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, 26 July 2012

Ways in which data give you away - redaction, and phone keyclicks

1. Redacting information - careful with your spreadsheets and Word documents etc
Earlier today I read the rather interesting story of the unwittingly-released personal data of residents in a London borough, via the MySociety newsletter.

A Freedom of Information request was made to find out who had been provided council housing and the council obliged with information in an Excel spreadsheet. Although sensitive data was not overtly available it was available in 'hidden sheets' which are recoverable by fairly minor geek skills. MySociety links to a page on Microsoft's site that shows how to do this.

While few people downloaded these files (I don't know who downloaded them or what they did with that info) this information should have been redacted.

Redaction involves properly removing something, not just hiding it. A failure to redact or bungled attempts can be unfortunate and amusing and in some cases can draw attention to the fact that an attempt has been made to hide something ;)

Whenever you email a Word document to someone, unless you've removed some of the details the recipient can see when you began editing it, how long you've spent editing it, and the document's author (may or may not be you). Generally this is no big deal and I can't actually think of a time when I've bothered to / needed to do this (the version of Word I have actually prompts you for this, inviting you to make a version more suitable for sharing).

You can also read the much more hyperbolic version of the story from the local paper.

Other posts in the Word tips series...

Redaction and FOI
Paul Bradshaw of Help Me Investigate posted on his blog that any claims made by organisations that redaction will eat into their costs are likely to be nonsense. Apparently there's been a ruling on it: "we find that a public authority cannot include the time cost of redaction when estimating its costs."

2. Mobile phone keyclicks - it's possible to work out what number you're dialling
On the bus this morning someone dialled a number on their mobile and as they had keyclicks on every number entered made that little 'number being entered' sound. This particular person was using the classic two-tone sounds that dial phones make (you can hear each of the tones here, in the DTMF* number keypad bit) - each number has two separate tones combined to form a chord.

*Dual-tone multifrequency signalling

I wondered how easy it would be for someone listening to be able to instantly know which numbers were being entered. Even if someone couldn't do it live a recording of the keyclicks (admittedly it's fairly unlikely that anyone would bother to do this!) could be played back and the number uncovered. While I don't have perfect pitch and could only guess the intervals between the dialled 'notes' I'm sure there are people who could hear the number being dialled live. I've listened to all the tones and I think that some of the numbers 'sound' warmer than some of the others (chords are less dissonant I suppose) but that's about it - I can differentiate them but can't remember which is which.

After I tweeted this idea, @minifig (Thom) replied to suggest that if a recording was made then playing it down the handset of an old style phone would probably be sufficient to ring that number too. After much childhood playing with telephones I know that pressing the button (that indicates when the handset is replaced) several times at different rates could get the phone to do different things so this seems pretty likely - this was later confirmed by tweets from @schrodingerskit and @drjohnmitchell

Thom also linked to this video of a 2 year old child who can recognise numbers just by hearing them dialled - I suppose it it can't be that rare to be able to do this but I wonder how many people / toddlers have really noticed that the numbers sound different.


Funnily enough when I was young my dad gave me a musical calculator which played a unique note (not the dual-tone)  for each number. Although a bit like something out of Close Encounters of the Third Kind I can still remember the 7-note melody that my childhood home phone number made.

Geeky asides aside, this sounds like useful ammunition in trying to get people to switch off the annoying keyclicks on their phone.  I might have to learn the number sounds to be more convincing about this ;)

Wednesday, 25 July 2012

The Oramics Machine: from vision to reality - abstract blogged from Organised Sound

Trying out the 'Blog this article' button that I found on this page from the journal called "Organised Sound". I'm not sure what's meant to appear here and will only really find out what the script does once I press Publish so fingers crossed.

I'm not exactly certain that this is how it should be used - I might as well just link to the original article but I think this is for posts where several articles are included and what I've put here is an 'element' rather than a whole post.

The original page is at

The Oramics Machine: From vision to reality

Sunday, 22 July 2012

So you want to be a medical research charity science communicator

Scope of this post
This is about people working in medical research charities or patient groups who communicate health information and / or results from clinical research. There are of course people who work in charities that use non-health scientific information (eg climate science, marine conservation etc) but that's not covered here.

Charity science or health communication covers quite a few different types of information as well as different audiences and different means of communication.

I'm going to be adding to this periodically - this is a 'stub' for now. Anyone who works as a charity science communicator is very welcome to add their own thoughts in comments or by email jo DOT brodie AT gmail DOT com - thanks. Also that email is good for anyone who has questions that I've not thought of that should be in this post.

Some examples
Someone might write an article for a charity's website or their magazine about a piece of research the charity has funded, putting it in context with previous research findings and what the results might mean for someone with a particular medical condition. Or they might give a talk on research that's being funded to companies or local support groups - to raise funds, to thank people for funds raised or just to raise awareness and keep people updated.

They might be required to do a literature search on a particular topic to help develop a policy statement, or for the organisation to contribute to NICE guidelines on treatment.

Some people will answer a wide range of science questions directly from the public on all matters relating to the condition and its treatment, drawing on published resources and databases.

They might fact check externally written articles, or any text that the charity wants to publish. Note that most text is edited in several ways - fact checking and sense-making, typos, and house-style - this might be done by the same person or different ones.

Putting together statistical information for use across the charity - snappy facts are often required when putting out a press release. Journalists writing for a local paper are naturally keen to put a local perspective on things.

What's required
I've collected several hundred job descriptions over the last three years or so and many of them are from charities.

I'm going to start putting them in some sort of order (by salary) here but in the meantime just use Google to search the database, using the site: advanced search.

For example, google for diabetes to find all jobs that mention diabetes (eg from Diabetes UK or JDRF etc).

The information in job descriptions and person specifications gives some indication of what employers expect. 

Where are jobs advertised?
Guardian Jobs / psci-com mailing list, sometimes on ABSW (Association of British Science Writers), Charity Comms (which provides all manner of comms jobs in the charity sector that include non scicomm jobs)...

But I don't have enough experience
This is a perennial problem of course and you may find that you have to do some other jobs before you can move into your dream charity scicomm job. Some suggestions 

In larger charities there will be more people doing these different roles but in smaller charities one person might take on more tasks.

Being able to explain complex information in a clear way is essential in any role and in a charity setting avoiding hype is also essential, as is being very careful not to give medical advice.

Alice Bell gives some good advice for anyone wanting to be a science communicator, in her post "Working in science communication" and one of those suggestions is to start a blog, which I'd wholeheartedly agree with. It's fun, you get to interact with a wide variety of people online, your views may well be challenged forcing you to reflect and you get the opportunity to write regularly on topics you're interested in. All of this happened too in my work at Diabetes UK and I think the discipline of having a blog and being part of the scicomm world helped me do my job better.

Who / what are the charities?
All UK charities must be registered with the Charity Commission. Some health charities don't fund research but still provide information to patients and advocacy and there's plenty of science communication going on there. Charities that do fund medical research may be members of the Association of Medical Research Charities, which has over 100 members - note that there are very relevant charities that aren't members of the AMRC.

I've been collecting a list of suitable charities here (and some here) but the merest google will of course find many more.

Non-AMRC charities

Further reading
Becoming a science communicator - general advice from the British Science Association

Ways in which your email address can 'give you away'

Update: For Twitter at least there's a way to stop people from finding your Twitter account based on your email address, see details in the image below - thanks to Aerliss who commented below.
"You can keep your email private on Twitter though. If you go to settings, under your email is a little tick box that says "Let others find me by my email address". Unticking that should solve the problem, as long as Twitter plays nice." - Aerliss

Not 'give you away' in the 'you've something to hide' sense but I'm quite interested in the way the internet and social media allow already public things to surface in a way that people might not be aware of. A while back I created a spare Twitter account with one of my umpteen email accounts so that I could give it to my mum to follow me. She didn't want to sign up to anything herself but was curious to play around with it. Sadly she died before she had much opportunity to use it but the account lies fairly dormant and is locked.

I was a bit surprised later to get an automated request to follow me from a friend who'd signed up to Twitter. After they'd signed up they authorised Twitter to access the contacts list that lives in their email account - and my email address was among them. This then let them decide which people they either wanted to follow directly on Twitter or, if they're not on Twitter, to send them an invite by email to join. Had my account not been locked then my friend would have just been able to start following me.

Twitter already had my email address and knew which account I had and was able to share this information with my friend. This seems a little bit like oversharing to me...

When friends (or business contacts or anyone that has your email address) authorise a social media tool to access their contacts list your use of that tool (or not) is 'surfaced' and your email address becomes available to said tool. A number of people have been fantastically peeved to receive repeated email requests from LinkedIn to join the service - these arose from precisely this sort of 'invite all contacts' and for a while it was difficult to persuade LinkedIn to make it possible to block this sort of thing. I think it's all sorted now.

Of course this is exactly the sort of thing you'd expect from tools where sharing is the default - there's really nothing wrong with it and I've signed up to things after email invites. I just think it's helpful to be aware that your email address leaks information in this way.

Here's what I wrote (as section 35) in my guide for celebrities who are thinking about using Twitter. I hope they have social media managers to tell them this sort of thing anyway!


35. Your email address can give you away

Be careful (or at least aware) what email address you use to create your Twitter account
If other people (friends, agents, lawyers) have your email address in their contacts then they can find your Twitter account if you used that email address to create your account.

If your friend is on Twitter then s/he can authorise Twitter to access his/her email contact list and so can find out which of their chums / clients is also using the service. If you're in there, you'll show up. You may or may not want this. If you don't like this, and would prefer to be under the radar, then consider using a disposable email address.

A commenter on another post I wrote about this pointed out that on Twitter at least you can protect against this by unticking an option to 'let people find you by email' - click on the image below to enlarge it and follow the steps.

The picture below shows what your friend sees when they authorise Twitter to access their contacts information. Note that the email systems (Yahoo, Gmail. Hotmail and AOL listed on the right) have nothing to do with YOUR email account but relate to the type of email they're using.

If someone lets Twitter read their Yahoo contacts and my academic email address happens to be there then they'll find my Twitter account.

Saturday, 21 July 2012

How to find deleted files using Google Cache

Note: there is a window of opportunity for being able to access a recently deleted page or file and once Google Cache has reindexed* the page this window closes. You'd probably not be able to do this if a week or more had elapsed.

*Google indexes / crawls web pages periodically and saves a cached version of the page as it appears when the crawl happens. If a page changes between two crawls then Google clears its previously cached version and replaces with the new one. At that point it's much harder to recover the older material but you might find it on the Wayback Machine (although stuff usually takes about six months to appear).

This is a 'worked example' from something I've just tried to do - it might not work in every situation. It really helps if you have a Gmail / Google account and use Google Drive (formerly known as Google Docs).

1. My source page was a job advert and job description that closed on Friday 19 July 2012 and the page now returns a '404 not found', as both page and job is no longer available. 

The URL of the page was
which gives enough information to find the cached version two days later. 

A quick way of doing this is just to paste that URL into Google. In this case you get (predictably) a single result.

2. You need to hover your mouse to the right hand side of the search result until the >> arrows show up (highlighted with a vertical yellow oval), click on those and the panel appears on the right hand side. Click on Cached (highlighted with horizontal yellow oval). You can then access the text of interest if needed.

3. Capturing the file might work here - it depends on whether or not the file has been removed as well as the page. Often the page itself isn't removed and only the link pointing to it is, but the page can be deleted of course. Neither situation necessarily means that the file that was originally uploaded with the page has been deleted too though, they're separate things.

However in this case clicking on the link for the file didn't work, so my next plan was to look for the cache of the PDF by searching for the URL of the PDF, which was <-- this live link no longer works.

4. Searching for the file's URL in Google brings up the following - click on 'Quick View' - this will bring up the cached version of the file in a Google Docs format. I've never tried doing this without being logged into Google, not sure how well it will work if you don't use Google Drive / Docs.

You can keep a copy of the file in your Google Drive / Docs folder using the 'Save in Google Docs' link, you can share it with others using the obvious link. The best bit is that you can send yourself (or anyone else) a PDF copy.

5. To acquire a PDF copy first 'Save in Google Docs' then click on the 'documents list' notification that appears. Click on the name of the file to open it as a Google Doc and then click on File >> Email as an attachment. That's not the only way of doing it though (as of 21 Aug I managed this a slightly different way).

Although there's a File menu option when you first save the doc the 'email as attachment' option isn't there (I checked) so you have to do this extra step first.

Hopefully you'll have a copy of your searched-for file, but there are no guarantees alas!

Friday, 20 July 2012

What's the difference between Phentermine and Phen375 weight loss pills?

As you may know I've been intrigued by the product Phen375 (see further reading, below) which touts itself as a weight loss supplement / pill although I've not found good quality evidence on any of the websites that sell it to say if it's safe or that it works. Plenty of customer testimonials but of course they're utterly useless as evidence.

I still haven't worked out what's in Phen375 and am not sure if it contains phentermine or not. There are references on the main Phen375 website to both phenTERMine and phenTEMine and I can't make sense of it.

Phentermine is a real prescription medicine for weight loss, however according to the British National Formulary
"Phentermine and diethylpropion are central stimulants; they are not recommended for the treatment of obesity. Phentermine has been associated with a risk of pulmonary hypertension." 
so I'm not sure that it's currently prescribed in the UK at least, or perhaps only in the very short term. I couldn't find any reference to phentermine (or phentemine) as a drug product on the electronic Medicines Compendium, the only references are where it's not recommended in combination with another drug.

According to PubMed Health (US based) phentermine "is used for a limited period of time to speed weight loss in overweight people who are exercising and eating a low-calorie diet. Phentermine is in a class of medications called anorectics. It works by decreasing appetite."

PubMed also notes its side effects:
Phentermine may cause side effects. Tell your doctor if any of these symptoms are severe or do not go away:
dry mouth
unpleasant taste

Some side effects can be serious. If you experience any of the following symptoms, call your doctor immediately:
increased blood pressure
heart palpitations
shortness of breath
chest pain
swelling of the legs and ankles
difficulty doing exercise that you have been able to do

Wikipedia says that "Phentermine, a contraction of "phenyl-tertiary-butylamine", is a psychostimulant drug of the phenethylamine class, with pharmacology similar to amphetamine. It is used medically as an appetite suppressant."

Basically phentermine appears to be a not very nice drug that isn't recommended for weight loss in the UK but it is prescribed in the US (see bit on Qsymia below) - I presume this means that people are using it under the care of a doctor, they're not just buying it off the internet.

According to the website that sells this product
"Phentemine375 uses a combination of cyclic AMP enzyme boosters such as , 1,3,7-Trimethylxanthine, and a Sympathomimetic Amine, LongJack Tongkate ALI,Capsaicin-1.12, l-carnitine to get the job done. Each of the five main ingredients are highly refined and produced in a pharmaceutical environment. This provides you with the strongest and purist product humanly possible to produce."
I think trimethylxanthine is just caffeine, LongJack Tongkate ALI would appear to be an extract from Eurycoma longifolia, capsaicin's from peppers and carnitine's a standard supplement. I don't know what the 'sympathomimetic amine' is though and it's not clear from this page either (I'm afraid you'll have to copy and paste into a browser page if you want to visit there).

I don't understand the spelling differences and from what I can gather the terms phentermine and phentemine are used pretty interchangeably on the site (do a Google search for phentermine or phentemine - the hits are fairly similar).

Phen375 doesn't appear to contain phentermine (does it?? I really can't tell) which as mentioned above is probably not something you'd want to muck about with unless under medical supervision.  

Oddly the affiliates forum where the people who do the affiliate marketing for products such as these are encouraging members to add content to their websites, mentioning a new FDA approved drug (Qsymia) that does contain phentermine. This would seem to be confusing a phentermine-containing pharmaceutical product with a weight loss supplement pill (that doesn't appear to contain phentermine but I could be wrong) in order to increase traffic. All very peculiar.

Is it the same thing or completely unrelated?

Further reading

Thursday, 19 July 2012

Am I imagining slight gender differences in signup options for Stumbleupon?

See Update below

Very few of the articles I read on the internet have much relationship to my own gender. I do occasionally read things that mention gender though - today I read my friend Sarah's excellent blog post on gender discrimination at the CHI 2012 conference, but I think I'd be just as annoyed about that if I was a man.

I've just signed up to Stumbleupon, entirely so that I can pimp a useful blog post I wrote a couple of hours ago. During the signup I was a bit surprised to see it ask me for my gender so that the service could offer me more relevant information. I put female, and then tried (and failed) to find 'science' among the options available.

Then I opened up a different browser, joined again but this time picked male and lo! there science is.

Bit odd, no?

Is this likely to be just the result of a random generator pumping out a selection of variable options or have I - wait for it - Stumble(d)upon something interesting, or something that everyone already knew anyway?


Update 6pm: Stumbleupon have got in touch to tell me that identifying your gender isn't essential, that categories are offered based on what other people of my gender have selected (in which case I'm a bit disappointed that they're not picking science... or is it that it's just not being presented to them?) and that all interests can be accessed here.

When I signed up I was looking for science, social media or medicine and wasn't that taken with the options presented to me - I think I'd have liked a shuffle button to pick from a fresh selection.

@adam_j666 also tried out the sign up and got a similar but not identical palette as 'male' which can be seen here.


Update 9pm: Alex Brown (@alex_brovvn) went through the lists above and noted where there was overlap and where something appeared only to male registrants or female ones. His post makes interesting reading but we're aware that this is n=1 and may not represent everyone's signup experience. It's also possible that my age is a factor as well as my gender.

My concern is still that, because women are expressing an interest in a particular set of categories they are persistently offered (only?) those categories. Give them what they want. Well, fair enough I suppose from a business / advertising sense. But it's reminded me of concerns expressed previously about social media and the risk of 'channelising' everything (I'm not sure that's the exact word used!) to the point that you only (get to) see what you want because that's what you go looking for. I can see benefits in breaking out beyond that.

I'd quite like it if women were offered science on occasion - and I hope they already are and that my experience isn't typical - but I suppose that makes me a nanny state science communicator ;)

The Olympics will be over soon

While I like the occasional boardgame I'm not very excited about organised competitive sports and normally the Olympics would completely pass me by, much as footballing events do.

This one has got my attention though. There seems to be an almost limitless supply of dumbth coming from the people involved in running the Olympics. I'm quite convinced that it can't all possibly be true, yet the stories are being published in reputable sources (and the Daily Mail too...).

I have not checked the veracity of the anecdotes I've heard below and will cheerfully remove them (and be glad they're not true!) if someone points out an error to me.

(Quite a few of the stories I've heard have come from the Daily Mail - they might have exaggerated things a bit to be honest - gosh, let's hope so eh?!)
  • People selling cupcakes aren't allowed to ice Olympic rings on them.
  • Children taking part in some Olympic event aren't allowed to wear nonAdidas shoes.
  • Anyone attending the Olympics in person needs to wear unbranded clothing, or clothing of the sponsors, there is apparently such a thing as an exclusion zone around the Olympic areas in which no other products can be advertised.
  • McDonald's has stopped fish and chip vendors from selling single portions of chips (they must be sold with fish).
  • Twitter is in cahoots with the Olympic organisers to ensure that brands don't undertake ambush marketing (although how will they stop me, unaffiliated with any brand, from tweeting that "I'm enjoying Acme Widgets, the official widgets of the Olympics"?) 
  • Oxleas Wood has Rapier missiles in it, as does Blackheath heath and some other places. I'm actually a big fan of military hardware but still struggle to keep a straight face on this one.
  • You can link to the Olympics pages but only if you say nice or neutral things about them.
Honestly, I have to say that all of this simply makes me want to find ways to deliberately annoy LOCOG and the sponsors. Nothing illegal, just colossally passive-aggressive - such as avoiding buying any products or services from the sponsors and gleefully enjoying and sharing every new instance of silliness.

They have also spectacularly misjudged the capacity of smart, web-savvy types to wreak snarky havoc via social media. I look forward to seeing this aspect of it in particular.

Having said that I sincerely hope the Olympics are a success, that the athletes have a fantastic and safe time and that ticketholders enjoy it too and don't get too ripped off. I also hope the travel isn't too nightmarish.

Full list of Olympic sponsors

Arcelor Mittal
The Boston Consulting Group
British Airways
CBS Outdoor
Coca Cola
Crystal CG
Freshfields Bruckhaus Deringer LP
Heathrow Airport
Heineken UK
Holiday Inn
John Lewis
Lloyds TSB
McCann Worldgroup
Nature Valley
Rapiscan Systems
Rio Tinto
Thames Water
Thomas Cook

Using free tools to capture a handful of tweets or a larger bunch

These are my most-used tools:
  • (log in with Twitter)
  • <-- from @lesteph (no login required) 
  • (log in with Twitter, Facebook or create a Storify account)
  • <-- new in, this is made by @dean_jenkins (no login required)
  • Epilogger (log in with Twitter or Facebook) - this actually automates stuff.
Edit: 21 September, now with added Epilogger :)

Questions to ask yourself
  • Has the series of tweets happened already, is it still unfolding or is the event yet to occur?
  • Is it just a few tweets you want, eg a short conversation, or a whole bunch from a hashtag or even a user?
There are paid-for tools that will let you press a button and when you come back later all the hashtagged tweets you want are nicely collected and probably analysed in some interesting way. I'm afraid I know nothing about them and have always used the free tools - the cost is my (your) time in doing the manual processing. I also don't know anything about how to analyse your tweets (how many were sent, who sent the most etc).

If you have a server and some coding skills then you can use Twitter's API to collect lots of tweets too but I have neither and can't help you there either.

The event's about to start, currently happening, only just finished
You'll need at least one or two hashtagged event tweets to be able to search for them on any of the five tools listed above.

Chirpstory and Storify can be used once the event has ended or is winding down. Both will search further back in time than Twitter's own search so if you've left it a few days you might be OK (this is also partly dependent on the number of tweets - I don't know what the cap is but the most I've ever captured is definitely under 3,200 tweets (typically about 20 pages of 50 tweets is capturable on Chirpstory. Storify lets you capture them in bunches of 20 so I generally prefer Chirp for bigger events).

I often set up a Chirpstory then collect the max number of tweets available, then return to it later adding more. You'll end up with duplicates but there's a button that lets you remove those. You can also remove RTs if you want to (sometimes it's useful to keep these in to get a sense of how often an idea's been shared I suppose) and re-order them chronologically (earliest tweet first).

Both embed into Blogger very well but I understand that the free version of WordPress (ie rather than downloading the software to self-host the blog on your own site) doesn't permit this sort of embedding - something to do with restrictions on the use of javascript I think, not sure).

SearchHash will run in the background for you while the event's running and you can refresh it periodically before 'tapping off' a selection of tweets to store in a more permanent form. Older tweets will eventually fall off from the SearchHash search so don't just leave it running. It's not truly automated, but it's a great help to grab a bunch to copy and paste etc.

I've not tested GrabChat to destruction yet but it looks like you can get a really nice end product to embed in your blog - have a look at the examples given on the front page at the link above. I would probably use this after the event had finished (so that there were enough tweets to be bothering with).

Edit 21 September
Epilogger is (to me) the new kid on the block and thus far it's pretty amazing. I set one up for @ayisasophia a week or so ago to track all #talesfromtheriver hashtagged tweets and at tiime of writing this it's trapped 827 of them. It will also search backwards (I don't know how far back) so if I set it up on "Friday 5th Monthtember 2012" it will find the tagged tweets from Wednesday 3rd Monthtember too.

So far it doesn't embed into blogs but I believe that's something they're looking into.

Event happened ages ago
While you probably won't be able to search for all the tweets by hashtag after a week or two has passed you can, if you can be bothered, recover them with a bit of time and effort. Unless a tweet has been deleted it remains permanently on Twitter's servers but stops being amenable to Twitter's search (or third party search tools) a week or so after posting. Tools like can find much older tweets (I've found ones from 2009 there) but you can't follow a thread, and what turns up can be a bit random). I'm in a fortunate position that I signed up to in 2008 and sent my tweets there so I can quite often find what I'm after, also all my tweets with a link in them are captured by - however this is of no help if you've not already set this up. Sorry :)

Things that make a tweet more discoverable are if you or someone else has favourited it (you can simply scroll through your list of favourites and, if you've favourited fewer than 3,200 tweets, you'll find it listed there).
A note on 3,200 tweets This seems to be the maximum number of tweets in any one thread that Twitter will let you access at one go. You can scroll back on your own tweets, or someone else's, only as far as your most recent 3,200 tweets. Same goes for hashtags, favourites and any other search. That doesn't mean you can't collect more than that - if thousands of tweets are being emitted on a topic you need to collect a bunch of them on day one, more on day two etc.

There's no guarantee that you'll be able to access all the older ones back to the 3,200th-tweet-ago though - Twitter doesn't let you scroll back all the way on hashtag searches, and neither do most third party apps. Should be OK on an individual's account.
If you want to grab a few tweets, eg in a conversation, and don't have the luxury of a hashtag to fish them all out with at one go, then it's a little bit more work but still pretty straightforward. Every tweet ever sent has its own URL and web page (not kidding) and if you know what the URL - see below - is then you can use Chirpstory or Storify to capture that tweet. For a smaller number of tweets I tend to use Storify - it has a very nice interface.

First catch your URL (the link that points to the tweet on its own webpage)
This assumes you've been able to find your tweet(s) either by search, by scrolling back through yours or someone else's timeline, mentions or favourites.

If the tweet has a grey 'Expand'or 'Details'  link below it then you can get the tweet's URL from that - plonk your mouse cursor over it and right-click, copy link address to copy and paste it somewhere else (eg in the Storify link search).

If the tweet is part of a response to someone else then you'll see a blue 'View conversation' link at the bottom and you can get the URL from that. If there is a chain of tweets in the conversation then clicking on the first one (you don't literally have to click on 'view conversation', just click anywhere within the tweet to expand it).

Using Storify to add a single tweet using its URL
Once you've got your URL(s) log in to Storify and use the link tool to search for the tweet (paste in the link, press enter, the tweet will appear) and get it in a format that you can embed into a Storify story.

The link tool is highlighted in yellow below.

If you're collecting loads of tweets by hashtag then it's the Twitter icon (the bird on the second left in the picture below) that you need.

Further reading
A list of tools for finding or capturing tweets - much more detailed post covering more tools and their uses.

Further posts in the Twitter tips series...