Review: Second Friends and Moolto – Part 2

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Second Friends and Moolto are social media sites aimed at users of Second Life (and similar virtual worlds). In this 2-part article, I take a tour of both sites and look at the various features and options.

In part one, I gave a general overview of each, and looked at setting up accounts and profiles, as well as look at the various communications options available to both.

In this part, I look various other elements of the sites, including Groups, Events and the various tools provided for both, and some of the differentiators that lay between them before giving some personal feedback on both. 

Groups

Groups are analogous to Second Life Groups, and can be used to promote business and the like, or to generate communications between like-minded individuals, and so on. While there is no direct linking of Groups with in-world activities (you cannot, for example offer people in-world the opportunity of joining your Second Friends / Moolto Group(s) via a direct in-world request (subscriber board, etc.), the Groups function do provide a flexible means of interacting with other Second Friends / Moolto users.

Groups can be created either by displaying your profile page and clicking on the GROUPS link in the options panel below your profile picture, or by going to COMMUNITY -> GROUPS (SF) or clicking on GROUPS (Moo). All of these will take you to the Groups page, which has a button to ADD a new Group in the top right corner.  Alternatively, you can scroll down the Main / Home page and locate the Groups display panel and click on the ADD A GROUP option directly below it.

Add Group (Second Friends)

The Add Group page itself is straightforward, allowing you to define your group in terms of a name, description, group image / logo, the options you want to set for the Group (the ability for members to send comments to the Group wall, etc), and define who can see the Group. You can also include a link to any supporting website and a location for the Group – this can be a real world location (if you have face-to-face meetings) or an in-world Surl.

On creating a Group, Second Friends allows you to immediately invite your friends to join it, a stage you can skip if you wish, and just return to your personal Groups page. Moolto dispenses with the invite friends step and takes you directly to your personal Groups page.  However, and while it is not made clear on the website, Groups created in Moolto require approval, and this can take a while.

Clicking on a Group you have created will display the Group’s page, which includes an OPTIONS button to access various additional capabilities. Within Moolto, these comprise either editing the original settings for the Group (other than changing the moderation setting) or deleting the Group entirely. Second Friends offers you the additional capabilities of being able to set / remove additional administrators for the Group and block specific SF users from the Group.

Events

Add Event (Moolto)

Events follow a similar format to Groups – you can create information about an event in terms of a name, description, date(s) and time(s), include a location (real world or in-world), add an image / logo, set the event to public (anyone can respond) or to invited guests only, set one or more categories for the event (e.g. “fund raiser”, “charity”, “pageant”), and so on.

Events themselves are displayed on the Events panel on the Main page or by going to COMMUNITY -> EVENTS (SF) or clicking on EVENT (Moo); you can also display a list of the Events you have created.

Clicking on an Event name or image will open the page for the Event, which allows you to RSVP to the event (if it is open RSVP or if you have been invited) – and your profile image will be added to the Event page. You can also leave a message on the Event’s Comment Wall (if one has been created for the Event), should you wish.

Event pages include some nice additional options: you can page back and forth through the available Events using the PREVIOUS and NEXT buttons located in the Event description panel; you can click on any of the categories set for an Event to display a list of similar events, and you can export the Event details directly to Microsoft Outlook or iCal. As with People and Group profiles, you can also toggle between displaying the main Events page or a list of the Events you’ve RSVP’d to. Additionally, any Events you’ve RSVP’d to can be displayed by clicking on the EVENTS link in the options panel below your Profile page image.

Other Features

Forum

The Forum can be accessed in a wide variety of ways – via COMMUNITY -> FORUM (SF) or FORUM (Moo), or from the Forum panel on the Main page. you can also start forum discussions from a variety of locations within the site. Discussions are limited to a pre-set number of categories (with SF providing much the broader range compared to Moo). When creating a new discussion you can attach files, set tags, etc.

Blog

Moolto Profile Page “option panel”

The Blog tool can again be accessed in a variety of ways, and allows members to blog about just about anything they like. Blog entries can be viewed via the Blog panel on the Main page, or via COMMUNITY -> BLOG (SF) or BLOGS (Moo), or by displaying a person’s Profile page and clicking on their blog link (if they have created any blog entries). Displaying the main Blog list page or any individual blog entry further gives you the opportunity to quickly flick between the Blog list page, a list of your own blog entries or editing you blog entries.

Blog entries can include links, images and video, and can be sent for public viewing, friends or just yourself, with similar options available for who can comment. You can also set the date / time at which a blog post is published (allowing for the time zone upon which the two sites are bases – Moolto may be Central European time and Second Friends US Pacific Time).

Media

Images and video can be uploaded to the sites.

Users of Second Friends are limited to uploading 5 images a day, with no such restriction for Moolto users. JPG, GIF and PNG file formats are supported on both sites. Images can be organised into personal albums for viewing, and can be browsed in terms of all images on the site, or via all albums created by users, or you can simply view your own images / albums.

Video can be added to the site using standard embedding code from the likes of Vimeo, YouTube, Hulu and others. Videos can be tagged for searching, etc.

You can define whether or not (and who) can leave comments against any images or videos you upload.

Video and images are uploaded via the MEDIA option in the Second Friends navigation bar, or by clicking on the relevant VIDEO or PHOTO link in the Moolto navigation bar.

Apps

Allows you to add various applets to your Profile page; the applets are all third-party produced. The same apps are provided on either site and cover a wide range of activities.

Sharing

Many elements of both sites can be shared via Twitter and / or Facebook. Simply look for the appropriate icons, displayed wherever anything can be shared.

Gifts – Second Friends

You can send little gifts to other members of Second Friends. These take the form of images, and can be seen as a nice or supportive gesture and help foster the feeling of community and friendship. Received gifts are display on people’s Profile pages.

Games – Second Friends

You can play games on Second Friends in a variety of ways. A default set of simple games from MindJolt is displayed on Profile pages (and displays a different selection of games with each view). Click on a game to play.

There is also a GAMES option in the main navigation bar, which provides multiple categories of games. Some of these are direct-to-play; others appear to require Facebook access.  To be honest, I’m not a games player, so I’ll leave this area to you to explore should you sign-up to Second Friends.

In Summary

Given both Second Friends and Moolto are based on the same software, there is little to choose between them in terms of functionality and features. Both are comprehensive in what they offer, and what they do, they do well. That said there are some broad issues that impact both of them:

  • Outside of Groups, no solid support for in-world businesses in the form of business profiles, etc.
  • No ability to link accounts – something that would be handy for those who use the same identity across multiple Grids (as many do)
  • The Main / Home pages are very busy – there is simply too much going on for them to make sense. Worse, the positioning of the various panels given both sites the appearance of being static; to actually get to the good stuff – like seeing any activity on the site, you have to scroll down and hunt around. This may be a fault of the engine driving the sites more than a flaw in the actual designs, but it doesn’t change the fact that it hurts the sites more than helps.

Making a choice between them therefore comes down the aesthetics – background theme, text visibility, and the like; all of which are highly subjective. However, it has to be said that in this regard, Second Friends comes off somewhat better. The chosen theme is largely readable (although not always ideal), and links aren’t overwhelmed by the background. Sadly, the same can’t be said for Moolto, which has a bizarre flames background (and a logo featuring a couple of fire fighters for some reason). The problem here is that the background often clashes with links on various pages (and even some buttons), making them exceptionally different to read – and not that much easier to see.

In terms of differentiators, again, there is not a lot to choose between the two. I doubt if many people will find Moolto’s ability to send mass invites asking e-mail contacts to join the site particularly attractive. Similarly, while a nice touch, it is questionable as to how endearing people will find Second Friend’s games and gifts.

However, Second Friends does score over Moolto in the provisioning of better tools for Group management – being able to assign other users as Group Administrators is a huge plus. So to is the inclusion of the chat applet; it may not be word perfect, but it encourages conversations – which is one of the points of such sites.

For those used to the likes of Facebook, both sites offer much that will be familiar – such as Comment Walls, and image / video options. The flexible approach to navigation (hard-to-see links in Moolto notwithstanding) is a definite plus and is easily picked up after just a few minutes on either site.

Which Site?

If you’re looking for a social media and networking site that enjoys close links to Second Life, and you’re not overly bothered about any presence you have in other worlds, you may well find that 2ndHub is preferable to either Second Friends or Moolto; more so if you’re running an SL business: the level of integration between 2ndHub and SL make it a clear leader.

If your desire is to have a central home for your avatar’s online presence outside of SL, however, Moolto or Second Friends, with their more integrated approach to things like image and video libraries, the familiarity of Comment Walls, etc., might be more your cup of tea.

Which is not to say there is anything stopping you from joining all three!

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