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, 31 December 2018

Blog stats for this blog part 9 (31 December 2018)

Every year I post the blog stats for this blog, and this is my ninth year of doing so (previous years at the end). I do it in case other people might be nosey :)

There seems to be a correlation between the number of posts I write on this blog and its visitors / pageviews, apart from an odd blip in December 2016. I don't have a posting schedule, as the title of this blog suggests I literally only post 'Stuff that occurs to me', as and when it occurs. As I blog a lot elsewhere too this site has diminished somewhat.

  • Table 1: Blog posts per year, by year (= how many blog posts have I written each year?)
  • Fig 1: Blogger's 'all time view' for this site
  • Table 2: Blog stats, by month, for 2017 (= how many people visited this blog, per month, this year?)
  • Table 3: Annual and lifetime views of this blog (= how many people visited this blog each year and the overall total?)
  • Fig 2: Google Analytics 'all time view' for this site
  • Fig 3: The most popular posts on this blog, all time, Blogger stats
  • Particular features of this blog
  • All previous annual stats overview posts, by year

Table 1: Blog posts per year, by year

2009 (45)
2010 (77)
2011 (89)
2012 (141)
2013 (141)
2014 (100)
2015 (50)
2016 (40)
2017 (45)
2018 (30 including this one)

Fig 1: Blogger stats 'all time view'. All time views as of today is 2,848,382.

The most interesting thing about the stats for me is always the vast difference between Blogger's pageviews (1st column in Table 1) and Google Analytics' (3rd column in Table 1). This is generally understood to be because Blogger counts every 'hit' including Google's indexing crawlers and not just real people. I've also included the number of people visiting each month (2nd column), to my knowledge Blogger doesn't provide that info. Odd because Blogger 'is' Google. See explanation below for what numbers in brackets or coloured red mean.

Table 2: Blog stats, by month, for 2018
Month              Pageviews (Blogger)      Visitors (Google)         Page views (Google)
January (3)   9,959 1,990 2,289
February (2)   8,697 1,775 2,028
March (2) 10,934 2,339 2,733
April (3) 11,060 2,220 2,536
May (4) 11,185 2,151 2,483
June (2) 11,527 1,847 2,143
July (3) 12,195 1,826 2,144
August (1) 20,363 1,540 1,846
September (3) 12,277 1,395 1,635
October (2) 14,039 1,438 1,694
November (2) 10,156 1,212 1,404
December (3)   9,423..    992.. 1,109
Total (30)        141,815..                          20,725..                         24,044..

Table 2 info
Figures in brackets next to the month are the number of blog posts published that month. 

Figures in red are uncorrected because the month hasn't finished yet, this obviously affects the annual total too.

I briefly switched off this blog in Dec 2016 as I seemed to be getting a suspiciously high number of visits from Russia (I assumed bots) and January is still showing unusually high numbers. You can see the December blip in the all-time view from Blogger above (Fig 1).

Table 3: Annual and lifetime views of this blog

Year              Pageviews (Blogger)      Visitors (Google) Page views(Google)
2010 (77) 23,351     9,630*   18,958*
2011 (89) 65,972   22,343   40,263
2012 (141) 187,506   57,040   77,869
2013 (141) 553,064 136,941 164,352
2014 (100) 779,632 199,217 226,419
2015 (50) 498,355 113,129 130,115
2016 (40) 379,613   66,614   77,092
2017 (45) 202,609   42,090   46,179
2018 (29) 141,815   20,725   24,044
Lifetime      2,831,917                            667,729                 805,291
                                                                666,762^^              808,396^^

Table 3 info
Figures in brackets next to the year are the number of blog posts published that year. Latest year is in red because I'm writing this on 31st December so figures are incomplete because day hasn't ended which marginally affects the final totals too.
*I began counting stats on Google Analytics in April 2010. Blogger began its own stats system in July 2010.
^) Count of everything in the column above it (Google Analytics)
^^) lifetime count as given on Google Analytics for whole year (there's a slight disparity)

Fig 2: Google Analytics 'all time view'.

 Most visited posts for this blog (for all time) 
Fig 3: The most popular posts on this blog, all time, Blogger stats
Features of my blog to take into account
Or, mitigating circumstances / excuses ;)
  • People find my posts almost entirely through search engine results (I don't promote my blog heavily on social media, though I do mention it fairly regularly)
  • The most popular posts here are about how to do something, often on Twitter - the answer to people's question(s) can usually be found within the first summary, or tl;dr, paragraph or the title, with the rest of the post containing supplemental information. This means that I have a VERY high bounce rate (91%) - people arrive, see the answer, leave. If this were a sales website that would be disastrous but as a largely 'how to' info blog that's OK. 
  • My blog is about many different things and therefore unfocused.
  • I don't have a regular posting schedule and literally post stuff as it occurs to me, which is appropriate given the name of the blog. Sometimes two posts in a day, sometimes nothing for weeks.
  • I have several other blogs including a dedicated 'howto' blog where I post most of my instructional posts. That's on WordPress and in 2017 it had 22,789 visitors making 25,508 views and this year (2018) it had 103,991 visitors making 121,202 views, as of 31 Dec 2018 (149,247 visits in total), I also have one for stuff near Blackheath, one to collect recipes that weren't too disastrou), not to mention work blogs - so I am rather spreading myself thinly and this is reflected in fewer posts here and consquently fewer visits/-ors.

Previous posts about this blog's stats

Sunday, 30 December 2018

Hoping for advertising compliance from autism-'treating' homeopaths in 2019

Homeopaths claim to treat pretty much every known human and animal complaint or disease - you can easily find a long list of named conditions on their websites. Lots of other naturopaths and other quacks also claim to treat a range of health problems, but this particular piece of activism focuses solely on homeopaths treating autism using CEASE therapy.
In 2019 I'm hoping that several UK homeopaths will be a bit more compliant with the advertising regulations when it comes to the information they share on their websites or via tweets about treating autism with CEASE therapy.

A small gang of plucky skeptic bloggers have separately and jointly asked individual homeopaths, the homeopathic society(ies), the Advertising Standards Authority (ASA), the Professional Standards Authority (PSA) and Trading Standards (TS) to take action on these misleading claims. It's an uphill struggle, but the gears are now engaged and we have traction. The regulators have taken note but can they persuade homeopaths to fall in line?
An example of misleading claims can be found in this ASA adjudication against Teddington Homeopathy for making claims about CEASE and autism. Teddington Homeopathy appear to have been reluctant to make the required changes to the text on their website so they now find themselves on the ASA's non-compliant online advertisers list as of 27 August 2015.

By the end of 2018 (tomorrow!) several homeopaths who are members of the Society of Homeopaths and who offer CEASE therapy are required to bring their marketing material into compliance with (i) the SoH's code of ethics, (ii) with the ASA's guidelines (embedded within the SoH's code) and (iii) with additional requirements from the PSA. In mid-January 2019 those of us who originally raised CEASE as a problem will be looking to see if compliance has improved.

Pic credit:

However it's entirely possible though that even if they are compliant I/we still won't be satisfied as I think that no-one should ever be permitted to claim that they can treat anything with homeopathy. That'll be tough luck for me as this appears to be something that marketers can work their way around. I really don't think anyone should be permitted to claim that homeopathy can treat autism.

In an ideal world this is what I'd like to see (or not see) on the websites of people who've been offering CEASE treatment or homeopathic detox for autism or autistic spectrum conditions. [If you are a parent thinking about paying for this please don't].

1. There should be no mention of the acronym CEASE or its written-in-full form
CEASE stands for Complete Elimination of Autistic Spectrum Expression which is a problematic thing to write on your marketing material as it is making a claim that is unsupported by evidence (as well as being potentially harmful). The word 'CEASE' by itself is not much better given that it means 'stop' and will be on a page with references to autism.

2. There should be no mention of autism on homeopathy websites
Autism isn't something you can cure. Autism isn't something that you can treat with homeopathy. There is no need for homeopaths to mention autism as it is not relevant to them. I'd quite like homepaths to stop mentioning any other health condition (they can't treat, cure or otherwise alter the course of those either) but the advertising regulations have not been successful in getting them to stop mentioning named conditions.

3. There should be no link to the official CEASE therapy website
The 'treatment's official site (I shan't link) contains lots of information about what is involved and also provides a hub for homeopaths who've been 'trained' in it to list themselves. The site is outside the UK's jurisdiction so homeopaths can get around restrictions by being reasonably compliant on their own UK website and then link to their individual page on the official site where they can carry on making all sorts of claims. Sneaky. This also seems a ridiculous state of affairs.

4. There should be no reference to homeopathic detox therapy (HDT)
I'd not be surprised if the term CEASE will soon be considered problematic by homeopaths as it attracts attention from skeptics and regulators. HDT is likely to be one replacement term and I'm sure there will be others. It promotes the idea that some conditions arise because of 'toxins' from vaccination and that giving a homeopathic version of the vaccine can reverse this. Twaddle. Also the concept of detox is largely twaddle too

5. There should be no offering high dose vitamins and other supplements
These may cause gastric irritation and diarrhoea, but this is not evidence of toxins being expelled. One of the restrictions on SoH members is to ensure that their advice on supplements does not differ from that advised by the NHS.

6. Better safeguarding for children
If homeopaths are still permitted to get away with the shocking untruth that they can help kids with autism then at least can there be some proper oversight? At the moment it seems anyone can offer to treat children with autism and there is no requirement for them to be DBS-checked first.

7. Skype should not be used in homeopathic consultations
This is a cheap - no need for expensive clinic overheads - way of getting customers. As it's online homeopaths can 'treat' customers from other countries (US popular) as well as within the UK. Presumably no CEASE-offering homeopath is attempting to diagnose any children with autism (I'd think this would be challenging unless done face to face over a period of time) and they are merely attempting to insert themselves into the process in order to charge a fee and 'treat' them. The relevant medical personnel who see kids with autism might want to forewarn parents about this nonsense.

Pic credit:

Background information
CEASE 'treatment' is offered by homeopaths who've undergone additional training and it uses a mixture of homeopathy and supplements (it is not pure homeopathy). It's currently estimated that there are more than 120 homeopaths in the UK flogging this treatment to parents of children with autism - there is no evidence that it helps anyone with autism. It promotes the harmful idea that autism is caused by vaccination and there may be a risk of side-effects of the high doses of supplements that practitioners recommend. In short, it's bad news.

I've written several blog posts already on efforts to try and get regulators to take action (this has been reasonably successful, though I can't personally take any credit) and on individual (un-named) homeopaths whose websites I've been monitoring.

While I'd like all homeopaths to stop claiming they can treat autism the focus is largely on those who are members of the Society of Homeopaths (SoH). This is because the SoH has its register of members accredited by the Professional Standards Authority (PSA). This doesn't really mean that much in practical terms (as far as I can tell) but it does have the advantage that accreditation can be rescinded if the SoH members don't comply with the SoH's code of practice. We're not sure how miffed the SoH or its members would be if accreditation were removed - no idea if this is much of a sanction.

You can read the PSA's Accreditation Panel's Decision for the Society of Homeopaths (meeting in Jan 2018, published Feb 2018) which outlines the
The Panel provided the following Condition to be implemented by the timeframes specified:

1. The Society [of Homeopaths] must:
a. Develop and submit to the Panel for review its position statement on the use of CEASE therapy by registrants, including advertising this. This must be submitted to the Panel for review and published within three months
b. Develop mechanisms to ensure that registrants who use and advertise CEASE therapy follow the Society’s position and do not breach its Code of Ethics and Practice. An action plan outlining how this will be achieved must be submitted to the Panel within one month
c. Review risks related to CEASE and other therapies additional to registrants’ regular scope of practice, as part of its ongoing risk assessments. This must be incorporated into the Society’s risk matrix within three months.
The Panel provided the following Instructions to be implemented by the timeframe stated or by annual review of accreditation as specified below:

1. The Society is to publish its exceptional circumstances policy regarding registrants who are not displayed on the public register, within six months.
2. The Society is to submit the outcomes of its website audits, including websites checked and all actions taken.
3. The Society is to provide clearer information to complainants on the actions it takes in relation to concerns raised when these are resolved outside of the formal complaints process.
4. The Society is to develop and publish its persistent or vexatious complaints policy to make clear where it considers contact from people or organisations to be unreasonably persistent or vexatious and the approach it will take.

The Panel provided the following Learning Points to be verified at the next annual review of accreditation:

1. The Society should consider making improvements to its openness and transparency by, for example, publishing its Board meeting minutes and other information previously available to the public on its website as soon as possible.
2. The Society should consider submitting its web page on ‘The evidence base for homeopathy’ to the Advertising Standards Authority’s Copy Advice team for independent review.

Further reading
UK Homeopathy Regulation's blog has several posts on CEASE - they have been instrumental behind the scenes in effecting a lot of the changes mentioned. Homeopaths in particular are advised to pay particular attention to their posts and tweets.

Friday, 21 December 2018

HSBC branches with coin deposit machines in

25 July 2019: HSBC now has a page on its site to address this so my blog post is happily redundant but kept here for continuity.

Go to put in a town to narrow things down a bit then click on the 'More search options' link then select Coin machine and Refresh.

I have a LOT of coins and I'm going to have to make several journeys to get rid of them. My own bank, HSBC has coin deposit machines in some of its branches but there doesn't appear to be a list of them. I've spotted this unintentionally amusing Twitter thread in which someone asked the HSBC account if there was a coin machine in a particular branch and then everyone started joining in. At some point someone suggests putting a list on their website... this clever info is going to be fed back (but hasn't been yet).

So I've made a list below of the info I could find. HSBC staff are welcome to steal this info back again and put it on their website and then point people to the page who ask about it.
  1. Using coin deposit machines / weight of bagged coins by type, and other non-HSBC options
  2. London HSBC branches with coin deposit machines
  3. Outside London HSBC branches with coin deposit machines 
This is a good article from The Sun (!) about the pros and cons of the different options.

1. Using coin deposit machines / weight of bagged coins by type, and other non-HSBC options
To use HSBC you need an HSBC bank account and will either need to use your bank card or know your Sort Code and Account Number - when you put the coins in the total value is credited to your account.  Apparently it's possible to change coins at any Metro bank, even without an account. Also there are Coin Star machines in supermarkets such as Asda, Morrison, Sainsbury (I think these charge you a percentage - 9%? - but do give you cash).

First a list from Reddit in 2014.

When using coin deposit machines the advice seems to be to proceed cautiously as the machines tend to get stuck and may even fill up if you're putting more than £20 in there. Basically drip feed the machine and let a member of staff know (if one's around) in case you need help.

If your branch doesn't have a coin machine then you can get bags and bag up the coins for counter service (no idea if they give you cash or if you have to deposit, but you'll still have to have an account with HSBC, not sure for Metro). Obviously the coin machine involves a lot less work as you don't have to separate anything out into bags.

Bagging - quicker to weigh coins rather than count. As I discovered £71 into the process.
  • £1 in 1p weighs 356g
  • £1 in 2p weighs 356g
  • £5 in 5p weighs ~326g
Some helpful person on a forum weighed more coins than me and came up with this
  • 100 x 1p = 356g
  • 50 x 2p = 356g
  • 100 x 5p = 325g
  • 50 x 10p = 325g
  • 50 x 20p = 250g
  • 20 x 50p = 160g
  • 20 x £1 = 190g
  • 10 x £2 = 240g
If you have a balance (instead of weighing scales that count up to the actual value) just count one bag's worth of each coin type and use that as a counterweight for weighing later bags. As they do in the bank!

UK LOCATIONS of HSBC coin depost machines - list from 2010.

2. London HSBC branches with coin deposit machines - check before turning up with large sums of money!
  • Baker Street - 186 Baker Street, London, NW1 5RU
  • Belgravia - Vauxhall Road ("The Peak, 333 Vauxhall Bridge Road, Victoria, London, SW1V 1EJ")
  • Jubliee Place (Canary Wharf) - apparently not
  • Charing Cross / Strand - 455 Strand, London, WC2R 0RH
  • City of London - Queen Victoria Street
  • Clapham Junction
  • Croydon - North End Branch
  • Edgware Road - 171 Edgware Rd, London W2 2HR
  • Fenchurch Street
  • Fleet Street
  • Fulham Broadway ("pretty sure" according to reddit thread, so check first)
  • Kingston 
  • Knightsbridge
  • Marble Arch - apparently closed (info later in thread)
  • Marylebone Road
  • Oxford Circus
  • Sutton - NO
  • Westfield Stratford - E15 1AA

3. Outside London HSBC branches with coin deposit machines again check before you go as things change! Also where someone's asked and been told there isn't one I've added that as a NO.
  • Aberdeen - NO
  • Birmingham - NO 
  • Bromsgrove
  • Blackpool - NO
  • Bolton - Victoria Square
  • Cambridge - 63-64 St Andrews Street, Cambridge, Cambridgeshire, CB2 3BZ
  • Cardiff - NO (OK maybe they do?)
  • Chesterfield - NO
  • Colchester - Midland House branch: 26 North Station Road, Colchester, CO1 1SY
  • Coventry - NO 
  • Dundee
  • Exeter - Exeter High Street
  • Great Yarmouth - 181 King Street, Great Yarmouth, Norfolk, NR30 1LS
  • Hereford - NO
  • Leeds - NO 
  • Lincoln
  • Manchester - 2-4 St Anne's Square, Manchester, M2 7HD
  • Northallerton DL7 8LQ / Middlesbrough
  • Northampton - 22 Abington Street, NN1 2AJ
  • Nottingham
  • Sheffield City
  • Shefffield Meadow Hall
  • York - 12 Parliament Street, YO1 8XS