Posted by: Emily | September 10, 2008

Pidgin for chat reference?

My new library is looking into switching from a proprietary library chat client to Meebo, the free web-based service famous for the cute and handy widget that lets you embed your chat service where it’s needed most, sometimes right there in your OPAC. I was looking into something similar at my old job, so was excited to think I might pick up the same project in a different environment. But here’s my question:

The library really wants a way for students to contact us using their own instant messenger accounts just by adding us as Buddy. I think this is a good idea; the MeeboMe widget still requires students to stop by our website, something they don’t really do in droves. Meebo doesn’t seem perfect for this. Unless students are using Meebo as their chat client, they’ll still have to come chat with us at the website. Right? I’ve seen libraries set up chat accounts across platforms, using the same handle, and that makes the most sense to me. Go where your users are, right? But how would I manage all those different accounts at once? Will I log into all of them at once at the Meebo site, at each individual site, or using a third-party program that brings them all together in one place? (Again with the collating; it’s in our blood, eh?) I’ve been poking around at platforms that can handle multiple chat accounts from a single log in, and Pidgin seems to be the one used the most. Does anybody have experience with this? Or with Digsby or Trillian?



  1. At work, I use the chat client embedded in Gmail, but that currently only works for g-chat and AIM.

    I prefer the sort of collating client, that let’s you put all these different accounts into one program. Since I have a mac, I use Adium, which works great. If you start chatting with someone, it has a little pull-down menu that lets you choose with which client you’d like to respond. I’d be happy to give you more information on my experiences with Adium, if you want. I believe Adium takes much of its cross-client chatting from Pidgin.

  2. Thanks for your insights! I looked at Adium, but this is a PC library, so that won’t work. (Though Adium for home use is now on my radar…)

  3. We’ve been using the Meebo widget for quite awhile and it’s been pretty successful. We’ve set it up so that it pops up in a bunch of places on our site. See:

  4. But wait. I think I confused myself. The whole deal with Meebo is that we can monitor multiple IM accounts at the same time, right? So is there a reason I’d want to do that via web-based Meebo rather than downloaded Pidgin?

    *confusing myself*

  5. I use Pidgin for my own myriad IM accounts and we use Meebo at Columbia for our AskUsNow chat service. The upside to Meebo is the widget that allows people to contact you even if they don’t have an IM account.

    I could just as easily use Meebo instead of Pidgin for my own IMing, and maybe I should. I guess one of the reasons I stick with Pidgin is that it’s open source, and I kind of think of it as more stable and free (as in beer) in the long run.

    I do think for a multiple operator service (i.e. you all share one screen name and log in at different times), Meebo might be superior. But as an individual, you might prefer Pidgin (or Adium, or whatever) because it’s more customizable and has more features.

  6. Thanks, Jenna, this is actually like the perfect answer. I’ve also discovered that my new office locks down staff computers like they’re television sets in a Motel 6. So the fact that we can all Meebo without relying on overburdened tech staff who rightly see ‘installing pidgin’ as less urgent than ‘getting the lab set up before the first instruction class’ is a huge–and final–sell.

  7. Another great thing about Meebo is that you can set up IM accounts through AIM or MSN and run them through Meebo, so users who have AIM accounts can still IM you through AIM, but it will appear in your Meebo chat window. We were using Trillian to collate our various IM accounts at the reference desk, but when we switched over to Meebo in mid-July, we could set up our preferences to incorporate all those previous accounts and the buddies that went along with them. So users who were accustomed to IM-ing us from their AIM buddy list saw no change. But users with no IM accounts anywhere could still chat through the convenient widget window. I include our buddy names on the Ask a Librarian page in case anyone wants to add us as a buddy:

  8. Does anyone add you as a buddy? What kind of numbers do you get? (And thanks for the link–I’ll show it off in my Meebo help session tomorrow!)

  9. We switched over to Meebo on July 15. July 1-14 we had 4 IM questions. July 15-31 we had 34. And we do get buddy requests. Now if I can just get my colleagues to remember to pay attention to incoming messages…

  10. That sucks about your computers being locked down. They do that at Columbia, too, but not at Barnard (yay!). I would find that incredibly frustrating and insulting. You’re a better man than I for your sympathetic attitude about the tech staff.

  11. Check my sympathetic attitude in three months–I think my graciousness may have an inverse-or-whatever relationship to my time in position…

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