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First impressions about Side by Side from the community


A blog from LivingLife

Hello everyone, I was one of the lucky users to be invited to try the BETA Side by Side site which will be our new home by the summer! I was kindly invited by the team at MIND to write a blog post to share with you my first impressions and what you can do on Side by Side, plus what's planned!

I understand a lot of you will be anxious about the new support site, (especially during these turbulent times in the world), I was very anxious too! I have to say though, now I've had a good look at the BETA site, I feel very re-assured and want to help put some of your worries to rest too and share with you what the new site looks like. (All images are what the current version of Side by Side looks like and the website could change).


Homepage

What a welcome, refreshed design the homepage is once you have signed in and completed the set-up process. The new primary colours of Side by Side are yellow and purple, and these colours are reflected throughout the site. The homepage is modern and sleek and has your notifications and PMs in the top right-hand corner, as well as a search button and a link to your profile. As similar to Elefriends, the MIND team post and pin any announcements at the top of the page. The elephant might be back at home, but the MIND team have taken over and it gives you a much more personal feel to the site – the team are much more upfront about how many moderators there are and gives you a better understanding of the moderating process.


Share your story

Side by Side has kept the best features of Elefriends that we all know and love. The MIND team really encourage you to introduce yourself to the community.


Add interests

On Side by Side, you are now able to add your interests as 'tags'. This is a much welcome addition and makes it a lot easier to see on user's profiles what interests and hobbies they have and things you have in common. I really like this feature and the team have introduced this feature in a simple way.


Mental health experiences

This is one of my favourite new features on the BETA site. You're now also able to add your mental health experiences as tags too, but you don't have to! Similar to interests, users will be able to see what other user's mental health experiences are and you can connect with people who have similar experiences.


Conclusion

These are only just a few screenshots of the new site and are subject to change. There are many more features to be added such as the ability to 'snooze' certain users, as well as react to posts. Side by Side is only in its very first stage, and there are some bugs and errors, but this is to be expected in BETA mode. I am assured that the MIND team will not release the site until the website is fully functional.

I wanted to write this blog to assure those users like myself who were worried about the new site that it is similar, it's the same style – same features we all love and use, but better, more modern and reactive on both mobile and desktop. I can't wait to see Side by Side progress and I would like to thank the MIND team for giving me the opportunity to be able to use the BETA site and write this blog post.


- LivingLife


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A blog from Hermy

Having been lucky enough to get the chance to test out the new Side by Side site this past week, I'm here to share my experiences with everyone back on Elefriends.


Things I love so far...

1. The basic layout is exactly the same as Elefriends.

  • I know a lot of people are worried about the switch to Side by Side being a massive change and finding it hard to get to grips with new technology. I'm pleased to say that all the core features of Elefriends (including the main wall, your profile page, and private messages) are exactly where you expect to find them on Side by Side.
2. The appearance.
  • I personally loved the new colour scheme. I've always found the bright yellow of Elefriends a bit in your face, whereas the more purple base of Side by Side is a lot softer and easier on the eyes. Even small details like having round profile pictures and a relaxed font really add to this soft effect.
3. It looks great on mobile.
  • I really like the way the new site looks on mobile platforms, which is something I was a bit worried about given that this site won't be turned into an app like Elefriends. It was easy to navigate to it from a shortcut on my phone's home screen and I thought the banners and everything worked well.



4. Being able to say why you're posting and what sort of responses you're looking for.

A great new feature on Side by Side is being able to tell people what the aim of your post is. When scrolling through the feed this really helps you to know what kind of responses other people are looking for. You can also add tags to your posts much more easily than on Elefriends as well. Both are entirely optional, so if you don't want to use these features, you don't have to


5. Being able to add Experiences and Interests to your profile.

When you first sign up to Side by Side you have the option of selecting which mental health issues you struggle with and what some of your personal interests are. This will then show on your profile and is really useful for seeing what things you have in common with other users. You can also edit these later on if you don't want to do it at the start and again, they're entirely optional


Things I'd like to see...

1. Reactions.

  • We've been assured that by the time Side by Side opens properly there will be the “Like", “Thinking of you", and “Hear you" reactions buttons that we're used to having on Elefriends. The absence of these was quite noticeable in the beta version and meant that some posts didn't get responded to, so I'm glad these are going to be re-introduced.

2. Snooze or Block function.

  • There have been whisperings of a new “snooze" function (similar to that found on Facebook and Instagram) and there is already the option of “snoozing" private messages on Side by Side. I personally think that having more control over which users you see and interact with would go a long way towards making the new Side by Side site feel safer than Elefriends.
3. Separate feeds or the ability to filter out triggering posts
  • Side by Side does not currently have the My Feed function that Elefriends has and it's not yet clear whether there will be separate feeds (such as a feed for pictures or videos). I would also love to see a function whereby you can select personal triggers and the site filters out posts containing those triggers from your feed, but I'm not sure how technologically viable that would be!
4. More sense of community.
  • Since Side by Side lacks the Elephant and the concept of “Elefriends" and the “herd", I feel there needs to be some kind of substitute for this to maintain the sense of community that we have on Elefriends. Some people began calling each other “siders", but that word sounds a bit odd to me and I can't stop hearing it as “ciders"! I wonder if we as a community can come up with a good alternative together.


Final Thoughts...

It was clear that Side by Side is still a work in progress and there are a lot of technical bugs for the developers to sort out, but overall I really liked it and think it has a lot of potential. The technology seems a lot more flexible than on Elefriends so hopefully that should allow them to bring us some of the new features that we've been asking for and ensure that the site continues to move forward along with the community that uses it. I'm really looking forward to seeing what it looks like when it's all finished and ready to go!


- Hermy



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A blog from WeMakeSense

I had the chance to test Mind's new Side by Side for a couple of days. It is similar to Elefriends but different. The technical platform seems to allow more features but for the first test with users from Elefriends, there were only some basic features running to test stability.

I needed some days to get used to Side by Side, mainly because of the layout but this had also happened when I had joined Elefriends years ago. You have a main feed, lovely round shaped profile pics and a helpful 'Mind_team' who are personal and not distant as a handler of an imaginary animal. Yes, they are restricted with everything because they are not trained counsellors but they are to keep watching the rules, which are good rules and working well on Elefriends. I know there was always a moaning, but I feel ok with them.

You can flag posts to the 'Mind team', and also PMs, and you can also Snooze PMs of users, when they have sent you a message, you do not like, and you do not want to get any further messages. You can also turn off Private Messages completely. You get notifications for new comments and they are grouped, when there are more than only one. I like that because that focus you on themes and posts.


We had so far a main wall and a personal wall. You can share your story on your personal wall in your profile. You can also choose to display your mental health experiences with buttons for example 'PTSD' and also your interests for example 'creativity'. The main wall is like on Elefriends but with live streaming, that means you do not have to refresh when a new post arrives. That makes reading while scrolling difficult but as I understood are the technical elves are looking into it.



I found it easier to go to a wall of a user and to write there when I wanted to comment. You can search for users on the main wall and also in your own list of PMs. That is a helpful feature for me.

All in all, I did find that talking with people on Side by Side nearly the same and more patient and less stressful. I hope that this will be a good fresh start after sorting out initial bugs and I'm sure it is valuing our roots on Elefriends very much.

My main message to all is, we can make Side by Side alive, when initial bugs are sorted out. We can hold on to the spirit we have developed for years, how we gently care and support each other to go on and recover, when life is tough and demanding. Please remember that we need to support each other to be open to change, when life is a challenge and times are demanding.


- Wemakesense