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, 31 December 2014

Mute, block, private - the three Twitter levels of peace and quiet, but not much else

The three Twitter levels of shushing people are

1. Mute

Muting someone just stops their tweets from appearing in your timeline. You'll still receive any tweet they send you as an @mention or a direct message. Muting is useful for temporarily shushing people who are live-tweeting an event that you're not interested in while keeping all other lines of communication open. They won't know they're muted unless you tell them.

Can you see their tweets? Only the ones where they've tagged your name
Can they see your tweets? Yes (unless they've muted you)

2. Block 
Blocking someone means you don't see their tweets. None of their tweets will be shown to you including their broadcast tweets and any tweet that mentions you. They also can't follow you or interact with your tweets. It is possible that you'll still see something of them if someone else that you follow retweets one of their tweets. All of your tweets are still entirely visible to them however, blocking just means they can't communicate with you on Twitter.

Can you see their tweets? Yes but on official Twitter you may need to click a 'view tweets' button (see first picture below)
Can they see your tweets? Yes, but it may take more effort depending on what platform they use (in second picture I've taken the screenshot from Twitter desktop which doesn't show profile, but Echofon on iPhone does).

What it looks like when you block someone, on Twitter

What it looks like when someone blocks you
(on Twitter, tweets visible on other apps!)

They may know they're blocked if they look at your profile on official Twitter sites (desktop or Twitter for smartphone / tablets) but might not notice if they're using third party apps.

Blocking someone does not stop them from seeing your tweets however and even if they're shown a blank profile your tweets will still show up in searches. You can see screenshots of what a blocked account can still see (I tested it with a spare account) here.

If you have blocked someone know that they can see your tweets by searching for from:yourname.

Think of the Twitter block more as a "continue to site" hurdle rather than "you shall not pass" barrier. Most apps still show a blocker's tweets to a blockee (even when logged in) and blockees can always search for a blocker's tweets (even if they're logged in), or just log out.

Rather unfortunately an awful lot of people have taken the "you are blocked from following X and viewing X's tweets" to mean that "if you block someone on Twitter they can't see your tweets", which isn't true. 

2a. The missing impossible level
This is the one that everyone seems to want - the ability to really block one or more people from ever seeing your tweets while making all your tweets publicly available to everyone else - but of course it's impossible. Anyone, if blocked, can use another app, use another browser or log out, or search for the tweets of someone who's blocked them.

It is impossible to stop someone from seeing your tweets unless you make your tweets private and trust everyone that you've allowed to follow you.

3. Private
This hides your tweets from everyone except those accounts that you've allowed to follow you. Your tweets will not show up in search results and tweets you send to people who aren't following you won't be seen by them.

Can you see their tweets? Yes
Can they see your tweets? No (unless you give them permission to follow you). Remember that your followers can share your tweets by manually retweeting them (comment RT) or by taking a screenshot (or, worst case scenario, having their account phished or hacked).

If you want to see how much people can infer from your conversations, even though they can't see your tweets, run a search for to:yourname or just yourname. In fact I'd recommend this to anyone with a private account.

Tuesday, 30 December 2014

Approximate aspect ratios for Google maps - post largely for me to be honest :)

This is a public memo for me for the next time I need a quick way to work out approximate aspect ratio reductions. Fiddling about with a Google map embed... it comes with defaults of 640 x 480 and no way to change it (other than by manually editing the underlying HTML code) and the preset was a little large for its purpose.

I played around with a calculator so that the larger number is about 1.3333 times the smaller one, maintaining an approx 4:3 aspect ratio.

Here's what I came up with. Might be of use to others hence sticking it here rather than just in a file.


Tempting as it is to put a big map on a blog post it rarely works well when viewing on a smartphone. Scrolling down often means you get stuck scrolling within the map, so a bit of thumb-space around the map is helpful.

Thursday, 25 December 2014

This mangled quote is rather pleasing though

Newspapers, quotes, misheard quotes - always entertaining.

Susan Greenfield described the mercurial nature of social media (one minute woohooing over a cute kitten pic, the next getting in a rage over some injustice) with the phrase 'yuck and wow' however it was mistranscribed as 'yakawow' spawning its own meme.

My favourite recent example of 'getting the quote wrong' might be this one, which I think I took from the Daily Mail or another tabloid newspaper. I can't remember what the story was but, knowing what the quote should be, I had quite a good giggle at this. I wonder how it happened - did the person giving the quote not know what the phrase is supposed to be, or did the person listening just summarise as best they could while not knowing the original either?

No. No no no no.

It's meant to be...

"It's not the cough that carries you off, it's the coffin they carry you off in."

Friday, 19 December 2014

How to take screenshots

A version of this was originally posted another post about capturing tweets.

How to take screenshots
On desktop computers people may want to INCLUDE the URL in the address bar but NOT INCLUDE their bookmarks. If so they can usually use the VIEW option in their browser to temporarily hide their bookmarks toolbar (and any other toolbars) to neaten the captured image. They can also resize the entire window and use the Ctrl+- (the Ctrl or Command* key plus the hyphen key) to reduce the size of the text on the screen. Ctrl++ (Ctrl / Command and the + key) to embiggen it again :)

*Command = for Mac keyboards

To take a screenshot on a Windows desktop PC or laptop
• Look for 'Print Screen' on the keyboard which is likely to be spelled Prt Scr.
• Press it to take a picture of the entire screen or press the Alt key first and then Prt Scr to take a snapshot of just the active window.
• This silently copies an image of the screen, or part of it, to the clipboard (it doesn't send it to the printer).

If you open Paint (free with Windows) or Word you can paste it in (keyboard shortcut is Ctrl+V). In Paint you can edit the image.

To take a screenshot on a Mac laptop

Note that 'Command' = the ⌘ key
Command+Shift+3     Capture the entire screen to a file
Command+Shift+Control+3     Capture the screen to the Clipboard
Command+Shift+4     Capture a selection to a file
Command+Shift+Control+4     Capture a selection to the Clipboard       

You can use the Preview tool (free with Macs) to do some basic editing of the image.

To take a screenshot on an iPhone
Press the on/off button (at the top right) and the 'home screen' button at the bottom. This will copy whatever's on your screen to your camera roll which you can then email to yourself (private) or upload to image sharing services (public).

To take a screenshot on an Android phone (v4.0 and above)
Press and hold the power and 'volume down' buttons simultaneously - h/t @ErisianLib
More at

To take a screenshot on a Samsung S3 Mini
Press and hold the 'home' and 'on/off' (power) button simultaneously - thanks to @Jackpot73 for the info. 

To take a screenshot on a Windows 8.1 phone
Press 'power button' and 'volume increase/up' at the same time - info from @Flatsquid, thank you

To take a screenshot on a Sony phone
It's power and volume down simultaneously, according to @clangyandjammy - thanks

Tuesday, 16 December 2014

Things lots of people don't seem to know about Twitter - some Twitter myths

Over two years ago I rattled off a quick post about what happens when you block someone on Twitter. I didn't think a great deal of it after that but began to notice, from Google Analytics search logs (the search phrases that result in people visiting my site) that a lot of people are mystified by a variety of aspects of Twitter. That post has since gone on to be the really popular one on my blog (450,000 views says Blogger, 130,000 views says the more accurate Google Analytics).

Thanks to the latest change to the Twitter block I've been keeping an eye on tweets that include phrases like "they can't see your tweets" and have been a bit disheartened to see how many people seem to believe this. Quite a few have even declared that they can now "come off private" because no-one will be able to see their tweets. It's not true.

There are a lot of (actually perfectly reasonable) assumptions made about Twitter but unfortunately they seem to be mostly wrong.

I'll add more 'Twitter myths' here as I think of them. It concerns me that lots of people are blithely unaware that if they have a public account ALL their tweets (other than DMs) are searchable and embeddable in blogs and Storify stories etc. Probably very few of these people follow me (I've tweeted about 150 of them since the weekend) so it's hard work getting this info out. Tell your friends :-)

1. Blocking someone doesn't stop them from seeing your tweets
There are so many workarounds including them logging out, creating another account (things like Tweetdeck let you log in to multiple accounts at once), searching for your tweets, they can of course search for tweets from you and see the conversations you're participating in even if you make your account private.

A block on Person X just stops their tweets from being shown to you (you can still go looking for their tweets too). Every now and then Twitter changes its block function and a lot of people seem to think there's been an improvement. With the latest December 2014 if you visit someone's profile on desktop Twitter you're told that you've been blocked and can't view their tweets. If they search for your tweets they can still find them, or they can use a third party app like Echofon on iPhone which, at time of writing, is still showing full profiles.

It's possible that in the next few weeks Twitter will tighten things up so that (a) smartphone apps won't show profiles and (b) desktop searches won't show tweets from the person who's blocked you but I can't see a way round (c) them logging out. Even if Twitter insisted on people logging in to view tweets they could still log in with a different account.

Beyond making an account private I can't ever see a way to stop someone from seeing your tweets (and remember they can still see the other halves of your conversations).

2. Changing your Twitter handle doesn't stop people from finding you - blame conversation threading
I think this confuses a lot of people too. You change your Twitter handle and your previous one stops working. If someone visits the profile of the old account name it tells them the page doesn't exist. Anyone following you at the time of the change will be immediately 'transferred' to following you on the new account.

However if anyone has ever replied to any of your previous tweets then a 'thread' has been set up between the two, and this threading persists even if your name has changed. People can use this to find your new account. I've done this unwittingly by wondering where some annoying person has gone (usually an alternative medicine quack spouting rubbish and trying to avoid being challenged), failing to find their profile page then searching for any tweets I'd sent to their previous account.

In the search results on desktop Twitter (the best search interface) their old handle is no longer a clickable link (cos their page doesn't exist). But if you click on the tweet to unfurl it, and see the threaded conversation, then you'll probably see what their new Twitter name is. That's probably how anyone would have found your new Twitter name, if that's ever happened.

Possibly this will change in future. If you've blocked someone and then changed your name then at the time of writing they can still find you by searching, but if Twitter fixes its search so that your tweets won't show up to people that you've blocked then this could become harder. Though they could still log out or use a different account to check.

The only other way around this is to create a completely new account or delete ALL of your previous tweets (up to about 2009/2010 when I think threaded conversations were introduced).

Saturday, 13 December 2014

Twitter's updated its block function but nothing has really changed

It appears that Twitter has rolled out a new version of its block. If you view, on Twitter (desktop) or Twitter for iPhone (I assume it's similar for other smartphones), the profile of someone who's blocked you you'll get a message saying:

"You are blocked from following @Name and viewing @Name's Tweets. Learn more"

It looks like you can't view their tweets and suggests that if you block someone they won't be able to see your tweets either. This is incorrect.

If someone's tweets are public then anyone can view those tweets by using any of the following methods
(a) using a different browser
(b) logging out of the blocked account and using the same browser while logged out
(c) logging into a different account
(d) using a different smartphone app - at the moment Echofon for iPhone lets me see the profiles of a couple of homeopathy quacks who've blocked me
(e) search for their tweets (or if they're using a hashtag you'll still see their tweets there) on desktop Twitter or with Hootsuite / Tweetdeck.

If you want to ensure that someone cannot see your tweets you'd need to
(a) make your account private and

(b) be careful who you allow to follow you (is it them under a different name?)
(c) hope none of your followers get phished or hacked, or leak your information

Remember that anyone can see tweets sent to you (by searching for to:yourname or @yourname on Twitter dot com, search).

What does a block do then?
It's acts as a mute, it's really nothing more than that.

If you block me any tweet I send you won't show up in your timeline or mentions, so I am effectively silenced. You'll be able to go looking for my tweets if you want to but they won't be delivered to you.

If I look at your profile I'm told I can't see your tweets but I can use the methods above to see them, as you can if I block you.

Blocking someone doesn't ever stop them from seeing your tweets. It just means you don't have to see theirs if you don't want to (and they can't favourite or retweet you - well they can manually retweet you).

You can see all the accounts that you have blocked at

Read more about private Twitter accounts

Read more about Twitter blocks
What happens if you block someone on Twitter? What happens if they block you? (7 June 2012, updated 4 January 2014 and again today (12 December 2014).

Friday, 5 December 2014

Alexandre Desplat is film music concert-ing next Thursday at Barbican

by @JoBrodie, - cross-posted to the Sound stuff blog

Press play to enjoy a 11min sonic overview of the music of Alexandre Desplat including a short interview, by Tim Burden, then scroll down :)

Well now this is a good name for a film music concert! I might rethink the titles I give to my talks on diabetes research ;)

LSO on Film: The Magic and Majesty of Alexandre Desplat (link on LSO page)
with the London Symphony Orchestra
Thursday 11 December 2014 / 19:30
Hall, Barbican

Before the concert, at 6pm, there's also a free Q&A with the composer, hosted by the flautist / flutist / flute-player (LSO Principal Flute Gareth Davies).

Alexandre Desplat, whose name I can almost pronounce, is doing a concert of his film music next Thursday. He's done the scores for some very well-known films like Harry Potter, and The King's Speech (I felt that needed a comma given the style of naming films within the Harry Potter franchise) as well as some as yet unknown to me.

Two of my favourites from his work include Birth which also happens to be directed by Jonathan Glazer (I think he's amazing) who's just been announced as the Wellcome Trust's new Screenwriting Fellow, and Painted Veil.

It seems that Birth will be included among the concert pieces, woohoo - see the YouTube video at the end.
Programme to include music from:
  • The Imitation Game
  • Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows
  • The King's Speech
  • The Queen
  • Philomena
  • Twilight: New Moon
  • The Curious Case of Benjamin Button
  • Girl with a Pearl Earring
  • Godzilla
  • The Ghost Writer
  • Birth
  • The Grand Budapest Hotel
  • Coco avant Chanel

Thursday, 4 December 2014

Twitter's block still seems to be 'security theatre'

Blocking an account never stops a person from seeing your tweets. They can log out (or use a different account) to view your profile.

Every now and again Twitter tweaks its block function. The most recent one that I was aware of was to separate blocking from reporting - they made it easy to 'no blame' block someone (if they look like a pretty irrelevant account that sells widgets and you happen to have mentioned widgets once) or to select from a range of options if you wanted to report a more troubling account.

In their 2 December 2014 post on improvements to harrassment, blocking and things like that they said

"Additionally, accounts that you’ve blocked won’t be able to view your profile."

I've asked the post's author about this... because I think it might lull people into a false sense of security.

To be honest this was how things used to be a couple of years ago and then, because* everyone would either just log out or view with a different profile Twitter let everyone see everything, so at least people would know that a block doesn't make any difference to someone's ability to see tweets.

(*possibly not because, it might not have had a causal relationship to be fair)

I'm not sure why this has changed again. My worry is that quite a lot of people will think that if someone they've blocked can't see their profile / tweets then they're 'safe' from that person seeing their tweets. I don't think this is true at all.

It would seem that there is no way to protect a user from an irritant seeing their tweets other than for them to make their account private (even that can be imperfect, see posts below).

An improvement might be to make it impossible to see any tweets without being logged in (but that doesn't solve the 'using a different account' scenario, and it doesn't seem to be what Twitter wants as it presumably it wants to share its content to draw in new users).

I'm basing my assumption about what people understand about Twitter and the block function from the search queries that bring them to my blog. A couple of years ago I wrote a post and have kept it up to date, it turned out to be quite popular and as far as I'm aware is still on the front page of searches for things to do with Twitter blocking (126,000+ people have viewed it) and as such I get to see an awful lot (13,000 searches) of people wondering what happens if they block someone. Most don't seem to understand what happens, which worries me.

What happens if you block someone on Twitter? What happens if they block you?
(7 June 2012, updated 4 January 2014)

How to view private tweets - and what to be aware of to protect your account
(7 December 2013)
In most circumstances you cannot view private tweets, but it's still quite leaky.

Don't assume that your private Twitter account is all that private
(7 December 2012)

Wednesday, 3 December 2014

Money (£500k) for charities from NHS England, to do self-care related stuff

NHS England has a pot of money that looks like it could be put to an interesting use

NHS England has launched the Realising the Value Programme, a new initiative which will empower people and communities to take more control of their health.

Through this initiative, NHS England will award a grant of up to £500,000 to a charity or not for profit organisation (or consortium) to identify evidence-based approaches to self-care. This programme will also support the commissioning and spread of such approaches, across local communities, and in the NHS, to empower people to take an active role in their health and care.

Interested organisations have until 9 January 2015 to apply for money from the Realising the Value programme. NHS England will be hosting and event on 8 December, in London, where organsations can come and find out more about the programme and submitting an application.

Monday, 1 December 2014

Guess who's doing more film music concerts in 2015? @DavidGArnold is, in Dublin, Manchester & Liverpool :)

Also cross-posted to my Sound Stuff blog.

tl;dr version: film composer David Arnold's doing three four film music concerts in 2015 in Dublin (Jan), Manchester (April), Liverpool (April) and Birmingham (June).

*****On 2 December 2014*****
On Tuesday 2 December David Arnold's being interviewed by Tommy Pearson in the Elgar Room at Royal Albert Hall, 7pm, £11.20. Tickets have now sold out but it's worth checking the website for returns, a couple appeared last week before being snapped up again (and also try the Box Office on 0845 401 5034).

David's score for the film Shaft is also due to be released by La-La Land Records on 2/12, the same day as his RAH interview. Also he wrote the music for Made in Dagenham the musical which is at the Adelphi until March 2015 - it's a joyous thing, go.

He's on Twitter @DavidGArnold.

Before we start, press play... (there are a few more clips from his concert recorded from an iPhone by Jack Chapple).

I really enjoyed his July 2014 concert at the Royal Festival Hall (YouTube clip above) and so did all the reviewers as you'll see in this post (full list of reviews I've found at the end). We heard music from films he scored early in his career (Stargate and Independence Day) and of course all his James Bond films, but also more recently his work (with Michael Price) on the BBC Sherlock series and a whole lot of stuff in between. He's been consistently brilliant :)

"What last night did was give an overwhelming sense of satisfaction to the audience and to highlight the versatile nature, talent and musical legacy that David Arnold has given us. I can only hope this is something that many others have the opportunity to see and listen to as he is one of the finest in the business and worthy of every bit of praise that comes his way after this London concert."
David Arnold Live - The Passionata Project

"While this event was a one-off, we hope that the composer has the bug for more, as his terrific music deserves to be heard live."
‘David Arnold: Live in Concert’ review - Cult Box
Good news - his London concert wasn't a one-off and he's announced three concerts for 2015, in Dublin, Manchester and Liverpool.

Thursday 22 January 2015, 8pm
National Concert Hall, Dublin
€20-€45 (conc. €18-€40.50)
Tickets and info - Dublin

Tuesday 14 April 2015, 7.30pm
The Bridgewater Hall, Manchester
£26.50 - £44.50 + VIP packages available
Tickets and info - Manchester

Tuesday 21 April 2015, 7.30pm
Liverpool Philharmonic Hall, Liverpool
£24.50, £29.50, £37.50, £42.50, £50
Tickets and info - Liverpool

Friday 26 June 2015, 7.30pm
Symphony Hall, Birmingham
£24.50, £29.50, £37.50, £42.50 & £75 VIP plus transaction fee (£3)
Tickets and info - Birmingham

Based on the July 2014 concert I think everyone's in for a treat again.

"The first half of the program appeared hand-selected to show off the eclectic nature of Arnold’s oeuvre. Immediately, the audience was bombarded with the heroic fanfare of his overture for the late ’90s space adventure Wing Commander. From there, the program ventured into the gorgeous, Barryesque gestures of Last of the Dogmen, the bluesy guitar of Four Brothers, the cool, understated majesty of his 2012 London Olympics Closing Medals Ceremony, the thundering monster movie heights of Godzilla, and the delirious, waltzy splendor of The Stepford Wives."
David Arnold plays his greatest hits in his London concert debut - Enjoy the crawl

Some of David Arnold's scores

"During this segment Mr Arnold unsheathed his “secret weapon”, singer David Mcalmont, who stepped onto the stage to perform Play Dead, a song made famous by Bjork. The shot was a bullseye. The target exploded. And the audience, including David Walliams, Mark Gatiss, Steve Furst, Amanda Abbington and Martin Freeman, roared with excitement."
Review: David Arnold at the Royal Festival Hall - beige

"The mood sobered briefly when Arnold assumed singing duties for a never-before-heard song from his upcoming stage musical, Made in Dagenham—a work about the late ’60s women’s rights movement in the UK. With lyrics written from the perspective of a wife and mother, this heartbreaking song was delivered by Arnold with all the passion and all the poignancy it deserves."
David Arnold plays his greatest hits in his London concert debut - Enjoy the crawl

"We enjoyed Arnold’s vocals again on the title track from The World is Not Enough, as well the unused ‘Only Myself to Blame’ from the same film, both songs written in collaboration with legendary lyricist Don Black. Arnold also performed a raw and pounding instrumental version of ‘You Know My Name’ from Daniel Craig’s debut Casino Royale."
‘David Arnold: Live in Concert’ review - Cult Box

Incidentally his work on the Bond films has also had a nice citation in the academic literature on film music: "Arnold’s music represents an elegant integration of broad orchestral statements, big-band inspired brass, electronica, and exotic percussion. ... He references the established Bond motives and gestures and, consequently, the scores sound like the contemporary continuation of a tradition. In short, Arnold fulfilled many of the unwritten rules of the Bond scores."

Screen Shot 2014-11-30 at 23.52.02

"The star character of this memorable event however was not 007, but undoubtedly Sherlock. It is rare for any contemporary television series to have such an imaginative and well written score, which when performed last night as an orchestral suite, captivated and invigorated the entire auditorium."
Review: David Arnold at the Royal Festival Hall - beige

So there you go, and go you should :D

David Arnold's film and television scores on iTunes and Amazon
If you like film music concerts in general you'll probably like the Movies in Concert site.

Further reading
Here are the reviews for David's July 2014 concert.
Further listening
Over the next few days a couple of David's scores for James Bond and Hot Fuzz can be heard on UK terrestrial television - Die Another Day (10.40pm, ITV, Thursday 4 December); Hot Fuzz (9pm, ITV2, Monday 8 December & rpt 9pm, ITV2, Friday 12 December), Casino Royale (10.40pm, ITV, Friday 12 December).

Here's Tim Burden's interview with David on Soundcloud, shortly before the July 2014 concert