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.