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25 Reviews by Alexis

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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.

GoodReads

GoodReads

12/29/18

Goodreads is like a counterpart to IMDb--while IMDb is mostly geared towards movies and T.V. shows, Goodreads is all about books.

However, in terms of actual usability, Goodreads suffers. While the base functions that make up the site--the ability to rate, review, and list the books you've read--are intuitive enough, a lot of the other functions can be difficult and decidedly less intuitive if you don't already know what you're looking for.

There's also the issue that the mobile app version of the site is even less intuitive, and makes some of those base functions that make the site desirable at all difficult. This isn't the kind of thing that you want from your site, especially when there doesn't seem to be a whole lot of viable alternatives.

In terms of the culture on the site, a lot of the reviews are essentially trash that don't tell you a whole lot about the actual quality of the book. They tend to either be quite shallow one-paragraph reviews that read more like a blurb a publisher would write for the book, or they're so .gif heavy that it's difficult to get through them at all.

While Goodreads is a good concept, it needs a bit of work to make it everything it could be.

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.

Omegle

Omegle

3/26/19

Omegle is one of those sites a lot of people have a lot of nostagia for. They remember the glory days of when you could go on there and not encounter any perverts or bots. A lot of people are looking at Omegle through rose-tinted glasses.

Here's the thing: Omegle has always been filled with bots and perverts. Even in 2011, when the site was ostensibly at the height of its popularity, the site had a lot of bots and perverts. The only difference between today and 2011 is that less people use the site, so the perverts and the bots become far more noticeable.

Omegle is one of those sites that I've used on again and off again for several years now. I'm always amazed at how long some of the bots and spammers will use the site. I'm fairly sure that one of the bots on there has been going for something like three or four years now.

There are some genuine people on the site, but don't expect to be having long lasting conversations with them. Most of the people who use Omegle are people who aren't looking to make new friends or anything, they're just looking to waste a bit of time before they have to go do something else.

So long as you go in knowing that most of the real people on the site are just there to waste time, you'll be fine. But that's the kind of expectation you should really have of any chat room, not just Omegle, so I think that's more than fair.

If the powers that be in charge of the site would crack down on all the bots, the site would probably be okay. I don't think it'd ever be the best site ever, but it'd be a passable place to spend a bit of time if you're bored. As is though, you'll probably walk away frustrated after twenty or thirty minutes because of all the bots you encounter.

Netflix

Netflix

11/15/18

If you sign up for Netflix wanting it to essentially be pay T.V. but without the hassle of having to sign up for a dozen expensive packages just to get access to the four or five shows you actually want to watch, you're going to get what you pay for.

Here's the rub though. If you live outside of the United States, quite often the selection of shows that aren't produced by Netflix will seem to be fairly limited. While it's great that Netflix is producing quality content such as Orange Is The New Black, Stranger Things, and The Chilling Adventures of Sabrina, it can come as an incredible disappointment that the shows you were a huge fan of ten or fifteen years ago aren't there.

So the actual content can be a bit of a mixed bag. It seems like a lot of the not-produced-by-Netflix content is just Bollywood movies and Korean dramas. Sure, that stuff has its audience, but how many people in Australia are actually watching that stuff?

But this is a fairly minor gripe against an otherwise good service. Netflix does provide a good range of original shows, many of which are of pretty good quality. And, unlike some of the shows on YouTube Red, you know that there's some quality control people around instead of the decisions being made solely based on who's currently popular.

IMDB

IMDB

7/19/18

I think this site was a lot better when the forums were there. Now, it's difficult to tell if a movie has any sort of cult following even if the score's a bit low (like with Drop Dead Fred) unless it's a movie that's notoriously bad (like Troll 2, The Room, or Sharknado). While there still are the reviews, it can be difficult to gauge how much of a following there is for a movie based entirely on IMDb reviews.

Beyond this though, the site is incredibly helpful. It's definitely been a good guide for me to find new movies I hadn't considered watching before in the past, and it continues to be this way for me to the present day. Generally though I think the best way to treat the user scores is as a general guide to whether or not people like the movie rather than as a factual reflection of the movie's quality, as it's quite easy for a movie to get onto the Top 250 within a couple of weeks of being released.

GMX

GMX

3/27/19

I think there's some tiers to email servers. At the top, there's stuff like Gmail that generally have a reputation for being fairly secure, and then there's some of the B-team servers like Outlook, Yahoo, etc. that aren't always the most secure sites or try to integrate weird features that don't add anything to the user experience.

The bottom tier would be stuff like GMX which are barely passable as throwaway accounts. I can see someone using GMX maybe if they wanted an email account to set up an account somewhere that they were only planning to use for a week or two.

While it takes less than a minute to sign up for a GMX account, there are certain benefits to having a backup email address ready for these accounts. Hell, there's even a reason why you'd want to have a phone number attached to your email address. But none of this matters here because GMX doesn't really give a $#*! about your account security.

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.

Christian Forums

Christian Forums

3/25/19

People complain about the mods and admins of Christian Forums banning people who disagree with Christianity. To be quite frank, I'm not entirely sure what people expect from a forum like this--it's literally a forum for Christians to discuss Christianity. There should be no real expectation that this would be an open forum for debate with non-Christians.

While there are places on the forums set up for debating theology, I think the trouble is that these kind of discussions have to be moderated quite heavily. Due to the personal nature of religion, it's extremely difficult for many people to debate it as merely an intellectual thing. For many, their religion isn't just an intellectual exercise, it's a part of their identity: their church life is a part of their identity, or their lack thereof is a part of their identity.

Maybe the mods could do things differently when it comes to these discussions, and maybe the standards should be more clearly communicated. This has always been an issue with the social internet, though: community guidelines and exactly where the line between acceptable and unacceptable input is rarely communicated effectively.

To some extent, it's difficult to do that, because ultimately it is a judgement call. However, I think how much criticism of Christianity will be tolerated on a Christian forum is one of the things that absolutely needs to have some kind of guidelines. But I think any kind of firm guidelines with clear examples of what is and isn't accepted won't go down well with non-Christians like myself due to the culture on these forums.

Culturally speaking, Christian Forums tends to be filled with the worst stereotypes of Christians. These are your Republican voters who think Jesus will be coming back in the next twenty years, the people who think they can pray the gay away, and the kind that have issues with a large chunk of secular culture.

But this is exactly the kind of person you would expect to be going to a forum like this. These aren't your culturally Christian people who might go to church once or twice a year or who are from some of the more progressive churches, these are the people who not only identify as Christian, but some have even mistaken their religion for a whole personality.

In light of this, the issues with the moderation when it comes to dissenting opinions aren't too surprising. If anything, they're to be expected.

Globalpenfriends.com

Globalpenfriends

6/26/19

Global Pen Friends has a few things going for it. The search function is easy to use, and it's relatively easy to find people from the countries you're interested in and who are in the general age range you're hoping for. Compare this to Interpals, a site that I've previously said (and continue to think) is the best site like this, where the search function can be haphazard at times.

The obvious downside to this site is that registration can be a little more time consuming than it is for other sites like this. Unlike with other sites where you can fill out your profile at your own pace and as you see fit, this site requires that you fill out something for just about every part of your profile straight away, and with a minimum number of characters filled.

That might be fine for someone who naturally has a lot to say about themselves, but it's not so great for people who might prefer to talk about themselves with other people as opposed to writing about themselves on a public profile. It doesn't help that the minimum number of characters for the "What you're looking for" field is 90. The statement, "I'm looking for penfriends from the United States of America" takes sixty characters, which I personally think would be fine as a reason for that field when you're first signing up. You're almost forced to follow it up with some low level joke like, "Oh, and for someone to scientifically prove that Tonight Alive isn't the best pop punk band ever created."

Once you've filled out the profile, it can take at least two hours, and they say profiles are usually registered within ten hours. Maybe they've had huge issues with spammers in the past that I don't know about, but this is still an incredibly slow sign up speed. With other sites like this such as Interpals, Students of the World, and Pen Pal World, the registration speed is faster--almost instant, in fact; you just need to click the link they email you and it's fine.

The only way to get around this is...to pay a premium fee. And that tends to be one of the common issues with sites like this: they'll do a couple of things really well, but then they'll follow it up with a thing that's either weirdly limited, or they'll want you to pay them money to get the additional features which are more or less standard in other similar sites.

While I understand the logic behind doing stuff like this, I don't think it's really a viable thing when you have sites like Interpals and, for school kids, Students of the World which offer every feature they have for a premium account. Surely a better solution would be to have certain aesthetic things you can put on your profile if you pay a donation or something, but otherwise have it as is.

The other big downside to this site is that it assumes you'll only be interested in a single culture. While they'll try to hide this by asking you to pick a continent rather than a country, this is still implicitly the case. What if you're interested in both German culture and Indian culture, for example? Well, the site assumes that's not going to be the case and doesn't seem to allow for it.

While the search function is great, I think it suffers from a few glaring issues in the registration process. Surely there's been a number of people who've been driven from the site just because they feel it takes a little bit too long for their liking.

Atheistfoundation.org.au

Atheistfoundation.org.au

4/2/19

The Atheist Foundation of Australia is one of those things I have mixed feelings about.

On the one hand, I agree there is a need for the organisation. Promoting a separation of church and state and advocating for a fact-based worldview on life are good things to be promoting and I think these things are ultimately beneficial to everyone, regardless of their beliefs and background.

On the other hand however, I believe the culture on the site's forums tends to be somewhat insular. Most of the forum's active users seem to either be moderators or admins at this point, and the forum activity seems to be pretty low.

I think a lot of this is just because online atheism is less popular than it was a decade ago. However, by the same token, I think it does the foundation in general a disservice because at times it has produced a culture which can seem unwelcoming to newcomers, even if they broadly agree with the political and philosophical leanings of the site.

It's a shame, because the Foundation probably would be able to do a lot more good for this country if it weren't for some of the excesses of its forum culture.

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.

Studentsoftheworld.info

Studentsoftheworld.info

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.

Kids in mind

Kids in mind

3/26/19

When I first heard about this site, I was expecting it to be the kind of site where they're passing some kind of moral judgement against every movie. This was not the case.

Instead they give each movie a score out of ten for each of three categories: one for sex and nudity, one for violence, and one for coarse language. So, essentially the three things that might make a parent reluctant to show a movie to their child.

They'll also give a list of every incident of these things happening on screen in fairly dry language. Consider this from their page on Kill Bill Volume One: "A woman bites a man's lip (or tongue, it's not clear) and pulls, he screams and falls onto the floor motionless, his face and chest are covered with blood, and she is covered with blood. We hear panting and moaning, pan onto a woman with a very bloody and bruised face and see her shot in the head. A woman cuts a woman's arm off: blood sprays and pours and the woman flails and screams..."

This is the kind of language used when they describe the violence they see on screen. It's dry, and it doesn't pass judgement on whether or not these things should be shown to children. It's left up to the parents to decide whether or not it's okay to show their kids this stuff.

At the end of these sometimes monotonous lists of every single violent, sexual, or foul mouthed incident, they'll provide a list of discussion topics related to the movie (presumably so a parent can talk to their kids about what they've just seen), and the general message of the movie. The discussion topic list for Kill Bill Volume One reads, "Respect, murder, mercy, revenge, changing one's life, death of parents."

So while this site could have quite easily have become just a shoehorn for someone to moralise about what a child should and shouldn't see, they seem to have largely avoided this. Instead, they've taken a much more common sense approach to what they're doing: they advise parents that a movie might be violent, sexual, and profane, but they also give a list of discussion topics so that parents can have the opportunity to use any movie as a learning tool to discuss serious issues with their kids.

Takethislife.com

Takethislife

3/22/19

Let's say you're somebody suffering from depression or a similar mood disorder. That's fine, it's more common than most people realise, and it's nothing to be ashamed of. You should see a therapist for it, though.

This is advice that most of the users on Take This Life are receptive to. Of the people I interacted with on the site, the overwhelming majority of them were seeing a therapist and had been prescribed medication. For them, these forums were a support group rather than anything else.

However, Take This Life should probably be taken as evidence that mental health support groups should probably have some kind of mental health professional or social worker heading things to keep them on track. Without it, the group will eventually plummet into a perpetual feedback loop of negativity.

That's essentially what's happened with Take This Life. While intended as a support group, many threads plummet into perpetual negativity. Everyone's situation is completely hopeless; everyone's fighting a war they're doomed to lose. It's a defeatist mindset that I'm not entirely sure is helping anybody on the site.

Perhaps this line of thought is completely accurate for some of these people. Perhaps for some, it really is this bad. However, one of the common symptoms of depression and other similar mood disorders is a sense of hopelessness. Of course any support group that is overwhelmingly populated by those suffering from this kind of mindset is going to end up like this if there isn't someone there dedicated to guiding some group discussions.

While sites that attempt to provide a more productive approach to the online mental health support group exist, to my knowledge many of them are sites like ReachOut which are aimed at a very specific demographic. There really isn't anything that can fill the gap for a depression support group that is guided by a mental health professional of some description.

The more cynical part of me suspects that this is impossible. With Take This Life in particular, there's over 32,000 registered users and about 130 active users. This is according to the analytics at the bottom of the site's home page. Unless there was a very strong, concerted, well funded effort to make a more productive counterpart to this site work, it probably wouldn't work.

Plus, let's not forget that a number of the people who'd be drawn to a site like this are drawn there because they don't want to have to deal with professional therapists for a while. Maybe that's fair enough.

I don't think that Take This Life stands alone in the criticism that there needs to be some kind of guiding force to support groups like this. Certainly the mental health subreddits are prone to the same sort of issues that you see on this site.

While the intentions of Take This Life are inarguably noble, I feel like there's a better way of doing this. Perhaps I'm being overly optimistic in thinking that could ever be the case, however.

(If you or anyone you know are contemplating suicide, please consider calling a suicide hotline.)

Kiwifarms.net

Kiwifarms.net

7/19/18

Kiwifarms is a set of forums that was originally based around Christian Weston Chandler (a.k.a. Chris Chan), but has since expanded to be about pretty much every unfortunate individual who constantly makes a fool of themselves online.

Because of this premise, the site can be seen as being a part of that weird underbelly of the internet. It's not necessarily as horrible as you might think, though--most people there no longer believe it's funny to troll Chris Chan, and a lot of the time they're protective of him in a way. As I write this, many users there are currently mad that a couple of people have been extorting money out of Chris.

The site is pretty intuitive for anyone who's ever used a forum before, so as long as you know a little bit about lolcows, you should be able to use them just fine. Just spend a little bit of time getting to know the culture on there before you post because otherwise you might end up looking like a fool.

While this is arguably one of the weirder parts of the internet, I think most of the people on there understand that in a perfect world, their forums wouldn't exist. I think for the most part, it's better to have these forums so someone can chronicle the bat$#*! crazy antics of the people they focus on.

I think as long as you're willing to accept the culture there, you'll be fine. Otherwise you'll never really fit in and probably should give the site a wide birth.

Au.reachout.com

Au.reachout

7/19/18

This site can be useful if you're looking for coping strategies for stressful times during your teen years, often the advice given on the site lacks the nuance or the awareness that sometimes there are no positive solutions to your situation.

It's a good thing that the site knows that it's not a replacement for actual therapy, as people on there will often tell you to seek psychological help if you're concerned about your well-being or showing signs that you should be.

During the couple of years that I frequented the site, the biggest drawback was that the forums would be redesigned every couple of years. Often they'd be hosted by a different site, so often you would have to sign up for a new forum account every two or three years once this happened. The last time I checked, they'd seemed to have seen the error of this practice though and have had the same set of forums since 2012.

Because this site is mostly aimed at people in their teens and their very early twenties, you'll often find that the people on there cycle out of the forums every couple of years. So while a large part of the forums hinges on the idea of there being this tight-knit online community, it often lacks a strong enough old guard for anyone to really believe this is the case.

Generally though, if you're in the site's target audience, this isn't going to be too much of a problem for you. But the people who run the site did find a way to skirt around the issue of there being no real old guard on the site: often the moderators and administrators are active in the community, acting as a guiding force for some of the more serious discussions on there. Some of the mods and admins seem to be from the same group of mods and admins that were around when I signed up for the site in late 2009 or early 2010.

Unfortunately, there's rarely enough nuance to the conversations for it to be worth using if you're hoping for any kind of in-depth understanding of the issues being discussed, or even for a perspective more nuanced than the high level of optimism that pervades the site.

E-palworld.co.uk

E-palworld.co.uk

3/21/19

A long time ago, this site tried to cover the same kind of niche that Students of the World covers. It was the e-pal site where the ads would let people contact you via email without having to put your email address up for anybody to see. The difference was that E-pal World was open to everybody while Students of the World was mostly catering to students.

In 2013 or 2014, the owners of the site made the decision to make the site more like a social networking platform. The new design of the site was something of an Interpals knock-off, if Interpals was done on even more of a shoestring budget.

This was a decision that made sense to some extent. The old design, much like the design Students of the World has almost always had, was perpetually stuck in the nineties.

However, the decision was a mistake. The new design wasn't much to look at, and it wasn't necessarily as user friendly as the previous iteration. It wasn't as user friendly as Interpals either, a site which I'd generally consider to be the gold standard for a site like this.

While the site was nothing special, I wanted to give it another try today. It seems like the site is down now, though there is still a listing for it on Google. Their Facebook page is still up as well, with a single status update from February 2014. That status is a simple description of what the site is, and seems pretty similar to the description of the service that was present on the site itself for a long time.

I think the mistake they made was that they wanted for the site to be more of a social media type thing. This wasn't necessarily why the people signing up for E-pal World wanted to use the service, though: some, especially Baby Boomers it seemed, were using the site because it gave them an excuse to use their email address. These aren't the same people who were hoping for a social media website--those people mostly go to Interpals, which was the case in 2013-2014 when the change was made as well.

I can understand the appeal of a decision like that, though. To some extent, you would hope that a huge change like that would help the site make money. However, I doubt even Interpals, with all of its regular users, would be making that much money in a year. With an epal/pen palling website, you're probably never going to be making huge amounts of money because it's such a niche interest.

YouTube

YouTube

7/22/18

YouTube is the biggest and most ubiquitous video sharing site on the internet available today. It's gotten to the point where there's no real way to compete with the site simply because it has enough money behind itself to always be improving itself.

The downside of YouTube being so ubiquitous is that it's almost impossible for there to be anyone competing with the site. It's just too expensive for anyone to really be doing that unless a major corporation decides to throw endless amounts of money at them.

Because of this and because there's always been issues with YouTube having to negotiate its way through the corporate hell of finding advertisers, the relationship between YouTube and the people who make a living from making content for the site has always seemed fraught. There's regularly some new scandal about a new YouTube policy or because they're enforcing the terms of service in a way people perceive as inconsistent, or because there's some issue with ad revenue.

I think YouTube's ubiquity kinda hurts it as well. Really the site's only recourse if an advertiser says there's too much offensive content on the site is to essentially say, "Sure, but at least we're not 4chan or a porn site." There's no option for them to say, "Yeah, but look at the company practices of this other site; this kind of thing is industry standard."

In terms of usability, YouTube is the gold standard of video hosting. There's probably never going to be another site that's quite as good as this one when it comes to ease of use. As much as people like to complain about the site being worse than ever before, I think in a lot of ways, it's much easier to use than it was in '08 or '09.

While the standards for what's considered monetisable content on YouTube has seemed to get stricter as the years have gone on, I think this is mostly because the site has grown more concerned over what's going to fly with advertisers as the years have gone on. As it stands right now though, there's still plenty of channels who are doing content about anything you can imagine and many are still able to find an audience.

Facebook

Facebook

12/5/18

A long time ago, I thought Facebook was great. This was in 2008-2011 when it was mostly just kids in high school and in university who were using it (I was 14 in 2008). But as it became more popular and more baby boomers and Gen Xers starting to use it, it started to go downhill as it slowly became more and more inundated with the most mind-numbing political memes and personal drama imaginable.

From a business perspective, having the site be as open and as accessible as possible makes sense. It's no secret that Facebook makes a whole lot of money from knowing everything about everyone. But from a personal level, I don't think it's worked out so great.

Social networking sites are often at their best when they have some kind of niche that they're geared towards. Reddit is a forum site that's geared towards having a lot of different communities talking about the things related to the theme of the subreddit. Tumblr is a social network made up of various fan communities and special interests as well, but in a microblogging/photo blogging kind of format.

But what does Facebook have going for it? It's the site for keeping up with old friends and with family members who live a long way away. It's a great idea on paper, and for the most part it has been a profitable one, but in reality, it turns out that if you let these people connect with each other in an online environment, they're mostly going to be sharing the most inane stuff imaginable. The people I thought were great once upon a time turn out to be the most annoying people.

Unfortunately, it's also socially required to have an account. Our culture assumes you're trying to hide something if you don't have a Facebook profile now, even if the reality is that you just don't want to know every passing thought of everyone you've met.

So I think it's one of those sites that would work better if it was mostly geared towards people who are/were still in school. Once the scope of the site expanded beyond that, the site began to spiral downhill.

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