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Over a year and a half ago I wrote a glowing review of a site to which I'm afraid to admit I gave much of my time to. Back then mingleville wasn't at its prime, apparently that time was previous to my membership, but it was a very good site and I was willing to sing its praises, citing as the negatives of the site the addictiveness and the rating system. Unfortunately the site has seen drastic changes including a relaunch and a new ownership. These both has the ability to transform the site from a small but good social networking site to a possible rival to the facebooks, myspaces and bebos of this world. However, they didn't.
Before I get into the worst of the site let me tell you a bit about it. Mingleville was born in South Yorkshire in about 2005, the work of one devoted programmer, it was sold in 2008 to a company called 3 Convert (http://www.3convert.co.uk/). Its basic function is as a social networking site, the majority of you will understand that this means users are allocated a space in which to create a profile, they can upload pictures, write a description of themselves and their interests, write a blog and upload videos. They can then use the features of the site including 'Browse', 'Forums' and 'Chat' to interact with other members with whom they can communicate over private mail messages or public guestbook messages displayed on the person's profile.
On arriving at the site it looks very clean. Before I compared it favourably to myspace, who at the time in my opinion had a amateur style, they have since cleaned up their site so it looks much smoother, at the same time mingleville has selected the blue colour scheme used by myspace (and also facebook) for its default. A change which upset many loyal users who had grown to associate the purple background with the site. They do however provide a selection of backgrounds for you to choose from, so you can have your site with the default blue, or a purple reminiscent of the last colour scheme, and a further three. These backgrounds can be swapped around as it takes your fancy.
Anyone over the age of 13 is allowed to sign up, although if you are aged 13-16 you will have slightly different use of the site, and if you are over 18 you are unable to view the profile of an under 16 year old. All you need to sign up is a valid email address; this will be required for your login. It's a simple enough process to sign up, and within no time you are the proud owner of a mingleville profile. Now you get to explore the features.
My favourite feature of mingleville was the forums. When I joined they had a loyal userbase of possibly about 50 forum regulars. The forums were lively with many busy threads created. One of the best things I found about the forums were that they lively and yet unlike the myspace forums of this world, there was a small enough userbase that they weren't clogged. Using the forums you got to know the other members, this did lead to a lot of in-jokes and gossip being included in some threads which was exclusive to members who weren't involved enough in the forums to understand these.
The forums have noticeably changed though. They're very easy to use, separated into small forums such as Relationships, Music and Balderdash (the latter being a forum dedicated to nonsense!), these in turn often have their own subforums, such as Sex talk in Relationships, a selection of musical genres in Music and many others. The option to make a new topic is clear, and within the current topics its easy to reply to the topic. When writing a new topic or reply to a current reply you use a similar form (the only difference being the option of creating a title for a new topic!) this is a well designed form. The forums are based on html code, however you don't need to know any of this to be able to use the form, as it is a wysiwyg (what you see is what you get) with all the options above (bold, italics, font style etc.) much as in Microsoft Word. But if you are a bit of a tech whiz and want to play about with the coding then there is an option to do this also.
The forums are the best-designed forums that I have come across on the internet. They are tidy, easy to understand and work well. The atmosphere of the
forums has changed in my opinion though. Before they were lively, fun and had you frantically pressing the F5 button!! Now they seem to be dulling, many of the older regular forumers have moved on, and while this is natural they haven't been replaced by newer members. In the past I have seen people bring up the explanation that forums have cycles of ups and downs, I have to say though that since I joined it has been going down and down and down. Last year I wasted hour upon hour in the forums, now its lost its appeal as nothing happens there.
Another popular feature of the site is the chat. I don't use this myself, though I have ventured in several times. I believe its just a basic piece of software created outside of the site and does feel the same as any other chat feature on any other website.
Say you don't feel like socialising with an unselected group of people you can use this browse feature to find someone more of your taste. Now this could be a search for someone you know by using specific info you know about them, e.g. 18, Tollington, Jessica, or a general look for people who fit in a profile, e.g. female, 17-23, Darlington.
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I've now given you an idea of the major features of the site, there are apparently more in development, but obviously I can't give you my opinion of them. Instead now I will move on to why I have fallen out of love with the site.
This summer the site relaunched as MinglevilleV3. This was a much anticipated update to the site, there was talk of it from when I first began to use the site, and eventually it arrived! The reactions to it weren't all that positive, several names that I recognised as previous heavy users of the site removed their profiles and haven't returned. This was mainly due I would say to people not liking losing what they knew, after years of devoting themselves to the site it drastically changed its image from what was an original looking site to a very generic style social networking site.
The site was taken over not long after the update. This wasn't smooth either, on the night of the takeover the ads were removed along with all the display pictures, a mistake that was rectified, but could possibly be seen as an indicator as things to come. Obviously the new owners were keen to make money out of their investment and tried several techniques for this. Their first was to replace the ads with other money making schemes, until they realised that perhaps there wasn't an alternative and now the site is overloaded with adverts, to the point where you can't have a screen without a huge, tacky looking advert flashing at you. They tried to introduce an adult verification charge, where users would pay a fee to be able to view adult pictures from other users on the site; this was met with huge objection and eventually the owners decided against the idea. Most recently they arranged a Mingleville Christmas party where users would buy a ticket to attend a party at a club in Sheffield (South Yorkshire being home to their biggest number of users), this was a hyped up event by the owners with talk of sell out tickets, coaches shipping people in from all around the country, and then earlier this week a small message informed users that the party was cancelled due to low ticket sales. All of these may be excused as mistakes of a new entrepreneur, or they could be seen as an indicator of poor management of the site!
Mingleville offers the basic features of a social networking site, and does this in a reasonable way. The site is easy to use, although there are currently regular updates and one day a button you were used to knowing the place of has jumped to a completely different position!! On the whole though it is a user-friendly site.
I wouldn't recommend it though; I would say stick with the bigger names, the facebooks of this world who offer far superior features. It almost upsets me to say this as a year and a half ago I was urging users to join, but it is now lacking what it had then, the friendly atmosphere of the site, it now feels like a generic, cold networking site. Before you could access anyone's profile (unless you were blocked by them) now many people have added the new 'friends only' option, while this can be positive, it is a move towards the likes of facebook and it removes what was once a friendly site, where you could have interesting talks with complete strangers! I made some good friends then!
Instead of mingleville moving towards other social networking sites (there has even been talk of music on profiles being introduced - hello myspace!!) I think the site should have worked on its own individual charm and developed that instead.
Maybe it is of little interest, but I noticed that according to the site with a current population of 134,088 users, this is only about 35,000 more than May 2007, not the biggest increase in users despite the huge changes, and I'm afraid this sums up the site for me. Not worth joining.
I ought to add that the site is in development and that there is the possibility that it will improve. Personally I will be removing my profile from the site and devote my precious student hours to Facebook!!
The original review from May 2007
It seems a while since I actually reviewed a product, since last September, so if I am a little rusty then I apologise, also, after three hours of English lit exams yesterday (also my 17th birthday) I'm very much in exam mode, I even wrote out a little essay plan!! [=
Anyway, as much as I'm sure you would love to hear about me and my life, this is not what you were expecting, and I probably ought to tell you about Mingleville. Over the years I seem to have collected a number of profiles on internet sites, it is the latest teenage fashion, interacting with over similar teenagers across the world, obviously it is not only limited to teenagers, but that is the acknowledged target audience. Over Easter one of my favourite sites, Bolt2 closed down, I had been known to spend hours on this site (not that I will admit to this outside of Ciao [= ) and losing it was tinged with a small bit of sadness, not too much though as I do have a life outside the internet, surprisingly enough!! But it was time to find a replacement and that is when I tripped over Mingleville. The first thing you notice about Mingleville is the way it looks, the theme is purple and looks nice, unlike MySpace which has a sort of thrown together look, Mingleville appears nicely constructed and pleasant to the eye. The general options are presented on little buttons at the top; Home, My Account, Browse, Chat, Forums, Shop and Logout. Then below this are the options for your profile presented also on little buttons; My Profile, My Blog, My Guestbook, My Pictures, My Videos, My Messages, My Buddies, My Ratings, My Points and My Settings. Below this are the features, which include random members, latest news headlines, new members, latest blogs, latest pictures and latest videos, good features which allow you to 'meet' more members, read their blogs and look at their pictures. Also in the top right corner is a feature I like, it gives the 'Population', which at the moment is struggling to reach 100,000, only a few thousand below, then 'Members Online' and 'Guests Online', I like this feature it's nice to know how many people are online, you can tell yourself you are not the only sad individual spending Saturday morning staring at a computer because you can't be bothered to get dressed and go out.
When you sign up to Mingleville like the rest of these sites you are awarded with a page on which you put your profile, this comprises of a number of questions you answer about yourself, you know the sort, Sexuality, Occupation, Hobbies & Interests etc. then you have your personal description, which is where you just write about yourself, you are also able to add a few pictures of yourself (there is a limit on this), videos (also a limit and have to be a certain file type) and blogs. The thing I like it that you can't use HTML code on this site so they don't look messy when someone has been messing around with instructions they don't understand, so at first you are unable to truly personalise your profile. However this will change, while you are on Mingleville you collect points, through ratings (I will explain later), the points lottery, being donated points and every so often Mingleville give you points, for instance I received 100 points yesterday because it was MY BIRTHDAY (don't you forget the date!!). So what do these points do? Well they allow you to 'upgrade' your account, you can pay for more picture slots, more videos, the ability to see people who have visited your profile, the ability to enable BBCode which lets you change your font types and the ability to change your profile's background, allowing your to change the colours, the background etc. and yet it still remains in the template of the Mingleville profile so doesn't look messy (unlike MySpace accounts). So apart from this profile, what else can you do? There are so many sites where you can have a profile, so what makes this one special? Well, I'll look at this through those buttons on the top of the page I referred to earlier, the general options, a quick reminder; Home, My Account, Browse, Chat, Forums, Shop and Logout. My Account - this merely allows you control of your account, the ability to change information in your profile, write your blog, look at your guestbook where other members can write public messages, read your private messages, look at your buddies (you buddies being other member who you have selected to appear in this list and they have agreed, I'm not big on the buddy thing and don't have any!!), your ratings (members are able to rate you out of 10, this is an easily visible option when you go on someone's profile. However it isn't a true representation and if you aren't awarded a 10 then obviously you are REALLY ugly!! And if you don't award someone 10 they will winge onto you about it then probably bare a grudge and it just gets nasty, so I don't bother with these) and your settings. On your settings you are able to change your personal details (town, name, country etc.), your privacy settings so only selected members can access your account, for example I don't allow members older than 25 to look at my profile, there are other options, changing time zones and stuff, the sort of things your usually find in settings, but there is also the option to change your Username which is a feature I like, if you cringe at your original username you no longer have to make a whole new profile you can just change your username, a feature which isn't usually available on these type of sites. You can also delete your account.
Browse - allows you to select groups of people who you would like to meet, e.g. male, 17-19, straight, single & looking - usually my search, this allows you to be really specific about who you want to meet which means you don't need to search through many accounts to get in touch with someone you like the sound of. If you aren't so fussed about who you want to speak to then there are options already there such as 'Online Members', 'Male Birthday Members' etc. Chat - gives you access to the chatrooms, which look nicely done, really well constructed, however I personally have never used them, so can't really give an opinion on them.
Forums - Mingleville has great forums, some of the best I have used, they are nicely presented and well moderated so no rubbish topics stay there long. I always like to check the forums, they are well separated into their sections and easy to understand. I like the way they are so well moderated, the moderators' presence is noticeable they regularly take part in the forums and only delete posts that are against the rules, spam, abusive, they don't just rule over the forums deleting anything they don't agree with, something I have witnessed in other forums, and as they are very much a part of the forums anything against the rules is quickly dealt with. Shop - this is where you go to spend your points on more photos, videos etc. I explained it all earlier.
Well I hoped you followed all of that and that my absence from Ciao hasn't meant I can no longer write reviews. So finally, do I recommend Mingleville, well if you are a MySpace user, or user of similar sites and are looking for another similar site but with a difference then yes. The site is friendly, the people who power it are very much involved in it and allow much interaction between them and you, it is also mostly made up of British people which makes it seem in a way friendlier than the likes of MySpace which have a definite American feel about them (does that make sense?) but even if you aren't British you will still feel welcome. There is something very friendly about the site, I know I have already used the world but it really is a friendly place, and really quite addictive. But on the other hand if you hate MySpace and other social networking sites, then steer clear, it's not going to be for you.