Playing with WIMZI Widget

Paul Pival points to the new AIM WIMZI Widget. From first glance it looks pretty sweet. I currently use Trillian to connect to my IM screennames, for a variety of reasons. I also use the Meebo widget on the Biz Wiki and on my Business Blog. I probably get about 20 questions a week via the Meebo widget, and about 15-20 IM questions( mostly AIM), so both modes of communication have been very successful. Unfortunately, I often have a hard time remembering to change my availability in meebo when I step away from my computer, so patrons often try to contact me when I am in fact away from my desk. Since the AIM WIMZI connects directly to my AIM screenname, I simply have to change my availability in Trillian (or hit CNTRL-ALT-DEL) to make both my IM and the WIMZI widget read “unavailable.” I love Meebo, but AOL has me strongly considering jumping to to their new widget. I’ve embedded a widget below to tinker with the thing. After a little testing, I’ll have a better idea of how stable the widget is.

So why don’t I just switch to Meebo for all of my services? Well, Trillian has Meebo beat in a number of areas:

  1. Trillian allows me to send files over IM.
  2. Trillian allows me to configure my notifications. Meebo’s notifications are still a little weak, as the little ding is often very hard to hear.
  3. I can do audio and video chat over Trillian.
  4. I like how Trillian does different tabs for simultaneous IM transactions. For me, it makes things a little less cluttered.

Meebo wins by letting me access IM from anywhere. However, when I am mobile, I generally use IM on my Treo 700P, not the web. Since my primary place of using IM continues to be my office desktop, I still prefer the more robust features of the Trillian desktop client. On another note, I’ve signed up for the Trillian Astra alpha test, so hopefully I’ll hear something about that soon, assuming I am chosen. I’d love to put the new Trillian through its paces.

Plugoo versus Meebo

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:

  1. 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.
  2. 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.
  3. 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. 
  4. 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. 

Trillian Astra to “change your Web”

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. 

Talk to your librarians

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. 

Extending a Librarian’s Reach

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.

Librarians and IM Survey

Michael is conducting a survey of librarians and IM.   It took me all of two minutes to complete, so if you use IM (or not) for personal, professional, or reference purposes, take a couple of minutes to fill out the survey.   He’s “interested to see how many librarians are using IM at their desks to commiunicate with colleagues and as a reference point.”   I’m interested as well, and I look forward to the results of the survey.

IM Usage Growing

From a Computer World article, instant messaging is growing in the U.S. The article is a synopsis of a survey done by AOL. The article points that IM usage is growing, and not just among college students and teens. The article explains that IM usage in the workplace is becoming more common. According to the survey:

Fifty-eight percent of at-work instant messaging users now send IMs to communicate with colleagues, while 49% use IMs to get answers and make business decisions and 28% use it to interact with clients or customers. Twelve percent of at-work IM users have used it to avoid a difficult in-person conversation.

Twenty percent say they currently enjoy, or would like to try, making live voice calls to other computers, landlines and cell phones directly from their IM service. Another 12% say they would be interested in an IM-based voice-over-IP (VoIP) service that could replace their primary household phone line.

In Seattle, 47% of at-work IM users are most likely to say things in an instant message that they wouldn’t document in an e-mail message.

More than three in four at-work IM users, 77%, said that instant messaging has had a positive impact on their work lives. In addition, 25% of at-work IMers say that instant messaging enables them to check in on their children during the workday, providing them with greater peace of mind.

While the article states that IM usage is growing, it would probably become a more widely used communication tool if more people were aware of others’ screen names. One way to make more people aware of IM as a communication option is to put your screen name on your business cards. According to the survey, “among those who use instant messaging for business purposes, 13% say they have their IM screen name printed on their business cards, while 6% say they write it on the business cards they exchange.” Is your IM on your business card?

Link via Resource Shelf.

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