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

Saturday, 26 January 2013

Annoyance with printing stuff from a website - any ideas?

Printing from websites has always been a miserable experience. I usually do quite a lot of pre-emptive tinkering on the print preview page before I press 'send'.

I've noticed that quite often the preview version bears little relation to the on-screen view. I presume this is due to the use of style sheets (CSS). These are part of the underlying code (as is html and things like that) which determines what the page will look like on the screen.

I don't want to print the underlying code, but the final page. Unfortunately what I get is the underlying code.

To see what I mean compare the Print Preview option for your own Gmail inbox (looks the same) and your Twitter feed (looks hideous).

When faced with this sort of thing the quickest solution, for me, has been to forego any efforts to print it as real text and just take screencaptures, knit those together in Paint, paste into Word document and print. This works well but is fiddly and I've shown quite a few people how to do it as they'd not found a solution either.

Surely EVERYONE has this problem. How do you get round it and is there a better way?

There are some customisable options in the Print Preview options menu (Windows 7) but none make the page look as pretty as it might.

(And no, copying and pasting the text doesn't entirely solve the problem - it solves a different problem in that I can format the text any way I like, but it doesn't let the web page look like the web page).

Tuesday, 22 January 2013

Pretty much everyone I've complained to the ASA about (records permitting)

Someone asked me the other day on Twitter about all the other people and organisations whose advertising material I'd complained about to the Advertising Standards Authority (ASA).

To be honest I'd been meaning to write it for a while in response to a certain live blood microscopist's recent claims (well, since October 2012) that I'm a racist, along with Josephine Jones, because I complained about his sites and because I'm white and he's not.

However I've also been reluctant to write it as I didn't particularly want to name the names of all the companies because that would also include those who've had their claims informally resolved after they made the relevant changes on their website. So I will link to stuff that should help you find out what organisation it was, without mentioning them, or the others, on this particular post.

Hopefully it will be clear from the information below that any sites or organisations whose advertising / marketing material I've complained about have been the subject of a complaint because of their claims, and not because of anything personal about them.

I can't be sure I have every item here, I'm on a course this week so am not doing a big trawl of my various repositories but will add to it as I remember stuff or people remind me of stuff I've forgotten.

The reason that I don't automatically have a record is because I don't use my email system's sent mailbox as the store of sent messages (that would make it easy) - information about the complaints is in disparate places.

Instead I've used two main methods to communicate with the ASA:
(1) filling in their form online
(2) filling in their form via use of the Fishbarrel tool which lets you fill in comments on a single page and then parses it into the form for you.

In both cases it is my responsibility to keep a record as once it's sent you don't get an automatic email with a complaint. I'm inconsistent in where I store these, though it doesn't really matter.

What happens to the complaint?
As I understand it... please correct me if I am wrong...
(1) The ASA thinks there's no case to answer because the advert didn't break their advertising code, they let you know and that's the end of it
(2) The ASA thinks there is a case to answer and proposes to investigate the matter, taking it up with the advertiser
>>(2a) The advertiser agrees to amend their claims and the matter is resolved informally - there is no formal adjudication but the advertiser is listed on the 'informally resolved' pages
>>(2b) The advertiser provides evidence that satisfies the ASA and the matter is adjudicated and the complaint is NOT upheld
>>(2c) The advertiser provides evidence that DOES NOT satisfy the ASA (or they do not provide evidence), the matter is adjudicated and the complaint is upheld
(3) The ASA has already adjudicated on a similar case, thinks there is no benefit in re-running the process (having seen all the evidence they need) and passes the complaint to the compliance team who liaise with the advertiser. If the advertiser amends their claims that's the end of the matter and it is informally resolved, if not the advertiser is listed on the ASA's list of non-compliant online advertisers.

Thus far my complaints have led to one company being added to the list of non-compliant advertisers  - a live blood analyst (however it is not the one who has recently made inexplicable assertions about me or Josephine).

If stage (2c) occurs the ASA writes to you asking that you don't report on the contents of the draft adjudication until the Board has met and considered it (after all, they may reject it), which is fair enough. After an adjudication has been upheld it is in the public domain and journalists and indeed anyone can write about it. In fact, I think it's good practice - if someone has made misleading claims then it is not a bad idea to write better information in the hope that people searching for the topic will find your information.

Here are the names of the companies or people that I have complained about. As I come across various bit of information about their status I'll add it.

Quite a lot of these relate to diabetes. I used to work at Diabetes UK and received a lot of information from the public who'd come across adverts and wanted to know more. I never complained to the ASA as part of my job (ie I didn't complain as an employee) but certainly made clear that I worked there, had an interest in diabetes and had the relevant medical knowledge to spot a misleading claim when I saw it.

Organisations I've complained about
- some I've blogged about, not all

Cosmetics (parent) company - I complained about a ridiculous advert for an anti-ageing cream. It was monumentally unsubtle with a close-up of someone's eye smiling (which makes the skin around the eyes wrinkle on pretty much everyone) versus an slightly less smiling eye. For the life of me I can't find it on the ASA's website but I think it was upheld and the ad was not to be shown in the current format again. I can't imagine this troubles the parent company one bit to be honest.
Adjudication upheld, advert not to be shown again, advert not shown again.

Live blood analyst - the leaflet of a London-based live blood analyst. At the time of making this complaint (2010) the ASA was not accepting complaints about website content. This changed in 2011.
Adjudication upheld, leaflets not to be promoted again, leaflets not promoted again, however website claims remain. 

Vitamin pill company - made misleading claims about products for people relating to diabetes. They promptly amended their website so the ASA didn't pursue it formally (no point, job done).
Website amended, informally resolved.

Holiday / retreat offering treatment for diabetes & cancer - claims about diabetes and cancer. Because the company operates beyond UK soil the adjudication was made in a different country, but upheld.
Adjudication upheld, website changed. I did blog about this but later removed it (more details below).

Live blood analyst - website of same live blood analyst as above. Funnily enough the adjudication isn't actually mine, although I did complain about the website at the same time as someone else (I don't know who it is, it's not Josephine). I received a letter from the ASA saying that they were already acting on an earlier complaint however I confess I misunderstood this somewhat and when I received an adjucation note from them later I thought it was mine. Doesn't matter - the content's pretty much the same.
Adjudication upheld, website not amended, blogged.

Live blood analyst - website of a different live blood analyst in London. This followed a complaint about their website after there was an article about their services in a newspaper.
No adjudication because complaint passed straight to compliance. The compliance team doesn't alert you if an organisation is posted on their non-compliant list so I found out about this quite a bit later. Website not amended, added to non-compliant online advertiser list. Blogged, once I found out about it.

Homeopaths (general) - several. When the ASA's remit changed in 2011 the ASA received an influx of complaints about homeopathy from everyone who'd ever been annoyed at the claims they were making without good evidence. The ASA realised it couldn't manage things under their normal way of working so instead of handling individual cases they decided to work on guidelines for the entire homeopathy industry and work with individuals to help their advertising comply with that. This is still ongoing.
Not taken forward for individual complaints.

Some more companies to add here which include, from memory something to do with a fish spa and an energy drink, also another herbal drink that is heavily promoted to people with all manner of illnesses. More later....

Companies or products I've written about
- not made a complaint to ASA though

Vitamin pill company- I was highly amused that the company used the results of a miniscule trialette showing that people with diabetes taking their vitamin pill preferred it to the placebo one, therefore (it seemed to me) it was marketed as a well-being tablet. I'm sure I'm not doing it justice but I wrote about it and wasn't all that surprised to see that someone else had complained about it - I don't think it was me, but it could have been, it was ages ago.
Adjudication (don't think it was mine) upheld, haven't seen the products in the pharmacist but I think you can still buy them online.

Herbal products company - an American company and so therefore its activities have nothing to do with the ASA - I was very surprised to see a post on someone else's blog which seemed to be giving them a free advert. I wasn't overly wowed by their evidence, however they did write to me and ask for a right of reply on my blog which I was happy to give them.

Holiday / retreat offering treatment for diabetes & cancer - I had previously complained about them, the adjudication was upheld and I blogged about it but removed the post following a very polite request and assurance that misleading claims had been amended.
Adjudication (not mine) upheld and published on World Diabetes Day on 14 November.
About a year ago I complained about a non-UK company (but based in the EU) to the ASA, they took it up with the relevant authority in the company's host country... who adjudicated in my favour (this is mentioned in the ASA list above but you'll see in a moment why it's not linked to anything). I wrote this up as I was rather appalled by some of the claims that had been made and the frankly poor approach to evidence (relying on testimonial).

Then an unusual thing happened. The proprietor of the company wrote me a sweet email explaining that they had not intended to mislead anyone, had now made the changes on their website and had noticed that my blog was coming up on the first page of results, potentially harming their business reputation. Would I mind taking down my post? Not at all said I, and took it down a day or so later (I didn't take it down immediately as someone had just left a snarky comment and I'd be quick enough to post a positive comment, so fair's fair). That page is no longer on my blog (it is reverted to 'draft'). The same company had a separate adjudication upheld against them by the ASA - to be honest I'm not exactly sure how given that they're not in the UK - and I wrote about it obliquely (linked above) without mentioning the organisation's name.

Glucosamine and chondroitin - use in people with diabetes. Not a complaint but my reading of the state of evidence back in 2010 (it may have changed since then, I'm not up to speed with it, but pretty sure it's of no use).

Cleaning product - this company claimed that their cleaning product killed more germs, and more exciting types of germs that I found hard to believe I'd find on my surfaces. I blogged, but didn't complain. However I never saw the ad after that so maybe they pulled it or there was a complaint by someone else.

Affiliate marketers- the umbrella company works with individual companies selling products for which I've never been overly taken with the evidence. I've written about several aspects of this but I don't think I've put in complaints myself, it looks like others have though. The linked blog relates to the umbrella organisation's work with the Office of Fair Trading to develop guidance for all affiliate marketers. The end product from that is a website disclaimer on each affiliate's site(s) so that consumers understand that the websites on which they're reading 'product reviews' are actually sites designed to refer consumers to the online shop, for which the affiliate gets a cut.

It goes: Umbrella organisation >> Company >> Product - advertised by Affiliate marketer  - sold to Consumer
  • Company - added to the ASA's non-compliant list (though not by me)
  • Company - I blogged about an imminent burst of festive PR which then played out predictably.
  • Product - to be honest I was a bit fascinated by the strategies used on 'review' sites, which are nothing of the sort really.
  • Product - formulaic newspaper advertising of herbal weight loss product.
  • Product - a patch that you wear that helps you lose weight. Having read around the topic of skin patches as a drug-delivery system for people with diabetes it seemed pretty clear that this was going to be quite a challenge.

Ear candling (general) - I can't remember if I've ever had an adjudication on ear candling. I think this post was just me learning about the topic as background so that information is collected together in one place if I ever decide to act and complain. My blog is often a learning tool for me - I post some stuff up and add to it as I learn more or people correct me if they spot something wrong. It's pretty useful.

Cancer clinic in the US - strong claims, unclear evidence. Many, many blog posts by science and skeptic bloggers.

Other complaints, but not to the ASA
Company selling bleach, to be drunk (!) for the benefit of one's health - I didn't complain to the ASA but I did write to Google asking them to consider removing the paid-for adverts for this from their search engine. At the time it was being heavily promoted and... people probably shouldn't be drinking it.  Google acknowledged my letter but sadly the paid-for ads are still there.

Saturday, 19 January 2013

Errol Denton racist accusations and live blood testing

Update 20 March 2014: Today the subject of this post was fined £9,000 for nine counts of the Cancer Act of 1939 at Westminster Magistrates Court and handed a total bill (including costs) of over £19,000. He did not attend this final court hearing and did not represent himself.

This might take a wee while to load. It's a long Storify story which captures some of the tweets by an account going under the name of @FightRacism2. The stated aim of this account is to fight racism, as the name suggests, however it seems that the actual purpose is more to hamper attempts at reducing racism by spamming people with a link to an ineffective petition thereby distracting them and wasting their time.

The account appears to be using a bait-and-switch tactic by posting two links in most of the tweets - the first is to some unambiguously repugnant example of racism, the second is to his petition which is effectively cuckoo-egged or trojan-horsed into the tweet. This is unfortunate.

It's also a bit annoying, in that the petition is calling one of my blogger friends, and me, racist simply for pointing out some misleading claims made on Errol Denton's websites about Live Blood Analysis (LBA). We're nothing of the kind and we (and loads of other people too) have reported several people to the Advertising Standards Authority (ASA) without paying any attention to their ethnicity, or indeed anything about them personally beyond the fact that they've made claims for which we don't think they have evidence.

I don't know for certain that whoever runs the @FightRacism2 account is the same person that runs the @ErrolDenton account (nor do I know that either of them are actually Mr Errol Denton, the nutritional microscopist with rooms in Harley Street whose business is Fitalifestyle Ltd and who runs the and websites).

Whoever writes the posts that appear on Mr Denton's blogs often writes in the third person so it is entirely possible that there are teams of people responsible for this output - after all he, or someone else, is well-used to using crowdsourcing tools such as Amazon's Mechanical Turk and ShortTask to pay people to sign misleading petitions (around 930 of the current signatures seem to have been paid-for according to screenshot timestamps), and curiously to pay people to send tweets to the Errol Denton Twitter account with the following keywords:
...though not Errol Denton four Advertising Standards Authority adjudications upheld and one addition to their non-complicant misleading advertisers, a mention in The Mirror and complaints on various forums about poor customer service. Not to mention featuring in a You & Yours programme on live blood tests being a nonsense diagnostic tool.

I presume this keyword business is some sort of Search Engine Optimisation strategy - I struggle to see how it would work on Twitter which isn't fully indexed by Google but perhaps I'm missing something here).

All very strange. Although not as strange as catching up with fellow blogger Josephine Jones' Twitter feed yesterday and learning that the BBC's latest episode of the medical drama Doctors features the following storyline: "Jimmi is caught between medical ethics and legal boundaries when he tries to expose a live blood testing consultation" - it even features the live blood analyst falsely accusing a GP of racism (quickly disproven by the fact that the GP had recorded the conversation) - has the BBC been reading our blogs?! Watch it on BBC iPlayer.

Here's the Storify. I'm putting it here on my blog because I want to give Google something else to index, the embed code is available at the original Storify page, if you click the icon marked < / >

I can't help noticing that by linking Errol Denton so strongly with the word racist both account holders (whoever's running @ErrolDenton and / or @FightRacism) might have inadvertently damaged Mr Denton's reputation somewhat, at least according to Google:

I am aware that Google personalises results, but several friends have confirmed that they see the same thing.

Thursday, 17 January 2013

Twitter archives available: what I tweeted about in September 2008 - and how to get the original URL

Edit 18 Jan 2013: I am sheepishly updating this post after having now read the README.TXT file that comes bundled in the Twitter archive zip. All of the text below is perfectly correct and true but what I hadn't realised from looking at the files themselves is that Twitter's actually made available a pretty decent in-browser way to read and interact with your tweets and get hold of a tweet's web address etc.

So you can download your archive, browse old tweets by month and search for old tweets. For each tweet you can get hold of its web address (URL) so that you can share its link, or visit its page and collect the embed code. You can even favourite the tweet. Everything (OK except Direct Messages). Thanks Twitter :)

When you download the .zip file and once you've unpacked it (for me this has always happened automatically by simply double clicking on the zipped folder) the following folders and files are available:
  • css
  • data
  • img
  • index.html
  • js
  • lib
  • README.txt
The readme.txt helpfully explains that if you double click on index.html then it will open up into your default browser (if you want to use another browser than you'll have to navigate using the File /Open menu to wherever you've got the unzipped Twitter archive) and it looks like this...

In the panel on the left hand side you can see grey links saying "View on Twitter" - you can collect the URL from that or open the tweet in a new window and collect the embed code there. If you hover over the tweet then buttons appear (not shown) that will let you reply to the tweet or favourite it.

On the right hand side, should be explanatory, click on the blue rectangle to visit the tweets of that month and you can scroll through to your heart's content. And I'm sure you can see the search box at the top meaning that you can search through all your old tweets - I've tried it, it's fantastic.

I will leave the post below as a lesson to us all to RTFM first ;)

This post will also tell you
a) how to download your Twitter archive
b) how to link to (or embed) an archived tweet

The content of this post isn't very earth-shattering but today's the day I got my link that allows me to (first request, then receive a link by email and finally) download all of my old tweets. Everything is there :)

Twitter advises that your data can contain sensitive information (who you've talked to, links you've shared) so some caution is wise when bandying stuff about I suppose. Much of this information is pretty much hidden on the web now - Google doesn't index much stuff that's more than a year or two old, does go back further and there are other tools that help (see link in Useful posts, on the right), so this new archive is a bit of a goldmine.

See if you've got the option to request a download link here

Here's what I said in September 2008. The names of the people I tweeted are redacted for now. I've not linked to the individual tweets but it's pretty simple to get the URL.

The Twitter ID that accompanies each tweet in the csv (comma separated variable file, which is openable with Excel and things of that ilk) can be appended to the web address that takes you to your account name - this lets you bolt together a new URL to bring up the original tweet.

For example here's the URL of one tweet
 - the bit in pink is the Twitter ID, the bit in bold is MY url, you'll need to use your own.

The Twitter ID for my September 2008 tweet below in which I mention that I'm "watching a lovely 90s programme on computers..." is 936308704 so its URL becomes - you can see if the link and embedding of the tweet worked below...
  • is getting her tweets, bleats and facebook updates out all in one go, having been netless for a couple of days. Normality restored.
  • , when she was very small, thought that the past was black and white and that something Wizard of Oz-ish happened shortly before her birth
  • has got the internet back and is depressingly elated by this simple thing
  • is hooraying the return of Wispa bars which have just appeared in my local newsagents.
  • is also impressed with the video positioning slide on which people have added their annotations - first time I've seen that :)
  • is watching a lovely 90s programme on computers
  • - aerial journeys archive - Tomorrow's World, Britain from the air - BBC goes flying
  • [@ pal] Recommending "speechification" in case I've not already done so, they are on twitter but googling is also effective :)
  • is hoping that new facebook will soon become old facebook
  • is watching Countryfile and hoping the upstairs neighbours spontaneously turn down their slightly overloud music... then farmers' market-ing
  • [@ pal] I might have to try this camera :)"
  • is listening to Jonny Greenwood's Popcorn Superhet Receiver - scary! [edit - this opens up a .ram file]
  • is impressed at how twitter seems to be automatically converting URLs to tinyurls...
  • - someone at work did this for young ppl
  • is multitasking Radiolab and Coconut cupcake creation -
  • is practically designed for twitter having been text messaging for 13 years now with barely a message above 160chars.
  • is looking at Nature Network to pick some London events to go to with my colleagues as the Autumn talks season is definitely underway woohoo
  • [@ pal]  tweeting one, two, one, two, tweet ends... just seeing if this works or if I have to follow you to tweet at you ;-)
I'm interested to see that I'm using the 'is doing' style of tweet. Incidentally, at that same time Facebook updates had to be written in the style of what you were doing, so your prompt was 'Jo Brodie is' - there was a bit of a campaign to get Facebook to get rid of the 'is', obviously successful. Presumably the 'X is doing' format is common to other comms, that's how we talked on IRC in the '90s :)

I look forward to seeing what the cool kids were tweeting about back in 2006 before I'd even heard of Twitter. I joined in June 2008, my first tweet is below.

Monday, 14 January 2013

Whole Lotta Sole / Stand Off - my friend's film is available soon :D

**Watch the film / On-demand (US)**
Whole Lotta Sole / Stand Off by Terry George is now available on demand in the US (as of 22 Jan)

As is often the way with films the one my friend Amanda H is in (Whole Lotta Sole) is now going under the name Stand Off in North America. It's even got a groovy new poster (the one in the middle) which I've pinched off the web, oops. The one on the right is for New Zealand.

In the poster on the left Amanda's below Colm Meaney, with a crossbow - she means business.

It's great fun and I went to see the European premiere in June last year in Belfast (where it was filmed) and the Waterfront was packed with an enthusiastic crowd, most of whom seemed to know someone involved in the film's production. There's a clever story with lots of subplots woven together and although the posters don't give the game away really it's a comedy, and hilarious.

Since then it's shown in a few film festivals in the US including the Hamptons Film Festival. It's shortly to be shown at the Mostly British Film Festival in San Francisco (as Stand Off) on 22 Jan and the Rialto Cinema in Tauranga, New Zealand is showing it for a week, starting this Thursday 17th (as Whole Lotta Sole - dates and timings below).

It's also scheduled to be available on video-on-demand, have a theatre release in the US (not sure about international yet) and also have the DVD / Blu-Ray released on 26 March (US version).

I'm keeping my fingers crossed that (a) it shows in cinemas in London or if it doesn't that (b) a UK region DVD becomes available and then I can try and see if I can hire a cinema screen in London (people do it all the time!) and get permission to show it and get Amanda to give a speech or something, or we can all just drink lots of wine and eat canapes :)

Anyway, lots going on, which is rather exciting.

Whole Lotta Sole / Stand Off, directed by Terry George (who co-wrote it with Thomas Gallagher) with Brendan Fraser, David O'Hara, Colm Meaney, Yaya Alafia (formerly DaCosta) Martin McCann, Conor MacNeill, Emma Hamilton, Michael Legge, Jonathan Harden, Marie Jones, Rupert Wickham, Amanda Girvan, Mary McCrossan, Amanda Hurwitz and Hugh McLaughlin. Nick Emerson edited it, Des Whelan filmed it and Foy Vance created the music and sang it :)

Related posts
Actor Brendan Fraser introduces Gods and Monsters - he talked about working with Bill Condon (the director) Ian McKellen (who plays James Whale) and Lynn Redgrave (who plays Hanna the housekeeper). It was a lovely event, a last-minute addition to the Belfast Film Festival programme and I was very lucky to hear about it in time and bag a ticket :)

Sunday, 6 January 2013

Pinning a #scicomm jobs fair kind of thing onto the Science Communication Conference

Despite 'running' (read 'copying and pasting, and posting job descriptions') the ScicommJobs resource over at Posterous and Twitter for the last three years I don't really have any particular skills in helping people find jobs. But I am quite good at helping people find out about different scicomm jobs in different sectors.

There's the big annual Science Communication Conference coming up in April which attracts all sorts of different scicomm folk. I'd quite like to do something, not sure what but some sort of event or gathering, that helps scicomm jobseekers including
  • undergraduates or graduates without sufficient experience to get jobs
  • people who want to move from 'the lab' (whatever that may be) to scicomm
  • people who've been made redundant, have experience but facing a complex job market
and I'd quite like it to happen around the time of the Science Communication Conference (even if it doesn't happen AT the conference). I'm aware that the cost of the conference, while good value etc, is prohibitive for people who aren't employed - although bursaries are available for those who get a shift on and apply early.

One of the things I set ScicommJobs up for was to unhide things that are often hidden, namely job descriptions. Normally these live in the wild for a short time (six weeks max) while the vacancy is open before disappearing again when someone is appointed. 

There's useful intelligence in these documents - info about organisational structure, pay scales, requirements of the job, skills and experience needed. Trapping these for longer means that people can, if they wish, browse a range of similar or different job descriptions going back to October 2009. There's a range of jobs from entry level to much more senior with lots in between (a few hundred job descriptions now). This means, I suppose, that people could see what might be needed for their next-but-one job and work towards it.

But there are still hidden things. What does a successful CV or job application look like? How does the stuff that a scicomm employer look for differ from what another employer looks for (eg can guidance on what to put on a CV or cover letter skills be pretty generic or does it need more tailoring). I'm not really proposing that people share their successful CVs and covering letters though!

Of course scicomm itself is a pretty massive sector, taking in things like presenting on television as well as writing patient information leaflets in a small health charity. So the concept of tailoring might be pretty impossible anyway. But is anyone planning a session at the conference, either formal (timetabled) or unconference-ish (few people get together) or something in a pub or other venue on the day before or after?

I'd offer but I'm not really sure what I can bring to it, but I suppose I have a dog in this race as the saying goes.

Further reading
Some general thoughts (mine!) on filling in job applications - from the Scicommjobs blog

Wednesday, 2 January 2013

List of basic Freeview channels

As an example of filial piety I am providing my dad with a list of the best (OK bit subjective) Freeview channels and their numbers. In case it might be useful to you or your parents or other family members, feel free to pinch the below and format as you choose. I might add channel icons in a later version.

What I'd like is to print it, laminate it and blue tack it somewhere handy.

#    Channel        Notes
1    BBC One
2    BBC Two
3    ITV 1             33 = ITV 1 +1
4    Channel 4      13 = Channel 4 +1
5    Channel 5      44 = Channel 5 +1
6    ITV 2             27 = ITV2 +1
7    BBC Three
9    BBC Four
10    ITV 3
11    Pick TV
12    Dave
13    Channel 4 +1
14    More 4
15    Film 4
16    Yesterday
24    ITV 4
25    Dave ja vu
27    ITV 2 +1
30    5*
31    5 USA
33    ITV 1 +1
44    Channel 5 +1
80    BBC News 
81    BBC Parliament

Tuesday, 1 January 2013

Advice to celebrities about Twitter - the short version

by @JoBrodie

Shortened link for this post is: 

This is the low-fat version, the full version with explanatory text and references was published back in January 2012 and heavily edited throughout the year. There's also a PDF version available.

This post is called 'Advice to celebrities' but it's really for anyone who's in the public eye. I've been using Twitter since June 2008 and this post was born after seeing all sorts of strange behaviour and wondering "is no-one giving these people advice?".

10. The basics
Picture (avatar), biography, some basic proof that you're who you say you are.

Make sure you have a picture and a brief bio. If you have a website add a link in your Twitter bio and add, on your website, a link to your Twitter profile (so people know it's really you).

20. What sort of welcome will you receive?
People like to say really nice things about celebrities but they also like to say some pretty unkind things. If they say unkind things about you on the internet they'll do it on Twitter too.

Comments about famous people on the internet depend a lot on the site (IMDb message boards are often pretty awful but YouTube is just off the scale for illiterate unkindness. It can't be nice to read the negative comments and I'm not sure the positive comments necessarily outweigh them. If

If people say mean things about you on the internet they’ll probably say it to you on Twitter as well – and the exchange is public (people can see the messages you send by looking at your Twitter profile and they can see the messages people send to you by searching for your @mentions (replies that are sent to you). That shouldn’t necessarily stop someone from joining Twitter (people can write hurtful comments about you all over the internet whether or not you’re participating in the conversation) – in fact it might encourage you to join Twitter in order to let your good humoured wit shine through.

If someone says something unkind to you or about you on Twitter it’s probably best to ignore it, unless it’s threatening (Stan Collymore got rightly peeved with racist crap on Twitter) or libellous.

21. Some reasons not to be on Twitter / or at least 'things to be aware of'
Don't be pressured into tweeting

Even if you're not on Twitter yourself be aware that others might be live-tweeting your antics (reporting them in real-time), as happened when someone famous in the acting world chatted up someone else famous, though not known to him, from the world of modelling while they shared a plane journey. She relayed what he was saying and what he looked like and her Twitter fans used this information to confirm his identity and ultimately to embarrass him.  Basically people can use it to report what you're up to - it's not fair but it happens.

Things to watch out for on Twitter
None of these should necessarily put anyone off joining Twitter but I think people need to know about the risks as well as the many benefits.
  • A badly handled tweet or response to a tweet can be a very quick way to damage your reputation, but if better handled it can be good for rapid damage limitation (well obviously it depends...)
  • Once there some people will expect you to respond to their enquiries (see Section 30) though most people understand that if you have lots of followers you can't reply to everyone, but it helps if you show willing and at least answer one or two people (see Sections 40 and 50). 
  • People will 'cc' you in their tweets, for a variety of reasons, so your mentions might get crowded out. 
  • Plausible deniability - if you're not on Twitter you can have a look at it (eg , see what people say about you (both nice and mean) and can pretend you've not seen it! 
  • Twitter can seem like a baffling waste of time at first - and it can take some time for people to feel that they've 'got' it and there can be a time cost. This may or may not be time well spent.
  • Twitter isn't compulsory.
  • If you decide after trying it that it's not for you then you can simply stop tweeting. Much better to do that than announce that you are 'leaving Twitter' which just draws attention (unless that's what you want...)

22. Trolls and bullies 
When snarky comments go a bit too far - people behaving badly to you

Anyone in the public eye using Twitter is likely to experience someone sending them an unkind message (see section 20). Sometimes though it goes much further and there have been some very high profile examples, such as the tweets sent by someone to an Olympic athlete that involved extremely unpleasant comments but also death threats.

Writer Graham Linehan commented on his own blog:
"Being able to locate someone--even on the other side of the world--who has suffered a bereavement, and whisper in their ear words calculated to break their heart, is a new chapter in our development, and I think we can all agree that the arrival of hyper-empowered bullies is far from being the most positive aspect of our current connectivity.  

 And “don’t feed the trolls” won’t cut it as a solution. That's just victim-blaming. Often it comes from people who have never had to deal with the level of abuse that many in the public eye receive, and never will. New rule: If you don’t experience it every day, you don’t get to tell anyone who does to suck it up."

23. Don't be a dick
Celebrities behaving badly / power disparity - you behaving badly to others

In addition to the inexcusable behaviour towards famous people by other users of Twitter there has also been some discussion about bad behaviour in the opposite direction.

For someone well-known on Twitter with a lot of followers there can be quite a massive power imbalance compared with someone with considerably fewer followers. This post is critical of celebrities turning their followers into an army to attack trolls - easily done unintentionally to be honest. If you draw attention to something and have thousands of followers you can't guarantee that some of them won't try and take action.

30. Do you chat to your friends or strangers on the internet already?
If you've not done anything like this before then feel free to take your time and get used to how the medium works, and how people conduct themselves, first.

Not everyone feels comfortable chatting ambiently to strangers on the internet. If you’re not used to it then my advice would be to do the old fashioned 'netiquette' thing of following a few friends, other well-known people, news resources that you’re interested in etc and see how the land lies. Personally I think it’s better to jump straight in and get on with the tweeting but it’s entirely up to you how you use it.

I think everyone probably expects that you’ll just be chatting to your famous pals and everyone can watch the conversation unfold from the sidelines ;)

How have your famous chums found using Twitter?
Consult your peer group of famous pals who started tweeting before you...

Everyone's experience of Twitter will be different but I can't help thinking that members of the famous people's club will give you a better idea than I can of what Twitter's really like, for people like you.

32. You are also sharing information about who you're friends with, or not friends with anymore
Friendships on Twitter are pretty public.

People who follow both you and your celeb pals will see, in their timeline, any messages you send to those friends (however if you contact them by direct message those messages can't be seen by the public). If you fall out with someone and stop tweeting each other everyone can see the absence of tweets too...

It's a very public medium (unless you have a protected account) and people can see:
  • all of the tweets that you have sent, and to whom (by looking at your public timeline, but they can't see your direct messages)
  • who you follow and who follows you
  • what other people have said to you (whether or not you follow those people) by searching for messages sent to you (your @ mentions) or clicking on tweets that you've sent in reply to someone - which then brings up the whole conversation. This isn't weird or stalking, it's just how Twitter works - it lets you see a discussion thread.
  • the tweets that you have favourited
Having a private (locked) account
Note that even having a protected (locked) account doesn't provide 100% privacy because people would be able to infer things about you or your activities from the responses sent to your tweets from other public accounts.

For example, your tweet sent to someone can't be seen if your account is private (only by the people that you've allowed to follow you) but if your famous pal (with a public account) responds:

" Hey great to see you last night at Chez MadeUp Restaurant, so glad you've sorted that thing with XYZ" then this is visible to anyone who looks at messages that have been sent to you. In short, on Twitter, your friends may be the weakest link ;)

See also Don't assume that your private Twitter account is all that private (by me,  7 Dec 2012)

33. Your privacy, again
By having a Twitter account you've got an internet 'address'

A Twitter account (and to a certain extent a blog, unless you switch comments off) provides your internet loons with a 'flat surface' on which they can pile up all manner of crap.

It's a given that people will tell a friend or two if they've seen you somewhere. If they're on Twitter and know your Twitter handle they can say "hey I've just seen @famousperson" and you'll get to know about it too.

If you'd rather not have people sending you random crap but still want to share your thoughts, then get a blog instead and switch off comments. Lots of people do that, although having (moderated) comments is a bit more interactive.

34. Watch out for fake accounts
Is that your friend or someone pretending to be them

Hooray one of your friends is on Twitter. Is it really them though? Check via a non-Twitter method first before sharing any information with them, could be embarrassing.

35. Your email address can (potentially) give you away
Be careful (or at least aware) what email address you use to create your Twitter account

Most social media programs let people 'find friends' by authorising the program to access their address book. If people have your email address in their contacts list they can find you on Twitter (even if you don't tell them what your Twitter handle is).

Go to your Twitter account settings page and untick the 'Let others find me by my email address' or use a disposable email address.

40. What will you tweet about?
Obviously there will be a bit of self-promotion but if that's all there is then that might be a bit "yawn".

Post what you like, it's your Twitter account, but remember you're part of a community and will probably get more from it if you interact with people and share interesting information that's not just about you.

I'm always amused when I see a suggestion as to the percentage of tweets which should be one type or another - puts me in mind of the Dead Poet's Society with the bit on the mathematics of poetry!

Another blog post noticed that the people from Star Trek The Next Generation have much higher follower numbers than might be expected "considering their main show was canceled in – what, 1994?" and puts it down to the fact that they do occasionally interact with their followers. Not a scientific analysis but it's easy to warm to someone who appears friendly.
"In my opinion, this is a result of these celebrities not only being active on Twitter, but also using it as a two-way communication medium. They all communicate with their followers: I didn’t say they speak to everyone but they do talk rather than “broadcast”.

So my advice? Use Twitter as it’s meant to be used. I know you’re busy. We all are. But use Twitter as a two-way communication medium, respond to followers, interact with them. People appreciate not being ignored and want to “touch the stars”. Give it to them. They will appreciate it and you will feel the effect."
SourceAdvice to Celebrities on Twitter (2010)

50. Are you going to tweet or will it be "your people"?
Better if it's you, but if you tweet be prepared for people to tweet you back and quite possibly with expectations.

If your tweets are written by someone else be transparent and make that very clear. People get that you can't reply to everyone but it doesn't hurt to acknowledge tweets sent to you occasionally even if only "thanks for all your replies, too many to respond to individually".

In 'A rant to celebrities' (which specifically refers to celebrities' use of Google Plus, not Twitter) Linda Lawrey points out that making a bit of an effort to talk to at least some people is perhaps a good idea.
"So what makes someone interesting? Social engagement! Well, it's not the only thing that makes someone interesting but it IS extremely important! And from what I've seen there is little to zero social engagment taking place from big time celebrities that are on Google+. 
It's no wonder why celebrities receive minimal comments and reshares on G+. Users want to interact with people who are REAL and GENUINE. What we DON'T want to see is PR managers promoting on behalf of a celebrity and we are quick to ignore celebrities who post then run off instead of sticking around to read and respond to the comments people left." Source: A rant to celebrities

Section 60 discusses the formatting of tweets - jump to 70 if you know this already

60. How will you format your replies to people? Twitter etiquette
People new to Twitter often make a bit of a pig's ear of replying to tweets because they include the original tweet and don't make it clear which text belongs to the original tweeter and which is their own response. Please get this right :)

If you're replying to someone and including the content of their tweet in your response then make it clear who said what otherwise you're putting words in someone else's mouth.

You can put quotes around their text and add your comment, or write your comment at the start of the tweet and add the letters RT before theirs (for retweet) or MT (for modified tweet).

See also Twitter Etiquette by Dawn Foster.

70. Oops I shouldn't have tweeted that
Apologise quickly and try and move on is probably the best advice anyone can give I think. 

I'm sure there are cases where even that won't work but deleting a tweet in the hope that people won't notice often fails. There are a number of tools that people can use to capture a tweet when it's visible or to extract it once it's recently deleted (eg Google cache) so assume that deletion alone won't work - and people enjoy the chase of finding a deleted tweet. If you delete an inappropriate tweet and apologise for it the chances are that should be the end of it.
"Clicking “Undo” on the internet is a good deal harder than you might think" (from link above) 
If people keep going on and on about it after that then you can probably justify blowing a few raspberries at them.

If you've had a few drinks you might want to step away from the Twitter enabled device though (suggested by @WynnAbbott)

By the way, never upload and send a picture by DM (Direct Message) - it doesn't work and the picture will be posted with your comment on the picture hosting site, although the message won't appear on your Twitter timeline.

80. Do not be alarmed if someone called the @thebloggess asks for a photo of you holding twine
She has a fantastic blog and as such occasionally gets PR pitches from people who want to encourage her to blog about their product. Occasionally these are good, well targeted pitches. And occasionally they're not. When they're not so good the PR people are sent to a photo of Wil Wheaton collating paper - he supplied this photo himself and it's turned into a good natured internet meme with @thebloggess collecting photos of well-known folk holding everyday items. If you're asked, complying sounds much more fun :)

90. Examples of where it's all gone a bit wrong
How to create a public-relations disaster: Cee Lo Green and Twitter (20 June 2011)
by Max Sparber

95. Examples of where it's gone right
Madonna (singer) and deadmau5 (DJ) had a bit of a public disagreement but seem to have sorted it all out via Twitter

100. Further reading
See the full length post for all the references.

Further posts in the Twitter tips series...