Review: Second Friends and Moolto – Part 1

Second Friends Main Page

So, after stumbling on 2ndhub, it now seems I cannot turn a corner without tripping over SL-related social media sites, having discovered both Second Friends and Moolto in rapid succession.

Powered by the same engine, these sites each offer a range of similar services and features – although there are some distinct differences between the two. This being the case, I’ve attempted to compare / contrast them here.

Both sites have something of a “commercial” feel to them – by that I mean they are ads-heavy on their respective Main page (Second Friends) and Home page (Moolto). This actually doesn’t leave a good impression on first looks, as it makes both sites look a bit of a graphical hodge-podge, with meaningful information seemingly lost among the ads.

Given they are powered by the same engine, there is a high degree of commonality between the two sites, some of the highlights being:

  • 140-character Twitter-like instant messaging, which can be automatically directed to Twitter or your Facebook page
  • Forum and blogging tools
  • Group creation and Event listing
  • The ability to upload and share images and media (including the ability to create your own image libraries)
  • Sign-on via Facebook, Twitter, Google, etc.
  • The ability to add applications to your account (not SL-specific apps)
  • The ability to share messages, images, videos, etc with Twitter and / or Facebook.

There are also some differentiators:

  • Second Friends (SF) includes:
    • Live chat applet
    • “Gifts” you can send to SF Friends or receive from them
    • The ability to play on-line games from within the site
  • Moolto (Moo) allows you to invite friends from various e-mail contact lists (Yahoo, hotmail, Gmail, AOL) to join Moolto.

Both sites, while geared towards Second Life are not SL-specific; there is no reason why they cannot be equally used by those involved in other grids – indeed, the welcoming e-mail from SF mentions InWorldz.

Sign-up

Sign-up is relatively simple for both sites, although each follows a slightly different root:

  • Both require that you initially provide an e-mail address, password and date of birth. Or, if you prefer, you can use your Facebook, Yahoo Google or Twitter identity to initially set-up your account (note SF states Twitter can be used, but no actual button is displayed). Then:
  • SF sends a verification e-mail to your e-mail address which you must respond to (a nice button is displayed to take you directly to your e-mail account to do this). Clicking on the verification link in the e-mail message returns you to SF and the Create Profile window (below right). Fill out the required information on the window (indicated by (*)), and any of the optional fields and then click JOIN. This will deliver you back to the SF Main page.
  • Moo displays the Create Public Profile window (below left), requiring you to supply your “Full Name”, avatar name, date of birth and an image to be used with your Profile. You can optionally indicate your gender and country of residence. On clicking JOIN, you are informed your membership request has been accepted as is awaiting approval – and you have the opportunity of cancelling it. Approval can take anything for 15-30 seconds to over an hour. Until it has been granted, the majority of the site is inaccessible.
Create Profile Windows

Note: While both sites request you enter your “full name”, you are not required to give your real name – you can enter your avatar name here if you prefer (as well as in the box asking for your avatar name) – or any other alias.

The Main Page

When logged-in to either site the hub of activity is the Main / Home page. Those just getting started should probably kick-off using the three large activity icons:

  • Customize your page  (SF only) allows you to (as the name suggests) customize you’re your Second Friends home page – select a background theme, set the colours and fonts, etc., to make your Profile page more individual
  • Import (Moo only) allows you to invite your e-mail contacts (Yahoo, Hotmail, Gmail or AOL) to join Moolto
  • Add content offers you options to upload video or photos, create an event, write a blog entry, start a discussion or go to the applications list to add an application to your account
  • Add apps takes you to the applications list where you can add an application to your account.
Activity Icons (Second Friends version)

Beyond this, the Main & Home pages can be bewildering. Both employ a three-column format that displays a huge array of information panels and adverts. Finding information is therefore a matter of scrolling (a very long way in the case of Second Friends) and keeping your eyes open. A nice touch is that all of the main features for each site – blogs, forums, photo albums, etc., have options to take you to their dedicated pages, making viewing them somewhat easier – once you’ve found them, that is. In some ways the approach works against both sites, as it can give them impression that both are static in nature, and that not a lot is actually going on.

Navigation

A preferable way of getting around either site is to use the various navigation options. The two most obvious of these are he three main activity icons mentioned above (Main /Home page only) and navigation bar that is displayed at the top of every page on each site.

Navigation bars: Second Friends (top) Moolto (bottom)

There are also additional navigation options located in your personal Dashboard located in the top right of every page you view, and in the “options panel” displayed under your Profile page image (My Page in Moolto, My Profile in SF).

Finally, many of the pages are linked so you can quickly switch between personal lists and public lists – such as with Groups, Events, Friends, etc.

My Profile (SF) / My Page (Moo)

This page combines the information you entered about yourself on sign-up with a range of other items, such as any photo stream you have created, any comments you’ve received and so on.

Profile Page (Second Friends)

There is a Twitter-like micro-blogging element at the top of the page where you can tell people what you’re up to. Comments are displayed on your Profile page and on the LATEST ACTIVITY panel on the Main / Home Page, and you can optionally send any comments to Twitter and / or Facebook. Sadly, individual messages cannot be replied to.

The amount of information displayed on the page is variable, according to which site you are using – Moolto doesn’t feature games, for example – and whether you install any additional application. However, the majority of the available panels and options are the same for both. SF perhaps scores over Moolto in that it includes the ability to set a custom theme for your Profile page (although this is not applied to the entire site, annoyingly).

Making Friends

To gain new friends you need to click on COMMUNITY -> PEOPLE (SF) or MEMBERS (Moo). This opens the People / Members page and thumbnails of all current members, with Moolto also providing a number of “Featured Members”.  How or why they are “featured” is unclear to me, but I’m guessing it’s to do with participation or something similar. Members currently logged-in to either site are indicated by a small green dot appearing alongside their name (excluding those in Moolto’s “Featured” list).  Both have a search facility and options to sort members alphabetically, by the newest joiners first or entirely randomly. Finally, a pair of links at the top left of the page allow you to switch between the full People list and your list of friends.

Add a friend requires you display their Profile page (click on their name or image in the thumbnail view), and then click on ADD AS FRIEND in the options panel below their profile picture. This displays a small pop-up asking you to confirm the friendship request and which includes an option to add a personal message to the request.

You can also message people without friending them – click on the MESSAGE option alongside their profile thumbnail.

Friendship requests from other users will appear in your Dashboard and send an e-mail to you if you are not logged into the site. Clicking on the link will allow you to accept or refuse the offer.

Friends Page

You can view details on the friends you’ve made via the FRIENDS link on your Dashboard. This opens your Friends page, which features the same search and display order options as the People list and links to switch between your list of friends and the main People List. From here, you can view individual profiles, send a message or a gift (SF only) to a friend and you can view individual profiles, or send a message to all your friends.

A confusing element within Moolto is that the Friends link on the Dashboard and the page displaying your list of friends both include an “Invite” option. However, this does not enable you to make friend requests to other Moolto users; it simply takes you to the pop-up to send invitations to your e-mail contacts to join Moolto.

To terminate a friendship, display the individual’s profile page and click on the REMOVE AS FRIEND option located in the options panel below their profile picture.

Communications

Communications are well catered for, and take a number of forms. There is the message option on your Profile page, described above, together with the following options / means.

Mail

Accessed from INBOX link in your Dashboard, this allows you to send private messages to other SF users (individual messages or “group” messages to several friends at once). The mail editor applet includes a range of formatting options and allows URLs, images and video to be embedded in messages.

Wall Comments

You can add messages to a user’s Comment Wall (displayed on their profile page) via a number of routes:

  • By visiting their profile page directly
  • By clicking on the COMMENT link displayed in their thumbnail entry in the PEOPLE/MEMBERS list or your Friends list

The wall comment editor, like the mail editor, includes formatting options and the ability to include URLs, video and images.

Send a Message to All Friends

Available from your Friends page, this does exactly what the title suggests, and sends a mail-style message to all of your friends.

Chat Applet – Second Friends only

Second Friends Chat Applet

Second Friends scores significantly in the inclusion of a fully-functional chat applet; this allows for both public chat and private messages, with the former as the default. Accessing the chat option will display the chat window, which comprises 3 elements: the chat area (top left) your text entry area (bottom left) and a list of who is online on the right. Be aware that “online” does not necessarily mean they are actively using the chat applet, however!

The list of users includes a handy search option you can use to find a specific user if the list is excessively long, and display their name only.

Left clicking on a name in the list opens-out a list of actions which give you the ability to view the person’s profile page (opened in a separate browser tab, rather than carrying you away from chat), open a private chat session with them or send them a gift. A nice feature of the applet is that private conversations are effectively “tabbed” into separate window displays, each with the name of the person you’re chatting with displayed at the top of the tab. You can then click between tabs to view each conversation and click back to the main chat display in much the same way as using the SL browser.

You can also “pop-out” the Chat applet into its own floating browser window or shut down the chat applet altogether (does not log you out of Second Friends) using the buttons located at the top right of the chat applet. Click these again to re-dock the applet or log back onto it.

Continued in Part 2 ->