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 2018/19 scientific society talks in London blog post

Wednesday 21 February 2024

More emails trying to get a link on your site - this time it's attempted emotional blackmail

 "...Then the Sun shined out warmly, and immediately the traveler took off his cloak." - Aesop's fable The North Wind and the Sun

There are many ways to ask someone to add a link back to your blog or website. People ask because if you link to their site because, when Google indexes the pages and links on your website, Google 'reads' the fact that you've linked to a site as a recommendation, helping it to get higher in search results for particular keywords.

One of my pages receives a disproportionate number of requests (it's a popular page, though not my most popular) from people requesting that I add some link or other, much like a cuckoo leaves its eggs in other bird's nests. 

Of course I'm not having any of it but I am interested in the methods used. 

Recently I wrote about false copyright infringement requests (basically implying a DMCA take-down if you don't add a link) and today, after a BlueSky 'skeet'* from Jenny Shipway about the 'emotional blackmail' variant, decided to blog some examples. 

They're... rather similar (and some of them (one of the examples shown but a common feature in others I've had and since deleted) have an unsubscribe link at the end - why would they have that?!).

Screenshot of email spam, details in the post's text


*skeet is what BlueSky people call their Tweet equivalent. 

Example One

From: [Name and email address redacted]
Date: Mon, 2 Oct 2023 at 17:03
Subject: A note from Ms. [Name redacted]'s class.
To: <Jo>


I'm Ms. [Name redacted], a homeschooling teacher, and we wanted to express our gratitude for your helpful webpage: It has been an invaluable resource for our class.  (Edit - this is the page on my site that gets a lot of this!)

During extra credit research, one of our students, [girl's name redacted], came across this informative site: [irrelevant link redacted][girl's name redacted] believed it would be a great addition to your page and asked me to reach out to gauge your interest. Your consideration would mean a lot to [girl's name redacted] and our entire class.

We kindly request your thoughts on including this resource. Please let us know your decision, and we'll be eager to share this exciting news with [girl's name redacted] and her peers.

Thank you for your support!

Best regards,
Ms. [Name redacted]
Teacher & School Counselor


Example Two

From: [Name and email address redacted]
Date: Fri, Oct 20, 2023 at 12:40 PM
Subject: AstroBoost, Activity ideas and resources
To: <Jenny>


My name is [redacted] and I instruct an Astronomy Club for K12 students and just wanted to send a quick email and thanks. I was able to take advantage of some of your activity resources for my lessons ( Thank you!

While exploring your page, one of my students, [girls name redacted], noticed you don't have an astronomy page we found together as a class. She thought it'd be a wonderful reference for students or other aspiring astronomers! :) I'll include it in my email below.

Anyways, I hope it's not too much trouble to ask to include it to your page? [Redacted link about space elevators]

[Girl's name redacted] is very shy and doesn't speak up much. I'm so proud of her for stepping out of her comfort zone and recommending a resource!

We meet as a class again tomorrow afternoon and I'd love to show how our recommendation is up for others to explore and learn from! I'm hoping it'll break her out of her shell and volunteer more wonderful ideas in the future. :)

Thanks again!


Example Three

From: [Name and email address redacted]
Date: Wed, 21 Feb 2024, 18:03
Subject: Can You Help (Your Resource Page)?
To: <Jenny>

I am [redacted], an educator currently guiding a group of science students on their educational journey. As we explore the world of astronomy, we came across your resource page, and I wanted to express our sincere appreciation for the invaluable information on your website that has greatly benefited our studies.
One of our diligent students, [Girl's name redacted], who has a keen interest in data science, discovered an excellent resource on the role of data science in astronomy and interstellar exploration at [Data science in space link redacted]
She suggested sharing it with you, believing it could enhance your webpage. We kindly request your consideration even if it's for a short while as it will also inspire our students.
Please let me know if you're able to add it to your page so that I can show it to my students. Thank you for your time and potential collaboration.
[Name redacted]
Teacher and advisor at [link redacted]

If you don't want to receive emails like this from me, please let me know here [link redacted].

Monday 12 February 2024

Copyright infringement - spam email attempting to get a link on a website

Edit 2 April 2024: I have now received a second version of this email (on 28 March 2024), from a different company, and have added that at the end. I've also added a translation of a Polish website warning about the same company, from 2023, and a further article from 2022.

The second email comes from Nationwide Legal Services, first email came from Commonwealth Legal Services

Original post:

Here's some nonsense (text version at the end) -

Last week I received the above email (from someone purporting to be legally-adjacent) telling me that an image I'd used on my work website was in breach of their client's copyright. 

This is the image - 

Image of an android man from Pixabay
                 Image by DrSJS from Pixabay

To fix this all I'd need to do was add a clickable link from my website to their clients. This is baloney. 

People use all sorts of tactics to try and get their website linked from other sites because this is read by Google as 'esteem'. 

If I link to your website from this blog (or any other site) I am effectively 'recommending' that site to readers. Strategies for getting a 'link back' on someone's website include offering to write a guest post (that includes a link to a particular target site), or sometimes people offer payment for you to add a link. Another way is to comment on a blog post, or like it and hope that someone clicks on their profile (or a link in the comment if it's been accepted).

How I confirmed that this email was nonsense
Several websites were useful: WHOIS to see when the various websites had been registered (very recent, suspicious), WAYBACK MACHINE to see if and when the site was first captured (again, recent). 

The image we originally used actually comes from Pixabay (free to use) and it was uploaded there in 2014, several years before we used it and well before 'Claude AI' created their website (July 2023) or used the image themselves. 

I used GOOGLE IMAGES SEARCH to see that the same image had been used on many other sites too (it was possible that it had been wrongly lifted and added to Pixabay but that hadn't happened here). 

Further reading
There was also this article from The Skeptic magazine which I remembered reading and the format of the email is very similar.

📄 When copyright credit scammers target skeptical organisations (1 February 2023) The Skeptic

📄 Beware of Nationwide Legal – fraudsters already in Poland! (23 August 2023) [English translation via Google Translate]

📄 The DMCA Scam Returns in the Form of Nationwide Legal Services (3 October 2022) FreeTech4Teach
- about the use of this image, also from Pixabay

Image by Chen from Pixabay

Text-based versions of the emails above

[REDACTED] = htXps://^claude[I have broken this link]ai^•uk/

Subject:  DMCA Copyright Infringement Notice
Date:  Sat, 3 Feb 2024 07:21:59 +0700 (ICT)
From:  Ava Campbell | Commonwealth Legal <>

Dear owner of,

I represent the Intellectual Property division for [REDACTED].
We have identified an image belonging to our client on your website.

Image Details:
Location of Usage:

We require that you credit [REDACTED] for this image. Please add a
direct and clickable hyperlink to [REDACTED]
either beneath the image or in the footer of
the page. This must be completed within the next five business days.

Please understand the seriousness of this request. Simply removing
the image will not suffice. If you do not comply within the given
timeframe, we will have to start legal proceedings under case No. 84132,
following the DMCA Section 512(c) guidelines.

For historical image usage, you can check the Wayback Machine at

This is an official notice. We value your prompt response and
cooperation. Please correspond in English.


Ava Campbell
Trademark Attorney

Commonwealth Legal Services
3909 N 16th St, 4th Floor
Phoenix, AZ 85016 <-- this link is dead

- - - - - - -

Added 2 April 2024

Email from Alicia Weber | Nationwide Team <alicia@nationwide[hyphen]legal•us>

Dear owner of,

I represent the Intellectual Property division for
[REDACTED].  We have identified an image belonging to our client on your website.

Image Details:
Location of Usage:

We require that you credit 
[REDACTED] for this image. Please add a direct and clickable hyperlink to [REDACTED] either beneath the image or in the footer of the page. This must be completed within the next five business days.

Please understand the seriousness of this request. Simply removing the image will not suffice. If you do not comply within the given timeframe, we will have to start legal proceedings under case No. 84132, following the DMCA Section 512(c) guidelines.

For historical image usage, you can check the Wayback Machine at

This is an official notice. We value your prompt response and cooperation. Please correspond in English.


Alicia Weber
Trademark Attorney

Nationwide Legal Services
401 Congress Ave.#1540
Austin, TX 78701


Thursday 1 February 2024

Can I write about your interesting computer science research on CS4FN (the work blog)?

I've just posted the below to PECS a mailing list for people interested in public engagement with computer science although this particular post is more about science communication (telling people about computer science research - though you definitely do need to tell people about your research if you hope to involve them in it in any way so ... two sides of the same coin I think). 

If you're doing an interesting computing-related or computing-adjacent project and would like me to write about it (it's free!) then let me know: or @JoBrodie on Twitter and most other platforms.

Of course you are also very welcome to write about the topic yourself but please be mindful of the young audience (using jargon is fine but please say what it means) and use everyday metaphors that kids might understand to draw links with your project.

At the end of the emailed bits there's some extra context.


- - - - - Email to PECS group begins - - - - -

One of the things I do, as part of Paul Curzon's ICT PE Champion grant through CS4FN, is write about specific computer-themed research projects for the CS4FN blog. Some of these articles may eventually find their way into our print magazine (which is sent to subscribing schools and made available free as PDFs).

I've recently written about Dr Heather Turner's 'diversity in the R project' EPSRC fellowship and am currently liaising with the AMPER team for an article on their project about an AI tool to support people with dementia. There's another article nearly ready about the use of photogrammetry to create 3D rotatable images of delicate historic clothing fragments (inspired by an AHRC project).

I wondered if I could write an article about your work? (For the other EPSRC ICT PE champions possibly the end result (a blog post) may also be useful as an additional ResearchFish output...)

Our intended readership is for young people (about 14 years old), though we do also have a mini magazine for 8-12 year olds too. I think in reality our blog posts will be read and used by teachers rather than young people themselves, though we know that youngsters do read the magazines.

Here are some examples of our recent articles to get a sense of how we write about things.

Singing bird – a human choir, singing birdsong - by Jane Waite
- about the 'Dawn Chorus' project (not research as such, an art installation) which recorded people singing slowed down birdsong which was then sped up - and sounded like birds!

Eggheads: helping us to visualise objects and classes - by Daniel Gill
- helping people understand some concepts in computer science education that aren't always intuitive

Equality, diversity and inclusion in the R Project: collaborative community coding & curating with Dr Heather Turner - by me
- about Dr Turner's fellowship looking at ways of making the R project more welcoming / useful to a wider pool of people

Virtual reality goggles for mice - by Paul Curzon
- research giving mice an immersive experience where they're running on a treadmill but letting them think that they're moving through a maze

CS4FN Christmas Computing Advent Calendar - by me
- a series of 25 blog posts, one a day during Advent, with a mixture of computing research, history of computers, 'gosh that's quite interesting' factoids, computing puzzles and things to colour in and a bit of festive whimsy :)

- - - - - Email to PECS group ends - - - - -

Extra context

Sometimes I just hear about something and write about it but I do also search through Twitter and the UKRI's funding pages (can be interesting to see what's just been funded). The writing I do is aimed at UK schoolkids (primary (8-12) and secondary (13+)) and teachers and most of what I and others on the team write is mediated by teachers in a classroom setting.

One of the aims of the EPSRC project that I receive funding from is to engage schools with computer science research. We also take a fairly broad view of what that means, and we also write about stuff that's just interesting (even if it's not about computing research). We just want to share our enthusiasm and nerdy joy about all matters computer-y :)

We're huge fans of the fact that computing is incredibly interdisciplinary, unavoidably so. There are people who are doing complex technical programming things and doing research into that, but there are also people doing research into things that aren't about computer science but which use it (e.g. bioinformatics and any research project where data is sensed, gathered, analysed or displayed using a device). Almost everyone uses computers all the time. Every day I get to say 'gosh I didn't know that' about some clever use to which someone's put a program, or a way that they've approached something (we also like writing about computational thinking and unplugged 'programming' too).

One of the things I'm also starting to do is take any opportunity to link a blog post about a particular topic to information about a relevant job (I collect job adverts, descriptions & person specifications that relate to computer science in some way). E.g. for the R project post I linked to a range of Research Software Engineering roles and for the AMPER dementia project I'm intending to link to a series of 'Dramaturgy for Devices' PhD project roles that were recently offered in the Netherland, about using theatre and performance to drive improvements in social robots' behaviours.

Friday 29 December 2023

Learning to touch type - some free online resources

If you want to learn to touch type here are some resources that should point you in the right direction. It just involves a lot of repetition of typing nonsense words to teach your hands where the letters are on the keyboard so that you don't have to consciously think about them. 

This record from 1960 sounds like it should have a text book to accompany it (not found an online copy yet) but also the man who's 'narrating' reads everything out, so for example he says 'fff space ddd space sss space' and so on rather than relying on you having to read something. I've only listened to 10 minutes or so, so perhaps there's a point where the lack of book becomes a problem. To be honest you can really just make up some exercises and words using letters on the 'home row' (asdfghjkl;) and familiarise yourself with the nobbly bits on the 'home keys' (f and J) which is where a touch typist naturally anchors their hands.

"Touch Typing Made Simple: A Sound Teaching Method" (YouTube). It's also available as an audio file on the Internet Archive.

The Internet Archive also has several books related to touch typing. This search results page will show you everything that they have that's related to touch typing between 1930 and 1980.



 Learn Touch Typing in 4 Easy Lessons (1968) - to read this you'll need to create a (free) account at the Internet Archive and then borrow the book for an hour at a time. There are a lot of repetitions - "The the following about 25 times..." - that's really all touch typing is. Below is an excerpt from page 9 of 50.

Other books include "Touch typing in ten lessons" from 1963 (84 pages) which will teach you to type "a lad has a glad dad; dad had half a shad salad;" or "Modern Typing an Australian Basic Course" from 1967 (129 pages) which will teach you that 'skill comes from drill' - I don't think you need an account to read that one.

Just a selection but try Monkey Type or TypeRacer or just type (ha!) typing test into Google or your preferred search engine.

And just to prove that I can type below is my one minute test, I was 86 words per minute with 98% accuracy. Normally I prefer to type faster and make more mistakes because I think everyone has a natural typing speed in much the same way that everyone has their own natural walking pace... 

For the work blog (CS4FN) I also wrote a little about the history and limitations of the QWERTY keyboard which might be of interest, though won't help you learn to type of course: Stretching your keyboard: getting more out of QWERTY.

Touch typing is a useful skill as it generally makes you a lot faster and more accurate when typing on a keyboard, and you don't need to look at your hands - it's ideal if you wanted to type up written notes for example. That said plenty of people are very whizzy with the 'hunt and peck' method of using a couple of fingers. Touch typing uses all the fingers (8 to type letters, thumbs for spacebar) so is just faster.

I was chatting with a couple of people on Twitter yesterday about touch typing, something I learned as an 18 year old and have found incredibly useful on a daily basis. My mum was a competent typist and we had a typewriter in the house I grew up in and was occasionally allowed to play with it. I'm not sure if mum put the idea into my head that I should do a short typing course at a local secretarial college - I must have been quite keen (otherwise it simply wouldn't have happened). My memory of it is that it was a two-week morning course (Monday to Friday) of repetitive 'drills' of letters and words (some gibberish, just to practise moving your fingers over the keyboard). I don't remember practising at home but may have done. 

Two weeks later I had a typing certificate of 55 words per minute (wpm) and never took another lesson. I just got on with typing and 35 years later I'm fairly comfortable at 80 wpm and can type faster to play about on tests but don't go much above 85 when I'm trying to be reasonably accurate. Any higher and I just make more mistakes.

Making mistakes when typing on a laptop keyboard isn't much of a problem though because it's so easy to delete or overwrite, so I type fast and 'fix in post-(production') ;) On a typewriter moving the 'cursor' to cross something out and redo was a bit more effortful or it might also involve Tippex or other liquid paper to paint over the wrong letter then retype once it had dried. If the mistake is one that often occurs you can put things in place to ensure that everytime you type, for example, 'teh' instead of 'the' the computer automatically corrects it. 

I don't know if people should be learning to touch type or if it offers any other transferable useful skills but I'm glad I have it.



Saturday 11 November 2023

Currently at war with the Victoria & Alfred Hotel in Capetown, which will not stop emailing me

For the last six years (since October 2017) I have been receiving unwanted sporadic emails from various email addresses related to Newmark Hotels in South Africa. I don't seem to be able to stop it for any length of time.

It looks like someone used my email address to create an account. This means that unsubscribing doesn't actually work because if that person makes a booking the hotel will continue to send the booking information by email, even if they stop emailing marketing stuff. So I have recently been getting booking information for someone else, who was staying at the V&A hotel. Apart from being annoying it also seems like a privacy problem or security flaw.

"Please note if you unsubscribe from the Newmark Hotels email list, we will continue to send you important, time-sensitive messages related to recent transactions, such as reservation confirmations.


Presumably the person also managed to get their booking information, somehow, as I later got an email inviting me to give feedback on 'my' recent stay.  Or perhaps it was automated and the person didn't get their info and didn't manage to stay at the hotel.

All attempts to contact the hotel or the chain through various email addresses to try and nip this in the bud (too late) hasn't worked and there seems to be no way of stopping them from emailing me. I've had to set up filters on my email so their future attempts will bypass my inbox.

I'm sure the venue itself is perfectly adequate for hotel stays but persistently emailing people who aren't interested doesn't warm me to them.

Tried leaving a message on their Instagram account too but it was rejected as spam, so the war continues ;)