Wrangling corporate IM and personal IM: the “shameless plug” edition


I’m trying for at least one post a week here…ShannonWithAJeep is making me look all lazy and such 😀

Let’s start with an axiom: instant messaging is a tool of the devil. Don’t get me wrong, I love it to death and it’s indispensable, but like many other good things it spiraled out of control pretty quickly. Everyone wanted to do IM, and so everyone did:



Applications like Pidgin are therefore entirely necessary, because running multiple programs that do essentially the same thing is weak. But what do you do when moving from one application to another requires the sacrifice of a dearly-loved feature? If the target application is totally awesome, you extend it with plugins!

A Case Study

In addition to our intraoffice messaging system (which I will call OhNoWhatNowChat) I also use a couple of other IM protocols to keep in touch with the world. All three of these have their own dedicated application, but running multiple programs that do the same thing is totally not cool. Pidgin happens to support OhNoWhatNowChat as well as the other two protocols. I installed it and for the most part I was happy.

Now, if you’ve ever worked in an office with coworkers who enjoy a delightful prank or two, you have learned to lock your workstation when you get up for a minute or a meeting. It’s a good habit unless you’re VNCed into a computer to which you don’t know the password and you accidentally lock it instead of the host…anyway. The client for ONWNC was very kind and would set your status to Away when the workstation was locked, but Pidgin had no such capability. People would continually message me assuming I was at my desk; in fact I had locked my computer and was debating very important topics with other engineers like “where is lunch” and “why aren’t we eating lunch.”

The problem of false presence had to stop…and here comes the shameless plug!

Lock ‘n’ Roll is a pet project of mine: a Pidgin plugin (tested against versions 2.5 and 2.6) that will set your accounts’ status to Away with a user-defined message when the workstation is locked. Now Pidgin sets my ONWNC account to Away when I lock my workstation – as well as my other two accounts – and no one messages me expecting an immediate reply. I hate to disappoint people like that.

PS, yes I could have just set Pidgin to Away before I got up and left my desk, but that is not as fun as learning an application’s plugin API so I can tweak the heck out of it. Plus the odds are bad that I’d remember to set the status in the first place 🙂


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