When your a computer egghead like me you learn to get excited about things make are of no relevance to the outside world. (The outside world referrs to them. They go outside and toss a ball instead of finishing the fith level of Dragon’s Quest. “They” go outside to put mail in a box to to talk with their neighbor instead of dragging a word doc into Thunderbird as an attachment or firing up AIM to holler across the room.) Today’s installment in “the simeple things nobody else appreciates” details a feature in my instant messager client that I’ve been burning to use. I run Kopete to chat with my work buddies on the regular. (It’s a Linux program that allows you to use your AOL, MSN, ICQ, and many other instant message accounts at the same time.) Since we all have AOL accounts there really hasn’t been much need to use any fancy IM client outside of the urge to fill our geek-hats with one more propeller. However, I’ve been noticing a feature called “meta-contacts” since I first installed and ran Kopete. It’s one of those kind of features that you never know of unless you read the small print on the back of the box that’s been unfortunately covered by the price tag meaning you have to spend an hour or so of meticulous label peeling, cussing and package resmoothing as relevant bits of text adhere to the sticky side. (I only noticed the feature because I’m one of those people that must know and use every doo-hickey on each gadget that I invest in.) The feature is there to allow you to keep all of your “contacts” (the people you chat with) organized even if they have more than one IM account. For example, let’s say you have a buddy James who uses ICQ and Jabber. His ICQ screen name is JayJay while on Jabber he’s known as KidDynomite. Normally when James signs onto ICQ you would see a contact with the name “JayJay” light up and when the same guy signs onto Jabber you would see KidDynomite explode in you contact list. Now lets further pretend (because I have a big imagination) that you have a few other friends (3-4) each of them having two or three IM accounts and you’ll see your list quickly explode to about twenty entries when there’s only a handful of people involved. The “meta-contact” feature lets you share good times with both JayJay and KidDynomite using the single contact name “James” (or J money if you preferr, it’s up to you.) Furthermore it will take your list of about twenty contacts back down to the handful of people you actually talk to. If your into the whole “this IM service is better than that one” sorta thing then you get the warm fuzzy reassurance of seeing the correct IM service logo light up when it is being used.
I finally got to use it this mornging when I noticed one of our newer team members (who lives in a different country and uses two IM accounts) had been chatting with me over both services the week prior. He showed up under two names in my contact list and I was like, “cool I can combine these two screen names!” So I combined them. I was tempted to send him an IM and brag about how cool I was because I could talk back on either service using one screen name but somehow I don’t think that would’ve been as big of a thrill for him as it was for me. I was further tempted to invite all of my other coworkers over to my cube and humiliate them as their IM clients were far inferior to mine but somehow I don’t thinnk that would’ve been appropriate at 10:30 in the AM. Finally I was tempted to send a broadcast email to everyone I know with an IM account demanding that they each sign up for at least two or three services so that could spend the next few hours/days taunting them over each service but somehow I didn’t feel that would be as productive as it sounded on paper. So I am reduced to explaining my accomplishment in text on my blog with a more humble description of, “So I combined them”. Why does that feel so much more like winning the lottery than it looks?