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, 30 March 2011

Testing the Twitter widget with #apc11 Diabetes UK conference tweets

Failed to get it working in Posterous (which surprised me!) but let's try by editing the html in Blogger.



Monday, 21 March 2011

Nerdytrips - the making of #nerdmap

EDIT: 12 September 2011 - as of a few days ago the new map is live at - the design was by @aaronrudd and it was created by @applecado - we love it :)

The only bit that's really out of date in the post below is the reference to Google Realtime. This wonderful service stopped in around June 2011 and is already missed, but Topsy's pretty good. Not the same though.

------------------- Original post -----------------

Last September Ben Goldacre tweeted of his mild Saturday afternoon boredom and the need to do something non-boring that was local and nerdy, specifically:
"BORED. name a halfdaytrip? i like industrialarchaeology urbanexplorer sub-brit typestuff, dungeness-but-nearer? leaving nw1, car if nec..."
Soon after, a whole load of suggestions came in, many of which Ben retweeted and I thought that there was a lot of interesting stuff being suggested that warranted proper curation in case others wanted to go visiting some of these places. Some of them I'd not even heard of. Plenty were in London but there were a few that were further afield.

Google has a facility that will let you harvest tweets sent to a particular account (or using a particular hashtag) in a way that Twitter's own search pages won't, so I used their "Realtime" option to capture all of the tweets sent to @bengoldacre over that period of time. You can see an example of one of those search results for tweets in which Crossness was suggested. On the right hand side is a timeline and you can use it to scroll backwards and forwards collecting the relevant tweets. I think Google's intention is that you can use it to watch real-time tweets happening now but I've been using it to re-find historic ones.

The result of this was "Abandoned Britain - half day nerd trips" - an alphabetic list of the suggestions with the Twitter names of those suggesting, linking to their original tweet.

To cut a long story short @ImaginaryGF and Ben suggested expanding this list to include the rest of Britain, Europe / the world by turning it into a map / archive of nerdy places in which people could add new additions themselves.

This has now happened :-)

The editable map has had over 90,000 views and at time of writing - 5pm on Monday 21 March - has about 370 additions.

We made it as easy as possible for people to contribute:-
1. Add to the nerdytrips / nerdmap map directly
2. Post a suggestion on Twitter and hashtag it with #nerdytrips (and later #nerdmap) so it could be collected via archiving tools like What The Hashtag.
3. Post a comment on Ben's blog

What's next?I'm going to be adding to the map the suggestions that have come in via Ben's blog or the two hashtags and then transferring (gradually!) the entire map onto a master copy for safekeeping. I think I'm going to be quite busy... There are some other plans in the pipeline but I'm concentrating on this for now.

If you want the raw data the four sources are:-
*don't forget to scroll to the bottom and click on page 2 to get the full list, if you want to copy and paste it you'll need to use the print option (or use Jamie's Yahoo Pipes, below).
Some of this data is available as Word (.docx) files which I've stored on my Dropbox.
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Monday, 7 March 2011

How to copy and paste using iPhone 3

Last week I read an article and one of the commenters happened to say "Maybe the iPhone will finally get copy and paste!" - but it already does and anyone who's ever read any of my blog posts will know how much I love writing technical instructions, so here are some ;)

Copying an URL to send to someone else, eg from a Tweet - three methods
1. Tapping the URL sharply, or even lightly pressing it would just open it, you need to press and hold on the URL for about two seconds - a menu will appear with the URL in it saying Open, Copy or Cancel - Copy's the one you want here. You can use this to find out what an URL actually is, as a sort of taskbar proxy (I hardly ever click on an URL on my laptop without hovering over it first to see where it's going). This technique does not expand shortened URLs though.

2. Press and hold anywhere on the screen that isn't the URL, for about two seconds, then let go - a selection tool will appear allowing you to select the text within two blue bars. When you've moved the bars to what you want to pick click the Copy link button that's by now already on the screen. This is the generic way to copy any text on your iPhone.

3. I think most Twitter clients for iPhone have the facility where you can email a Tweet. You don't have to actually email it of course, it just opens a new email with the content of the tweet and your URL of interest within it and it's a bit easier to clip it out neatly than using the method in 1.

Also, bonus tip. If you touch the top of your screen you're immediately pinged back to the top of the page with a superfast scroll.

And pressing the two main buttons (one at the front plus one at the top) together takes a screenshot which is then stored in your camera roll.

I expect everyone has iPhone 4s now but I was so surprised that someone hadn't found the copy and paste function I thought I'd mention it in case others hadn't too.

Saturday, 5 March 2011

Trapping tweets for archiving eg at conferences, or curiosity

I've divided this post into WHAT and HOW. If you're new to archiving tweets or can't think why anyone would bother please read the WHAT first. Hopefully the HOW is self-explanatory ;)

One of the most popular search terms that bring people to my blog relates to "finding your old tweets", a topic I've touched on previously in these posts:
With the news that a tweet archiving tool called Twapperkeeper is stopping its download and export function from the 20th March I thought I'd look again at some of the ways of storing tweets in the longer term.

Some examples of why you might want to do this include
  • you're following what everyone's saying at a conference, by following a hashtag (everyone puts a codeword into their tweets with a # in front of them, the # lets archiving tools pick them out from all the other tweets and present them to you on one page) and you want to make sure you don't miss any tweets, or read them later
  • you want to capture @ mentions - eg during a campaign you might want to see how often your company is mentioned
  • you want to capture other mentions, eg retweets
  • something else I've not thought of
As far as I know, Twitter doesn't treat any of these concepts any differently - pretty much everything on Twitter can be captured by an RSS feed (scroll to the bottom of any page, past all the 'trending topics' and you'll likely see an orange RSS icon - Twitter doesn't care if the RSS feed is made up of tweets from someone's profile or the results from a search.

1 Tools
a) **NEW** SearchHash has been around since October 2010 but I discovered it on 19 May 2011 - it's extremely good and lets you capture and export significant numbers of hashtagged tweets. It's been created by @lesteph and Dave Briggs. Steph's post introducing it is here and the tool is here - try it out with a hashtag.

b) **NEW** Storify has been around for quite a while but I only heard of it a month ago. Journalist / blogger types were using it to create stories in a very nice way, drawing together several strands from various bits of social media, including Twitter. When I realised that I understood its potential for storing archived tweets - it works very well indeed and is a good interface with a very attractive output, but it's hard work as you have to save each tweet manually. I've previously investigated it here.

c) What The Hashtag has now turned into What the Trend API which is technically beyond me but if you know what you're doing with coding / JSON / stuff like that, give it a go.

What The Hashtag or WTHashtag is a free tool (registration required) that lets you create an archive based on a hashtagged keyword.

During Paul Chamber's trial for sending a threatening message via Twitter people used the hashtag #twitterjoketrial to indicate their lack of warmth for the case coming to court. At the time someone set up WTHashtag to collect all of these together to see how many were generated.

If you
look at the page several months after it was used for this purpose you'll see some other tweets that don't appear to be particularly relevant to this case (a couple of tweets are using it to refer to Julian Assange).

To see older tweets you need to scroll below the bar chart window and click on the 'View transcript' tab and choose the relevant date (US style). Here are the #twitterjoketrial tweets from
15 Sep to 25 Sep (note, all days might not appear if the hashtag was invented on, say, the 19th! You'll note that evidently it's missing a tweet or two as the first one listed, at time of writing, is a retweet - where's the original tweet?).
d) Twapperkeeper lets you maintain two free archives, but any more than that and you'll either need to pay ($5-$15 per month depending on whether or not you want a few or up to 25 archives). You can archive a hashtagged event but you can't use the exporting facility to do much with them. I expect you can copy and paste the tweets into some other programme (eg Word) and do something with them that way.

Currently lets you create an archive of hashtags, your own tweets, tweets mentioning you etc. however this facility's usefulness is going to come to an unfortunate end on 20 March 2011 as no-one will be able to export /download them any more. This is because Twapperkeeper's been asked by Twitter to remove this function so that they fall in line with Twitter's plans for syndication of content. This could well mean that other archiving tools come up against problems. Twapperkeeper have made an open source version of their tool which I've not investigated but the implcation seems to be that this will be a viable alternative.

Incidentally Twapperkeeper has been working closely with JISC and UKOLN - I know that academics working in the area of HCI and Search work on huge Twitter datasets but I would also imagine that academics who communicate using Twitter might want to maintain access to this information too.

One thing to bear in mind is retrospectiveness of the tweets you want to capture. Twapperkeeper has, as far as I can tell, always been able to crawl backwards and access earlier tweets but I'm not sure that WTHashtag can do so - therefore this sort of archive is best set up in advance and monitored, with the content periodically 'tapped off' as a PDF etc. for later reading.

Email alerts for your @mention - see below.

2 Tasks (what you want to save)
Finding @mentions retrospectively
I can't think of an easy way to access old @ mentions in an ordered fashion. You can certainly find them via Google, going back to early 2010 but the interface is a bit clunky.

I used this system very succesfully to capture a series of tweets sent in response to a question that Ben Goldacre asked about nerdy days out (it would have been easier to collect if a hashtag had been applied by everyone to their tweet but I didn't think to ask at the time).

This system also lets you set up an email alert for your @mention - I've not tried this and don't know if it will present you with a neat continuous list of your mentions. (Scroll to the end of the page and you'll see the option availalbe).

Example: some tweets sent to or by me in early 2011
By the way here's what the search-results string looks like - someone nerdier than me might be able to URL hack it to get some better results...,mbl_hs:1293840000,mbl_he:1325375999

Setting up an @mention archive prospectively
Ah the benefit of hindsight eh. Go to Twitter ( type in your @mention of interest, eg @jobrodie, press enter and you'll see a list of tweets with your name. It's probably remarkably similar to what appears in your own @mention page but the difference is that this one has an orange RSS icon on it - click it to view, or right click/copy shortcut to save the URL.
What you do with your RSS feed is up to you - you can use any RSS reader (eg Google reader) to read it. Because feeds are regularly updated you'll probably have to keep on top of saving them somewhere (ie, don't just rely on visiting that RSS page - send it somewhere for safekeeping). I use FriendFeed for my tweets.

You might notice that, annoyingly, none of the tweets say who sent them! If you ignore the purple tweets (just duplicates of the blue ones, a quirk of RSS I think) and hover over the blue link you'll be able to see, in your status bar, who sent that tweet.

This search may well bring up some of your tweets that have been retweeted (which you wouldn't ordinarily see in your @mention window unless the retweet was sent manually).

But for belts and braces you might as well see what the search brings up without your @ in front, so here's a search just for jobrodie

{Long post - taking a temporary breather at midnight! Bound to remember some more options after a good night's sleep}

Wednesday, 2 March 2011

Tim Radford's giving the keynote address at the Science Communication Conference in May

In three months it'll be the British Science Association's Science Communication Conference and when I looked at the programme...
"I decided to pre-blog some of the conference sessions at the (25-26th) May 2011 Science Communication Conference because every time I read one of the session blurbs I thought "that would be interesting to blog about". I've previously blogged on my interest in public engagement and online public engagement, the latter being the theme of this conference."
Today I got an email from the nice people at the British Science Association telling me (and lots of other people too) that the keynote address at the 10am conference plenary is to be given by Tim Radford.
"We are delighted to announce that freelance journalist and former science editor of the Guardian Tim Radford will give this year’s Science Communication Conference keynote address.

Tim worked for the Guardian for 32 years - becoming among other things - letters editor, arts editor, literary editor and science editor and has written for the Lancet and New Scientist, winning the Association of British Science Writers award for science writer of the year four times. He regularly takes part in discussions about science and media across the world and has even found time to write a book - The Crisis of Life on Earth.

Join us to hear about Tim’s extraordinary career and his experience of engaging the public with science and thoughts on how new media is affecting the future of science communication."
In January 2011 Tim published, in the Guardian, his "25 commandments for journalists" - some of them I'd heard before during my course on science communication. As is usual for commandments they were handed down from tutors to students and shared widely - and, naturally, argued about by the Guardian commentariat. As you can see from a search of the tweets mentioning it, the article was retweeted quite a bit.

Tim also contributed to one of Ed Yong's epic threads on his Not Exactly Rocket Science blog - Ed asked his readers to tell the story of how they got into science writing and Tim's response is the third comment on the blog.

Other posts that I wrote on this topic, I'm probably going to blog about most of the sessions between now and May:
Further reading:

Tuesday, 1 March 2011

1 March 2011, the ASA and misleading homeopathy claims

Today is the 1st of March which means that the Advertising Standards Authority will now investigate claims made on websites. Previously it has investigated only claims made in broadcast (TV / radio) or print (leaflets etc) adverts but now misleading claims on websites fall within their remit.

Naturally quite a few people have taken advantage of this, starting at 00.01hr this morning, and put some claims in. A number of us have signed up to the Nightingale Collaboration newsletter; it suggested that we might focus on a particular topic each month and to kick us off it's Homeopathy Awareness Month. The following people have found unlikely / unevidenced claims made about homeopathy on various websites and mentioned this to the ASA.

I'm not sure how many people are going to respond to my tweet so it might be a bit of a short list ;)