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25 Reviews by Alexis

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PenPalWorld

PenPalWorld

7/19/18

When it comes to penpal sites, this is a fairly typical, bland site. Its use isn't intuitive enough for it to be worth using as often as Interpals, and while there are some features you can get if you're willing to pay for them, I don't see why anyone would want to hang around long enough to sign up for that stuff.

I know the free features might seem generous to an outside observer, but consider this. Pen Pal World is extremely strict with the number of messages you're allowed to send per day on a free account--that number is three. While there might be limits on the number of messages you can send on similar sites like Interpals, that limit is high enough that you probably won't ever reach it unless you're just carpet bombing everyone you see with messages (and I believe with Interpals specifically, the limit is based on the number of individual users you can contact in any given day rather than the number of overall messages you can send).

While you might be inclined to pay for an account, I don't think there's any real reason to do that. You can get similar kinds of services on different sites that do it better and won't charge you for it.

PENPALS For Kids, Students, Fans Of World Cultures... The Biggest Kid

PENPALS For Kids, Students, Fans Of World Cultures... The Biggest Kid

7/19/18

Students of the World is a site that I used when I was in high school. It's a lot like Interpals in the sense that it's for finding pen pals and epals, but it's mostly geared towards kids. At the time I thought it was pretty good, but that was mostly because I hadn't really used any other sites like it until years later.

Here's the pros: It's fairly simple to use, and there's enough people on there that you're bound to find at least a few people on there who you (or your kid) will find interesting. Plus because the site has a mailbox system, you're never actually required to give your contact information out to anyone.

Because the site's explicitly meant for kids, there's not a whole lot of adults on the site. Those who are are typically parents looking for a pen friend for their kid, or they're teachers looking for a class exchange, or they're people in university/college. So if you're a parent reading this, I don't think you have to be too worried about the people on there being creepy adults because, with only a couple of exceptions over the course of three or four years of using the site, I didn't encounter too many through here.

Here's the cons: The site seems to be perpetually stuck in the '90s when it comes to website design. Because of this, I'm not entirely convinced it's the best when it comes to web security either, so I guess there's a certain degree of buyer beware when it comes to the site.

Plus due to what I'd assume are server limitations, most messages you had in your Students of the World inbox would be deleted after a year. It was unfortunate if you'd been talking to someone on there for a while and suddenly lost all of your early messages.

Here's a neutral point: You didn't really get a whole lot of room to say stuff on your profile, so it's not like you can have a huge wall of text on your SotW profile like you can on an Interpals profile. This can cut both ways, depending on how you want to look at things--if you're someone who doesn't really like long profiles, it's fine, because it forces people to be succinct; but if you're someone who wants to make sure the other person has something in common with you before you talk to them, then you're screwed because it's hard to summarise all your interests into two or three lines unless you're the world's most boring person.

While the site is good for what it is and it does carve out a niche that I don't think would be catered to otherwise, I think it suffers from its very dated looking, '90s-style layout and apparent lack of budget to produce any real updates for the site. But I think this could be a matter of you getting what you pay for, because it's free to use like Interpals but also lacks any adverts like Interpals does.

Tumblr

Tumblr

7/19/18

From a usability standpoint, Tumblr is very good. It's one of the most user-friendly blogging sites currently available, and it's intuitive enough to use that most people should be able to work out how to use it within a week or two of signing up.

This comes with a flipside, though. Because of its ease-of-use, it's gathered enough of a young user base that Tumblr could be described as the Twitter of the blogging world. There's not always a great market for lengthy text posts like there is on Wordpress, so you'd better learn to be succinct if you want to gather any kind of real following on the site.

Having said this, the ease-of-use also makes it one of the better sites if you want to have a good place to find stuff related to your main fandoms or if you're into photography and stuff like that. Plus there's actually a pretty active writing side of Tumblr, so if you're looking for resources to improve your writing, there's stuff on Tumblr to help you with this as well.

The place where this usability falls apart is that while the interface is simple and easy to use, it's not always the best. Because of this, it's often necessary to use the X-Kit extension, which gives you the option of using a number of features that makes the site better.

Unfortunately, Tumblr has garnered a reputation for being a site with a toxic culture. This is absolutely true to some extent--some of the controversies that occur are things that would never be controversial in ordinary, reasonable circles. Sometimes people get crucified on Tumblr for nothing more than unfounded rumours (which is what happened to the original XKit guy), or because they produced some fan-art somebody was unhappy with (which has also happened).

I think it is starting to get to the point where a lot of Tumblr users frown upon people being like this, though. You'll sometimes see posts with tens of thousands of notes where people tell teens not to be like this, or not to base their entire worldview on what happens on Tumblr. I think part of this is because of the huge backlash against the more insane elements of the Tumblr culture that's happened in recent years, and another part simply because a lot of the users that were teenagers in 2011-2014 are now in their twenties.

While the main chunk of Tumblr is left wing, there are large chunks of the site that are pretty conservative. Unfortunately, some of the more conservative users on the site are just as bad for lacking any real nuance in their thought and arguments as the left-wingers they so often criticise for being whiny snowflakes.

There is this political side to Tumblr, but I don't think it's any more cancerous and lacking in nuance than the political side of Reddit or your typical Facebook political meme page for the most part. Plus, it's not like it was a few years ago--it's now possible to avoid most of the political hubris of the Tumblr culture altogether.

For the most part, Tumblr is what you make of it. If you want it to mostly be photography or aesthetic stuff, you can mostly follow that kind of blog and it'll be fine. Same thing with fandoms (though some are hugely more popular than others, as is the case on every site).

This is the part that I think a lot of people tend to forget about the site, and why a lot of people tend to have a bad time with it. If that as long as you have XKit and you use a bit of editorial caution when it comes to who you follow, you can have a great time on Tumblr. Just don't take anything on there too seriously and you'll be fine for the most part.

InterPals.net

InterPals.net

7/15/18

I've read through a lot of the reviews on here and there seem to be a lot of people who don't like the site. While I can understand some of these gripes, here's the rub: Interpals is one of the best sites for penpals, epals, and online friends that you're going to find.

While sometimes the response rate can be less-than-spectacular, you can say that about most sites like this. Of course people are less likely to respond to you if there's no clear, obvious common ground between the two of you, or if half your message and/or profile is lamenting how nobody ever responds to you, or if you send a message that's only a few words long and your profile is basically blank.

While this might seem like I (and a lot of people who use Interpals) are basically raging narcissists who get off on being rude to people, you have to understand that the internet isn't always like places in the physical world. A lot more people will be trying to talk to you, so sometimes you just have to be a lot more selective about who you respond to, and you have to put a little bit of effort into making yourself stand out.

I mean, it's not too uncommon for me to get four or five messages from people I haven't spoken to before on a day when I've been on Interpals all day. This isn't a huge amount compared to the numbers other people get, but it's enough that you do have to make some decisions regarding who you respond to and who you don't. In my case, the people who just say "Hi, how are you?" and show no indication that they've read more than two or three words of my profile are the people who aren't getting a response.

I think there's a good chance that a lot of the people who want to complain about how Interpals is a haven for narcissists just aren't thinking about that aspect of things. Sometimes the case just is that you're going to have to decide between two people, and a lot of people are going to err on the side of responding to the person who sends a message that asks them a couple of questions about themselves and their interests rather than the person who just says hello.

I don't think that's indicative of people on the site generally being stuck up; it's indicative that people appreciate it when others put a bit of effort into getting to know them. It's not like people on the site are expecting a 2,000 word essay straight off the bat; most will be satisfied with a couple of lines about you and a couple of questions that you wanted to ask them based on their profile.

I think that's what a lot of the people here who are complaining about the bad response rate are failing to realise. You don't have to be writing long messages to people straight off the bat or resort to only saying hello--there a lot of middle ground between these two extremes, and that's what most people are hoping for.

Really, I think most people who complain about a bad response rate tend to be people who can't handle the fact that they're not always the kind of person people want to talk to, or they're people who don't realise that people online don't owe you their time.

There are some good, interesting people on Interpals who I've enjoyed talking to a great deal. While some of these conversations haven't lasted as long as I would have hoped, neither do some conversations I've had in real life; and neither do some of the friendships I've had in real life.

While as I said, the response rate may not always be as good as you hoped, that's true of a lot of places on the internet. Generally speaking, I've found that as long as you're willing to put some effort into your introductory message, you'll be able to find at least a few people who would like to be friends with you.

Interpals is an easy-to-use site that has a great mod team. While there have been obviously fake profiles that have been up for a surprisingly long time, the mod team will generally crack down on them fairly quickly once they've been reported. Usually the case is more that nobody's reported a problem rather than the mods are intentionally ignoring it.

Plus the mod team is just great in general, and rarely have I ever seen a mod team that's more even handed. Sometimes there have been cases where I've seen them make decisions I've disagreed with, but those tend to be the exception rather than the rule and I can usually at least see where they're coming from with the decision.

In terms of overall usability, Interpals is probably the easiest-to-use epal/pen pal website you're going to find, especially if you're like me and you don't want to pay to sign up. The site design is about as intuitive as you'd hope for. Plus, for the most part, Interpals doesn't really have the glaring on-site cultural issues that a lot of other sites of this nature tend to have.

Interpals is just overall a good site, and as I said, as long as you're okay with putting the effort into giving yourself a good introduction, you'll find some people who'll have a good conversation with you.

ChatHour

ChatHour

7/14/18

Let me tell you the reasons why this site sucks.

The first issue is that there's no real moderation team. Because of this, every single other complaint I and others have made about this site often are as bad as people make them out to be, if not much worse. While the site is relatively small and obscure, it desperately needs an effective moderation team to clean the house.

However, this is not the worst issue. The worst issue is that there's an overabundance of pedophiles on the site, many of whom seem to have been using the site for a number of years now without consequence. Maybe Chris Hansen should be using this site for his Hansen vs. Predator show, because he could have a field day with it and get enough content to keep the show running for a few years.

It's honestly a wonder that there hasn't been any kind of huge sting operation based around the site. A large number of the adults who use the site are pedophiles or are so close to it that they're only not pedophiles because of a technicality in the dictionary definition. A large number of the teens on the site are really just adults pretending to be teens so they can solicit sexual conversations (and possibly even nudes) from actual teenagers.

There's no truly effective safeguard to keep a pedophile from contacting a child on this site. While a minor's profile will initially be set on a safe mode that prevents anyone over a certain age (that age is calculated with the half your age plus seven rule in mind), this safe mode is easily turned off and there's nothing preventing an adult from sending a message to a minor if the safe mode is turned on.

While you might consider this a petty complaint, consider this: back when MySpace was a thing, anyone under 16 or 18 would automatically have their profiles set to private. If memory serves me correctly, it'd be difficult for anyone to get into contact with you if your profile was set to private on MySpace, and this was back in 2008 or 2009. Hell, even for a site that's arguably still relevant today (and, even though it's not necessarily mainstream, still a lot bigger than Chat Hour), Interpals prevents anyone over 18 from contacting someone under 16.

There's no reason why, in 2018, Chat Hour couldn't have a similar set of safeguards in place. If the people who own the site want to make the argument that the site is primarily for people to set up hookups and flings and stuff of that nature, that's fine; but if they want to make that argument, there's absolutely no reason why kids should be able to use the site to begin with.

Of course, to enforce any kind of age limit would require the site to have some sort of effective moderation team. As it stands, and as I mentioned at the start of this rant, there is no effective moderation team on this site--even the stuff that does get reported is often left there for weeks or months after it was initially reported.

Even something as simple as the 13+ age limit in place is sometimes left unenforced, which means there is the occasional profile belonging to someone claiming to be 10-12 (or, in once case that I was unfortunate enough to encounter, someone claiming to be 7), is left there. I do have to wonder what the credentials of the moderation team is, given how poorly they enforce this one simple rule.

If you happen to be a furry or someone with an incest fetish, don't worry; because Chat Hour has heaps of people into the same stuff as you. I suppose once you know there's a bunch of pedos on the same site, that picture of an anthropomorphic wolf doesn't seem so weird after all.

That's kind of the story of Chat Hour, really. You end up running into a bunch of bizarre fetishes you wish you hadn't heard about.

A few paragraphs ago I touched on adults sometimes claiming to be children on the site. The problem of fake profiles is also hugely prevalent. Many of them are quite obviously fake, too; using pictures of models, porn stars, or of the scene queens that were popular ten or twelve years ago. You would think that this practice would go away in the long term because people would call them out on it, but the culture on the site seems to largely turn a blind eye to this.

I should point out that, at least in the last year or two, people have been less inclined to use pictures of the scene queens from the '00s. I don't think this is reflective of the culture on the site getting cleaner as it is the people on there realising that people are going to recognise a scene queen more or less instantly now. There's still a lot of people on there with emo in their username, so I guess if you're looking for someone to talk about your love of Paramore and My Chemical Romance with, Chat Hour has you covered.

There's no real limit to how many accounts a person can have on here. It really only seems to be limited by the number of email accounts you have, so a dedicated person who's been on the internet long enough to have accumulated a large number of email addresses can set up a dozen accounts today if they're so inclined.

Because of this, it's difficult to really assess how many people are actually fake on the site. You know a lot of these people probably have multiple accounts, so it could be ten people who have fake accounts or it could be a hundred. You'll never know for sure unless you buy the site and start limiting how many accounts can be associated with a single IP address.

Unfortunately, even a lot of the real people on the site are only on there to discuss sex. So when you do find someone who you can have a decent conversation with, it's like finding a diamond in the rough--you just don't see it that often.

A lot of the time, even these clean chats will disappoint you. Either they'll turn sexual after a while, or it'll be some weird dude like brocleanchatonly who seems to have a weird fetish for LGBT+ women to the point they're the only people he'll talk to on the site, or the people aren't anywhere near as smart as they'd like to pretend.

I'm honestly not sure what's worse about the site: the number of fake profiles on there, or that the people who aren't there to just talk about sex are often pseudo-intellectuals who want to talk about stuff they only have the most basic understanding of. Word to the wise, guys--if you want to debate politics or religion on a chat room, you probably don't have enough of an understanding of the subject o be doing that.

Of course, the pedophile problem is the worst problem; but there are a lot of other issues there.

While there may be some argument to be made that if anyone tried to impose some level of decorum onto the site it'd go out of business, it often amazes me that the site has remained in business for as long as it has. How the site hasn't been the target of any kind of lawsuits or police investigations that I know of is beyond me, because I think a federal-level police team or lawyer could have a field day with this site.

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