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Can I use Pidgin to staff chat?

725 views   |   Last updated on Feb 14, 2017   

 

Absolutely! Any chat client that supports the XMPP (Jabber) chat protocol can be used to staff the service and answer chats. These clients are available across all platforms and Pidgin is definitely one of them. Pidgin works well on the PC and Linux and is the mostly widely-used desktop client used.

Pidgin Configuration

Pidgin is a free, open-source, multi-protocol client for the PC and Linux.

Generally, there are a lot of little tweaks you can make to the Pidgin's preferences. We'll outline the most important ones below.

Plugins

No plugins are required for LibraryH3lp to work in Pidgin. However, we have an optional plugin for Pidgin on Windows that is useful in a few ways:

  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 the fist operator sends a message to the guest.
  3. Provides an optional 140 character countdown to assist with composition of short replies. This is especially helpful for responding to SMS (text messages).
  4. Automatically approves incoming buddy requests for chats to an individual's widget.

Adding Accounts

After you've created accounts for your operators in the admin site, your operators can sign into them using Pidgin. From Accounts-->Add/Edit-->Add, create a new XMPP account with the appropriate username and libraryh3lp.com as the Domain. You can opt to have Pidgin save the password if you wish.

Alert Sounds

The next important area to consider is typically Tools-->Preferences-->Sounds. What you do here is largely up to you and what works best for your staffing model. It is usually a good idea to set Pidgin to Enable sounds-->Always. Some people will want a sound every time the guest sends a message and others will want a sound only when a brand new chat arrives. If your staff will rely on a sound alert heavily, be sure to check Sound when conversation has focus. Our plugin lets you set a looping alert noise on the arrival of new chats that plays until the first operator sends a message to the guest.

Alert Visuals

In most cases, especially with Windows XP, the included Message Notification plugin will provide sufficient visual alerting. Set it to Flash, Raise, and Present the message window.

If you need more visual alerting, especially with Windows 7, look at the Guifications plugin. It provides configurable, toaster-style visual alerts even with Pidgin hiding in the system tray and conversations minimized. This works around Win 7's ideas about windows popping to the front entirely. If you click on one of the pop-up alerts, it brings that conversation window to the front. You can configure it to keep the alerts up for xx number of seconds. Make sure to select a theme after you have it enabled in Pidgin.

Automatic Startup

To have Pidgin start automatically, turn on the Windows Pidgin Options Plugin at Tools->Plugins->Windows Pidgin Options->Configure Plugin. Enabled "Start Pidgin on Windows Startup."

Exiting Pidgin and the system tray

By default, Pidgin will hide in the system tray when the user closes the application using the big X in the upper right corner. This confuses many people, who will think they have logged out and exited the application when they really have not. It can result in your service appearing online even when no one is actually there. To make it never hide in the system tray, select Tools-->Preferences-->Interface and set Show system tray icon to Never.

Windows vs Tabs

In Tools-->Preferences-->Interface, you can make the important tabs vs windows decision. There is one important reason that tabs may work more gracefully with LibraryH3lp. If the operator is working actively on one chat, and a second chat arrives, if Pidgin is configured to use windows instead of tabs, the new chat's window may pop in front of the other chat. If the operator was busy typing a response to the first guest, and the new window pops in front of the first window, they might not notice. If they then press to send their message to the first guest, they will have accepted the second chat accidentally. They can transfer the chat to another operator if needed, but it can be confusing for all involved. If Pidgin is set for tabs instead, the new chat's tab will stay in the background, and the operator will have the opportunity to accept the chat or wait to see if another operator will take it.

Local Logging

The next area is Tools-->Preferences-->Logging. You only need to configure this if you're trying to store transcripts locally. You can also opt into centralized transcript storage on the LibraryH3lp server, on any or all of your queues, from within the Queues tab in the admin site. By default, Pidgin stores logs in c:\documents and settings\USERNAME\application data\.purple\logs (XP) or C:\Users\USERNAME\AppData\Roaming\.purple\logs (Windows 7). You can change this location by assigning an Environment Variable on the computer, but this greatly complicates a multi-operator staffing model because this centralizes not just the logs but also the accounts and buddy list files.

Idle Time and Away

The final area is Tools-->Preferences-->Status/Idle. What you do here depends entirely on your staffing model. If you have individual operators working at their own computers, you probably want to set a fairly short time for idle time to change their status to Away, so that your service won't look falsely available if they forget to logout. On the other hand, if you have a a dedicated chat computer at a centralized service desk with staff relying on audio alerts for new chats, you might prefer to set a long idle time, or set Pidgin to never switch to Away based on idle time. In that case, it is very important for operators to be sure to exit Pidgin at the end of the work day.

Note: the Report idle time setting only controls how you display your idle time to your buddies. You can have Pidgin base your displayed idle time on keyboard/mouse use, on the last time you sent a message, OR you can have it Never show your idle time to your buddies. It is fine to set this to Never. You will still automatically be set to Away based on keyboard/mouse idle time of you have Change to this status when idle enabled.

Buddy List file maintenance

You may wish to periodically delete the buddy list file from Pidgin. This will help prevent it from getting really large from guest IDs. This file typically lives at c:\documents and settings\USERNAME\Application Data\.purple\blist.xml (XP) or C:\Users\USERNAME\AppData\Roaming\.purple\blist.xml (Windows 7). This is not a harmful thing to do since your real buddy list is stored server-side (the local copy is more like a cache).

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