There are challenges when you run a service allowing people to deposit information for the public to see. Wikipedia editors will tell you that some “fun and obnoxious images” have been known to show up on Wikipedia articles. By all accounts the image of George Bush has been replaced with a few interesting images over the years. With ChemSpider we allow people to deposit structures, spectra, identifiers and OF COURSE, the most dangerous of all, images. Why dangrous? Well, the imagination doesn’t have to stretch too far to imagine what could be posted onto our site to cause offense. Probably Katie Crow didn’t think we’d find her picture quite so quickly and we have left it there, for now, to see if anyone recognizes her. At least the photo was high-spirited only, not offensive.

About an hour ago this email popped into the curators file:

“Dear ChemSpider Curator,

Record #8177 has been changed by *******************. (NAME REMOVED TO PROTECT GUILTY PARTY)

User has added new image:

File:  mouse pic.jpg
Associated Hyperlink:
Open Data: no

All details are available by the following link:

The image was the one shown below.  The structure it was associated with is an explosive. Maybe this mouse is dangerous? Maybe it ate some explosive? Maybe it’s just as dangerous as an explosive device. Grrrr…. Either way, it’s an enormous 5 Mbyte file associated with the record that we don’t believe enhanced the record.


What do we do in these situations? That image was deleted in about 2 minutes of deposition, an email was sent to the user asking whether or not the image was uploaded by accident (it could happen…he might not have known how to use a mouse properly …excuse the pun!) and, if there’s no response in 24 hours we remove the registration of the user. Of course registration is not required to search ChemSpider…but is necessary to deposit. For those who believe in the world of Open Data and no barriers/logins to use welcome to some of the challenges.

Stumble it!

6 Responses to “Watch out for the Explosive Mouse on ChemSpider”

  1. Chris Singleton says:

    To paraphrase Wendell Phillips, ‘Eternal vigilance is the price of Open Data’

  2. Egon Willighagen says:

    It almost seems that some people have bets on how long their funny pictures can stay undetected. (No, it was not me, or anyone I know.)

    Maybe an RSS feed with recently added pictures? For some crowd-sourcing control?

  3. Antony Williams says:

    Egon..when its a big enough issue then we’ll put the work into a system to allow people to help. I’d rather have the crowds curating and contributing chemical content than worry about pictures. Also, if we did an RSS stream of pictures there is MORE chance that people would contribute inappropriate materials.

  4. davesnyd says:

    So after having caught two mice in the past week, we finally broke down and called the poison trap expert guy.

    What he explained is that a mouse who is brown with a white belly (like my second mouse and the one in your picture) supposedly has recently come in from the outdoors and has not yet bred.

    Grey mice have been in a while. White belly means they’ve bred once. All grey means they’ve bred multiple times.

    I have no idea whether there is any truth to this. Just passing it along.

    Me? I’d be almost happy to see them explode.

  5. Joerg Kurt Wegner says:

    I agree with Egon, if you allow deposition you have to allow crowdsourcing editing, not only an editorial process for this. It is basically nothing more than a global watchlist for all entries. In Wikpedia they call it just a history, which is tracked by user name and/or IP.
    I think it is reasonable to expect spam in multiple ways. Image spam is now happening, but I expect also a lot of link spam in the future, too.

    For a good de-spamming strategy I would refer to Wikipedia and I assume that any contributer there has faced this problem at some point. Even I (with just a few hundred edits) was sending spam and blocking warnings to users.

  6. Antony Williams says:

    Joerg/Egon – I have no issue in us providing a platform to allow anyone to assist in curation. It EXISTS already. But we are not taking the path Wikipedia have taken, for the time being, in terms of crowd-sourced curation. We provide curators rights to users who have demonstrated an interest in supporting ChemSpider by depositing, providing feedback etc. When we hit a critical mass of depositors and issues then we will by default be concerned with more curators helping us. We are not there yet. There have been conversations going on over at Friendfeed about getting people to deposit data and participate in the curation process …that can be done NOW with just posting comments of course…and it would be good to see movement in that direction before worrying about more people to review what’s being deposited.

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