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Side by Side: Frequently Asked Questions

What is Side by Side and why are you creating it?

Side by Side is our new online community where you can feel at home and connect with others who understand what you're going through. We're introducing this new platform to create the best possible online community for anyone with experience of a mental health problem.

We've managed Elefriends since 2013 and from the research we've done, we know it's not perfect. We heard from our community that there are lots of good things but also areas we could improve on as well.

Specific improvements around features to help personalise your experience, put you in control of who you interact with, and also the way people perceive the identity of the Elephant and our moderators are all things that we've had lots of feedback about.

Our community has been growing rapidly and we want to support you all in the best way that we can, but there's only so much our technology can do. We're proud of what Elefriends has achieved but in order to make the changes we need a new platform and that's what we've created.

Side by Side will keep all the things you've told us you like the most about Elefriends, as well as new features to help you get the most out of the community.


Why is the Elefriends brand changing?

While we're improving the community to give you the best experience possible, we're also taking this opportunity to give the new community a fresh new look and feel.

We learnt from you that the Ele doesn't always hit the mark. Sometimes he seems a bit too childish, or that our moderators can come across as a bit robotic.

We've taken all of this on board and making Side by Side as easy to use as possible. We're making it look more like Mind too, because we're proud to be a part of this important charity and want to help you make the most of the information and services it provides.


Why are you not building on the existing site?

We're proud of Elefriends and what we've achieved. However, the digital world moves fast and in order to make the changes you've asked to see, we need to introduce a new platform and new technology.

We've taken our time over this decision to make sure it's the right one, and have been guided by Elefriends and Friends in Need members. Everything you see in Side by Side will be there as a result of talking to you. This is your community and it's important to us that it's designed and shaped by you.


What new features are going to be on Side by Side?

As we get closer to Side by Side launching, we want to make sure we're communicating openly and honestly with you about any future developments or changes. Right now, we can tell you Side by Side will include new benefits which will be developed throughout the beta phase to:

  • Give you more control over who you interact with through private message requests and a snooze feature.
  • Help you find connections and conversations through selecting your interests and celebrate the brilliant support that happens on the community.

Please stay tuned for some more updates very soon!


Is there going to be a block button?

Through hearing from you through our research, we know you wanted more control over who you interact with whilst also making sure the community is a supportive place to be.

We've explored different features in order to deliver this and we're excited to tell you that we will be developing both private message request functionality and a snooze feature as part of Side by Side.

Once built, these features will allow users to control whose posts they see on the main wall and also have control as to who they start a private message conversation with.

We are confident that this will deliver on what you as members have asked for while also maintaining a supportive and safe site. We will continue to test out these features as the new site gets up and running to make sure they work as expected.


Is there going to be an app?

The new site is going to be mobile responsive. This means that although it will not be downloadable from the app store, the site can adapt to be used on smaller screens such as tablet or mobile.

The technology behind the app hasn't always delivered the best experience. We heard from you that the app would often experience freezing or have inconsistencies with the desktop version. That's why we made the decision to make Side by Side mobile responsive, as we know we can create a better and more consistent experience for our users.

You can still have the site appear as an app by saving the link to the site onto your phones desktop. To do this, start by accessing the Side by Side homepage. You can then click the icon that shows an arrow pointing out of a box at the bottom of your phone or tablet screen. You will then have the option to save the site to your phone's desktop.


What is going to happen to my data?

We understand that for some people having a copy of what they've contributed to the community is important to keep record of. We looked into all of the options for migrating various levels of data across to the new site, but unfortunately the security issues involved in this work were really complex and too high risk.

Don't worry though, we've created a new feature on Elefriends to easily allow you to download the posts on your profile and we'll be giving you time to do this before we move over to the new community. We've put together some steps below that you can follow to save your data.

  • Keeping posts - you can easily do this by heading to your profile and select the 'download my posts' option under your profile picture
  • Personal Details - you can access, amend and copy this information through the Edit Profile button on your homepage
  • Other information - you can find out more about how Mind collects and uses its data here: https://www.mind.org.uk/legal-info/privacy-policy/


How do I keep my connections?

We understand how important the support you've received through the Elefriends community is. We want you to be able to keep talking to friends you've made on our communities if you choose to join Side by Side.

We'd encourage you to use your Elefriends username when you sign up to Side by Side so you can be easily found. However, due to the new security features on Side by Side, usernames will be restricted to a minimum of 3 characters and a maximum of 20 characters.

When we're ready to launch the new platform, Elefriends will be running alongside Side by Side for 2 weeks, so you'll have time to message your friends on Elefriends to let them know your new username on Side by Side.

We're here to make this process as easy as possible and you can email sidebysideonline@mind.org.uk for advice on maintaining your support network.


When will Side by Side open and when will Elefriends close?

We were hoping to launch Side by Side in May 2020, however after going live, a number of bugs resurfaced and we took the site offline. We will continue to work on Side by Side over the coming weeks to understand what has happened, listen to the feedback shared and to make things better for you and others. We're hoping to relaunch Side by Side at the end of June / early July, however these timelines may change and we'll keep you updated on our main Ele post with official launch dates.

We understand how important the support provided through Elefriends is, and we want to reassure you that the community will continue while Side by Side is getting up and running. There won't be a time where you'll be without access to peer support.


I thought Side by Side was a programme in 2014 with local Minds?

In 2014, a two-year programme was launched in collaboration with nine local Minds to improve access to peer support across England which was also called Side by Side. You can read more about the programme here. This programme ended in 2016 but there are 14 projects still running with that name. We hope that this new online community will be a great additional support to those groups and the many other peer support groups that we work with.


I'm really worried about the change, can you help?

We can understand this change feeling scary and overwhelming, particularly as we haven't shared much about what the new community will look and feel like. We want to reassure you that Side by Side will be similar to Elefriends. We understand how important it is to keep what you as the community like most about Elefriends.

When we launch, we want to get your feedback on the new platform to allow us to shape it based on your input. We have lots of possibilities to build new features and it's important to us that you're involved to help us get it right and create a community that really does work for you.

If you are concerned or worried about the changes, drop us an email and we can talk this through with you. We really want to support you through this as best as we can.


What happened during the Beta Testing phase?

Over 1500 of you signed up to take part in our beta testing phase. We were able to randomly select 250 of you to take part and we want to thank you to everyone who took part in our beta testing phase of Side by Side and also to those of you who shared your feedback with us on Elefriends.

We really appreciate your feedback and support in helping us develop the new community. This beta testing phase was incredibly valuable for us to see how you were using the site, how you interacted with features and helped to test our assumptions. We've been developing this platform for quite a while, so although it wasn't quite finished, it was important to us that you had a chance to use it, test it and help us find the bugs.

We're excited to be able to share some blogs from some wonderful community members, who wanted to share their first impressions of Side by Side, which you can read here.

Since beta, over the last few months, we've working behind the scenes to listen to your feedback, create new features, fix bugs and make Side by Side the best it can be.


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When can I register for Side by Side?

When we're ready to launch, we will send you an email and also post on Elefriends with the link to Side by Side to register for an account.


Can I log in to Side by Side using my Elefriends username?

You won't be able to use your Elefriends username to log in to Side by Side. You will need to set up a new account.


If I took part in the Beta testing phase, will my username be saved on Side by Side?

I'm afraid if you took part in the Beta testing phase, your username won't be saved and you will have to register again.


Can I use Side by Side if I live outside of the UK?

Yes, you'll be able to login and use Side by Side if you're living outside of the UK.

If you are based outside of the UK, please be aware our signposts might not be relevant to where you are living as we are a UK organisation, however, we will do our best to help you find support.


Will Side by Side be free to use?

Yes, Side by Side will be free to use and we have no plans to make it a paid service.


Will there be a 'my feed' feature on Side by Side like there is on Elefriends?

We're speaking to our developers about the possibility of adding in a 'My Feed' feature to Side by Side. It's a tricky feature to build and unfortunately, it won't be on Side by Side when we launch. However, we have the ability to build new features with the new platform and we're hearing lots of you would like to have this on Side by Side. We've added it to our list of features to build and it's something we will look to have on Side by Side soon. It's really great your sharing your ideas, please do keep sharing them with us and letting us know what you think. Side by Side is your community and we want to do what we can to make it the best place for you to get support.


Will the wall be a live feed?

At the moment it is a live feed, however we're working to improve this and make changes as we understand this is going to make it difficult reading comments and reaching out for support. We are working with our developers and will have an update for you on this soon.


Can we pre-register our usernames for Side by Side?

I'm afraid you won't be able to pre-register your username on Side by Side. We're hearing many of you are worried about your usernames being taken and we want to reassure you that Elefriends members will have priority when signing up.


Can posts be viewed by unregistered members?

Similar to Elefriends, everyone will have to register for an account to view the posts made on Side by Side.


Why can't we migrate everyone's data across to Side by Side?

We did a huge amount of work and risk assessing with our compliance, safeguarding and tech teams on this one. We looked at all the options and unfortunately migrating the data to the new platform is not possible. It's built on a completely new technology and has new security features. Even though Side by Side will have the same features like a main wall, reactions, private messages, profiles etc, they're built behind the scenes in different ways. There were also the issues with permissions and sharing of data, for example just because one person might be happy for their posts and associated comments to be moved across, might not mean that a previous person who commented would be too, as they might want to make a fresh start on the new site. We understand this is really difficult, and it's a decision we worked hard to solve. We're going to keep looking at how we can help you download your own posts and we'll keep you updated.


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I didn't receive an email about Side by Side, how do I get one?

We're sorry you haven't received an email. Make sure to check your 'junk' inbox and if you still haven't received an email, reach out to us at sidebysideonline@mind.org.uk. It's possible there's been some technical issues or a delay in it reaching you, so we'll be sure to send it to you again.

We'd also encourage you to update your email address on Elefriends to make sure we've got the right email to email you our important updates.


Who can I contact if I have any questions or feedback about Side by Side?

If you have any questions about Side by Side, you can email sidebysideonline@mind.org.uk. Any questions are welcome, we're here to help! We'll aim to get back to you within 5 working days.


[last updated 08/06/2020]