Courses Academic Links Functional Stuff and Widgets Cool Stuff

Penn State Chat Services

It seems that many departments are using different IM services to do University business. It's as simple as different people in a department using AIM to quickly access and communicate with co-workers down the hall, in different buildings or just at the desk next to them. However, it seems silly to use AIM or GTalk or some other 3rd party chat mechanism to do official university business.

PSU's Chat Service

ITS started up a Jabber service. The details of it can be found on a couple of pages. There was a presentation about it at the 2009 Web Conference. I thought it would be cool to start recommending using it for my department... as most of our staff assistants use AIM anyway. The authentication uses the Penn State Access account username (kinda) and password. There are a number of Jabber clients that are available.

I've been using Digsby on and off for a while now. I figured since Digsby handles my AIM, Yahoo, Facebook, LinkedIn and other chat and social networking services, that it should be able to handle Jabber. It does... but I had some trouble configuring it. Here are the details:

  • From the buddy list, choose "Digsby", then "My Accounts"
  • Click on the "Add IM Account" and Choose "Jabber"
  • Enter your JabberID, which is in the format of
  • Enter your acccess account password in the password box
  • Confirm that the advanced settings are set to "Use TLS if possible" and "allow plaintext login"
  • Do not enter anything for the "host". The remaining defaults are likely fine.
  • Choose the "save" button

Chat widget on a web page

So, the next trick was trying to figure out how to put a web interface up for this kind of chat. I figured that it would be cool to have an end-user find the chat on the department's web page for various people. I wanted it to use the PSU Jabber service if at all possible.

Meebo was easy to integrate (see Andrew Klein's instructions for creating a Meebo Me), but ultimately, the user must be signed on to Meebo's site and have the page up an running all of the time. That really doesn't work for most people. It also doesn't integrate with the PSU Jabber service.

Plugoo integrates with the PSU Jabber service. It was easy to integrate, but the free version has limited customization and is limited to one chat session at a time, and doesn't really give the user control of when that chat session is over. It had to time out before the next session could start, leaving the "busy" status on the web page.

Digsby's widget works well. It doesn't integrate with the PSU Jabber service, either. However, the Digsby client app on the user desktop integrates Jabber, AIM, Facebook and just about everything else. Since I'm using Digsby anyway, that seems like it would work for me.

I'm still looking for a widget and service that would work on PSU's Jabber service, integrate with the web page and possibly work well with a chat room mechanism. Until then, this project is just interesting play. Time to get back to work.