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LibraryH3lp is software used by libraries, educators, and non-profits for better customer service.

Saturday, May 24, 2008

Plugin for Pidgin

Today we're releasing the first version of our LibraryH3lp plugin for Pidgin (Windows version). It has the following features:
  1. Displays the full roll-back of a chat to the recipient of a transfer.
  2. Repeats an incoming chat alert noise at a configurable interval in seconds until a librarian sends a message to the patron.
  3. Automatically approves incoming buddy requests.
  4. Automatically cleans up all those buddies that accumulate in your buddy list.
The first feature, showing the full history of a chat to the recipient of a transfer, is a very helpful time saver. It means the the librarian answering a transferred chat does not need to follow the "chat management" link in order to read the prior discussion between the patron and the first librarian.

The second feature, the repeating new chat alert sound, is especially handy for staffing models where it is not guaranteed that a librarian will be physically looking for incoming chats visually all the time. In my library's main chat service, we answer the chats on computers near, but not actually right at, the reference desk. We rely on sound alerts to let us know of incoming chats, and the looping sound prevents us from accidentally missing anything when the phone rings or we're away from the desk for a short time. It also lets staff nearby in their offices know when the desk is slammed and no one is immediately picking up a chat, so that we can pitch in on the fly to help out. You can set the repeat sound to suit your preferences: 60 seconds, 30 seconds, etc... Notes:
  1. The sound will not repeat for simple new responses from the patron once a chat is underway; it is limited to their initial message (see important configuration notes at the end of this post).
  2. If more than one computer with the plugin receives a chat because multiple librarians are signed into the queue in question, the sound will stop looping on all the computers when the first librarian sends a response to the patron.
The third feature, automatic approval of buddy requests, is useful for buddying other librarians who are staffing your services. This provides an easy method of librarian-to-librarian communication. To buddy another LibraryH3lp user, pick Buddies-->Add Buddy and enter the desired account. Example: If you're using other accounts besides LibraryH3lp accounts in Pidgin, be sure to buddy to the right one. The plugin should also auto-approve similar requests from other systems.

The last feature, automatic clean-up of guest accounts left by your patrons' chat sessions, is a nice housekeeping feature.

To get the plugin:
  1. Save the plugin's zip file from our wiki.
  2. Unzip and save the libraryh3lp.dll file in Pidgin's plugins directory (usually c:\program files\pidgin\plugins\).
  3. Enable the plugin in Pidgin at Tools-->Plugins.
  4. Click configure plugin and set the desired interval for the new message alert sound.
  5. Check Tools-->Preferences--Sounds and select message received begins new conversation. This is not turned on by default.
(Edited 26 May 2008 to reflect the automatic buddy clean-up feature.)
(Edited 16 Nov 2008 to generalize link to plugin zip file download.)


McIntyre said...

When you use this plugin, is it supposed to get rid of the offline users after a certain amount of time? If so, what is that amount of time? Right now we're using this and though it doesn't show these users as being online, we have a pretty extensive list of offline users.

Pam Sessoms said...

Hmmm, the plugin was written so long ago, maybe it's not cleaning up buddy IDs very well now.

Best thing for you to do is to trash your Pidgin buddy list occasionally. Your *real* buddies won't be harmed (buddies are stored server-side and the local copy is more like a cache). We clean up guest IDs server-side about weekly. So, if you trash the client-side buddy list regularly, they won't all get re-added server side.

Pidgin's buddy list will be somewhere like this under XP:

C:\Documents and Settings\YOUR USERNAME\Application Data\.purple\blist.xml

Élise Anne said...

Is there a way to get an alert window to open when there is a new message coming in? The sound will be helpful, but we're used to MSN and the alert windows popping to show us there's a new message.

Pam Sessoms said...

Hi Élise Anne,

Pidgin will place a new message window on top with the Message Notification plugin. This is available in the list of plugins under the Tools menu.

Once enabled, you can configure it. You probably want to check off both "raise" and "present" conversation window.

Good luck!

Élise Anne said...

I saw that Plugin already but it seems that it doesn't work for me! I don't have the option of a pop up window in the "Notification Methods". I use Pidgin in french so maybe the options are not as clear as in english... I can make my conversation window flash or appear in front of the others, but no popup!

Thank you for your help! I may have more questions since I am installing LibraryH3lp where I work.

Pam Sessoms said...

Élise Anne,

Many apologies. For whatever reason, Blogger never notified me of this comment. I just stumbled across it now, four months after you submitted it. Are you still having this problem?