Chatback widget from Google: About time

I may not be the best one to follow in this regard, since I have a fondness for widgets and plugins (yes, Brent, I know my page is really loading slowly), but I think the Google chatback applet is a great idea. Erick Schonfeld at TechCrunch seems less than impressed, and wonders why anyone would want random people visiting their blog to send instant messages through Google Talk. I see it as just another way for people to ping me about something — even if it’s just to see if I’m around, or to ask a quick question. I’ve already used it several times, and it’s only been a day or so.

Obviously, if people ping me through the widget and I’m busy, then I just won’t answer. But if it’s someone asking a quick question, or telling me something interesting, then I’m happy to hear from them. Some people like to leave comments, some people are happier with an IM message. And I like the idea that my blog becomes the central point of contact for people who may not be able to remember my email, or don’t know whether I’m using GTalk or Skype or MSN. Rafe Needleman doesn’t think much of the widget, but I think he’s being a little harsh.

Rafe mentions Meebo as a better option, and I tried it — in fact, I used it a lot before I found a way around the firewall at work. And I tried the Meebo Me blog widget for awhile too. But you have to keep Meebo open in a browser tab all the time, and it’s hard to know when there’s a new message. I like GTalk because it’s integrated into my Gmail, which is always open. I used Plugoo for awhile because it integrated with GTalk and it worked great, but now that there’s a Google widget I don’t need it.

Meebo: Chat rooms are so 1998

I’m having some trouble getting excited about the announcement that Meebo Rooms can now be easily embedded into websites and blog pages (you could embed them before, apparently, but it wasn’t easy). I get the fact that makes it easy to chat, and I know that its Web-based IM service is hugely popular — particularly with people who have instant messaging blocked at work or school, as many of us do.

But the whole “embedded chat room” thing just doesn’t work for me. Maybe it’s because there have been — and are — dozens of companies doing pretty much the same thing, including (remember them?), Gabbly, Mobber and a whack of others with equally ridiculous and forgettable names. Heck, my friend Brent Ashley whipped up an Ajax chat room widget back in 2002 called BlogChat. It’s not technically that hard (no offense, Brent), so what is compelling about it?

I guess like Pete Cashmore, who wrote about 3bubbles when it came out, I just don’t get the whole dedicated chat room idea. Most of the chat room apps I’ve tried on various sites (including mine) wind up filled with idiots, or are ghost towns where there hasn’t been a chat message for weeks, and the last one was someone typing “Hi, is anyone here?” I could see it for a dedicated situation such as a conference or some other compelling event, but how many of those could there be?

So I looked up “go outside” in Google…

It is to laugh. Rick Segal, a Canadian VC who writes a blog called The Post Money Value, has a great — if embarrassing — post about himself, and a text-messaging chat he was having on his BlackBerry with a friend. They were discussing how a good RSS reader would be nice to have on the Berry, and then Maryam said “check out the moon in the east.”

So naturally, Rick went to a Google search window and typed in “moon in the east” and RSS. That’s how you check things out, right? You look them up on Google. But he was confused by what he found. “Okay. I’m dense. Is this in google? For RSS?” he wrote to Maryam, who responded — although I’m sure it’s difficult to type when you’re laughing so hard — “In the sky, you geek. You know, outside? In the real world?”

Kudos to Rick for not only admitting this, but doing so on his blog, in full view of everyone. I haven’t been there, Rick, but I have gotten darn close 🙂