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

Monday, 28 December 2015

2015 edition: places where UK science communicators could work (London-heavy)

Since 2003 I've been keeping a great big public list of vacancy pages where science communicators and health info communicators work, or might work, in the UK. Initially this was just a list I kept for myself as part of trying to find a job, then I discovered the world of blogs and realised others might find it useful too.

There are places that are obviously science communication-y sorts of places, such as science museums, learned societies and medical research charities but all sorts of other places fit the bill and have vacancies pages that may be worth noting. 

Universities will have scientists who also do science communication stuff, and departments and larger projects might also have someone whose job relates to wider public engagement and scicomm, so uni vacancies pages are a good bet. Similarly any organisation with a science PR department. 

Many organisations don't pitch the jobs they make available as 'scicomm' (though there has been an increase in them doing this in recent years) so I advise thinking of this list as a bouncing off point to find other examples within a sector (eg there are loads of medical charities here but I've not got all of them) or to find a new sector (I don't have much here on big industries). 

Full list is here: Scicomm jobs - list of vacancies pages employing science communicators (examples below).
The original 2009 list, updated in 2013 is here: Where London science communicators might work

What I would like is to hear about similar lists in other cities and countries which I can then combine with this list. I mean yes of course I can google science centres and museums in, say, Canada or Italy and provide a list but it's probably better done by someone who knows the area.

What I would also like is for all organisations which have a vacancies page to set up a page-redirect so that typing /jobs after the homepage address always takes you to wherever their vacancies page is. Organisations use such a variety of terms to describe jobs that it would be helpful to aim for some overarching consistency: jobs, vacancies, work with us, work for us, recruitment, careers etc.

Here are some examples where I've found the vacancy page. I'm about halfway through my list.

Biochemical Society
Bloodwise (formerly Beating Blood Cancers)
Breast Cancer Care
Breast Cancer Now
British Computer Society (BCS)
British Ecological Society (BES)
British Heart Foundation
British Institute of Radiology
British Liver Trust
British Lung Foundation
British Medical Association
British Paediatric Neurology Association
British Pregnancy Advisory Service
British Science Association (nee the BA)
Cambridge University
Cancer Research UK
Civil Service
Coeliac UK
Cystic Fibrosis Trust
Diabetes UK
Food Standards Agency
Genetic Alliance
Glasgow Science Centre
Institute of Physics (IOP)
Kidney Research UK
Liverpool School of Tropical Medicine
London School of Hygiene and Tropical Medicine
Macmillan Cancer Support
Marie Curie Cancer Care
Médecins Sans Frontières / Doctors Without Borders
Meningitis Now
Meningitis Research Foundation
MHRA (Medicines and Healthcare Regulatory Authority)
Motor Neurone Disease Association MNDA
MRC (Medical Research Council)
Multiple Sclerosis Society
Muscular Dystrophy Campaign
Myeloma UK
National Autistic Society
National Maritime Museum, NMM
National Osteoporosis Society
Natural History Museum
NCC-WCH (National Collaborating Centre for Women's & Children's Health)
NESTA (National Endowment of Science, Technology and the Arts)
Ovarian Cancer Action
Pancreatic Cancer UK
Parkinson's UK
Pelican Cancer Foundation, The
Psoriasis Association, The
PSP Association
Roy Castle Lung Cancer Foundation, The
Royal Academy of Engineering
Royal Botanic Gardens, Kew
Royal College of Anaesthetists
Royal College of Emergency Medicine
Royal College of General Practitioners
Royal College of Nursing
Royal College of Obstetricians and Gynaecologists (RCOG)
Royal College of Pathologists
Royal College of Physicians
Royal College of Physicians and Surgeons of Glasgow
Royal College of Physicians of Edinburgh
Royal College of Radiologists
Royal College of Surgeons of Edinburgh
Royal College of Surgeons of England
Royal Geographical Society
Royal Institution
Royal Observatory Greenwich
Royal Pharmaceutical Society
Royal Pharmaceutical Society
Royal Society
Royal Society for Public Health
Royal Society of Chemistry
Royal Society of Edinburgh
Royal Society of Medicine
Royal Society of Meteorology (weather / climate, not meteors)
Royal Statistical Society
Royal Vetereinary College
RP Fighting Blindness
Science Museum
Stroke Association, The
Techniquest Glyndŵr, Wrexham
Techniquest, Cardiff
The Brain Tumour Charity
The Lullaby Trust
Tommy's The Baby Charity
Tuberous Sclerosis Association
Wellcome Library
Wellcome Trust, The
Wildfowl & Wetland Trust
World Cancer Research Fund
Yorkshire Cancer Research
Zoological Society of London

Saturday, 26 December 2015

Blog stats for this blog part 6 (26 December 2015)

Welcome to an annual tradition! For the last few years I've been publishing my blog stats (both those counted by Blogger, which includes all Google indexing visits and gives a much higher number than is true, and Google Analytics which is much closer to reality) in case anyone else is interested in this.

The numbers below for 'Bloggers Stats' and 'Google Analytics' are pageviews, not visitor numbers. Stats are shown for 2015 first, then 2014 are shown further down for comparison. The numbers in brackets in the Month column are the numbers of posts published in that period.

Annual visits by month

Month 2015
Blogger Stats
Google Analytics
January (2)
February (3)
March (3)
April (2)
May (6)
June (0)
July (5)
August (5)
September (1)
October (7)
November (13)
December (3)
Totals (50)
Monthly avg

Month 2014
Blogger Stats
Google Analytics
January (11)
February (2)
March (10)
April (7)
May (12)
June (7)
July (11)
August (8)
September (8)
October (12)
November (2)
December (10)
Totals (100)
Monthly avg

Lifetime views
Here's a Blogger Statistics snapshot of all the stats, highlighting an example of December 2012 with 32,422 pageviews. This was followed by a bit of a spike then a period of fairly high numbers of visits before tailing off to where we are now.

According to the Blogger counter (which you can see in the right hand side column on this page if you're viewing this post on the desktop version, example screenshot below) this blog has now ticked over to 2.1 million views, which is a spectacularly huge amount for a fairly chaotic blog that isn't really about anything in particular. However the truth is much less exciting.

Most of the 2.1m lifetime views (and remember this is VIEWS not VISITORS) will have come from Google itself indexing my blog. Google redoes this every few days and quite possibly every few hours - I've noticed that a few minutes after publishing a post it's findable on Google, so possibly it indexes even more frequently, perhaps not surprising as Google owns Blogger. Total lifetime views for the blog are actually 570,000+ according to Google Analytics.

Popular posts
There are a very few exceptionally popular posts on this blog, relating to what happens when you block someone on Twitter or how unprivate private Twitter accounts really are (given how much you can infer from the tweets people send to the private account) but most of the posts are at the lower end of the 'long tail' getting a few tens or hundreds of visits. Admittedly many of my posts are really diary entries, or things just there to remind me. 

Here are the Top 10 posts according to Google Analytics. You can see a big drop between each item on the list.

Posting rate
In 2015 I wrote 48 posts compared with 100 in 2014. I was quite a bit busier in 2015 and probably wrote more blog posts for the various work blogs that I run (there are two of them, plus about 12 other blogs I run for fun) rather than on here, so the output has halved. In 2013 it was 140 posts, 2012: 141 / 2011: 89 and 2010 had 77 posts, so this year is my year of not blogging very much, though I did manage to beat my first year of blogging which was 45 in 2009. In tabulated form...

Number of posts

What do the blog stats mean?
It's difficult to know. As you can see there's been quite a drop in numbers of visits this year. Possibly this is to do with changes in the way Google search rates my blog (and whether or not it shows it to people), possibly it's because I've written far fewer posts, or on topics that aren't particularly interesting to readers or Google's algorithms. I know that some people have found their visits and visitor numbers dropped after some new search ranking 'thing' that changed (something to do with Pandas, didn't pay much attention to it) - possibly I was hit by that but it may just be that I've said everything that others wanted to hear and am now just talking to myself ;)

Interestingly, one thing I have on this blog is a very, very high bounce rate (over 90%). This can either be disastrous (as far as Google is concerned) because it implies that someone arrives at a page on my blog and shortly after leaves. As far as Google is concerned this probably means that the information on my blog is irrelevant or of low value and so Google lowers the rank it assigns to my blog. The alternative (and naturally preferred by me) is the more flattering delusion that people arrive, find the answer promptly to whatever they were searching for and then leave. Google doesn't approve of high bounce rates unfortunately.

Were I to try and create a marginally more 'successful' blog I would do the following
  • pick a topic, not a random collection of things that happen to interest me this week
  • post regularly - that doesn't necessarily mean frequently, just with some degree of periodicity
  • connect my blog to Google+ and send a tweet about every published post, also to Facebook
  • use which has a much better infrastructure (and useful tags and categories) to get my posts seen by more eyes
  • find a way to keep people ON my blog for longer (eg links to other posts in a more systematic way, more pictures etc). 
... but since this blog is just for my own entertainment I've not really done any of that.

Previous "blog stats" posts

  • Blog stats for this blog (23 January 2011) for 2010 - blog getting around 3,000-4,000 hits per month - as assessed by Blogger (Google Analytics is always much lower)
  • Blog stats for this blog part two (30 December 2011) for 2011 - around 4,000-8,000 hits per month (Blogger stats)
  • Blog stats for this blog part three (13 October 2012) for 2012 - 8,000-25,000 hits, 32,000 by December (Blogger stats)
  • Blog stats for this blog part four (26 October 2013) for 2013 - around 40,000 hits per month (Blogger stats) - added 2 Jan 2014
  • Blog stats for this blog part 5 (31 December 2014) for 2014 - around 65,000 hits per month (Blogger) or 15,000 according to Google Analytics
  • Blog stats for this blog part 6 (25 December 2015) for 2015 - around xx,xxx hits per month (Blogger) or xx,xxx according to Google Analytics

Edit 10 Nov 2020 - I've removed a bit of text from my front page below the counter. It gave context to the number shown, but only up to 2015, it said "- but Google Analytics says 524k visitors, 570k pageviews from 1Jun10-31Dec15"

Thursday, 24 December 2015

Printable and electronic Christmas gifts for emergencies (also bakeable)

Updated Christmas 2015, original post from 2009 and updated in 2013

Shops in London are certainly open on Christmas Eve (for example the Apple Store (5pm) and Hamleys (6pm) on Regent Street, and John Lewis (5.30pm) on Oxford Street. Larger supermarkets will also be open too and they usually have a pretty good selection of toys, DVDs, stationery, and all those little gift cards (eg iTunes, Debenham's etc).

But if you're not able to get out to shops and want to send something electronically (or print to hand to someone if you have a printer) here are some ideas.

Baked gifts
If you've got time to get some flour, salt and paint you can make salt dough decorations and if your shop also has eggs, sugar and flavourings you can make edible decorations or cakes etc.
Gingerbread men (and women) - if you don't have a cookie cutter you can make a template from paper and cut your own. Another recipe for gingerbread biscuits.

From Londonist - How to make your own tube roundel Christmas tree decoration (salt dough and paint)

Voucher codes
Amazon giftcards / gift vouchers
There are options for sending something by email or printing. Don't forget that if you'd normally give someone a £10 book you might need to give them a £15 voucher so they don't have to pay extra for postage and packaging (hat tip @philbradley).

Cinema tickets, music tickets etc - note that this works best if you're attending with the person as you may need to show the ticket office the card you use to book. If you want to sort things out so that this step isn't needed it's probably best to ring the booking office, though admittedly they might not be open on Christmas Eve.

Apple music / iTunes vouchers 
iTunes vouchers for music (iTunes store) or apps (app store) - I am not sure if you need to have iTunes on your computer though or if you can do it via other shops, eg Amazon. I believe that if you and your recipient both have iPhones (which are Apple products) you can even send them apps and voucher codes by phone, but I've never tried it.

People might enjoy being a member of an event or cinema venue (eg Southbank, BFI). Or gyms if people are that way inclined. Or perhaps classes for things like cookery or photography.

Charitable things
Lend with Care (from CARE) - charitable microcredit sort of thing, see also Kiva

Toilet Twinning (donate to projects to build loos to improve sanitary conditions)

Oxfam Unwrapped
"Missed the last post? Send an e-card gift instead" 

Decorations, gift tags and things which might entertain children
Activity Village (colour in snowmen, Christmas trees etc)
Printable Christmas crafts including 3D Christmas snowman and tree
General Christmas printables
Christmas baubles (£2.95 to download, but there's enough info to make your own)

Sunday, 29 November 2015

Perhaps Guy's Hospital is unaware that it is offering a homeopathy first aid course

I'm assuming that Guy's Hospital doesn't endorse this homeopathy first aid course and is just letting out a room (in Shepherd's House, on its campus, 10 Dec 2015) to people.

The website of The CPD Group ( says that participants on the homeopathic first aid course will learn "to treat many first aid situations, from childhood fevers, teething troubles, attacks of sickness, ear infections, coughs, flu, diarrhoea etc." - if they are being taught about homeopathy then this is not true as it doesn't treat any of those conditions (or any others).

It's bad enough to suggest that homeopathy can treat a list of conditions but even worse to imply that homeopathy is of any use in a first aid setting and that homeopaths can act as some sort of 'first responder'.

Monday, 23 November 2015

Folk music transcribathon at Cecil Sharp House this Sunday (29th Nov)

Cecil Sharp House (Camden) is having an all day transcribathon in which participants get together with a laptop and headphones and listen and transcribe the words that people sang in some recently collected folk music songs. I asked my friend Alison what was involved and whether or not people need to be able to read music (or be able to listen to music and work out the intervals of notes). Apparently not, it's just the words... but, in her own words:
"We have a transcription guide to help our volunteers, but generally we put the English word, but if it's a dialect word we'd put that with a translation. 

We respect how they sang it when it comes to their variant of a song in terms of what words they use, e.g. there may be printed versions of a song that differ from what they actually sing, but we are capturing their version.

We can't always make out every single word, so have some guidance on educated guesses.

So it's not always as straightforward as you'd think.  But lots of fun!"
Details in the link above or picture below, for ease of copying and pasting the address is

 The Song Collectors website is

More information on collecting songs, and working with different cultures:

Twitter's spam reporting leaves a lot to be desired

I have recently spotted a lot of identical or suspiciously similar tweets on the #homeopathy hashtag coming from 'bots' (automated fake accounts). They are indiscriminately retweeting and favouriting positive and negative tweets about the subject so it's not clear if they're on a particular 'side' or what their purpose is. They are also tweeting more generally about health and weight loss so I would have to assume they exist to tweet a particular link or two and are covering their backs by tweeting other health-related stuff as well, ie hiding in plain sight. It's a popular tactic.

As they deliberately avoid sending spam tweets blocking them 'for' posting spam is not quite right and Twitter's options for reporting them correctly are therefore a bit limited.

The accounts are almost always female (according to their avatar) with digits at the end of their name, eg Jodie123. Their bios look similarly cut and paste with liberal use of dividers like ✦, ✶ or ✪ (I have to admit I use | and / in my bio, or did until I recently changed it).

Examples below
  • TV addict ✦ Professional Speaker ✦ Soccer fanatic ✦ Subtly charming geek ✦ 53 Countries since 2012
  • Social media fan ✶ Author of fantasy books ✶ Travel consultant ✶ Beauty appreciator ✶ Technology lover
  • Advocate for human dignity ✪ Spirituality ninja ✪ Sunglass fan ✪ Detoxification ✪ Nerd 
They are mostly retweeting genuine tweets so their spam-like behaviour is more subtle and probably only noticeable if you are the one whose tweets (or tweets you're mentioned in) are being favourited ('liked') or retweeted - it's not apparent just from looking at their timeline, you have to be aware of several similar accounts to get the full picture.

In other words you can only really see the spam if you're in a position to be able to see the spam!

An example would be that you've tweeted about #homeopathy and a lot of similar-looking accounts retweet it. I suppose it's a tiny bit like #EverydaySexism which is largely invisible unless you're a woman who regularly experiences a range of men making comments at you. Different people moving through an otherwise identical space see and experience it very differently.

I am reporting these accounts as spam though I've not seen many of them being removed (I suspect Twitter just disagrees with my assessment because each account doesn't, individually, look particularly spammy). I'm not sure if Twitter pays attention to my pattern of reporting (ie several similar accounts in a short space of time) but I wish they did because then I think they'd notice the problem.

Perhaps Twitter isn't particularly bothered about these types of accounts. They aren't very harmful, beyond spouting nonsense into the Twittersphere (but let's face it we all do that too), they're not abusive and they're not posting the same tweeted link over and over again. But they don't contribute to the ecosphere.

While we're at it I still hate all those Sumall and tweets that thank a bunch of strangers for tweeting (and do it in such a way that the tweet is visible to ALL of the tweeter's followers, and not just the strangers they're thanking - ugh).

What a depressing thought that future internet archaeologists will be left with the "(insight by" tweets which, by volume alone, must surely be taking up plenty of Twitter's server space. Have a scroll though some of them and despair ;) Drivel.


Things I or colleagues are giving away free this week

A variety of freebies here with things for teachers, children and young people and general members of the public.

For the family - a free magic show powered by hidden computer science with computer scientist professors (Peter and Paul) who are also amateur magicians. This is aimed at secondary school children and their families but it's a big venue so I doubt we'll turn you away if you aren't bringing children with you, just don't steal all the mince pies :) It's taking place at the People's Palace at QMUL.
[More info] [Free tickets]

@MooseAllain is also giving away a free PDF of his colour-in Advent Calendar, more info here - 

For teachers - a free workshop which looks at 'Sorting unplugged' - ways of introducing sorting algorithms into the classroom without actually using computers. From Paul Curzon (who's one of the magicians mentioned above) whose free workshops are perennially popular and good fun. It's taking place at QMUL too.
[More info] [Free tickets]

**NOT FREE** For teachers and others who are interested (£30/£60)
Nicola's my colleague on the Teaching London Computing project and she's a movement artist who uses coding in her projects. She's giving a couple of sessions on Introduction to Arduino. These are aimed at teachers but we've made some spaces available for members of the public who might be interested. There are two sessions running, one on Sat 28th, one on Mon 30th (and for the Monday one you'll need to bring a laptop cos we don't have access to the computer lab that day!). See if you can guess which four-letter-acronymed London university this is taking place at...
[More info] [Tickets - 28th] [Tickets - 30th, remember to bring laptop]

In an effort to clear out my boss's office I'm in the process of giving away some of our stock to the first ten people that fill in a form. Last week I sent out some of our new Ada Lovelace magazines out to 10 people around the UK, this week I'm giving away some of our 'recently older' stock to London folk (I promise to do something less London-centric this time).

  • a flyer for our Christmas magic show
  • A magic book
  • A pack of cards
  • A cs4fn magazine
  • A teleporting robot sheet
  • The robot dot illusion sheet
  • Biology loves Technology mini booklet
  • Hexahexaflexagons booklet and a sheet of hexahexaflexagons for you to cut out, fold, glue together and flex.
[More info, and the form you need to fill in - London only this time though!]