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

Thursday, 31 December 2009

Anatomy of a tweet - 'hidden' features of tweets

OK not that 'hidden' but I don't know if eveyone knows about them and I've got the bug for writing 'how to' posts at the moment.

I expect everyone's worked out that tweets look different if your mouse is hovering over them, but if not, compare (unhovered-over tweet at top) and contrast (same tweet beneath it, but this time hovered-over).

Because it's my tweet I get the option to delete it - highlighted by the red oval. All tweets have a star option (yellow highlight) that appears when you hover over them, clicking on this allows the tweet to be favourited. Incidentally you can find out which of your own tweets have been favourited by using services like Favotter ( or Favstar (

Notice the bit, which I've not circled, that says 'about 4 hours ago from web' - there can be up to two links in this phrase (though in this particular example there's just one).

Were you to click on the 'about 4 hours ago' bit you'd go to a page which contains the tweet by itself, and has this URL This can be useful if you want to direct someone to a particular tweet, rather than to someone's general stream of tweets.

Where it says 'from web' it might equally say 'from Twitterfeed' or 'from Tweetdeck' and clicking on these will take you to the company's link telling you about these services. 'From web' doesn't take you anywhere.

If someone's replying to someone it may say 'in reply to XYZ'. Clicking on that will usually take you to the tweet to which they're replying - useful for following a thread backwards - but only if they used the 'Reply' function (note that the 'in reply to XYZ' link doesn't distinguish between a tweet that's sent by clicking 'Reply' and a tweet that someone starts typing, putting the person's @name first).

The pic below needs to be read in reverse... Tweet 3 is the first in a series of tweet exchanges that I posted to my Twitterstream, Tweet 2 is @Zeno001's reply to me, and Tweet 1 is my reply to him. If you saw these tweets in your Twitterstream (you could view these if you were following both of us, or if you clicked on either of our profiles) then you could follow the thread. Admittedly it's not the most fascinating exchange but I think the gist of how to follow a thread is clear.

If you use a service like Tweetdeck then when you 'reply' to someone then it's possible that the threading of tweets will be lost (it depends on whether or not the end reader is viewing on the web, or via phone I think).

I think the unusual thing here is that there are 'hidden' links on a webpage - this seems to me to be something that disappeared fairly early on, on most websites (perhaps an accessibility issue - it's now usually very clear what is or isn't a link).

iPhone screenshot or taking a 'photo' of your iPhone screen

I discovered how to do this quite by accident, after playing with all the five buttons on my iPhone and trying them in different permutations.

How to take a screenshot with your iPhone
Press the 'sleep' button and the 'home' button simultaneously (see first photo below) - the screen will 'blink' as if taking a photo (if you have the ringer button set to on it will make a camera sound).

The photo is now in your Camera roll.

See demo photos (second and third photos) at the end of this post.

Why would you want to do this?
I use this A LOT when I'm going to be travelling somewhere and can't guarantee I'll have a good wifi or 3G signal, and I might need to have a local map with me. So I check the map via my home wifi and screenshot it for use later. Clearly I also use this function for demonstration purposes too ;)

Further info
The relevant buttons are marked on this photo which I pinched from Wikimedia then tweaked.

Photo credit: Flickr user lecates (, taken from Wikimedia (

Screenshot of iPhone map showing London Zoo

Close up - keeping this sort of thing in my Camera Roll means I'm less likely to get lost even if there's no signal.

Wednesday, 30 December 2009

Cunning use of FriendFeed - find old tweets, yours or others

EDIT: 5 June 2010 - It seems that Google is developing a Twitter archive, currently from Feb 2010, but which will stretch back to the first tweets in 2006. More here
All The Old Tweets Are Found: Google Launches Twitter Archive Search

The post below does rather assume that you already have a FriendFeed account of course...

If you have a FriendFeed account and your Twitter feed is on it, simply use the following syntax to find your old tweets - I've found my first ever tweet on there (Jun 08) so it seems the tweets persist for a while.

keyword1 keyword2 from:yourTwittername

eg FriendFeed from:jobrodie will find any of my tweets (or posts I've made to FriendFeed) where I've mentioned the word FriendFeed.

There are a couple of people I'm following on Twitter who often post really useful interesting links that I might want to catch up with later. Favouriting individual tweets is one way but it's not that great a method for searching them retrospectively, but FriendFeed is.

If that person (or automated RSS feed, eg from a newspaper - it doesn't have to be an individual) isn't on FriendFeed, but their Twitter feed isn't locked - then you can add them as an 'imaginary friend' and follow them on FriendFeed that way. Then you can search their tweets.

Here's how (it assumes you have a FriendFeed account!) - mine's themed in 'Steampunk' colours.

1. Go to, log in, and look for your Friends list
2. Click on the Browse/edit friends link, highlighted in lime green below.

3. Click on the Imaginary friends link (highlighted in magenta below).

4. Then click on the self-explanatory button - Create imaginary friend.

5. You are then asked to name the imaginary friend - I've called mine "DiabetesTrials" - and then clicking 'Create' will do precisely that.

6. The next page gives you an option to add different feeds - it could be Flickr or pretty much anything that is RSSable, but just click on the Twitter button (highlighted in orange below) to add a Twitter feed.

7. Add in the name of the Twitter feed - in this case it's DiabetesTrials and press 'Import Twitter'.

8. The new Twitterfeed appears in the 'Active Services' (highlighted in lime green below) and you can add more by repeating the process. If you want to see the tweets that @DiabetesTrials has posted, click on their name, highlighted in magenta in the pic below.

9. Ta-da

10. To search for an old tweet use similar syntax to that above - the significant difference is that 'DiabetesTrials' is not on FriendFeed and so you can't use the from:DiabetesTrials bit.

Instead you need to use friends:jobrodie eg:
pioglitazone friends:jobrodie

Note the circle in green in the pic above, it's highlighting a padlock, which is next to any imaginary friend's feed - these are locked.

Anyone other than me will not be able to see the posts from such a locked, imaginary friend feed, it's only visible by me. Though there's nothing to stop you creating an imaginary friend for DiabetesTrials yourself (and I won't know about it).

Thursday, 24 December 2009

Last minute Christmas gifts

Updated Christmas 2013

Gifts you can print or send electronically
I have been thinking that there should be a place on the web where someone can go if they've had a serious 'fail' on Christmas (or otherwise) presents. Stuff that can be bought online but that allows you to print something off, or email someone a voucher code, or even just print off and play with, or colour in (for the kids!).

Here are some ideas.

Vouchers and e-cardsAmazon vouchers

"E-mail or print a gift card, or send in a greetings card, gift box or multi-pack. Redeem Amazon Gift Cards for millions of items storewide."

 - hat tip @philbradley . Don't forget that if you'd normally give someone a £10 book you might need to give them a £15 voucher so they don't have to pay extra for postage and packaging :)

iTunes vouchers
iTunes vouchers for music (iTunes store) or apps (app store) - I am not sure if you need to have iTunes on your computer though or if you can do it via other shops, eg Amazon.

Charitable things
Lend with Care (from CARE) - charitable microcredit sort of thing, see also Kiva

Toilet Twinning (donate to projects to build loos to improve sanitary conditions) 

Practical Presents
"Send an E-card for immediate delivery"
hat tip Google search (ie I don't know anything about this charity, but it satisfies my criteria for stuff you can send electronically). 

Oxfam Unwrapped
"Missed the last post? Send an e-card gift instead" 

Classes, memberships and subscriptions 
I think you can print out vouchers for cookery or photography classes and things of that ilk. Also memberships of various organisations.

Decorations, gift tags and things which might entertain children
Activity Village (colour in snowmen, Christmas trees etc)
Printable Christmas crafts including 3D Christmas snowman and tree
General Christmas printables
Christmas baubles (£2.95 to download, but there's enough info to make your own)

Wednesday, 23 December 2009

One reason why I don't have much time for psychometric questionnaires

I'm just looking at a document which has some questions on it that look a bit like psychometric woo to me. To be fair, it might not be an actual psychometric test but it seems that the format of the questions is similar, in that the questionnaire is full of unanswerable, illogical, overly specific questions.

" 1. I often criticise myself for failing to reach my own high standards."

If you always exceed your high standards do you answer 'no' because you don't, or don't need to, criticise yourself? How would the marker distinguish that answer from someone who routinely fails to reach their own high standards but doesn't criticise themselves, or does so less frequently?

Worse, what if the standards I set myself are really, really low and should be a lot higher? Perhaps I'm incompetent but don't know it.

"4. I dislike being interrupted."

Sometimes I do, if a deadline's looming and I'm focusing on something that requires full attention. Sometimes a break might be welcome, or even rcommended. Where is my "it depends" column?

Tuesday, 15 December 2009

Collecting clinical database information - your help needed :)

What with disappearing [edit: it has since recovered] I'm storing some useful health / medical / drug databases here for now - it was a great resource for taking a bunch of links (up to 30) and giving you a single URL for sharing (each page could be viewed using a small drop-down menu).

Anyway, as I don't come from a library background (I only recently heard of the acronym 'PICO') I may well have missed some of the important databases. But I do work IN a library, so I don't want to miss any really!

Some come from memory, some from Trisha Greenhalgh's 'How to read a paper', and some from suggestions on the CLIN-LIB mailing list at Jiscmail. Some of them I'd not heard of / haven't used.

What have I missed? (I'll remember some myself the minute I press 'publish').

EDIT 20.12.09
Added BMJ Clinical Evidence.
See also Spineless Blog's '10 websites to help you keep up to date with scholarly journal contents' thanks to Zeno001 for highlighting this one.

EDIT 22.06.10
Added Map of Medicine.