Archive for March, 2010

Marked for life? – Predicting mental illness

This is my first post for a while as I’ve been pretty snowed under with coursework (and I’m still feeling my way with this blogging malarky to be honest) but I went to an event at the Royal Society of Medicine recently that I think deserves a post.

It was a debate on using biomarkers – indicators such as genes or brain activity – to treat, detect and predict mental illness. It’s quite a personal issue for me as my Mum has had chronic bipolar since her early 20s, which she’s had some really rough times with, and having seen her living with this I feel strongly about what the speakers were saying.

One potential use of psychiatric biomarkers they were discussing was using them to personalise drugs, predicting whether a treatment is likely to work for a patient. This I’m all for, at the moment patients often have to go through rounds of trial and error to find what suits them or what doesn’t cause them severe side-effects, as I well know from my Mum. Biomarkers could also shed light on the cause and processes involved in these diseases and again this all sounds good to me.

But I feel really uneasy about using them to predict risk of getting these conditions. Derek Bolton, a professor of philosophy and psychopathology at King’s College, said that anyone with a close relative with bipolar – so me and my sister – had a one in ten chance of developing it too. Even this was too much information for me, and if it was possible to screen for bipolar genetic markers there’s no way I’d want to know this. I think it would be really difficult information to deal with, especially as it would be something tied to my personality. I’d maybe want my doctor to know, but I’d definitely not want to.

I’ve written a piece on it for a competition (which I didn’t win, boo) so thought I’d give it an airing here. It’s another fiction piece, have just finished a module on narrative and creative writing! It’d be good to hear if anyone feels the same way.

Marked for life

Genetics is set to revolutionise healthcare, and psychiatry is on the cusp of this sea change. Our knowledge of mental disorders is broadening as scientists build a picture of biomarkers – indicators such as genes or brain activity which can predict or measure illness or response to treatment1,2. This research is already nearing clinical practice: Vilazodone is an antidepressant being developed alongside understanding of biomarkers which predict its efficacy in individuals, enabling targeted prescription3. Parallel to this the cost and speed of genomic decoding is plummeting, and a public healthcare-intended ‘lab-on-a-chip’ able to sequence DNA using nanolitre- (billionths of a litre) scale samples has been created4,5. The NHS is poised to exploit these developments, wanting to use genetics for personalised treatment6. It also plans to prescribe information in much the same way drugs currently are7. However fears about the use of psychiatric biomarkers are being aired. These include how best to communicate results, the effects on children of predicting life trajectories, and the commercial targeting of individuals based on their DNA8.

By 2020.

I nervously flip the prescription card over and over, running my finger over its magnetic strip. It’s so every-day looking; a simply, white bank-card shape with the NHS logo and my details. Ugh gross, my hands are so clammy they’re smearing the spotless plastic. Ok here goes, I’m ready. I’ve got to be.

I type in nhs.uk. Here we go, ‘Personal prescription’ tab. Enter name, date of birth, prescription number…Click. It’s loading. I stretch my fingers to try and stop them shaking and wipe some of their dampness onto my jeans. “Welcome. Please read the information below before looking at your personal prescription”. Don’t think so, not now. I scroll down, yup, yup, agree, accept, click, click. Next. Deep breath. There it is.

“Diagnosis: Mild panic disorder”. Wow. I freak out over a GCSE maths exam and now I’ve got ‘mild panic disorder’. Dr Oliff told me after they read my DNA and looked at my brain scan results, but it’s shocking reading it. “The most important news of your life”, Dr Oliff said in the consultation as I was spitting into the cup. “The secrets to who you really are”. She pipetted it into this small device, it looked almost like a pregnancy test. And then five minutes later she downloaded the whole lot.

There’s a list of numbers and letters on the screen too. They’re the Bad Genes I guess: what’s wrong with me, why, what might be wrong with me later. The most important news of my life.

Except it wasn’t exactly news. The first thing my Dad did after the school rang, and got him to pick me up, was get me to gob in a test tube so he could send it off. “It’s the rest of your life, your education, your success, your career. We have to find out what’s wrong and sort it, ok? Who knows where it might lead? I’m sorry”. And then he wouldn’t let me read the report when it did come, just said we’d discuss it at the doctors! I’m old enough to drive and have sex but I’m clearly too immature to talk about what’s in my own cells. I’ve got to have this Vilazodone now. Dad insisted Dr Oliff prescribe it, kept saying how I’d have an “enhanced response” to it, and that my “side effect profile” suited it. Dr Oliff was well unpleased he’d got the genetic health analysis from the internet, but she prescribed it anyway, saying her results agreed Vilazodone was the one for me. There was a list of other stuff the internet said I should have but she wasn’t on board. Maybe he feels guilty, my Dad, like it’s half his fault.

I check the rest of the treatment section. A cognitive behaviour therapy site, a support forum, a relaxation exercises site. Right, ok. Onto the next stage of the prescription. My mental health for the rest of my life. My hands are properly shaking. Prognosis. Dr Oliff went through this with me and Dad but I couldn’t take it in then. She explained the percentages and what it all meant but my head was spinning too much. “Genetic biomarkers”: another list of Bad Genes. “fMRI results”: more confusing numbers and letters. “Risk of chronic panic and anxiety disorder: 75% – high”. Fuck. “Risk of clinical depression: 65% – moderate-high”. Double fuck. Wow. I try and stretch my fingers again. 65%? That’s fairly certain right? It’s my entire body that’s shaking now. I mean, much more likely to happen than not? I always knew it was in my family but I hadn’t thought what that could mean for me. What does 65% mean for me?

I thought I had just my exams to worry about.

Bibliography

1. Donati, R. J. and Rasenick, M. M. (2008) Lipid rafts, G proteins and the etiology of and treatment for depression: progress toward a depression biomarker. Future medicine, Vol 3, No 5, 511-514, doi: 10.2217/14796708.3.5.511.

2. McMahon, Francis J. et al. (2010) Meta-analysis of genome-wide association data identifies a risk locus for major mood disorders on 3p21.1. Nature Genetics, Vol 42, No 2, 128-131. doi: 10.1038/ng.523.

3. Rickels, K., Athanasiou, M. & Reed, C. (2009) Vilazodone, a novel, dual-acting antidepressant: current status, future promise and potential for individualized treatment of depression. Personalised Medicine, Vol. 6, No. 2, 217-224. doi: 10.2217/17410541.6.2.217

4. Blazej, R. G., Kumaresan, P. and Mathies, R. A 92006). Microfabricated bioprocessor for integrated nanoliter-scale Sanger DNA sequencing. PNAS, 103, 7240-7245.

5. De Mello, Andrew. (2009) HYPERLINK “http://royalsociety.org/Prize-lectures-events/”The Lilliput laboratory: chemistry & biology on the small scale. Royal Society  Clifford Paterson Prize Lecture. Webcast. [Online] Available from: HYPERLINK “http://royalsociety.org/Prize-lectures-events/”http://royalsociety.org/Prize-lectures-events/# [Accessed 26 February 2010].

6. Department of Health. (2008) Our inheritance, our future: realising the potential of genetics in the NH.  Progress review. [Online] Available from: HYPERLINK “http://www.dh.gov.uk/prod_consum_dh/groups/dh_digitalassets/@dh/@en/documents/digitalasset/dh_4019346.pdf”http://www.dh.gov.uk/prod_consum_dh/groups/dh_digitalassets/@dh/@en/documents/digitalasset/dh_4019346.pdf [Accessed 24 February 2010].

7. Stilgoe, Jack and Farook, Faizal. (2008) The talking cure: why conversation is the future of healthcare. Demos. Page 11. [Online] Available: HYPERLINK “http://www.demos.co.uk/files/Talking%20cure%20final-web.pdf?1240939425″http://www.demos.co.uk/files/Talking%20cure%20final-web.pdf?1240939425 [Accessed 24 February 2010].

8. Singh, I. and Rose, N. (2009) Biomarkers in psychiatry. Nature, Vol 460, 202-207.

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Man flu

Is man flu a reality, or are down-trodden men across the world complaining about bad colds in order to illicit sympathy from their significant others? A tough, and crucially important, question, I’m sure you’ll agree. The Daily Mail, those bastions of accurate science reporting, would have you belive that science has solved this myth: research, they reported last year, has shown that women have stronger immune systems. Hooray! Man-flu is real, so we’re allowed to complain about it, gents!

Only, as ever, The Daily Mail were talking rubbish. This wonderful rebuttal by the NHS revealed how the research didn’t tell us any such thing. In actual fact, the work was carried out in mice, and looked at how susceptible said mice were to bacterial infection. Flu, though, is a virus. So, results showed that, in some cases, female mice managed to fight off food poisoning more effectively that their male counterparts. Which is almost the same as experiments based around humans and influenza, right? Err, no, sorry Daily Mail.

So where does that leave us? I’m sad to say that it probably just means that men just like a good moan.

Anyway, why am I reporting news from almost a year ago, and why now? Well, I’m currently conducting a man-flu experiment all of my own, sample size n=1. Yes, that’s right, I have a cold, I feel sorry for myself, and writing this meant I could avoid watching day-time TV for ten minutes. Any fellow sufferers should head over to manflu.org.uk: they proudly claim to ‘Be There When She Don’t Care’. Sounds wonderful. Now, where’s the bloody Lemsip? *Sniffle*

Twenty-something technophobes

I’ve always been a fairly middle-of-the-road in my adoption of technologies. There was always a computer in the house when I was growing up, for which I’m phenomenally grateful: if it wasn’t for that, my technological enthusiasm wouldn’t be what it is. But despite a healthy start, I’ve never been at the fore-front of what’s going on, technologically speaking. I’ve always hung back slightly, waiting to see if something works on a basic level before jumping aboard. Or at least, I never used to be, but as time progresses, I feel like I’m changing for the better, adopting earlier. But, maybe it just appears that way because my peers aren’t adapting in the same way as me… 

  

Before I go on, it’s worth being aware that this is something that really gets to me: twenty-something technophobes. We’re a generation revered to be the first that have grown up with tech, savvy with digital communication, comfortable with computers. Let me tell you, though: it’s a huge myth. Certainly amongst my friends – though most can log-on to a PC and knock out a rough spreadsheet or document – I can think of quite a lot that are just awkward about the whole idea of technology. But, there’s not enough space for me to jump down your throat about everything here, so let me start with something tech-lite: social networking. 

  

There are a dizzying number of sites knocking around that let you live your social life (partially) online, and you don’t need me to list them for you here. It’s probably fair to say that Facebook has become almost requisite, so I’m tempted to discount that in this argument. After all, I know people that use it over their email (I mean, why?), and one friend felt she had to start using it as to not bother was to the detriment of her social life. So, people do use Facebook, granted. But, certainly amongst the friends I choose to socialise with, there appears to be a reluctance to become involved with any other social networks, and there’re a couple of recurring in motifs in their reasoning. Allow me to guide you through them. 

  

1. Social netoworking is a waste of time. “I’ve ignored twitter on pretty much the same grounds as I stopped using Google chat: it’s just another inane way of wasting my time.” I paraphrase a number of people, but as they see it, extra forms of communication are a waste of time. Why they see other media – email, text messages – as wasting less of their time is quite beyond me. These people are happy to send trivial, jokey email, rich with links, pictures, video and audio; quite how they’re fooling themselves that doing it via Twitter would be a bigger waste of their time is beyond me. I mean, if they opened their eyes for long enough to learn what a retweet was, they might even see that they might waste less time if they used Google Buzz, or Twitter or whatever, to send these links. They might even entertain more people, and make new friends along the way. But, sorry, my mistake, it’s a waste of time, isn’t it? My last thought: please don’t suggest to me that something’s a waste of time if you’ve never even used the fucking thing, as you simply do not know. 

  

2. Social networking is just weird. “I don’t like the idea of talking to people online.” A couple of points to cover here: firstly, you do it all the time already. You use email, Facebook, you’ve probably grown out of using MSN Messenger but you used to; you live in a world where digital communication is taken for granted, and you take it for granted too. The fact that you see other streams of digital communication as weird is entirely irrational, and if you use email, you have no argument to counter with. Secondly, what type of backward looking Luddite are you? If you’d been knocking around at the same time as Alexander Graham Bell, you would probably have told him that “speaking over a wire – it sounds a bit funny to me”. And yet, actually, being called a Luddite probably harms your delicate, hummus-eating, guardian-reading sensibilities, doesn’t it? Mmm, shame. Maybe if you try new communication methods out, you might realise it’s just the same as every other digital technology you use. Really. 

  

3. Web 2.0 leave me cold. “I don’t know how Web 2.0 I am at heart.” Hmmm, an odd one this. You see, I’m partly in agreement: Web 2.0 is a marketing ploy (ooh, isn’t he cynical), so on that technicality, I’d agree. However, as far as I can tell, this is a non-excuse. It’s rather like suggesting to me that you don’t like mackerel because you don’t know how Omega-3 you are at heart: here’s something great and perfectly useable, but I don’t like this new fancy branding, sorry. Reinforcing this, i was given this excuse over Twitter! Anyway, as I say, I include this reason more for my own amusement than anything else. 

  

4. Social networking scares me. A last minute entry. Oooh, magic box in corner of room, it light up, it show me picture and word from other side of world. Oooh, werido want to talk to me with it. Must be a peado! The Sun say so. Get over it. 

  

You might have the impression that I run around, banging a big drum, shouting “LUDDITE!”  loudly in people’s faces until they join tumblr. I don’t, I promise (or at least, not that I can remember). But, I don’t take well to silly, petty little excuses about not using new technologies. Certainly, do not talk about something being unsuitable before you’ve even tried it. Do you listen to people who claim not to like, I don’t know, falafel, if they’ve never eaten it? Of course you don’t, they’re stupid. And maybe so are you. 

  

Phew, glad that’s over. Coming up in future instalments: ‘Why bother Googling something when you could just ask someone stupidly trivial questions and waste their time?’ and ‘Can you help me set up my printer, only, I’ve never done it before so I might break something’. 

 

Another short story

Come dine with me

It’s going to be fine it’s going to be fun it’s goin – I wish that sound guy would stop hovering the boom over my fennel, it could have been anywhere. Lordy what if they used the same one for Kim and Aggy? I’m going to poison three strangers on cosy daytime channel 4 TV through fennel contaminated with the underside of someone else’s toilet seat.

“Ellie hun? We’re going to start rolling now for when the first guest arrives.” He winks at me. “You look gorrrrrgeous!” I flash him what I hope is a big shiny TV smile. “Ok, we’re rolling!”. I do the smile again properly to camera and carry on bustling round the kitchen, aligning and re-aligning plates, snipping invisible bits of stem off basil leaves, trying to create a picture of cosy in-control hospitality. It’s going to be fun it’s going to be fine it’s going to be

The doorbell rings. Deep breath. I grin again at the camera. Probably should put a lid on that soon, the sarcy voiceover’s going to pick up on it.

I step out through the kitchen door and into the hall. From down the corridor I can just make out a head and shoulders through the mottled glass of the front door. Is it male? Probably, pretty tall, not much hair. I’m only a few steps away now. The cameraman, sound guy and rogue boom trot after me. Definitely male, sharp shoulders of a suit too. Are those flowers I spy a corner of too? I pull down the latch and swing open the door.

Gleaming perfect pearly whites take over my field of vision. “Hiya!” Goddamn my TV smile’s going to look like Amy Winehouse’s by comparison. He thrusts a bunch of tulips into my hands and kisses me on the cheek. “I’m Ali so pleased to meet you! Am I the first?”. He smells like a perfectly balanced combination of Lynx, Colgate and Shockwaves hair gel. “I’m Ellie, come in, yes, yes, you are. I hope you’re hungry!”

I lead him through into the dining room. I’m not sure I’ve ever seen anyone so well polished and turned out, and just, well, CLEAN. “Sit down, let me take your coat. Would you like a drink, glass of wine?” “Not wine thanks, I’m trying to cut it out. I mean, it’s good for you, it’s bad for you, who knows. Do you have any sparkling water?”. I take his beautifully cut wool coat and head to the kitchen for a glass.

The doorbell rings again. I peer down the hall. It’s some kind of two-headed beast. “Hey, hey I’m Marcus, err, I’m sorry I’m late. We’re late. I met Clarissa coming up the drive” drawls a shaggy head of long, sun-bleached hair. “Hi I’m Ellie”. He wriggles naked toes in beaten-up flip-flops and shifts his hands in his holey tracksuit bottoms. “Come in, you must be freezing”. He shuffles past me inside. A firm grip takes my hand and tugs it firmly. “Clarissa. Pleased to meet you.” “Come in come in”. She smartly wipes solid leather lace-ups on the doormat. Unlike Marcus, who looks like he’d be at ease somewhere considerably nearer the equator, Clarissa looks built for the English winter. She’s tiny, half the height of Ali, but appears almost spherical with endless layers of muddy green and brown tweed and knitwear.

We all pile into the dining room, the TV crew conspicuously dancing around us. “So!” There’s Ali-ing, Clarissa-ing and Marcus-ing all round.

I pop to the kitchen to get some drinks. I come back, take my seat and join in the polite eyeballing. The crew are quietly set up at one end, like a white elephant with its hands over its eyes, thinking that’ll definitely make it disappear. Ali’s in full flow. “So I’ve been in that PR agency for two years now, but I’m planning on leaving next year. It’s part of my ten year plan. I always said I wanted to own my own business by the time I was 35, so now’s the time. Own business, swimming pool, Prada briefcase. It’s going to be a line of skin products called Baby Face. Completely niche. What about you Marcus, you must be a fair bit younger than me?” Marcus looks up through his locks. He’s still got his hands in his pockets. “Yeah, yeah, well, I’m err, 26. Work for Gap Adventures. Dot com. Out in India most of the time, umm, looking for projects for the students to help, to get involved with. Awesome, totally love the country and the people.” “Ohh I could never travel” says Clarissa gruffly. “Got plenty of people and country here.” “What do you do?” “I teach at the primary in the village. Been there 25 years now”. She sniffs loudly and crosses one tweedy arm over another.

“Right, I’ll go get the starter.” I slide out of my seat and into the kitchen, tailed by a camera. Showtime. “Ellie, what’s on the menu then?” “Well, it’s a recipe I picked up in Florence. At this little restaurant near the Uffizi gallery but down a back street. Such a lovely day and then I ate this, really perfect.” Sound a bit wanky, bit smug? I am pretty smug about this one to honest, the voiceover can mock but it’s a sure-fire crowd-pleaser. Tens all round. I introduce the cheese to camera. “It’s a salad with pecorino cheese, a err, a speciality, a regional speciality made from sheep’s milk.” Another smile. I lay out the salad on the plates, acutely aware of the camera. Leaves and pear slices at exact angles, walnuts and fennel perfectly distributed yet with strewn rustic charm, pecorino laid seductively on top, honey artistically drizzled.

“Oh darling it looks looovely, really yummy!” Good start from Ali. I ceremoniously lower the plates in front of them, put a basket of bread in the middle and sit down, beaming. Marcus looks concerned. “Oh. Great! Is that, is this cheese?” I give the cheese’s back story again. “Oh. Ok. I’m really concerned about methane emissions, that’s all. You know it can trap 20 times the heat of carbon dioxide? All those air miles too….” “There’s a spiffing dairy down the road which makes its own cheese” chips in Clarissa. “Mmm, I had to go a bit further afield to get this stuff, it’s not easy to track down over here!” “Not sure why you’d want to, the local stuff’s lovely.” Another stern sniff. “The farmers down there are doing tremendous work for the local area as well. You know they’ve built all the hedgerows back up, and the spinney too, having a nightmare keeping the cows off them but it’s brilliant for the birds and biodiversity. Spend my Sundays down there now with my binoculars. Landscape’s really changed. It’s marvellous” My foreign cheese is pushed to the edge of the plate. She brightens slightly and forks a walnut. “These from the park?” “Walnuts. Amazing. Superfood.” Ali munches one enthusiastically. “No, err, Waitrose. Actually it’s, the rest of the salad’s from Waitrose…”. I tail off. I thought this was good, I was brought up to believe Waitrose was a pillar of responsible consumer society. Apparently not. “The bread, the bread’s from the farmshop!” Clarissa looks me straight on with bright lined eyes. “Jolly good.” She firmly dives into the basket. Relief, she’s going to eat something.

“These can cut the damage fatty foods do to your arteries.” Ali’s still heartily chomping through the walnuts. “Though we should be eating them for dessert really.” “I didn’t know that.” “Completely true. Saw it on the BBC. Must be. What’s this?” “Fennel. Just the fronds at the top, it’s for the flavour” “Great. Potassium. Help slow ageing too.” Clarissa looks as indignant as she can with a mouthful of bread. “Just the fronds? That’s a bit of a waste isn’t it?”

The eating comes to a halt. Clarissa’s eaten some bread. Ali the ‘superfoods’ of walnuts, fennel and honey. Marcus has picked at most of it apart from the cheese, though I suspect this is out of politeness and in his eyes airplane emissions are vaporising off his plate. I stack the plates and am escorted by the crew into the kitchen.

“How do you think it’s going Ellie?” I try and conjure some camera-friendly teeth. “Yeah, well, don’t think they were blown away. This is only the first course though, hopefully they’ll be more impressed by my authentic risotto!” But I’m worried now. I didn’t realise I was going to have to save the planet’s atmosphere, the local livelihoods and biodiversity, and Ali’s personal health as well as provide something tasty. “I would like to win you know though. I like having people round, and seeing them enjoy my food, think I’ve still got a shot. The money’d be nice too!” How morally and scientifically offensive are the ingredients of my risotto? I try and think through each. I can’t calculate it all. Too much. Just going to have to see how it pans out.

“Here you go Marcus, vegetarian for you…annndd…meaty for you, Ali and Clarissa. Tuck in.” I’m nervous. “Why are you vegetarian Marcus?” asks Clarissa. “Aren’t you worried about getting enough iron and protein?” adds Ali. “It’s just, it’s just the, the guilt really. I’ve spent a lot of time in India, ya’know with the real people of India, and these people have so little anyway and we’re, we’re just screwing them with all our emissions. So many of them live near the, on the coast and we’re killing the coral and flooding the mangroves and fucking up the weather and so much of it is because of our greed for, for meat, by eating so so much meat we’re screwing the people of India.”

I should have just served up canned worms, that would have been less trouble.

“Oh well…” Ali doesn’t seem the type to be lost for words. Everyone’s quiet. Not the quiet of happy munching. Just quiet. “The vegetable are organic” I try. “Ah, organic! What a load of rip-off lies that turned out to be!” interjects Ali. “You top up your basket with all these promises and they taaaake your money and it’s lies, all lies! The Foods Standards Whatever says there’s no difference! I might as well have been making it into DDT soup for all the good it’s done me!” He slams his fork down in disgust. “DON’T talk to me about organic.” Clarissa shifts sternly and slowly on her chair. “Well it’s not just about you young man. All these chemicals, they’re not good for the environment. They build up in the system. Then they have awful effects further up the food chain, really bad news for a lot of the birds of prey.” “Well, when I pay premium for something I expect some benefits. I buy an expensive carrot, I want my hair to be that much shinier.” “That’s very irresponsible, you should be more concerned with issues other than yourself. My, my society today.” “Well you should be more concerned about your flabby upper arms and shoddy cuticles.” “You’re both so, so selfish, what about the people of India, you’re scre” – “How DAAAARRRRRRRREEEEEEEE YOU!”

I grab some plates and flee to the kitchen. The producer comes after me, the camera crew stay, entranced by the drama. “What shall I do?” “Keep going this is GREAT TV.” I chose the only option I can: plough on with dinner party customs. I pick up my peach tart and creep back into the fire.

“Pudding..?”

“No. I WILL NOT stay and be insulted like this. In 25 years of teacher I’ve never come across such rudeness.” Clarissa scoops up her tweed and knitwear and marches out of room. “Claris – I think we have to – the produ”. The front door slams. “Ohmigod that was just too much, too too much. Ellie, honey, I’m sorry, really sorry, ohh that woman! I’m sorry, lovely evening really, I’m just too angry, too too angry. Bye, kiss, ciao ciao…” He’s gone too.

I sit next to Marcus. Oh no. Fidgety silence. I glance at him with an apologetic smile. All I can think to do is keep going. “Peach tart? The peaches are English. No air miles.” He looks at it. “Yeah, err, go on then, I am pretty hungry”. “Great, guilt-free food, I’ll go and get some plates.” I get up. “Haha, although of course the flour’s probably from an Israeli settlement!” Oh no, oh no, bad joke really bad joke. This evening’s pushed me too far. “Haha, ha…that was a joke, sorry a really bad joke.” “You can’t joke about these things Ellie, Christ. Look it’s really important, it affects peoples’ lives. I’m err, I’m going to go. Just feel too weird here. Yeah, thanks, bye.”

I’m spent, totally spent. I slump in one of the chairs. That wasn’t fun. Or fine. It was awful. I’m an awful human being. I made two types of stock for that. From scratch. The Good Housekeeping way. I stirred. For hours. Had to go to two shops to buy the right kind of cheese. Shelled peas. Googled the right kind of ham.

I didn’t win the big cash prize.

Self-confidence: how does it affect blog commentary?

I’m thinking a lot about how self perceptions changes when contributing on the internet. Particularly, I’m thinking about how people may become more confident in a virtual environment.

Do you think people tend to act more confidently when they post comments on a (or, your?) blog? If so, how do you think affects the communication within the micro-community that is established on that blog entry?

I’m interested to hear your thoughts and experiences. Feel free to post below, or at the Nature Networks Forum.

On-line communities

I’m starting to do some research on how people behave in on-line communities, and how there sense of ‘self’ affects how they act and interact. More of that another time. But, earlier I was reminded of this wonderful map from over at xkcd. I think it’s great.