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Category: internet

Stop smoking with qwitter

Are you struggling to stop smoking? You tried all sorts of approaches, but none of them worked. Maybe you can try qwitter, it’s not like you have something to lose (except your nasty habit).

Qwitter is a social tool powered by twitter and created, you guest it, to help you stop smoking. It does that by allowing you to:

  • easily keep track of how many cigarettes you smoke each day
  • keep a journal of your thoughts & feelings as you strive to smoke less
  • view your progress over time
  • share this information with others who can support you (or insult you)

qwitterI like certain things about it, mostly originating from twitter working in the background. It is very easy and simple to use, it allows your friends/family/shrink to subscribe to your grumbling and it produces some nice looking stats, representing number of cigarettes you smoked each day. This way you can expose your personal failures on the Internet for everyone to see, and if this doesn’t get you to stop smoking nothing will. 

I don’t know if qwitter actually helped anyone, but I saw today that there were 474 people using it, so if you want to stop or start smoking (wouldn’t that be original) why not become the registered user number 475. I just hope you don’t get addicted to qwitter/twitter.  


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“Dangers” of stock photography

Stock photos are professional photographs that are bought and sold on a royalty-free basis and can be used and reused for commercial design purposes. They are a cost-effective method for designers to obtain professional photos and images without the costs of hiring a photographer directly.

When you purchase a certain photo this way, you have to be aware that it doesn’t belong to you and only you. As a matter of fact others can also buy it and use it for their own purposes, and isn’t it a bummer when somebody uses the same photo, or the one from the same series, you used.

Well, I noticed just that while I was researching about spam and drugs. One of the spammer Web sites for selling drugs used a stock photo, to complement their design, from the same series as did Medical News Today. Medical News Today is, or at least they claim to be, the largest independent health and medical news website on the Internet, and on their site you can find many articles warning about dangerous of drugs sold through spam messages. Well, it made me laugh, cause it was kinda ironic. Check out the screen shots.

Medical News Today
Medical News Today

Pharmacy Express – Spammer Web site for selling drugs
Spam drug selling website

Did you notice the pretty lady? She can be in different places at the same time, selling illegal drugs or bring you the latest medical news.

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Drugs from your inbox

Spam, or unsolicited e-mail, is everywhere and shows no signs of slowing down. In fact, it will never go away, at least not until people keep buying the stuff spammers offer. And oh boy aren’t there always some new suckers in the cyberspace. However, things get far less amusing when human health gets into play. Have you noticed that a high percentage of spam you receive today is health-related?

It is just this health-related spam that Peter Gernburd and Alejandro Jadad from the Centre for Global eHealth Innovation from Canada wanted to find out more about. In September 2007 issue of PLoS Medicine, an open-access, peer-reviewed medical journal, they published a very interesting paper on this subject titled “Will Spam Overwhelm Our Defenses? Evaluating Offerings for Drugs and Natural Health Products”E/mail spam selling drugs
In their research they used three e-mail accounts, unfiltered for spam, to gather all the spam they could get in the period of one month. Among all the received spam messages, they picked out the health-related ones, defined as those which included offers of interventions that could modify a physical, cognitive, behavioral, or emotional state in humans (e.g., medications, natural health products, devices, or professional services). All Web links included in such messages were further analyzed.

During the study period researchers received 4,153 spam messages, out of which 1,334 or 32% were health related. Majority of these messages (73%) were sent from the United States.

Scientists tried to order prescription drugs and natural health products from Web sites advertised in these messages. Online drugsEventually, they received 9 orders (5 prescription drugs and 4 natural health products). Some of the products they managed to buy where Clalis (for erectile dysfunction), Tramadol (for pain), Valium and Xanax (for anxiety and other disorders). There was no report of any evidence of credit card abuse by the spammers, except for one undelivered product.

What the study lacked, but authors promised to report on in the near future, was the analysis of the actual purchased pharmaceutical products to reveal whether they are genuine, fakes, and most importantly are they dangerous.

You can read the complete paper on PLoS Medicine Web site.

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PubMed provides access to Medline, a premier bibliographic database that contains references to journal articles in the life sciences with a concentration on biomedicine. It is available via the NCBI Entrez retrieval system, which was developed by the National Center for Biotechnology Information (NCBI) at the National Library of Medicine (NLM), located at the U.S. National Institutes of Health (NIH). 

PubMed is extremely popular among biomedical researchers, in part because it offers free access, contrary to other such search engines like Scopus and Web of Science. However, during the years I heard a lot of people complaining about PubMed. They do not like its interface and are not satisfied with search results it provides. A lot of these people never gave any thought about PubMed, nor did they try to learn how to use it properly. They just punch in queries like they do on Google. I believe that a lot can be improved by understanding of Medline and especially of the MeSH (Medical Subject Headings) controlled vocabulary used to index all Medline articles. Users should also use tags, booleans operators and limitations, which can make the whole search process more pleasant and satisfactory. I highly recommend going through the PubMed online training, which also offers easy to follow animated tutorials with sound.

However, I would like to present a different approach to searching PubMed, an online application named PubReMiner. I had an opportunity to see a presentation of PubReMiner during my stay at the Academic Medical Center (AMC) in Amsterdam last summer, and was immediately delighted by it. Instantaneously I realized how beneficial it could be during my future search for literature. 

PubReMiner was created by Jan Koster, a member of Bio-informatics team of the Department of Human Genetics at the AMC, with a purpose to help people find biomedical literature on a certain subject indexed by the PubMed database. PubMed is growing larger everyday and when you enter a search term on any subject, it is highly likely that you will end up with a huge number of references and a headache. To get something useful to work with you need to combine different keywords, but usually you do not know which ones. Here is were PubReMiner steps in. It allows you to initiate a broad query (which is currently restricted to 7.500 abstracts), after which you can add or exclude words, authors, and journals to guide your search. These are all displayed in descending order, allowing you to immediately see which words, authors, and journals are used the most in combination with your query, so you can use them in your search. Apart for allowing the construction of efficient queries, PubReMiner can be useful in other areas, and this is actually how I use it the most. These are:

  • Selection of a journal for your current work (by scanning the most often used journals of similar research)
  • Finding experts in a research area (by viewing the authors associated with your query)
  • Determination of the research interest of an author (by viewing the keywords associated with an author) 

The best way to get the idea about PubReMiner is, of course, to try it yourself. Nevertheless, I will post a simple demonstration enriched by screen shots to get you started. 

Let’s say for example that you were reading the new issue of Nature and read the article entitled “Proteasome subunit Rpn13 is a novel ubiquitin receptor” by Koraljka Husnjak, Suzanne Elsasser, Naixia Zhang, Xiang Chen, Leah Randles, Yuan Shi, Kay Hofmann, Kylie J. Walters, Daniel Finley & Ivan Dikic. You were very intrigued by the research, so you decided to learn more about this research group and their work. You start you investigation with the last author, knowing that he might be the leader of the group. 

Go to PubReMiner and enter “dikic i” into the search box.


Your query results in 99 references. 
PubReMinerThis is way too much for you to start reading it all, but you can already learn a lot about the author. You can see for example the number of publications he has published per year, in which journals and who were his most frequent coauthors. Also, you can see which words, Mesh terms and substances are used in combination with this author, and this can help you identify his research interests. In just a matter of seconds you came to know that this author is, among others, interested in phosphorylation, signal transduction and ubiquitin/metabolism. 

The article you read was about ubiquitin, and this is the subject you are most interested in, so you select Ubiquitin/metabolism Mesh term and search again. 


Again, you get a lot of information in a structured table about Ivan Dikic’s work on ubiquitin. This is still too much for you to read, so you select only his most recent work, the last two years (2007 & 2008).


 This query gives you 5 references, which you feel is just the perfect number for you to start learning more, so you click on theGoTo PubMed with query button. 


The button does what it promises to do, which is opening PubMed in new window with your search query and 5 references.


This is just a small part of what PubReMiner has to offer, but I hope I managed to at least show you some basic and encourage you to try it.  

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Twitter homepage parody

I am sure you know about Twitter, but let me shortly describe it for those who never heard about it. Twitter is basically a micro-blogging service that allows users to send “tweets” (text-based posts, up to 140 characters long) to Twitter website, via SMS, instant messaging, or a third-party application such as Twitterrific or Facebook. Updates are displayed on the user’s profile page and instantly delivered to other users who have signed up to receive them via the Twitter website, instant messaging, SMS, RSS, email or through an application.

This is all great, but there is a tendency for Twitter to become overwhelming and annoying, if misused. I’m telling you, I have nightmares of drowning in millions of tweets sent by my friends. Also, I am afraid of becoming obsessive and start writing about each and every thing happening in my life…I just eat a banana….I just updated my Twitter page…..I just typed a letter A and a dot. You know, something like James Joyce on Twitter. There are actually people who do this, but there are also those who are using Twitter in smart ways and for good causes. I will be blogging about this soon in more depth, but until then I made a little parody regarding the Twitter homepage, more precisely the part where they explain why you should use their service.

Here is the actual screen shot of the Twitter homepage.

Twitter homepage

And here is my version of the Twitter homepage.

Twitter modified parody page

Hope you like my version better, and by the way, can somebody show me the research demonstrating that moms want to know that you are eating soup.

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The 2nd Annual DiabetesMine™ Design Challenge

Second Annual Diabetes Mine Design ChallendeThere is a competition running over at the Diabetes Mine, the all things diabetes blog, designed to foster innovation in diabetes design and encourage creative new tools that will improve life with diabetes. The competition is open to anyone passionate about diabetes and product design, so if you have any creative ideas be sure to apply. Who knows, maybe your idea will be the next big thing and you’ll end up making lives of million of people with diabetes a little bit better. The organizers will make sure that you do just that by awarding you with $1,000 in cash, some pro-bono professional advice from world-renowned design experts, and free access to the next Health 2.0 conference.

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