Archives for July 2011

Mental wellbeing on the web

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Zoe E Breen Zoe E Breen | 11:00 UK time, Friday, 29 July 2011

The internet is awash with advice on how to become less anxious, depressed or just generally happier. People are not only looking for information about mental wellbeing but seeking help for themselves or others they care for.

There's so much choice that it's important that you only take advice from trusted sources. It's important to emphasise that there is lots of great help out there and much of it can be accessed for free or at a low cost. There are many genuine sources of information available online from the NHS, certain charities and research organisations.

However, there are others which are focussed on making profits. This might be the promise of a miracle cure, private therapy or an invitation to an expensive workshop. So it's important that you know how to spot search results that may lure you into spending effort or money unnecessarily.

The best way to find what you need is using a search engine, such as Google, to get exactly the information you are looking for.

What you need to be aware of is that some results are in fact paid for adverts. Here's how to spot them on some common search engines.

  • Google
    Results that appear at the top with a cream background are adverts. The word 'Ad' or 'Ads' is in small grey type at the top right of this box. Down the right hand column you will see more 'Ads' but on the standard background.
  • Yahoo!
    Just like Google, the ads appear in a cream panel at the top, and in a column down the right side. 
  • Bing
    Adverts are at the top displayed on pale blue panel, with further paid for listings down the right hand side.
  • Ask Jeeves
    Lists a favourite site at the top with adverts appearing in a very slightly-differently coloured panel below this and then again in another block at the bottom of the page.

Just because a search result has been paid for this does not mean that it is necessarily bad or unhelpful. For example, a charity might pay for a short campaign to attract more people to their website.

The tips above relate to almost any kind of search you might make, but are particularly pertinent to mental wellbeing as you, or the person you are supporting, may well feel vulnerable and possibly be tempted by the promise of a 'quick fix'.

Also take care with using the internet to diagnose any kind illness. Besides running the risk of scaring yourself, a medical professional is the only person who can give you a considered opinion on what ails you.

If you are looking for support or counselling, you can find a great list of resources on the BBC Health website.

Armed with this advice you are now in a good position to find the mental wellbeing sites that are relevant to you, but to get you started here are a few free resources you might like.

  • Moodscope
    This site is great for people who struggle with mood swings and enables you to monitor your mood by taking a daily 'test' - this involves rating how you feel by picking values from virtual playing cards. You can plot your mood on a graph day by day, share the graph with friends and add personal notes about how you felt when you took the test.
    You do need to sign up for an account, but the process is straight forward and it's completely free. You will also receive a short encouraging email each day.
  • Moodgym
    This tool is designed to prevent depression and was developed by a team at the Australian National University. It is based around cognitive behavioural therapy (CBT) which encourages people to examine the relationship between their thoughts and emotions.
    You need to register and the process in quite involved, but once you're in it's all free and you'll have access to interactive modules - it's like an online version of a self-help book.
  • BBC Emotional Health
    The BBC has a great section on emotional health including information specific to mental health conditions and wellbeing. You might to try keeping a Thought Diary or just access some really great resources on mental health disorders, coping techniques, therapy and prescription drugs.

Elsewhere on the BBC, you take part in Lab UK's Stress Test, listen to Radio 4's All in the Mind or find out how to keep your mental health safe online on the BBC Ouch! blog.

There's a wealth of resources online about mental health and wellbeing and I hope my tips help you get started in your search for help and support and help you feel less overwhelmed by how much is on offer.

Zoe is the senior producer on WebWise and has produced websites across the BBC for over ten years. Her interests include the use of social media to engage teachers and learners.

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WebWise news report - media power list

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Hajar Javaheri Hajar Javaheri | 10:40 UK time, Wednesday, 27 July 2011

It may come as no surprise that the founder and CEO of Facebook, Mark Zuckerberg, has topped this year's Guardian media power list.

The list isn't a simple directory of the biggest media companies, or of those who make the most money, but takes into account an individual's "cultural influence, economic clout and political power".

Although people from across a range of industries make the list, digital media is increasingly becoming a crucial pillar of support for these fields. Social media feeds traffic to news websites, entertainment clips and helps all manner of professionals such as TV stars, politicians and beginner bloggers to boost their public profiles.

Facebook running on a mobile phone

In recent years traditional media leaders have fallen behind their digital counterparts. Although I haven't quite bought into the apocalyptic view of the old media age, one can't fail to notice just how young the list's top three people are, with an average age of 33:


  1. By now, Mark Zuckerberg's is an easily recognised name. Founder and CEO of the social network Facebook, the 26 year old can boast 750 million users and a projected 2011 revenue of £4 billion. Makes you rethink your attitude to the school geeks, doesn't it?
  2. Jack Dorsey at number 2 is co-founder and executive chairman of Twitter, which now has 200 million accounts. Dorsey represents the Twitter clan on the list, but is also gaining acclaim for a mobile payments app called Square.
  3. Larry Page is Google's co-founder and chief executive. Under Page, 92% of all UK searches in June went through Google. At 38, he's not in Zuckerberg's league of spring chickens, but still proves that age and influence no longer necessarily go hand-in-hand.

Compare this with the list of ten years ago when the top three places were occupied by Rupert Murdoch, Bill Gates and Greg Dyke. With a then average age of 56 - over twice Zuckerberg's age - it does show how much the media landscape has changed.

The future really is in the hands of bright, innovative individuals with the vision and reach that the digital age provides. Social media is nothing new, but it's taken a handful of young people to show that it's no longer a teenager's cyber playing field. They've opened it up to the world, for the benefit of people of all ages.

In case you're not familar with Facebook, we have an article explaining what it is - and a blog entry, which you can find here.


Hajar is a regular contributor to the WebWise blog and has also made award-winning programmes for BBC Radio. In her spare time she loves reading, writing and singing.

How the internet can help you with DIY

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Charlie Swinbourne Charlie Swinbourne | 11:11 UK time, Thursday, 21 July 2011

Growing up as a young boy, I watched my Dad put up new shelves in our home, pave the patio in the garden and maintain of a massive range of tools in his shed. I looked up to him, and assumed (of course!) that one day, I'd magically aquire his DIY skills. Just because I was male too. Big mistake. Luckily, the internet has a range of resources I've been able to call on to help me put up some shelves of my own.

Now, the first and most important thing you need to think about when starting out in DIY is safety. DIY Extra has a great safety section with subsections dealing with areas like electrical safety, safety while using a ladder, and some more general tips for any situation. There's also this useful page from Health Challenge Wales.

Getting started on the nitty gritty of DIY, the Which? website has some really useful tips which focus on home repairs, including a list of the Eight essential home repairs which even rates certain repairs by how easy they are. Bleeding a radiator rates 1 on the Easy DIY scale, while repointing a patio is a 3, much harder!

DIY Doctor is a really comprehensive site site which features a blog, a forum, tutorials, a DIY Dictionary, and best of all, DIY videos, broken up by subject area. I went into the Gardening section and watched a video about how to put up a shed. I'm now dreaming of constructing the writer's den I've always dreamed of!

A carpenter using an electric screwdriver - one day this could be you!

A site with a personal touch is Dave's DIY Tips. The site is designed in a clear, attractive way and each section has diagrams showing how to get those vital jobs done. Fitting a kitchen is broken down into six sections - but if that seems ambitious, you might want to focus on simpler tasks first, like repairing wall plaster.

The most attractively designed DIY site I found belongs to Reader's Digest. Their page on constructing a patio is easy to follow with plenty of photographs that help it all make sense.

Handyman Know How is firmly pitched at DIY beginners and is run by Steve Venus, who's been a handyman for years. His site had the clearest explanation of how to put up shelves I found, and is even broken up by type of shelving. If you also look at the article on drilling you'll be able to put the two together, and get those bookshelves put up once and for all!

If none of those sites throw up the DIY advice you're looking for, you could always try searching for the DIY activity you want to do through search engines or on video sharing websites. Try searching for 'putting up shelves' in Google or in YouTube, and you'll soon see a range of useful pages or videos, depending on what you'd prefer.

Hopefully these links will help you create the DIY projects of your dreams. Remember to keep safe, and if you're finding a task tricky, or if there's any risk or danger at all, contact a professional for their experienced advice, but if you can, have a go and see how you get on.

Good luck!


Watch BBC DIY and gardening programmes online with the iPlayer.


Charlie is a journalist and scriptwriter specialising in articles and films featuring deaf culture and sign language. He has written for The Guardian online and has contributed to programmes for Radio 4, while his films have won international awards. He also works in the arts, helping to make theatre accessible for deaf people.

So what exactly is a hacker?

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Brett Tremble Brett Tremble | 17:08 UK time, Wednesday, 20 July 2011

Before 1983 it's probably fair to say that most people in the UK had not even heard of the term 'hacking', and that if they had, it was probably in relation to country pursuits and horses galloping down leafy country lanes. By the early 80s though, personal computers such as the ZX Spectrum had made their way into many UK homes allowing some brave pioneers to take their first tentative steps into an exciting online future.

The modems available, such as the Prism VTX 5000, were fairly rudimentary with data travelling back and forth at around 1200 baud (a paltry 1.20 Kbps in modern terms), and the wondrous glories of the World Wide Web were still some years away. But connect you could, via the Micronet 800 service to the Post Office's Prestel system, a very early online portal.

And then, in 1983, along came Hollywood starlets Matthew Broderick and Ally Sheedy and changed the world forever. Not a phrase you hear every day admittedly, but the film War Games brought to mass attention the phenomenon of 'hacking'. In an instant the modem was no  longer a friendly piece of gadgetry that allowed computer users to connect with others all around the world and discuss the latest Duran Duran single. It was suddenly a sinister instrument of intrigue and subterfuge that, with a few random taps from a geeky teenager at a keyboard, could launch a thousand nuclear missiles towards Russia and ensure the end of the world within a matter of hours.

Thirty years on and hacking is still a dirty word, but what exactly does it now mean? Hacking is essentially the illegal and unsolicited accessing of computers and other devices. Motivations for doing this vary. While profiting from hacking is certainly possible, many groups of hackers such as LulzSec or Anonymous tend to use their nefarious skills to protest and make information public that organisations would rather remain secret.

Hackers seem to make the headlines more than ever these days, and we are now aware that even our own mobile phones can be successfully broken into and 'hacked' for information. But not even the newspapers responsible for hacking are immune from attacks, as a recent story about the Sun's website demonstrated.

So is there such a thing as a 'good hacker'? Well, yes, as in addition to horse-riding, the term 'hacker' is also used to refer to amateur tech enthusiasts who spend their time modifying and rebuilding various old and redundant technologies in order to make new devices. So if attacking electrical circuits with a soldering iron in the confines of a shed or fiddling with flashing LEDs and resistors is your thing, then don't be surprised if your harmless hobby sees you labelled a hacker too. In a nice way.


Brett is a Content Producer for BBC WebWise, and has been creating web content for the BBC for ten years. He loves fine ale and vintage wine, cathedrals, music of all genres and classic British comedy, and has a huge collection of rare vinyl records, only some of which are terrible.

WebWise news report - BBC survey of UK mobile coverage

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Hajar Javaheri Hajar Javaheri | 13:46 UK time, Wednesday, 20 July 2011

A new smartphone app has been launched as part of a BBC survey into UK mobile data coverage.

BBC Technology correspondent Rory Cellan-Jones

BBC Technology correspondent Rory Cellan-Jones

The BBC intends to use the information from the survey to create a clickable map of 3G and 2G signal across the country.

With 12 million smartphone users in the UK, phone providers are keen to offer their customers mobile internet access and often use coverage maps to show that they can check their emails wherever they are. However, sometimes just going indoors can leave you without a data service and any commuter will tell you the points in a train journey where they have to wait a whole five minutes before being able to update their status about the noisy eater sat next to them.

The independent survey will be carried out over the next month and is similar to a project carried out by opensignalmaps, which aims to provide a global picture of mobile internet coverage.

The BBC app is free to download and runs in the background without interfering with the phone’s other functions. It is only available to smartphones running on the Android operating system, which means that iPhone users are unable to take part due to reported issues with the app running in the background. Once installed, anonymous data on mobile phone coverage is retrieved by Epitiro, the network analysis firm behind the app.

Racking up over 33000 downloads in just a couple of days, initial take-up has been good, but some users expressed concerns that the app was a drain on battery life. Epitiro has since released a new version, which, rather than testing continually, does so for four hours at key points throughout the day, stopping when a phone’s battery life drops below 30%.

Ian Fogg, an independent telecoms analyst, told the BBC Technology team that with enough users taking part, the app could provide better information for operators, which could help improve data coverage.

Read the full story on BBC Technology:

Read more:
WebWise Guide - How do I access email on my mobile phone?
WebWise Blog - Smartphones: where telephony gets clever

Hajar is a regular contributor to the WebWise blog and has also made award-winning programmes for BBC Radio. In her spare time she loves reading, writing and singing.

UPDATE: The BBC's survey has now ended, with the results available here. You can still however download Epitiro's app and contribute to their own ongoing mobile coverage map.

Tara Palmer-Tomkinson's technology tips

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Hajar Javaheri Hajar Javaheri | 10:23 UK time, Friday, 15 July 2011

Hajar Javaheri talks to Tara Palmer-Tomkinson

Tara Palmer-Tomkinson

Tara Palmer-Tomkinson

Presenter, writer, it girl, singer... Tara Palmer-Tomkinson has many strings to her bow, but for all the photos plastered across magazines and Sunday papers, she's never pictured with her eyes glued to a computer screen.

She claims her relationship with technology is fraught with issues, but presumably she didn't scratch her first novel onto a wax tablet? I interviewed her about how she incorporates technology into her life and how she's gained confidence using computers.

What are your first memories of computers?
My first memory was my father having one in the office. We all thought it was a robot, but it was actually a Commodore 64. I'd spend hours playing games like Frogger and Space Invaders.

How would you describe yourself when it comes to computers and technology?
Goodness, technology and I are a complete match made in hell, but I'm a sucker for gadgets. I have them all - the most recent iPad and iPhone - but I just can't work them. I'm a fast learner though once I get going. I've never really been into computers and only got a personal email address a year ago. Shocking, I know!

Why don't you feel particularly confident with technology?
Because I'm an old fashioned traditional English girl and I still miss the fact of taking photographs to be developed and sending handwritten letters. I love the romanticism of all that, but I suppose you have to move with the times.

What advice would you give to someone wanting to get online but lacking the confidence?
Tablets are a great way to get into technology, because they're fun and easy to use and definitely help your confidence. I couldn't live without my iPad. I love being able to carry it around - it feels like a toy really, rather than like I'm using a computer. There are lots of other tablet computers around now. I love being able to navigate using a touch screen. It makes the whole experience far more intuitive for me.

What do you use your tablet for?
I use it for everything, from watching movies to looking at the latest fashions, although I mainly use it for emails and music.

Are you on Twitter or Facebook?
There is a fake Tara on Facebook and I am on Twitter but I have a rule that I only reply to people and never divulge personal details. I'm definitely not a 'tweet freak'.

What attracts you to a website?
I tend to check out sites on the advice of others and what people tell me about them. It all depends on the information I'm after and what I can find on them. If they're easy to navigate that's a big bonus!

What other sorts of technology do you incorporate in your life?
I love technology that makes my life easier, but I don't really understand any of it. My house is full of cinematic projectors and plasma TVs and touch button light dimmers. A fantastic company in Dubai have helped me kit out my whole house, so things happen at the touch of a button.

What's the best thing about being online?
You feel like you are connected to everything in the world and like you've got your finger on the pulse. There is a whole world out there that you have access to at the touch of a button - and everything is 24 hours. I love it!

Hajar is a regular contributor to the WebWise blog and has also made award-winning programmes for BBC Radio. In her spare time she loves reading, writing and singing.

WebWise news report - social media and video chat

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Hajar Javaheri Hajar Javaheri | 11:29 UK time, Wednesday, 13 July 2011

Google has been in the news recently with its latest bid to rival Facebook in the social media stakes.

The company behind the world's most popular search engine has launched a new social networking site, Google+. It hasn't been rolled out globally yet and only a small group of people have been invited to try it out, but many testers have reported its group video chat function a triumph.

Just over a week after its launch, Facebook announced its own video chat feature in partnership with Skype, the software application that's been at the forefront of the video call market for several years.

Whilst Google+ allows up to ten users at a time to make video calls, called Hangouts, Facebook is only offering one-to-one chat, although its founder and CEO Mark Zuckerberg has hinted that they may introduce other 'premium' Skype features in the future.


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Yet with this new focus on an electronic form of face-to-face chat, I find myself wondering if the world of communication is slowly coming round full circle? For all the photos, links and funny statuses, perhaps users are finally starting to miss interacting with other human faces.

It's clear, though, that in order to keep people logged on to their sites longer, the internet giants need to offer their members everything in one place in the fight for social media dominance.

Read Maggie Shiels' report on Facebook and Skype's video link-up.
For more on social media, go to the WebWise Social Media Basics course.
Read the WebWise guide to setting up webcams.

WebWise news report - how fast is broadband where you live?

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Hajar Javaheri Hajar Javaheri | 13:05 UK time, Wednesday, 6 July 2011

Media regulator Ofcom has launched the first interactive map of cable and ADSL (over telephone line) broadband services across the country. The map covers 200 local authorities, using data from communications providers to illustrate key information about UK broadband availability.

Mapped data includes:

-  homes that are in the coverage area for superfast (over 24mbps) broadband networks
-  average speed of over telephone line (ADSL) and cable services
-  homes with broadband that aren’t currently receiving 2mbps speeds

Findings show that 68% of UK premises have a broadband connection and have average speeds of 7.5 mpbs, whilst homes in rural areas tend to have lower broadband speeds.

Edinburgh and Bristol came top for the fastest average speeds while the highest take up of broadband services was in Brighton and Hove, where 80% of premises have fixed-line broadband.

Chief Executive of Ofcom, Ed Richards, said: "We hope that this information will stimulate further rollout of broadband infrastructure and better performance for households and businesses."

To see how your area is covered, go to the interactive map on the Ofcom website.

For more information on broadband and getting online, visit the BBC WebWise guides on Getting connected.

Hajar is a regular contributor to the WebWise blog and has also made award-winning programmes for BBC Radio. In her spare time she loves reading, writing and singing.


WebWise question: How can I protect against phone hacking?

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Zoe E Breen Zoe E Breen | 10:52 UK time, Wednesday, 6 July 2011

You've doubtless heard the term 'phone hacking' in the news over the last few weeks, but what does it actually mean?

An article by BBC News, 'How easy is it to hack a mobile?' explains the kinds of issues which can leave handsets vulnerable to hacking. Mobile phone owners are urged to take the following steps:

- use a PIN number other than the default for your voicemail

- encourage friends to send texts rather than leave voice messages

- take care using Bluetooth, especially if you have a smartphone

- be careful what you download (e.g. games) to your handset

These tips can help you keep your mobile and your private information safe. You can find more tips to stay safe online in Privacy & Safety section of the main WebWise site.

Zoe is the senior producer on WebWise and has produced websites across the BBC for over ten years. Her interests include the use of social media to engage teachers and learners.



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Looking for Laughs? - Comedy on the internet

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Jon Aird | 12:55 UK time, Friday, 1 July 2011

The internet is a great place for comedy. You could spend every day looking at funny stuff and you'd still barely scratch the surface. It is one of the most enduring genres on YouTube and iPlayer, and as well as comedy videos, there are funny pictures and jokes forever circulating on the web and social networks like Facebook and Twitter.

Established comics and newcomers can all use the internet to go directly to audiences with their material. Sketches and series are made especially for the web, starring unknowns or 'A' list Hollywood stars alike. It's a great playground to try things out and experiment. Jokes get started and people run with them, adding their own spin and passing them on. These are sometimes called internet 'memes'.

I produce the BBC's comedy website and when I'm not making or publishing comedy content, I spend a fair amount of time browsing for other people's funny stuff. Here's a list of several comedy places you might like to visit. Comedy is subjective of course and one person's 'laugh out loud' moment is another's 'meh' (the verbal equivalent of a shrug of the shoulders), but I hope you find something that tickles you among this lot. Why not let us know your favourite online comedy in the comments sections below?

BBC Comedy
I'm not contractually obliged to start with our own website, but we love comedy and we love the internet, so we've spent the last few years working hard on our website to make it an entertaining guide to the past, present and future of comedy.

We have themed collections of clips from the archive, where you'll find well loved shows like Blackadder, Absolutely Fabulous, Dad's Army and Only Fools and Horses to name but a few. Bringing us up to present day we have programme pages to support all the current comedy shows. Some of these are all singing and dancing such as the Psychoville Experience which contains enough to keep you occupied for hours - be warned though, it's not for the faint hearted. Or you could enter the world of Come Fly With Me and have a go at checking in with the distinctly unhelpful check-in girls Melody and Keeley.


David Walliams as Melody and Matt Lucas as Keeley in Come Fly With Me

David Walliams and Matt Lucas in Come Fly With Me

Looking to the future, we're always searching for new comedians, writers and performers to make videos especially for the web. There's the existential cuddly toy Misery Bear, the anarchic sketch team Rocket Sausage, and one off sketches like Single White Feline which lifts the lid on the truth about single women and cats.

We're also on Facebook, Twitter and YouTube, so if your internet travels have taken you to any of those places, please come and visit so we can keep in touch!

Funny or Die
From the best of British to the hype of Hollywood, here's a site you may have heard about because of its association with 'A' list comedians. Film and TV star Will Ferrell set it up with his writing partner Adam McKay and their first video The Landlord has been watched over 75 million times. There are lots more videos to choose from, some of which star not just one or two Hollywood stars but a whole ensemble cast of them, such as Presidential Reunion. Also, Funny or Die, like YouTube, lets anyone submit a video so you will find much more amateur affairs jostling for position with the big hitters.

The Onion
Satirical news parody The Onion started life as a newspaper back in 1988, before becoming a website in 1996. This is an especially ripe place for anyone who likes news satire like The Day Today or Have I Got News For You. As well as videos, they have written articles and radio, covering every topic imaginable so you're bound to find something that suits you from their biting parodies of sport, politics and entertainment news.

The 'micro blogging' site Twitter is filled with comedians and funny fictional characters. There's hundreds to choose from but perhaps you've heard of Eddie Izzard, Miranda Hart , Stephen Fry or Sarah Millican for starters?

There's also the likes of Peter Serafinowicz (Shaun of the Dead) and writers Graham Linehan (Father Ted, IT Crowd) and  Reece Shearsmith (League of Gentleman, Psychoville).

And there are fictional characters, some of them 'official' feeds connected to films, TV shows and books, such as Homer Simpson, but also a lot of 'fan fiction' such as Darth Vader. Add to that thousands of ordinary people who just happen to be funny and you can get lost tittering on Twitter for many hours.

There's no end to the funny stuff you can find online and it comes in all shapes and sizes so if you're sides are still intact, you could read some Passive Aggressive Notes, see what Garfield is like when its star goes awol or gasp at the audacity of some people in Clients From Hell.

I hope that's been a good introduction to the world of internet comedy. Obviously there's far much more I've missed out than included, but if you don't like any of these, keep searching and you should find what you're after!

Learn more about using Facebook and Twitter with our WebWise guides.
Read more comedy suggestions from WebWise blogger Julie Howell.

Jon Aird is the Producer for BBC Comedy online, working on the main website at and programmes including 'Psychoville' and 'Come Fly With Me'.

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