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Tuesday, September 29, 2009

Pidgin 2.6.x: Houston, we have a problem

Well, we have less-than-good news. We'll get straight to the point.

The latest versions of Pidgin, 2.6.x, are not really suitable for monitoring LibraryH3lp queues. If you use a 2.6.x Pidgin to answer questions from queues in a multi-librarian environment, you are at risk for leaving patrons hanging when librarians change shift.

This is a big deal. Since the beginning, Pidgin has been the main external LibraryH3lp client used on the PC. It is open source, supports plugins, and is multi-protocol, so librarians can be signed into lots of different accounts as needed. Most importantly for LibraryH3lp, it always sent the Jabber protocol standard "gone" notification back to the server when the librarian closed a conversation window. This is a critical piece of the routing system that allows LibraryH3lp to work effectively in a multi-operator environment.

With 2.6.x, if a patron's original librarian has closed the patron's conversation window and signed all the way out of their account, new messages from that same patron will go off into the ether rather than getting routed to other librarians on the queue. Those messages will not appear until that original librarian signs back into their account, which may be hours, days, or even weeks later.

So, what can you do if you've been using 2.6.x?

The easiest thing is to stop immediately and downgrade. Version 2.5.9 is the most recent release that sends the "gone" notification. It was only distributed in source code format. We have compiled it for LibraryH3lp users and you can download it here. Happily, you can just run the installer and it will keep all of your existing preferences and account information.

We have a ticket in with the Pidgin developers to see if they will resume sending "gone" on window close in the future. No word yet, but we'll update when we know more.

[edited 1/10/2010 Any version of Pidgin, or any other XMPP client, can be used now. There is no longer a dependency on "gone" in the routing system]

In happier external client news, the Digsby developers were very responsive to a request to start sending the "gone" command. Digsby is now a suitable client for use with LibraryH3lp queues! Digsby also displays LibraryH3lp queue avatars and pulls the patron's IP address and referring URL extremely quickly; Pidgin takes about 30 seconds and doesn't display the queue avatars at all yet. Additionally, Digsby has a slick little floating chat window that sticks in the foreground while you keep a web page up. Very handy for chatting, researching, and sending links all at the same time as us librarians do so frequently. But this all warrants its own blog post... coming soon.

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