As readers of this column will know, we enthusiastically believe that the web offers great potential for communication and learning, as well as for fun and leisure. But we also recognise legitimate concerns about the dangers, especially for children and vulnerable people.
Iriss has been reorganising and refocussing but we've not been standing still. This month's column offers a recap on how we are using the web to help you keep abreast of what's happening.
Almost daily the broadcast and print media announce new evidence that, for example, doctors could spot autism earlier by observing how toddlers respond to cartoons or that there is a direct link between passive smoking and dementia. These reports seldom cite the source and, worse, often report the findings selectively or inaccurately.
The little orange icon below can make your life easier. You will see it all over the web and it means you can keep up to date without having to visit the website to see what's new. The icon denotes the existence of something called an RSS feed (sometimes called news feeds, web feeds, XML feeds or simply feeds). RSS stands for Really Simple Syndication but you don't have to worry about this. More important is what it does, which is to summarise and syndicate.
Social media - the collective term for services such as Facebook, Flickr and Delicious - allow us to gather, store and share knowledge, information and experience. Previously we reported on Steph Gray's social media test suite which he set up to measure the extent to which social media websites were being routinely blocked.
Even the best designed websites and web-based services can be rendered inaccessible by corporate IT policies. Polices which restrict access to social media sites seem to be particularly prevalent in the public sector.
One of the main benefits of putting content on the Internet is that by so doing, you make it available and accessible to all. However, good web design can do more than make content accessible. It can structure, organise and represent content in ways that make it easier for users to view, navigate and understand.
One of the most significant developments on the Internet of late has been the step change in quality of web-based video. You don't have to be a geek to appreciate the joy of using the BBC iPlayer - or Channel 4's 4oD - to catch up on a missed episode of your favourite TV series. Add to this the increasing affordability and ease of use of digital video cameras and we have the current situation where even small non-profit organisations can tap into the power of new media.
The HandsOnScotland website describes itself as a toolkit of helpful responses to encourage children and young people's emotional well-being. It's designed to offer practical information and techniques to help people who work with children respond helpfully to troubling behaviour, build up their self-esteem and promote their positive mental well-being.