The Librarian in Black has a write-up comparing Plugoo and Meebo, two IM widgets that allow users to chat with you from a web page without the need for IM accounts or clients. She says she’s still a MeeboMe girl, and with good reasons. I’ve tried both of them, and while they both offer good features, I think the Meebome widget has the most useful features. Here is my rundown of the two offerings:
- Meebome allows you to chat with more than one person at a time. Plugoo does not. Last night I actually simultaneously chatted with three business students using my Meebome widget from the Biz Wiki. This would not have been possible with Plugoo.
- Plugoo has only two sizes that you can choose from, a small and a smaller. The Meebome widget allows you to customize your widget on the Meebome widget page, or you can tweak the size by hand when you embed the widget in your page.
- I like the fact that Plugoo will send the IMs from the widget directly to your IM account, so you only have to have remember to log in/log out/change status in one messenger. I still use Trillian as my primary messenger, as I think it is a little more robust than Meebo. This means that I have to remember to change my status/availability in Meebo manually, since it does not automatically detect my availability when I set my screensaver or go idle. I’m getting better at remembering to change my Meebo status when I leave my desk. With Plugoo, since it is tied to an IM account, the availability is automatically changed when the IM account’s status is changed, regardless of the IM client.
- I love that Meebo had recently added customizable status/away messages. Also, if you select the “Edit Status” menu, you can actually save a customized away message. As an example, I have a saved message for Mondays which states, “I’m working tonight and am out for the afternoon. I will be back 6-10.” This allows users to see my availability and know when I’ll be back in the office. As it turns out, I get a lot of traffic during my Monday evening shifts. Last night I had 5 students use the Meebo widget to contact me while I was working the reference desk.
In closing, both products offer some really cool features, and I don’t think you can go wrong either way. Both widgets will allow librarians to better help patrons by giving them a convenient, easy-to-use communication mechanism right that can be embedded anywhere in a library’s web site. Both of these products are fairly new, which should get us all excited about what might be available to us in the future.
Cerulean Studios is developing Trillian 4.0, which they are calling Astra. It looks like they are trying to incorporate everything except the kitchen sink in the new project, but the project tour and the Sneak Preview look very interesting. I’ve used Trillian for quite some time, and am still a big fan of the product. I imagine that services like meebo are beginning to lure some folks away from Trillian and other multi-protocol clients like Gaim, but I find that while meebo is quite cool, it is not as robust as I need for an everyday IM client. Meebo only allows for text conversations, and I do have the occasional need to send files and use the audio chat feature. As an example, I once helped a student edit his web page by sending the text file back and forth with file transfer. Where meebo wins is that it allows me to access my buddy list and use IM from anywhere. So I can log on at Mom’s house over the holiday break and IM my co-workers if needed, all without needing to download a client. Also, I am very fond of the meebome widget which allows users without IM accounts to contact me. I log into meebo every morning just to enable the widget, and I’ve actually had quite a few people contact me via the widget. I use Trillian for my other IM accounts as it remains my IM app of choice in the office and at home, and I will be very interested to see how Astra develops.
A couple of colleagues are using meebo as method to “Talk to your librarians.” They’re using the meebo widget which is displayed prominently on the Communications Blog and on both of their contact pages (here and here). I’ve had the meebo widget on my Business Blog for a couple of months now, and I’ve actually had a few people contact me that way. I’m hoping that my colleagues’ widgets really take off, and I am very much encouraged by their pioneering effort in offering this new service. I’ll try to post more on this later as the service grows.
TechCrunch has a list of “big ideas emerging in web instant messaging as it stands today and the services that exemplify them.” The list is available here, and is worth a read of libraries who are using or might want to use IM.
A colleague of mine just told me of a very positive experience that she had in an instant messaging transaction last week. A patron had contacted her via our IM reference service and was needing to find financial ratios for hypermarkets in France. This sounded like a pretty tough business question, and unfortunately I’ve been out for the past two weeks, so I wasn’t around to offer any in-person assistance. However, my colleague searched the Biz Wiki for ratios and found where I had suggested a few resources. She wound up using Mergent Online to help the patron find what he/she needed. I was so pleased that my colleague was able to find the answer to the rather tough question by using the Biz Wiki. It really is very rewarding to see that using a wiki as a research guide continues to work, and I continue to be amazed at how patrons and colleagues are using the resource.
After my colleague helped the patron find the answer, the patron informed her that it was 11:00 where he/she was, and that it was time for bed. My colleague questioned this, as this transaction took place during normal business hours. As it turns out, the patron was studying in France this quarter, which explained the time difference. Despite the distance of time and space, the patron was able to get help with his/her information need via our IM reference service. This is yet another way that technologies are making the world a little smaller. Because my colleague was available via IM, it did not matter if the patron was in Paris (France) or Athens (Ohio). The librarian was available to help via a service that was accessible and familar to the patron.