September 24th, 2012 §
dr ben goldacre bad pharma
Bad Pharma, a new book by Ben Goldacre, looks into the research practices of big pharmacy. Apparently any negative information about new drugs is systematically suppressed even in the academic environment:
In 2010, researchers from Harvard and Toronto found all the trials looking at five major classes of drug...: were they positive, and were they funded by industry? They found more than 500 trials in total: 85% of the industry-funded studies were positive, but only 50% of the government-funded trials were. In 2007, researchers looked at every published trial that set out to explore the benefits of a statin....This study found 192 trials in total, either comparing one statin against another, or comparing a statin against a different kind of treatment. They found that industry-funded trials were 20 times more likely to give results favouring the test drug.
...In 2003, two [systematic reviews] were published. They took all the studies ever published that looked at whether industry funding is associated with pro-industry results, and both found that industry-funded trials were, overall, about four times more likely to report positive results....
In general, the results section of an academic paper is extensive: the raw numbers are given for each outcome, and for each possible causal factor, but not just as raw figures....In Fries and Krishnan (2004), this level of detail was unnecessary. The results section is a single, simple and – I like to imagine – fairly passive-aggressive sentence:
"The results from every randomised controlled trial (45 out of 45) favoured the drug of the sponsor."
How does this happen? How do industry-sponsored trials almost always manage to get a positive result? Sometimes trials are flawed by design. You can compare your new drug with something you know to be rubbish – an existing drug at an inadequate dose, perhaps, or a placebo sugar pill that does almost nothing. You can choose your patients very carefully, so they are more likely to get better on your treatment. You can peek at the results halfway through, and stop your trial early if they look good. But after all these methodological quirks comes one very simple insult to the integrity of the data. Sometimes, drug companies conduct lots of trials, and when they see that the results are unflattering, they simply fail to publish them.
Still feeling confident about your industry sponsored cell phone radiation tests?
(Published) cell phone research indicates no radiation Continues »
August 25th, 2007 §
While working on some WordPress plugins, I found some unbelievable news about abuse of copyright over on YouTube. From the world's biggest pirate, YouTube has become an unbearable censor of personal expression and free communication.
Chris Pederson's private videos of motor racing were taken down - and he got some nasty legal notifications.
However, in the last year I have had three videos removed by YouTube for copyright infringement under the DMCA.
The three videos are all of outdoor sporting events filmed as a spectator: two of motor racing at Brands Hatch in England and one of the Red Bull Air Race over San Francisco. I have uploaded the three videos to Vimeo for reference, although I do not know how long they will last before being asked to be removed.
It's hard to believe, but it looks like the corporate mass are getting ready to take the internet to slaughter. Finally person to people communication is possible and it will be shut down.
As individuals, we'll have to fight back - putting videos up on our own servers - but it's difficult as ISP's are pretty much obliged to take anything down on first notice.
May 19th, 2007 §
Google's patents are getting scarier and scarier:
The patent says: "User dialogue (eg from role playing games, simulation games, etc) may be used to characterise the user (eg literate, profane, blunt or polite, quiet etc). Also, user play may be used to characterise the user (eg cautious, risk-taker, aggressive, non-confrontational, stealthy, honest, cooperative, uncooperative, etc)."
Sue Charman of online campaign Open Rights Group said....
"Whenever you have large amounts of information it becomes attractive to people - we've already seen the American federal government going to court over data from companies including Google."
And no I wouldn't want to be giving my profile out to Google or any other corporation.
I could easily see this information as being open to subpoena, even hidden subpoena.
I try to use Google not logged in these days. It looks like we might have to go back to the days of regular cookie dumping.
Alas, those of us on fixed IP's (not massive corporate firewall) can be pretty tightly profiled just off of IP.
The total information that Google owns about most of us is scary stuff.
- what we search for
- what sites we own/manage (AdWords, Analytics)
- at least part of our financial records (AdWords/AdSense)
- our weblogs (for those using blogger)
- what videos we watch (YouTube)
Add personality profiling to this - and you've just entered the Matrix.
Nod to Threadwatch: Google Profiling Technology.
April 17th, 2007 §
I am always lecturing my friends and girlfriends to not spend so much time talking on their mobile phones. I often hang up on them after a few minutes as I get a headache from speaking on the mobile phone. It all goes back to when I had to supervise a set of television commercials in the Moscow countryside but had to prep an expensive hair commercial with the London office of Grey Advertising at the same time. Only a very powerful telephone would hold the signal. A model from Siemens was found. It worked and I was able to talk for half an hour at a time if necessary. Signal clear as day. I was delirious and spaced out afterwards. To my everlasting good fortune that telephone was subsequently lost in the back of a black cab (and no the cabby didn't return it) while on a junket to London related to said hair commercial.
Curiously cellphone studies with negative results - cancer, loss of brain capacity - for the industry lead to research funding removal and persecution. At the same time the big cellphone and mobile network providers are taking out huge liability insurance contracts. I don't have the time now to document the above but at one point I did do the research and will stand by those statements.
Sticking a mini-microwave beside your head is not going to improve your health or mind. End of story.
It turns out that cellphones are not only harmful to people but absolutely fatal to bees.
Radiation from mobile phones interferes with bees' navigation systems, preventing the famously homeloving species from finding their way back to their hives. Improbable as it may seem, there is now evidence to back this up.
Colony Collapse Disorder (CCD) occurs when a hive's inhabitants suddenly disappear, leaving only queens, eggs and a few immature workers, like so many apian Mary Celestes. The vanished bees are never found, but thought to die singly far from home. The parasites, wildlife and other bees that normally raid the honey and pollen left behind when a colony dies, refuse to go anywhere near the abandoned hives.
The alarm was first sounded last autumn, but has now hit half of all American states. The West Coast is thought to have lost 60 per cent of its commercial bee population, with 70 per cent missing on the East Coast.
CCD has since spread to Germany, Switzerland, Spain, Portugal, Italy and Greece. And last week John Chapple, one of London's biggest bee-keepers, announced that 23 of his 40 hives have been abruptly abandoned....
The implications of the spread are alarming. Most of the world's crops depend on pollination by bees. Albert Einstein once said that if the bees disappeared, "man would have only four years of life left"....
German research has long shown that bees' behaviour changes near power lines.
Now a limited study at Landau University has found that bees refuse to return to their hives when mobile phones are placed nearby. Dr Jochen Kuhn, who carried it out, said this could provide a "hint" to a possible cause.
Birds and the bees sounds better.
The spread of the problem sounds likely to me.
Blanket coverage by cell phone base antennas came first in the United States.
I imagine that the base antenna has to be quite close to the hive (or on the route to food) to cause this problem.
Countries with limited cellphone converage will be fruitful.
Perhaps mankind will eventually learn not to believe big industries claims for healthiness.
Cigarette manufacturers claimed for decades that smoking was good for your health, before finally admitting that it was neither bad nor good. Only after decades of lawsuits did they concede the obvious which is that smoking is bad for your health.
My mother told me this story from her childhood in Vancouver.
They used to go to Woodwards to do their shopping. In the shoe department, there was a very neat machine that the kids liked to play with. Put your foot under a panel and then pulled a lever. On a screen in front of your eyes, you could see the bones of your feet.
You could use it as often and long as you liked. The machine was there to help the shoe saleman scientifically find you the right pair of shoes.
If you haven't guessed already, the machine was an xray machine. And children were spending whole minutes radiating themselves with no lead protection.
It was only a few years later that Woodwards removed the xray machine. I hope not too many of those children have bone or blood cancer now.
Later in the same article some other cellphone studies are cited:
Blue-chip Swedish research revealed that radiation from mobile phones killed off brain cells, suggesting that today's teenagers could go senile in the prime of their lives.
If you value the long term health of your brain, don't use your cellphone for more than a minute or two at a time!
While you are at it, stop believing the claims of major companies that their products are good for you or your dog. They just want your money. As long as your dog doesn't up and outright die, they don't mind how sick the pooch might get eating their manufactured poison. But that's a story for another day.
April 5th, 2007 §
I've mentioned David Allen's Getting Things Done in the past. It's a great introduction to one man's system for organising work. David Allen is a highly esteemed productivity consultant and GTD was written in the prime of his worklife.
Strangely, GTD has become something a cult spawning entire websites devoted to Allen's methods.
When starting to come to grips with running a company of five instead of two, the book was a good starting point for redoing my systems.
Personally I think GTD a little bit of overkill. I'm not sure one can function as tightly roped down as Allen wants one to be. It kind of fits the Polo shirt and place in the suburbs and on the golf course middle manager but I'm not sure it would do for Michaelangelo or Leonardo da Vinci.
For those who are into GTD and on Mac OS X, a Polish programmer has put out a lovely Cocoa version for free called iGTD.
You are a busy person, aren't you? And there's an easy way to track all things that have to be done... and to get those things done! iGTD takes some concepts from Getting Things Done methodology and makes them easy to understand and use in your every day life.
It's a gorgeous application. Simple icons, standard OS interface widgets.
Other pluses. Feature: iGTD uses the existing databases for iCal and Address Book. Benefit: No duplicate data entry - finally an application designer figured that one out. Feature: Linking to documents in the Finder. Benefit: No hunting for the missing file when you need to get to work. Feature: Instant Task Search. Benefit: Easy to find your task notes quickly if you are on the phone and have to look something up (although GTD rules out the telephone most of the time!).
Still I'm not going to try to move into iGTD myself. At least not now. I don't find time spent overorganising brings commensurate dividends (oh if I could have the months of my life back spent playing around with a PDA (Palm) before 3 years later moving back to a simple black book).
But if you are in the mood for reorganising from the ground up, iGTD would be a good place to start.
I'd love to hear from anyone who has put the full organisation into iGTD about database reliability under stress and whether iGTD brings a productivity boost over the long run.
February 28th, 2007 §
My main registrar for five years was registerfly.com.
I've had trouble renewing domains with them over the last year. It would take me four to six support tickets to get a single domain renewed at times. Sometimes, I would be charged two to four times for a single renewal. Finally in early January, the inconvenience and risk culiminated in taking all my domains and fleeing to DynaDot.com.
It looks like I got out just in time:
While the two 50% shareholders fight for control, the company's hundreds of thousands of customers are getting angrier and angrier. In a normal situation they would be leaving the company in droves. The only problem is their domain names are locked up, and their authorization codes are being withheld preventing transfers to alternative registrars. Domain names reaching their expiry date are simply being lost. With many of these involving Web sites a large number of customers are losing complete businesses or at the very least, important business tools. Compounding the problem is that many of RegisterFly's customers are managing domains and Web sites on behalf of others.
What's worse is that it appears enom was actively participating in attempts to destabilise RegisterFly.com and to steal RegisterFly.com customers' domains:
Enom.com who Registerfly.com was the reseller for and enom was actually the registrar, must stop selling the names in dispute. There is fraud here. It it is just Registerfly.com taking money for renewals and not sending it on to Enom for registration but showing customers it was renewed. Enom must have know the problems but keep selling domain names thru their auction. One of mine is for sale right now for $5,000.00 by company who bought it from enom.com. I predict that Registerfly.com, enom.com and icann will be in court for many years along with all of us.
A bit hypocritical of eNom as they sent a mealy-mouthed pitch to help RegisterFly.com customers to save their domains in January, by switching to them but at $20 or $30/domain instead of the $7 to $10 RegisterFly normally charges:
Subject: Notice regarding your RegisterFly account
Date: Tue, 06 Feb 2007 15:35:47 -0800
X-OriginalArrivalTime: 06 Feb 2007 23:35
Dear Domain Holder:
This is a formal notice to owners of domains which have been registered through eNom via its reseller, RegisterFly.com.
YOU MUST TAKE ACTION NOW TO RETAIN FULL MANAGEMENT RIGHTS TO YOUR DOMAIN NAME.
Although you purchased your name at RegisterFly, eNom is the actual registrar of record for your domains. As we are severing our relationship with RegisterFly, we are aware that this may have an impact on you as the domain owner.
Therefore we would like to offer this opportunity to assist you in securing control of your domain name directly with eNom.
Over the last year, eNom has become aware of an increasing number of complaints from dissatisfied RegisterFly customers.
As an eNom reseller, RegisterFly is contractually bound to adhere to certain standards of customer service in a speedy and diligent manner. Therefore, effective immediately, we have terminated RegisterFly as a reseller of domain names through eNom.
Hyenas all of them.
Dynadot has just started offering bulk pricing to those who qualify ($500 spend or more per year). So the last reason to consider any of these other Registrars is gone.
The best registrar in the world just got better.
February 21st, 2007 §
Ryan Carson the creator of DropSend has decided to start third-worlding his development. Astonishing. There he is sitting in his deluxe studio in Bath, organising international conferences at $1500/head with hotels starting at $369/night and he's decided that he'd rather not pay for a developer's time.
Ryan Carson and UK team enjoying his gorgeous studio
If the above sounds critical, it's not necessarily entirely so. Ryan Carson is actually sending the work to Russia which is not at all third world but a strange mix of brilliant minds and upside-down economics.
Still if a successful small UK house won't employ local talent, what does that say about the future for programmers?
A number of people suggested that quality control would be an issue.
Slobodan Kovacevic answered that it was a question of paying over market (golden chains) in your targeted labour market.
Claim that long term cost is higher might be true in some cases - usually when you get extremely cheap developers. If you pay someone $7/hour (like most Indian Elance developers ask for) of course that you can expect that, as the project progresses, any quality that was in the code will disappear and you will end up paying someone to fix it or lose money since your product won’t work. On the other hand if you find a trusted developer and pay him properly (or even a bit above usual price for an offshore developer - which is still a lot cheaper than hiring an UK developer), he’ll be happy and you’ll be as he will produce quality code.
Of course as a project leader for an offshore team, that's what Slobodan would say. But he may be right.
Happily enough, the discussion led me to oDesk.
February 21st, 2007 §
Just discovered a great new service, oDesk. It's pretty technical/business so I've posted an extended review of oDesk to the foliovision website. If you are into outsourcing and programming, check it out.
What's cool about oDesk is that the programmers/providers earn a living wage. oDesk also takes a fair cut (10%) instead of a bunch of hideous fees.
oDesk home page - links to review
Sometimes technology can make for a better world.
Sometimes capitalism can lead to constructive innovation (as opposed to A-Bombs exploded over Japanese/Iranian cities).
January 10th, 2007 §
One of the banes of the modern web are Flash advertisements. They are popping up all over the place, from the New York Times to our beloved MacSurfer.com. I have nothing against advertising but I don't like anything which makes it impossible to read or difficult to work on one's computer.
I've been searching for a way to easily turn flash off yet keep my computer stable. With the amount of Flash video turning up on the web, I am not as tempted as I used to be to just rip the Flash code right out of my plugin folder.
In any case, for work reasons, I have to keep Flash around just to see what other people are doing with their sites.
Until two weeks ago, I still hadn't found anything lightweight to kill Flash in either Safari or Firefox, my two primary browsers. But good things come in twos. There are two great plugins to kill Flash, one for Firefox and one for Safari.
Amazingly enough, neither have destabilised my browser.
Minus the flashing lights and used car salesman in the side bars, I might even start liking the web again.
Turn Flash Off in OS X: NoScript for Firefox and SafariBlock for Safari Continues »
November 28th, 2006 §
Who says the French don't know what they're doing? I wasn't surprised to see Le Monde move to WordPress. In fact, I was surprised to see them on Typepad in the first place.
Le Monde just relaunched their blogging services. Their several thousand blogs are now powered by WordPress (they used to be on TypePad).
Why would a large French media organisation want to hamstring their operation with a cooperation with a closed-source American company which would like to become the Microsoft of weblogs?
Answer: they got out as soon as they got a chance. Good move.
For example Skipper had about the same negative experience of Typepad which I've had (and continue to have):
We cancelled our paid Typepad account about a week ago, after only 3 months of use. After using the typepad for only a few months, it became clear that we could not continue to run a professional people search and public record blog for our visitors using their unreliable service.
We installed WordPress directly on our site at http://www.skipease.com/blog and couldn’t be happier. We got out just in time to save our blog information, but now we are 3 months behind in building our traffic thanks to Typepad.
New and experienced bloggers would do well to take the time to register a domain name of their own and install WordPress or other blogging software directly on server space provided by a reliable service provider. We should have done that right from the beginning.
As I mentioned to Anil Dash recently, the only thing Typepad could have going for it over any other weblog system right now is support. And due to the shoddy support from Brenna and her crew, they don't even have that.
As usual the rot starts from the head, the head of Typepad Doug Bryan being extraordinarily unhelpful. Instead of issuing instructions for someone to enable a couple of templates for me (five minutes work), Doug Bryan turned in into a three week correspondence course on how not to help customers.
Unbelievably shoddy service.