A Worrysome Gaim.

If I don’t explain this side of things, people will think I’m just blindly cheering for the other team. There are reasons why I use KDE, and there are reasons why I don’t use Gnome, and it’s only fair if I explain both sides of this. There’s a sentiment going around that the applications are what makes KDE worth it, not the actual window manager itself, and that I could just as easily strike some happy medium by using Gnome and KDE apps at the same time. That would be fine and dandy, except where KDE’s desktop doesn’t do one thing I want it to do, Gnome doesn’t do several dozen things I want it to do.

But this article isn’t about Gnome. It’s about Gaim. I’m a huge proponent of customization and choice. I use Kopete so I can exercise those abilities. When I use Gaim, I’m not allowed to, and it’s discouraging.

First, I’m going to tell people about all the things I know Kopete has.

The Benefits
In another article I mentioned how KDE’s settings stay true across the board, and Kopete is no exception. Whether I want single or double-clicking in the contact list is up to me. And Kopete obeys. That’s all well and good. But other things that amaze me:

  • Each individual contact can have a specified set of icons for their statuses.
  • Each separate protocol (or account in the same protocol) can be hinted a different color to stand out.
  • Contacts can be sorted by arbitrary groups, or the groups can be taken out completely to just have a list of who’s online and who’s offline.
  • Kopete, as of its latest version, supports the Adium message window style specification (which isn’t to say it supports all Adium styles, but close).
  • A lot of information (such as contact status, away message, and icon) are hidden in the APIs of the Kopete message window, so that a message window designer can make this information quickly visible without having to resort to another dialog box or going back to the contact list.
  • Plugins that provide security, history, and useful other options – such as rendering LaTeX source as it should appear.
  • Support for both MSN and Yahoo! video chat.

The Flaws

Kopete isn’t without it’s flaws, after all. Away message dialog boxes should have a larger area for text. Contacts, when sorted only by status, without groups, shouldn’t need tree identifiers like “Online Contacts” and “Offline Contacts”. A bug that is purported to be fixed regarding overwriting incoming message formats doesn’t seem to be fixed. But these are minor things, and after all, are bugs. Things to be worked out. Functionality to be fixed, not added.

However
Gaim has none of these things. Some of the things it’s missing are features, some of the things it’s missing are customization abilities, but Gaim doesn’t have any of this. I know they’re working on video chat, so I won’t knock them for that. But why are many of the options I mentioned available? Does Gaim aim to be a simple caht client? That’s fine, and I don’t think there’s anything wrong with that. But if I’m using Gnome, and I want a more complex chat client, where do I go?

This whole post reminds me of what I heard about Verizon’s latest move to standardize the systems on their cell phones to make troubleshooting easier. In a way that’s honestly what Gaim feels like. Reducing the variables so that support is easier. I can understand a perspective like that, but it worries me at the same time. Not to say that this is the reason why this sort of simplification is happening, just that parallels can be drawn. If handling Gaim as it is is what the developers can handle without signing on more people and showing them the ropes and so on and so forth, then I’m not going to knock them for that – it isn’t anyone’s place to. But I wonder – if someone made a more complex IM client for Gnome, would it be accepted? Would people help it along?

The title of this post is ‘A Worrysome Gaim’, and it’s called ‘worrysome’ for a reason. When I look through the options of Gaim, I don’t see anything that’s missing, in my mind. But then I go to Kopete, and I see all the things that people though of, things that I didn’t even begin to imagine. If people learn how to use simple software, I honestly think they’ll stop thinking about what could be possible.

I don’t want a flamewar, and I don’t want people bickering about this back and forth. There is competition in the open source community. Different groups of people are trying to outdo each other with better, faster, and more useful programs. Some people think this is a bad thing. I think it’s a good thing because it creates the opportunity for choice. I think there’s a place for Kopete and a place for Gaim in the open source community. But I’ll be standing by Kopete.

Postscript: God, it won’t be long before this blog is known as Sébastien Reid Troll. But that’s honestly not what I’m trying to do here. Just give my side of the story, you know?

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2 Comments

  1. Posted July 8, 2006 at 7:35 am | Permalink

    Personally, I like gaim a lot (I’m using the Windows port of gaim 2 at the moment). It’s a little ugly at times, but functional.

    I’m not sure how active the pluginning system in gaim is, but I’m pretty sure that most of the things you mention could be accomplished by plugins, if someone actually wanted them.

    Gaim 2 beta (which you may not have seen); contacts can be organised by groups, has plugins for security, history, a buddy ticker, text replacement, transparency…

    You’ll probably be disgusted that they removed lots of options from Gaim 2 just to see how few people could live with, though they intend to put a bunch of them back before the final release.

    Firefox takes the same approach to simplicity. Provide the barebones, let people use extensions. There’s a whole movement now of software with fewer options rather than more.

    On competition: wanting to outdo another project, in the open-source world, is ridiculous. The two don’t exist to outdo each other: they’re written for different toolkits, different styles of use. This isn’t competition, this is just different people wanting different things.

    Keep up the posts, though. I’m enjoying your blog even though I disagree with most of your posts. 🙂

  2. STEV
    Posted August 8, 2006 at 7:19 am | Permalink

    I don’t think I belong to the dumb users out there. But I found Kopetes user interface is somehow in a mess. Some options aren’t there where I would expect them (Why aren’t sound options in the configuration dialog?). I get the feelin that Kopete devolopers look after new crazy features (which the normal user doesn’t need) rather than to make Kopete stable and work properly. ICQ file transfer works in GAIM 2 Beta decently (but of course, not perfectly, it sometimes crashes) – in Kopete I don’t get it working. ICQ buddy icons aren’t displayed correctly in Kopete (or am I wrong?) – a feature what GAIM has since years. Kopete concentrates on eye-candy-features which the normal user probably doesn’t make use of. I also don’t think that GAIM isn’t that innovative as you mentioned – they participate in Google’s Summer of Code and produce some very innovative plugins for musicians among others. I think GAIM’s strategy to put less important features outside and to make them plugins instead is a quite successful strategy. It makes the download size smaller, which is, of course, effective and makes GAIM available to people who can’t call themselves owner of a super high speed connection. Think about that.


2 Trackbacks/Pingbacks

  1. […] Reader STEV left this comment on my GAIM post: I don’t think I belong to the dumb users out there. But I found Kopetes user interface is somehow in a mess. Some options aren’t there where I would expect them (Why aren’t sound options in the configuration dialog?). I get the feelin that Kopete devolopers look after new crazy features (which the normal user doesn’t need) rather than to make Kopete stable and work properly. ICQ file transfer works in GAIM 2 Beta decently (but of course, not perfectly, it sometimes crashes) – in Kopete I don’t get it working. ICQ buddy icons aren’t displayed correctly in Kopete (or am I wrong?) – a feature what GAIM has since years. Kopete concentrates on eye-candy-features which the normal user probably doesn’t make use of. I also don’t think that GAIM isn’t that innovative as you mentioned – they participate in Google’s Summer of Code and produce some very innovative plugins for musicians among others. I think GAIM’s strategy to put less important features outside and to make them plugins instead is a quite successful strategy. It makes the download size smaller, which is, of course, effective and makes GAIM available to people who can’t call themselves owner of a super high speed connection. Think about that. […]

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