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 scientific society talks in London blog post

Tuesday, 21 November 2017

Pointless arguments in the #homeopathy-sphere that you can safely ignore, saved for interest (mine)

Yesterday (20th Nov) I was surprised to be alerted to a 19th Nov post published on homeopathy enthusiast Sandra Hermann-Courtney’s (@BrownBagPantry on Twitter) blog, a screenshot below.



It turned out to be my blog post (from 15th Nov) copied and pasted without attribution but with a disclaimer stating "No restriction to its unedited re-use for informative purposes was declared." For the record no-one needs to write this on their blog posts, as copyright is implied.
The post in question:
Alternative medicine conferences and events - a guide for hotels and conference centres
(15 November 2017)

I asked her, through her commenting system, to take the post down and also pointed out that she could have published it unimpeded if she'd interspersed some commentary to at least make it look as if she’s re-using my content as fair use. It is generally OK to publish a line by line rebuttal, it is not OK to steal the content wholesale and publish without attribution (she did include a link to my post). She subsequently did add in commentary and I left her a note saying thanks and that there’d be no further action from me.

So I was surprised to see that she’s edited the same post (at least) three times today. Once to remove it entirely, including two of my comments, with just a link to my post. Then a second time to add in a couple of paragraphs with further bleating and an accusation that I’d threatened her with a DMCA notice to take down her entire blog. You can see exactly what I sent in the screenshots of my comments below (Sandra regularly edits her content after the fact and we’ve all learned to screenshot things in any dealings with her).

Here's the thrilling timeline... dun dun duuun...

Sandra publishes my entire post (losing the links and the formatting, for shame) without attribution and so I send this comment [she published the comment]

Screenshot 1 - click to enlarge
She later adds attribution and announces that the post is ‘editorial’ (it isn’t) and I send this comment [which she doesn’t publish]

Screenshot 2 - click to enlarge

She finally intersperses some comments, for which I thank her in a third comment explaining that no further action will be taken. It was brief and amiable, she might have published it but I forgot to screenshot.

Here’s the text of her post now, as at 7pm 21 Nov, it's already changed several times since 5pm today… her text is in italics, my comments interspersed between.

"UK homeopaths, homeopathy users, supporters, homeopathic organizations, hotels, universities and other venues that host informational gatherings to inform the public about alternative health care options, need to be aware of the content on the blog of JoBrodie "Stuff that occurs to me."

In the first paragraph Sandra focuses on homeopathy but my blog post is about all forms of quackery. In fact my post is specifically only about misleading advertising for quackery. There are numerous talks and events happening every so often in London about homeopathy and I’ve not complained about any of them for the simple reason that they have not claimed they can cure or prevent any disease.

People who are putting together informational events for the public about alternative health may want to make themselves aware of advertising regulations, medicine regulations and the Cancer Act 1939. Trading Standards has shut down a variety of events that would have likely broken the law if they’d continued. Alternative medical folk may detest skeptics but when we point out that something might be a bit dodgy we might actually be saving you a lot of future grief from authorities.

"
On one blog page, Brodie describes in explicit detail what and how anti homeopathy skeptics do and can stop educational and/or informational presentations at schools, universities and other organizations. She lists resources for more help as well as successes skeptics have had stopping the informational presentation of alternative health care options, primarily homeopathy. This practice by anti homeopathy activists is dangerous to society. It's bullying. It's disgusting. The title of this blog post reflects my fears in this regard." 



Well obviously I think homeopaths and other quacks claiming that they can cure autism or cancer are quite dangerous to society...

"As I interpreted one of Brodie's comments (I deleted them), she threatened to proceed with a DMCA take down notice of my entire blog. I understand how embarrassing this must be to have the skeptics' tactics exposed. Someone has to do it. I did. I will. No regrets."

Sandra has changed this third paragraph several times, this is the current (at 7pm) iteration, two earlier versions are in the tweet below. Edit 22 Nov: she keeps tweaking the post so I've set up an automated change detection to email me when there's been further tinkering ;)



Threatened [to proceed] with a. DMCA take down notice of my entire blog” - well, see what you think from the text in Screenshot 2 above. I think I’ve included it more as a “well I’d rather not, but it’s an available option isn’t it?” rather than a threat per se, but fair enough it was certainly mentioned. However it then becomes clear that Sandra has panicked somewhat due to misunderstanding what a DMCA notice is. I cannot take down her entire blog, I can only ask for Google (who own Blogger) to remove the content for which I have the copyright. Since I don’t own the copyright for any other content on her blog (to be fair, neither does she as it’s mostly screenshots of other people’s tweets, plus bleating) I cannot have any effect there.

A DMCA notice would likely cost me a couple of hundred pounds as I’d go through a lawyer (to avoid handing over my contact details) and it would also expose me to the mockery of fellow skeptics (and probably a bunch of other people too) for using a sledgehammer to crack a nut - so it’s not something I’d rush into with that much enthusiasm.

The final lines of her third paragraph made me laugh out loud though. It reads as if she thinks I wanted her to take down my post because she was exposing the content to a wider audience. The fact that I’d already published the content to my own blog, then tweeted it and had it further RTed rather suggests I wanted it ‘exposed’ to a wider audience. I just didn’t want it stolen and reposted without attribution. Fortunately she seems to have taken it down. For now...

Admittedly I don’t always succeed in getting people to take content about quackery down, the irony of this success is that the content was my own.

I do hope Sandra isn't cross at me lifting her content and adding my commentary, after all I didn't see anything written on her blog post to indicate the contrary, so I'll assume her agreement since "No restriction to its unedited re-use for informative purposes was declared."

25 November: Edit after she changed her post again
"...someone (perhaps a member of the Society of Homeopaths) in London might want to share a link to her blog with meeting room bookers (www.meetingsbooker.com/uk), institutions of higher learning and health care centers in London."

Quite amazing. This is literally what I want to happen. My post is about gathering information that might be of use to people working in hotels, conference centres or any event bookers wherever they work. The 'end product' from the post should be a set of recommended guidelines on how to spot quackery / misleading health claims and why it's a good idea not to let it flourish by making space available for meetings about it. I'd never heard of meetingsbooker before but if this flags up to them the problem of quackery that's great. She seems to think she's 'exposing' the content on my blog, as if me publishing it and sharing it on Twitter / Facebook etc is somehow keeping it secret. Baffling.

"If the like minded anti homeopathy skeptics need help, Brodie has posted links to the blogs and/or websites of the "Good Thinking Society; the Nightingale Collaboration; Sense About Science and then a Skeptics in the Pub (various around the UK)" where you can, well....learn how to combat the spread of homeopathy over a pint or two..... "

Goodness, how can one person misunderstand so much. The listing of the groups isn't for homeopathy skeptics, or any other kind of skeptics, but for event bookers who are faced with an event they're not sure about and would like to ask someone about it. Those are the people they might ask...

Screenshots
22 Nov, around ten to midnight.             








22 Nov, Twenty past midnight...





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

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