Sunday, June 6, 2010

Widgets for Individuals vs. Queues: A Change

Since LibraryH3lp started, we've handled widget chats differently based on whether they were for an individual librarian or for a queue. Specifically, chats for queues had a number of special features:
  1. they could be transferred;
  2. files could be shared between librarians and patrons;
  3. the patron's IP address and referring URL displayed to librarians in the webchat client;
  4. queues could have profile pages viewable via the webchat client; and
  5. transcripts could be stored in the admin site, with statistical reports also available.
Chats for widgets pointing to individual librarians lacked all of those features.

This often led admins designing chat services to create a queue for each of their librarians, with exactly one librarian assigned to each queue. This way, chats targeted to those librarians would have all the extra flexibility associated with queues.

This practice has become especially prevalent in service rollover models, where chats are routed to a subject expert, if available, but will fall over to a general reference service if the expert is not available. With their very own queue, the subject expert could transfer their patron to another librarian or to another queue as needed.

That workaround was fine, but it created extra work for the local admin, and it increased the overall confusion level.

Today, we rolled out a series of fundamental behind-the-scenes changes that blur the line between individuals and queues where widget chats are concerned. Now, widget chats for individuals:
  1. can be transferred;
  2. will display patron's IP and referring URL in the webchat client; and
  3. allow file sharing between patrons and librarians.
There is still more work to do to further integrate this change into the admin site. Profile pages, transcript storage and statistics for individual widgets will become available in a later update.

A very important point: this change is only for chats using widgets. Direct IMs between librarians via the buddy list remain and will continue to remain private. They cannot be logged or transferred. Individuals should be buddied as user@libraryh3lp.com.

We'll be updating the docs to reflect this change. In the meantime, the preferred syntax for creating widgets for individuals AND queues is:

http://libraryh3lp.com/chat/whatever@chat.libraryh3lp.com

The old widget syntax for individuals (http://libraryh3lp.com/chat/user@libraryh3lp.com) will continue to work.

We know it can be confusing for our existing users when we change fundamental concepts, but LibraryH3lp continues to be an evolving system undergoing improvements. This change should make life easier overall, especially for new users. We do not think that the change will break any existing code, and we hope that most librarians will welcome the new functionality.

2 comments:

Josh said...

If I want to put widgets on the staff pages of about 10 librarians, and I want to be able to get stats on those widgets, at this point in time I should create queues for each, right?

Pam Sessoms said...

Hey Josh,

Yep, you've nailed it.