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, 28 July 2011

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

Shortened link:

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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


  1. This is the latest image I've created - of acai berries

  2. I've been having a think about unintended consequences. While some of the pages that are unwittingly using my photos are genuinely trying to sell a product many of them will be nothing more than content farms (pages with a load of drivel but a few well-placed keywords to bring in traffic). Both use 'spun articles' (jiggling words around to create new content from old words) but Google is apparently trying to weed out the content farms from its search results.

    If I'm producing pictures to go on them with commentary that is reasonably coherent then I might unwittingly be turning small sections on the pages of content farm spam websites into meaningful text. That won't do at all ;)


Comment policy: I enthusiastically welcome corrections and I entertain polite disagreement ;) Because of the nature of this blog it attracts a LOT - 5 a day at the moment - of spam comments (I write about spam practices,misleading marketing and unevidenced quackery) and so I'm more likely to post a pasted version of your comment, removing any hyperlinks.

Comments written in ALL CAPS LOCK will be deleted and I won't publish any pro-homeopathy comments, that ship has sailed I'm afraid (it's nonsense).