• President Trump is being sued for blocking people, but the lawsuit makes no sense (to me)

NB: I am not a lawyer.

Some people are suing President Trump because he’s blocked them on Twitter. They argue that doing this stops them from reading or replying to his tweets and, by extension, means that their opinion cannot be made available to others who are reading the thread.

This is not true.

While I am not a supporter of President Trump this lawsuit appears to be based on a misunderstanding of what Twitter’s block actually means (to be fair this misunderstanding is very widespread). Perhaps if I were a lawyer I’d see some merit in the lawsuit but it currently eludes me, it seems to me to be daft, incoherent and wrong.

A block from an otherwise unlocked / public account wouldn’t stop anyone from reading the tweets or even replying to them (though locking the account certainly would).

Reading tweets from someone who’s blocked you, while logged in
If a user has blocked you simply search for their tweets (eg from:realdonaldtrump). I’ve tested this using a work account that blocked my personal account and it works on desktop Twitter, Tweetdeck, several iPhone apps, Dabr.co.uk and probably most Twitter platforms and apps.

Enthusiasts could set up an account with IFTTT and have any public account’s tweets emailed to them, or they could use another account to create a website widget which relays the tweets there.

Replying to tweets from someone who’s blocked you, while logged in
On desktop Twitter you need to click on the speech bubble icon to bring up the reply window (see the pics below). If you click on the tweet itself you’ll be taken to the ‘you are blocked’ page. On all the other platforms I’ve tested, including Tweetdeck, you can click on the tweet and reply to it.

Everyone else clicking on the tweet you’re replying to can see your reply*.

Viewing a “this tweet is unavailable” tweet that’s quote-RTed by someone else
In this scenario I’d simply right-click, open in private browsing window where you can view the tweet while not logged in. You can reply to the person who quoted the tweet while logged in to the regular browser window.

If an account blocks you can they see your tweets? Yes they can, though as your tweets aren’t delivered to them they won’t see them unless they want to. So, practically speaking, this might be ‘no’.

If anyone wishes to ‘not see tweets from someone’ while ‘avoiding being sued for blocking them’ then I strongly suggest MUTE as the better choice. If you are not following an account then MUTING them stops any tweets they send you from arriving. They don’t know they’re muted and can read and reply to your tweets (which others can see, but you won’t).

On desktop and iPhone Twitter (I’ve not tested other apps) you can arrange your settings to that you’ll only see tweets from accounts that you follow, which is basically the equivalent of muting everyone except accounts you follow. Again, no-one else knows.

*Twitter doesn’t show all replies
I don’t know how Twitter determines which tweets it will or won’t show, it may be algorithmic or it may be based on other users flagging up tweets as offensive. Occasionally in a thread I see ‘view more tweets, including those that may contain offensive content’ and they’re rarely all that offensive. Even if Mr Trump hadn’t blocked your account your replies to him might not be shown to him.

Worked example, with pictures
I’ve just blocked myself (@jobrodie) using one of my old work accounts @chi_med. The pictures below show me what I see / don’t see, and how I can reply to the tweet of an account that’s blocked me.

Fig 1. @chi_med has blocked @jobrodie. When I’m logged in as @jobrodie I see a ‘you are blocked’ page if I try and look at @chi_med’s profile


Fig 2. While logged in as @jobrodie I’ve searched for tweets from @chi_med by typing from:chi_med into the search bar, the results are clearly visible. Note the small speech bubble at the bottom left of every tweet – that will let me reply to the tweet.


Fig 3. This is what I see if I click on one of the tweets (instead of the speech bubble to reply) – I’m taken back to the ‘you are blocked’ page from Fig 1, this is its URL.


Fig 4. Clicking the speech bubble brings up a reply window.


Fig 5. I’m not logged in, but the tweet from @chi_med now displays my reply – visible to all.
Fig 6. How the tweet looks when I’m logged in as @chi_med. I can see that there has been a reply (see the little ‘1’ next to the speech bubble) but I can’t see what the tweet says because I’ve blocked the account that sent it. Others would see the tweet though.




How to add a reference to Wikipedia

Usually I use ProveIt, an in-Wikipedia editing support tool that makes it easier to reference information added to the encyclopedia. It’s not working at the moment (doesn’t seem to be related to my Ad Blocker) which means I have to do it manually.

Sadly this just makes me want to punch everything and then throw it out the window – Wikipedia has the worst user interface I’ve ever encountered. It’s comically bad and the fact that the site devotes many, many pages to how to do simple tasks on Wikipedia is indicative. Having said that I definitely have Stockholm Syndrome for the site and love it unconditionally. Tragic.

Here, for my benefit and perhaps yours, is a screenshot of how a reference looks in-action, then a screenshot of it broken into its component parts and a text version for me to copy and paste and update with new information for a new reference. What a fiddly fiddle.



cite web
title=Royal Albert Hall presents Casino Royale in Concert World Premiere
publisher=Royal Albert Hall
date=17 May 2017
accessdate=21 May 2017


How to ‘pipe’ a reference

Another thing I always having to sodding well look up is how to point to something that needs disambiguating. Wikipedia’s guide to how to make a Piped Link (which involves one of these | ).

[[train station|station]] displays as station but links to the train station Wikipedia article. Also [[Name of Film (1968 film)|Name of Film]]

How to add bullet points
It’s literally a * in front of the line – this is also used to indent your comment if you’re replying to someone on a talk page.


• Fighting with WordPress admin / editor – a bleat rather than a solution (wp-admin)

For work we have a paid-for work-related WordPress dot com website (not self-hosted WordPress dot org which is a completely different thing). I thought I’d keep a tally of some of the (reasonably recent) changes to the layout that really annoy me about it. Seemingly aesthetics has one out over functionality and it is extremely poor and unintuitive to make changes on the site.

A solution of sorts
The first thing to commit to memory is the suffix /wp-admin (stick it at the end of your homepage address) which will always take you to the main ‘old’ admin bit of your site, from which you should be able to find all the things you want to do.

Editing a sequence of pages, finding the right address
My site has information about a 10-week course. There’s a start page with an overview of the course and 10 sub-pages for each week, to which I add material every week. I’m fairly sure I used to be able to ‘URL hack’ the address to bring up the next page that I wanted to edit.

If you can guess what the link for Week 8 might be you’ve already grasped URL hacking.

https://teachinglondoncomputing.org/gcse-week-5/ https://teachinglondoncomputing.org/gcse-week-6/ https://teachinglondoncomputing.org/gcse-week-7/
what could go here... :)

Things aren’t that simple once you’re stuck in their awful new editing system, the address I’m actually stuck with is


[hopefully this won’t actually work if you click on it as you’re not logged in to my site]

This means I have to prune everything up to teaching… and after .org and re-add /wp-admin to start a new editing instance. It is seemingly impossible to navigate to other pages from within the editing pane. You may be lucky, if you’ve recently been on the /wp-admin page you can use the back button, but invariably this won’t take you to where you want to be.

I can’t understand why the WordPress-using community (particularly those of us who’ve paid for an ad-free service) isn’t up in arms about how poor this interface is. Hear me bleat.

They have improved things a little bit though
One thing they have fixed though is being able to access a new page or post you’ve just created or edited, see the ‘escape’ / page launch button to the right of the updated page, below. For a long time using the View Page (once the page was published) would only give you a sort of pop-up overlay but with no way of getting the actual address to copy. If you click on the new button below you’ll be taken to a copy of the page from which you can collect the URL.


Poor situational awareness for comments
Another difference between the two admin interfaces is shown in the pictures below. In the /wp-admin one (on the left) you can see that there’s a comment waiting for attention, in the newer Admin page (right) that notification is absent.

Hopeless wrangling of pages
Oh my goodness, this is comically bad. In the newer version (lower image) it’s not obvious how you select an author or order by date. It looks like you can’t do a quick edit (change the URL, add a password, edit the categories and tags) either. Awful.

The top images shows all pages that I’ve written, in reverse date order and at the bottom displays an example of a ‘quick edit’.

Screenshot 2017-07-27 13.43.33

Screenshot 2017-07-27 13.44.13

More bleats to come as I remember things about this new interface that annoy me…

How to connect to QMUL’s Eduroam wifi with a new password on Windows 10

Admittedly this one might be a bit niche. It’s something I probably do no more than twice a year, whenever I am forced to change my password.

The trick is to forget Eduroam. I’ve spent much longer than is reasonable trying to prod it into prompting me for the new password but it refuses, so the successful route was basically to turn it off and on again.

There’s more than one way to reach the network settings but today I did it by clicking on the wifi icon in the bottom right tray…

01 network and internet settings
I’m sure you know which one is the wifi icon but in case not it’s between the battery icon and the muted speaker icons. Let’s assume you know those too 🙂

…then clicking Network & Internet settings. This brings up a range of options in a menu on the left and the one I want is Wi-Fi. Once clicked the text on the right shows me a new option, Manage known networks

02 manage known networks

…which lets me find Eduroam, click on it and forget it (or check its properties).

03 forget

Then start the process again by clicking the wifi icon bottom right, it will include Eduroam in the list (assuming it’s in range) and at this point will ask you for your login name and password. Remember that for QMUL folk the login is NOT the same as your email address.

Pictures to follow…

• Excel ‘concatenate’: how to combine FirstName LastName columns into one column – Name

The formula is of the format =CONCATENATE(A1,A2) which will combine the separate names in Cell A1 and Cell B1 into one.


On my version of Excel this format will include a space between the two but you can force one if yours doesn’t, with =CONCATENATE(A1, ” “, B1).

Note that Cell C1 is highlighted (surrounded by a green border). If you have lots of names in columns A and B you can double click on the tiny green square at the bottom right and the formula will cascade all the way down your list, stopping at the last item.

This format will also work =A1 & A2 (or if you need a space it’s =A1 & ” ” & A2)

Beware: do not now delete columns A and B or your newly created column C will disappear as each cell is actually a formula, contingent on the contents of other cells. If you want a text-only version I think the quickest way to do this is to select Column C and copy (Ctrl+C) its contents, then paste temporarily into a text file (eg notepad.exe) which will paste the words you see in the column and not the underlying maths. Then paste from the notepad file back into an empty column and you can delete the other three safely.

Why not just collect people’s names as names rather than FirstName LastName?
Sometimes it’s handy to be able to order a spreadsheet of people’s names by their surname as well as by their first name, so it’s quite handy to have one column for their forename and another for their surname.

Further reading
Microsoft’s help page on the CONCATENATE function

This post is a neatened update of a post originally published on my main blog (I’m gradually transferring the techy posts I’ve published there… here).



Voting for the slightly forgetful

Voting is tomorrow, from 7am until 10pm. If you’re reading this on Wednesday and will be heading off somewhere tomorrow… are you going to vote before you go there or on your way back?

It’s very easy to get up and get ready to go to work or wherever and find you’re halfway there having meant to have voted already. Similarly on the return journey. Generally we vote once every four years so this isn’t part of our normal ‘going places’ routine and easily overridden by habit. Exploit anything that helps you remember. See point (1).

If you’re not going anywhere tomorrow then vote whenever you feel like it, but do vote 🙂

Let me know @JoBrodie if I’ve forgotten anything, or need to correct something, ta.

Table of Contents
1. Set a reminder or an alarm
2. I’ve forgotten my polling card
3. I’ve forgotten where I go to vote
4. Whose names will you find on your ballot paper?
5. Oh crap I’m not going to get there before 10pm
6. I’m not well / something’s come up at work urgently
7. Further reading

1. Set a reminder or an alarm
My phone lets me set a reminder that will send me a message whenever I enter (or leave) a particular geographical area, which is quite useful. Or stick a post-it note on the door. Incidentally these strategies for ‘helping you remember something that you don’t do routinely’ are sometimes known as resilience strategies.

2. I’ve forgotten my polling card
Doesn’t matter, you don’t need it. You only need to confirm your full name and address.

3. I’ve forgotten where I go to vote
Go to https://www.yourvotematters.co.uk/ and look for the lavender-coloured box saying ‘Enter your postcode’. You’ll need to use the full postcode as each polling station covers only a bit of your constituency.

4. Whose names will you find on your ballot paper?
http://www.bbc.co.uk/news/politics/constituencieseither enter your full postcode in the search bar on that page or use the A-Z filter to pick the first letter of your constituency (if you don’t know, use the postcode one).

5. Oh crap I’m not going to get there before 10pm
If you’re in the queue by 10pm then I think they’re meant to let you vote. I’ve not seen anything official to confirm this though [can anyone point me to something official?].

6. I’m not well / something’s come up at work urgently
You can get an emergency proxy vote up to 5pm tomorrow (it’s too late to get the regular in-advance proxy vote) – https://www.yourvotematters.co.uk/how-do-i-vote/voting-by-proxy

Ignore the first bit about proxy votes and see the second bit about “Can I apply for an emergency proxy?” – download and fill in whichever PDF is relevant to your situation (work or medical – you’ll need to get it signed by your employer or a healthcare professional – full info is in the PDFs).

A proxy vote means someone else will go and vote for you (with your permission).

[Does anyone know if you can write your information on a piece of paper, for people who don’t have access to a printer? Can you fill it in on a computer and email it?] A short version of the link above, for writing down and giving to someone who does have a printer plus internet is http://tinyurl.com/vbp2017

7. Further reading
Ways of voting – from GOV.UK

Where is my polling station? How to find out where to vote – from Metro

How to remove the audio track from a video made on an iPhone, using iMovie

Sometimes I take a video of something and on listening to it hear other noise or conversation that I don’t particularly want to include. Here’s how I get rid of it in ‘post-production’.

This may not be the best way of doing it and I’m certain it’s not the only way. However, it works and doesn’t involve downloading any extra apps or spending money, so it’ll be the method I’m likely to favour. If you know of a better way, others might be interested so please feel free to share your improvements and suggestions in the comments below.

This post assumes that you have an iPhone with the built-in camera, and iMovie apps. I’m running iOS 7.6 (if you’ve got a higher iOS then my screenshots might look a little different from yours, but hopefully not so much as to make the instructions unworkable).

Here are the basic instructions, repeated below with the addition of screenshots

1. Record your video
2. Open iMovie
3. Click the + at bottom right to create new project
4. Click Movie
5. Click Create Movie
6. Tap the icon to ‘insert media’
7. Select your chosen video, it goes yellow
8. Click the down arrow to insert
9. Your video appears as a panel of images, and the cursor leaps to the end
10. Click the video panel, it goes yellow
11. Audio is already selected, click the two dots below the dustbin, click detach
12. The audio track is now separated from the video and you can, if you wish, move it into a different position. It’s already selected (yellow) so press delete to remove it
13. Try out your now silent video, all the sound should have gone
14. To export it click on the back arrow at the top, then the upload icon for sharing options. Your options will depend on your phone and apps but I’ve got Facebook, YouTube, Vimeo etc. and if I scroll along there’s the email option at the end and WhatsApp. The save video, in the lower down (not brightly coloured) panel will save it to your camera roll, from which you can also email and send it other places etc.).

To share it on Twitter, note that it will need to be reduced in length to just a few seconds and you’ll need to save this ‘iMovie project’ to your camera roll to do so (and ensure that you’ve granted Twitter access to your iPhone’s camera roll [at some point I might add something about how to do this but it’s in Settings somewhere]), you can also email it to yourself.

You’ll end up with a much smaller, squarer version of your video, rather than the rectangular one you created. I’ve no idea why, nor how to make it larger. If you know a better way that will let you end up with a video that’s identical to the one you recorded minus the audio, please let me know. I’m less interested in costly professional tools though.

The same again but with added images

1. Record your video
2. Open iMovie (it was already installed on my phone)
3. Click the + at bottom right to create new project

photo 1(5)
4. Click Movie (in blue, below)

photo 2(4)
5. Click Create Movie (top right in pale blue, below)

photo 3(3)
6. Tap the sprocketed film + musical note icon at the top to insert media

photo 4
7. Select your chosen video, it goes yellow – you can slide the yellow boundaries to make your clip shorter too.
8. Click the down arrow to insert

photo 1(5)
9. Your video appears as a panel of images, and the cursor leaps to the end

photo 2(4)
10. Click the video panel, it goes yellow

photo 3(3)
11. Audio is already selected, click the two dots below the dustbin, click Detach

photo 4
12. The audio track is now separated from the video and you can, if you wish, move it into a different position. It’s already selected (yellow) so press the dustbin icon to delete it

photo 1(5)

13. Try out your now silent video, all the sound should have gone
14. To export it click on the back arrow at the top, then the upload icon for sharing options. Your options will depend on your phone and apps but I’ve got Facebook, YouTube, Vimeo etc. and if I scroll along there’s the email option at the end and WhatsApp. The save video, in the lower down (not brightly coloured) panel will save it to your camera roll, from which you can also email and send it other places etc.).

photo 2(4)

Above: Click the left-facing arrow in the top left to start the export process.

Below: you’ll see this screen, choose the upload icon in the middle to upload your silent film.

photo 3(3)

Below: Mail is at the end of the list of things you can send the file to and you can also save it to your camera roll.

photo 4