Show me the data!

Steganography, phylogenetics and Flickr

July 4th, 2014 | Posted by rmounce in PLUTo - (Comments Off on Steganography, phylogenetics and Flickr)

How best to link the figure, to the paper & the underlying data?

Whilst visiting EBI, Hinxton yesterday, Robert Hanson (computational chemist) reminded me of an interesting hack you can do to embed data in images.

Back in 2010 it was widely reported that people were using Flickr to transmit data (secretly) in images.

This general technique is called Steganography.

Turns out I can use this hack in my project too…

As a proof of concept, I’ve uploaded one recent PLOS ONE phylogeny figure to my ‘plosone-phylo’ flickr account:

In this special file, I’ve embedded the nexus, NeXML & Bibtex file from TreeBASE that correspond to the image. This website has cross-platform instructions – it’s remarkably simple.

So now if you download that special file I put on Flickr (this hack only works if you download the original, not resized versions) and ‘unzip’ the image file you’ll reveal the hidden data embedded in the image:  nexus, NeXML & Bibtex.
Try it!

Screenshot showing what to click to download the original image

Screenshot showing what to click to download the original image


This certainly isn’t the ‘optimal’ way of doing things. But it is a nice way of keeping everything together in ONE file. Maybe you might have a use for this hack too?