When I first hit Beartopia after The A-List Bears To End All A-List Bears posted about helping with the launch, my very first impression was that it was designed like someone was trying to do a parody of Web 2.0 sites by redoing the least Web 2.0 kind of site, the adult hook-up bear site, as all the Web 2.0 way one possibly could.
See, I have been to a lot of adult-encounter sites, and I now have certain expectations of how that category should look: a little clunky, a little sleazy, a lot ugly. Beartopia totally drops that. No porn-stars on the front page, just guys in pictures that could almost be stock shots, even if one is shirtless in his garden and I know men would pay to watch him do porn. No huge bear paws, logos, cartoons, or everything beige. It is such a change I have to keep reminding myself Beartopia is for real instead of a design project meant to hit Digg's front page ironically, using Google maps and shared calendars and allowing you select friends for your profile in a social website way.
Here I was in the middle of a design office of Vodafone Germany, sitting at a huge table as German design weenie contractors were chatting and mulling around me in this open-plan office, typing in my profile info, on a page with luscious forest shots for backgrounds instead of hairy torsos, and sane typography on a single page instead of blue courier on sand in three pop-off windows that both make your eyes bleed and communicate to everyone you are up to 0 professionalism. Until I hit the 'Bears in My Area' results and opened profile headings. Yeah, it's the user-generated content that in the end makes an Encouters site an Encounters site, and this is immediately where I had to close the page in that office. Because Beartopia's users are men out for a good time after all, and God bless 'em for it.