiar.

In 'Therapies: Reiki' the CAP advice for anyone making advertising / marketing claims for reiki is very clear that there's no evidence that the intervention has any healing effects on the body. Marketers also need to avoid naming medical conditions but are apparently on safe ground if they refer to emotional or spirtitual benefits.

Similarly the guidance on what reiki is, from the CNHC, is a good example of not implying any misleading claims.

Are the practitioners who've registered with CNHC complying with guidance from CAP and their regulating body in terms of what they say on their marketing material?

I searched for all Reiki practitioners within 20 miles of London.

Therapist one
Mandarin Oriental hotel (http://www.mandarinoriental.com/london/)
To be honest I couldn't find any mention at all of Reiki, let alone any misleading claims.




Therapist two
Victoria Dalgliesh (http://www.victoriadalgleish.co.uk/all-about-reiki-healing/)
No misleading claims found.




Therapist three
Melanie Glanville (http://www.melanieglanville.co.uk/reiki-usui.php)
Sadly this website offers ear candling which is pointless nonsense and the Reiki claims look like they might cross into things that registered practitioners can't say, so this is one to come back to.



Therapist four
New Cross Natural Therapy Centre (http://www.newcrossnaturaltherapy.com/therapy_reiki.html)
No misleading claims for Reiki here. Interestingly the page on craniosacral therapy (CST) has a whinge about the ASA and the restrictions on being allowed to claim stuff, and references a separate page on CST which does make claims. However as far as I can tell whoever's doing the CST there is not CNHC registered.


Therapist five
Divine Life Reiki (http://www.divinelifereiki.com/divinelifereiki/About_Reiki.html)
Pretty harmless stuff, mostly, I think.




Therapist six
Healing with Heidi (http://www.healingwithheidi.co.uk/reiki-treatment.php)
Perfect. Nothing misleading here at all.




Therapist seven
LPJ Healing Energy (http://www.lpjhealingenergy.co.uk/#/reiki/4560763205)
Another ear candler alas. Worse, the page includes a list of conditions that Reiki is claimed to help with including ME, rheumatism and arthritis. Quite bad.



Therapist eight
Soul Counselling (http://www.soulcounselling.com/)
The domain is for sale so no (relevant) misleading claims at all here.




Therapist nine
Lesley Stephenson (http://www.balancetheclinic.com/)
(The web address given on CNHC's website is slightly wrong - an extra letter in the middle which is obviously out of place and doesn't load, I've assumed this is the correct version). 
I couldn't find any mention of Reiki on the website at all, so no misleading claims there. However they've run amok with claims for craniosacral therapy including claims for meningitis along with asthma and arthritis. Oh dear... however their CST therapist isn't listed on CNHC website.




That's all the Reiki therapists within 20 miles of London who are registered with the CNHC and who have a website (there are other therapists which I've not listed as they don't have a website). Only 1 of 9 therapists is making really dodgy claims about Reiki, two I've marked as amber - the second of the two doesn't actually make any claims about Reiki but the ones for CST are pretty bad. Everyone else (six) gets a green mark :-)




Craniosacral therapy and misleading claims in London - most CNHC-registered practitioners don't, some use gently evasive manoeuvres

The CNHC (Complementary and Natural Healthcare Council) regulates alternative healthcare practitioners who've voluntarily signed up to their regulation. They cover things like craniosacral therapy, aromatherapy and reiki and have around 5,000 members.

Members aren't meant to make misleading claims about their treatment (claiming that it can do more than the evidence says it can) and the Nightingale Collaboration is currently running a check to ensure that members' claims match what can be said.

CAP (Committee of Advertising Practice) has a very large list (431 searchable entries) of the different types of marketing claims, each leading to detailed information and case study examples of complaints that have been upheld by ASA (Advertising Standards Authority) who apply the CAP's code to advertising claims.

There is a "Therapies: Cranio-sacral therapy" page which is quite clear on what is and isn't permitted. It seems to be perfectly fine to say that the intervention can promote feelings of well-being but mentioning any medical conditions is a bit of a no-no.

According to that page, the results of a 2010 investigation by the ASA made it clear that craniosacral therapists should not be making any claims about asthma, autism, impotence or stroke (among others). Another investigation in 2011 still found no evidence for claims about asthma or autism but also found no evidence for any benefit for pain, depression, migraine, epilepsy or poor sleep. In short that page provides a list of medical complaints for which there is no evidence that craniosacral therapy can help and which therapists are not permitted to imply their treatments can help, in their marketing material (on or offline).

As far as I'm aware no craniosacral therapist can make these claims, but in particular anyone who's signed up to CNHC should not be making them. The CNHC is very clear that it's members should not be making misleading claims in their advertising. They also have a page explaining what craniosacral therapy is and there are no misleading claims made in that (beyond vague hand-waving but I can live with that).

How do CNHC-registered therapists do when compared against their own registration body's guidelines? Not bad. Most of the ones I've looked at, for craniosacral therapy, do not make any misleading claims. One did, directly on the page, another deferred to a separate page where misleading information is given. I've colour coded these with a sort of traffic light system.

On the CNHC's site there seem to be two registered craniosacral therapists within five miles of Greenwich. One operates from one website, another from three.

Therapist one

Bexley Craniosacral Therapy (http://bexleycraniosacral.co.uk/)

"What conditions have may Craniosacral Therapy help?
Craniosacral therapy is a holistic therapy promoting self-healing, relaxation and tension release for all-round greater well-being so it could be beneficial on many levels - for more information see:
.craniosacral-therapy-information.org.uk"

No misleading claims are made on the page itself, but it points to an information site about craniosacral therapy that has a button marked 'Medical conditions' which leads to a list of medical conditions that "craniosacral therapy can help to alleviate". That list is quite long and includes autism and asthma, also flatulence.

Therapist two

In the Breathing Space (http://www.inthebreathingspace.com/)
"For more information on specific conditions Craniosacral Therapy can help please visit the following website : Craniosacral Therapy Information. But do remember that if you are getting any symptoms, the first thing to do is seek medical advice in  case conventional medical attention was required."

There's a whole page on the 'Breathing Space' site full of vague stuff about the history of craniosacral therapy but there's hardly anything that would be a worryingly misleading claim. That can be found on the separate linked site though, under the same Medical conditions button as before.

There's also a leaflet on the site (http://www.inthebreathingspace.com/wp-content/uploads/2013/05/NCT-Spring-Advert.pdf) that vaguely references babies' problems with crying and sleeping but does so in a way that doesn't quite make misleading health claims.

Stepping Stones Greenwich (http://www.steppingstonesgreenwich.co.uk/services/cranio-sacral-therapy)
The site also includes psychic and angel readings etc.
Worryingly this page includes a bit of a shopping list of health conditions including stroke and cerebral palsy. That list just shouldn't be there.


Mycenae House (http://www.mycenaehouse.co.uk/eventtable.html)
No misleading health claims are made at all here, there is a reference in the events listing above to the time / day when Craniosacral Therapy is available and it links to the 'In the Breathing Space' website.




I also had a look for craniosacral therapists within five miles of Camden and found two therapists, again one with one website and one with three.

Therapist three

Natural Equilibrium (http://www.natural-equilibrium.com/)
The site is listed on the results page twice but the page itself is a placeholder - site coming soon, so no misleading claims at all, hooray.



CHAIM (Centre for Complementary Health and Integrated Medicine) (http://www.chaimcentre.com/)
No misleading claims here. Interestingly at the top there are three 'anchors' which, when clicked, will take you to a particular section within that page. The ones for 'when is it available' and 'fees and consultation' both work though the one for 'what can it treat?' goes nowhere, so presumably that section of the page has been removed.

Therapist four

Harmony for Health (http://www.harmonyforhealth.eu/site/Craniosacral_Therapy.html)
Fairly vague stuff, I am not bothered by "It can also help with resolving emotional trauma".





I searched for Charing Cross and it brought up three of the therapists already mentioned plus another one.

Therapist five

Howard Evans (http://www.howardevans.co.uk/)
No misleading claims there at all.






That seems to cover CNHC registered craniosacral therapists within 20 miles of London who have a website. Overall, it's pretty good - not that many misleading claims.

I'm not at all impressed though, with the Craniosacral Therapy Association who have two PDF articles implying that CST can help with autism.




Friday, 10 May 2013

Academic spam emails about fake publications and conferences

Because I have two separate academic email addresses I probably get more than my fair share of academic spam inviting me to submit my paper to a journal or conference, or (much more rarely) be on the editorial board of some new journal. I've even had the offer of submitting one of my blog posts (on communicating difficult topics) to a journal. These are all fake.

Although I work in academia and have co-authored a couple of conference papers (real ones, honest) I'm not an academic so am largely immune myself. But it seems from reading what others have had to say that these conferences and journals are quite a problem.

Two academics (Prof Anthony Finkelstein's blog post and Dr Tom Crick's blog post on this topic) have suggested that the way to tackle this is not simply by listing them as 'conferences to avoid', libel being an ever-present threat. Getting the word out about dodgy conferences is perhaps more suitable (although I quite like the list option myself).

Here are a couple of other ideas that I've not seen suggested yet, though I've no idea how practical either are.

1. Academic email - stem the problem at source via Janet, which distributes all academic email.
Janet is the UK's academic and research network and each college / uni in the UK has 'Janet registered contacts' - I wonder if a few of them might be able to investigate blacklisting known spammers. Alas this would never be a 'do once and forget about it' as spammers aren't entirely stupid and will tweak their email addresses.

Surely anything that contains the word 'Masaumnet' in an email just shouldn't reach any academic account. Unless someone's researching the spread of spam emails of course...

2. Action Fraud
I discovered this marvellous website via the Police earlier this year - it covers pretty much everything, including email fraud attempts such as phishing and malicious software, but it doesn't cover academic fraud*. Given that this is a way to extract money from academics (well, ultimately the public purse I suppose) it would seem that this could be added to the list of things to be monitored.

Since discovering the site I have forwarded a massive chunk of the spam emails I receive to them, after filing a brief report via their online form. No particular action is taken on individual emails, it simply helps the fraud people get an idea of the scale of the problem.

I've just filed a report for what seems to be a fake conference (they 'aplogized' for multiple copies of the email and even my email software flagged it up as spam) and asked if they handle academic fraud, however I might never hear back!

*I'm not referring to fraud perpetrated by academics, eg plagiarism or falsifying data.

Friday, 3 May 2013

Government psychometric tests - my results ;)

I've little time for psychometric tests when applied to the sphere of work. My jury is out as to whether or not they have any validity in any other sphere but I am aware that some people find them beneficial, I have not been among them as yet.

I've just read an article in The Guardian and a blog post about the existence of a psychometric test (48 questions) which jobseekers have apparently been urged to complete online, with the hint that if they don't their benefits may suffer.

The questions are of the sort where a statement is given such as "I enjoy writing new blog posts" and the five answers are always the same, of the type "this is like me a lot" ...  "neutral" ... "this isn't like me at all".

I've just filled it in twice, on two different browsers, and emailed the results to myself with two different emails.

The results are below - in the first I said that all 48 questions WERE NOT LIKE me and in the second I said that all the questions WERE LIKE me, ie the exact opposite. The expected difference in my results is not very obvious. Beyond a slight rearrangement of the numbers in each 4 out of the 5 strengths are the same with only one different in each.

It's suggested at the end of the test that I might like to discuss these with my Job Advisor. Damn right I would - how will they use this information to help me and give me tailored information in my search for jobs? Beyond demonstrating my meekness in agreeing to fill in this pointless test what value does it have if it gives everyone identical answers? Is this just a glitch and I am being unfair to the test? After all "I do not jump to conclusions" and am able to change my mind (a scientific test says so).

In answering these I paid very little attention to the actual question being asked - after the bank holiday I will try again with a different email address, answer it more honestly and see if it makes any difference.

I sincerely hope that no-one is feeling threatened (in terms of loss of benefits) about doing this test and that the news as reported is mistaken.

Grrrrr.

Ones in green below are identical results and found in the same order, ones in orange are identical but in different orders and the two in black are the only differences.


Example 1 - none like me

Hi!

Thanks for completing the signature strengths questionnaire, your results are below.

This exercise has been shown to find peoples' strengths in scientific studies and you may find it useful to identify your strengths and use them to inform your job search, CV or use in interviews. You may also find it useful to try to incorporate your strengths in your daily life and play to them whenever you can.

You should aim to use your strengths whenever you can. This could be in the your job search choices, your CV or at interviews. You could also apply these to your daily life. You should aim to use each one of your signature strengths in a new way everyday for at least a week.

Strength 1. Curiosity
You are curious about everything. You are always asking questions, and you find all subjects and topics fascinating. You like exploration and discovery.

Strength 2. Love of learning
You love learning new things, whether in a class or on your own. You have always loved school, reading, and museums-anywhere and everywhere there is an opportunity to learn.

Strength 3. Critical Thinking
Thinking things through and examining them from all sides are important aspects of who you are. You do not jump to conclusions, and you rely only on solid evidence to make your decisions. You are able to change your mind.

Strength 4. Originality
Thinking of new ways to do things is a crucial part of who you are. You are never content with doing something the conventional way if a better way is possible.

Strength 5. Social Intelligence
You are aware of the motives and feelings of other people. You know what to do to fit in to different social situations, and you know what to do to put others at ease.



Example 2 - all like me

Hi!

Thanks for completing the signature strengths questionnaire, your results are below.

This exercise has been shown to find peoples' strengths in scientific studies and you may find it useful to identify your strengths and use them to inform your job search, CV or use in interviews. You may also find it useful to try to incorporate your strengths in your daily life and play to them whenever you can.

You should aim to use your strengths whenever you can. This could be in the your job search choices, your CV or at interviews. You could also apply these to your daily life. You should aim to use each one of your signature strengths in a new way everyday for at least a week.

Strength 1. Fairness
Treating all people fairly is one of your abiding principles. You do not let your personal feelings bias your decisions about other people. You give everyone a chance.

Strength 2. Curiosity
You are curious about everything. You are always asking questions, and you find all subjects and topics fascinating. You like exploration and discovery.

Strength 3. Critical Thinking
Thinking things through and examining them from all sides are important aspects of who you are. You do not jump to conclusions, and you rely only on solid evidence to make your decisions. You are able to change your mind.

Strength 4. Originality
Thinking of new ways to do things is a crucial part of who you are. You are never content with doing something the conventional way if a better way is possible.

Strength 5. Social Intelligence
You are aware of the motives and feelings of other people. You know what to do to fit in to different social situations, and you know what to do to put others at ease.





I have now heard from a friend who's also filled this in, their answers are slightly different from both of mine and we've now uncovered two extra 'strengths' that didn't appear in mine. My initial answers didn't offer any evidence of gratitude or a sense of humour ;)

I've also done the test 'properly' myself, my results are the second set below, and uncovered another three strengths. While I don't disagree that I am a bit like that for the five it's selected for me I think I'm a bit like that for all eleven of them. Presumably everyone else does too, more or less.

Admittedly my annoyance with it is pretty high for only having evidence from a sample of four results (n=4) but it seems to be so banal that I'm beginning to think that it might actually be a form of sneakery by whoever put the test together. No-one can fail, everyone comes out well. Baffling.

Does anyone have any strengths other than the eleven already collected?
  • Appreciation of culture
  • Carefulness
  • Critical Thinking
  • Curiosity
  • Enthusiasm
  • Fairness
  • Gratitude
  • Humour
  • Love of learning
  • Originality
  • Social Intelligence

Friend's results
 
Hi!

Thanks for completing the signature strengths questionnaire, your results are below.

This exercise has been shown to find peoples' strengths in scientific studies and you may find it useful to identify your strengths and use them to inform your job search, CV or use in interviews. You may also find it useful to try to incorporate your strengths in your daily life and play to them whenever you can.

You should aim to use your strengths whenever you can. This could be in the your job search choices, your CV or at interviews. You could also apply these to your daily life.

Strength 1. Gratitude
You are aware of the good things that happen to you, and you never take them for granted. Your friends and family members know that you are a grateful person because you always take the time to express your thanks.

Strength 2. Fairness
Treating all people fairly is one of your abiding principles. You do not let your personal feelings bias your decisions about other people. You give everyone a chance.

Strength 3. Critical Thinking
Thinking things through and examining them from all sides are important aspects of who you are. You do not jump to conclusions, and you rely only on solid evidence to make your decisions. You are able to change your mind.

Strength 4. Originality
Thinking of new ways to do things is a crucial part of who you are. You are never content with doing something the conventional way if a better way is possible.

Strength 5. Humour
You like to laugh and tease. Bringing smiles to other people is important to you. You try to see the light side of all situations.



My results...

Strength 1. Carefulness
You are a careful person. You do not say or do things that you might later regret.

Strength 2. Appreciation of Culture
You notice and appreciate beauty, excellence, and/or skilled performance in all domains of life, from nature to art to mathematics to science to everyday experience.

Strength 3. Gratitude
You are aware of the good things that happen to you, and you never take them for granted. Your friends and family members know that you are a grateful person because you always take the time to express your thanks.

Strength 4. Humour
You like to laugh and tease. Bringing smiles to other people is important to you. You try to see the light side of all situations.

Strength 5. Enthusiasm
Regardless of what you do, you approach it with excitement and energy. You never do anything halfway or half-heartedly. For you, life is an adventure.