I was introduced to the Pidgin chat client by a former co-worker who apparently liked to keep in touch with his wife throughout the day. With this chat software, you can combine your Google, Yahoo, MSN, AIM, and wife chat all into one interface/list without having to sign into each one individually.

To be perfectly honest, I am not a fan of instant messaging, but when you work in corporate IT (or often any corporate department these days), you’re not going to be able to avoid it. I find it frustrating being that connected because it gives people a way to circumvent the support process. To hell with putting in a ticket and waiting your turn when you can send an instant message and ask for it now, right?

Before working in IT, I never used an instant messaging program for personal reasons, but since many of my former co-workers have moved on to greener pastures, Google Chat has been a great way of keeping in touch with them. At my current job we use Sametime because we’re a Lotus Notes shop, so rather than keeping my email open all day, I can combine my contact lists and just work out of Pidgin.

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I think that simple feature alone makes it worthwhile, but it’s actually not my primary motive for choosing Pidgin. If you’ve ever been unfairly ripped a new one by someone in chat, or had someone screenshot only a portion of your message that skews the truth, you probably know where I’m headed here. I use it to protect myself.

At the company I work for, for whatever reason they don’t allow you to save your chat settings. Maybe it’s for legal reasons, or maybe it’s something else, but regardless it’s not available…that is, unless you’re using Pidgin. Here’s a scenario that recently took place with a co-worker of mine who luckily uses Pidgin.

A developer put in a ticket because their ability to ftp files from one server to another stopped working. Between the two of us, we did some basic troubleshooting (that’s all it took in this case) by checking that the server was up and was accepting connections (check), testing this users account connectivity and ability to move files (check, check), ensuring the users ip didn’t get caught in the banned list for too many bad passwords (check), and having other users in the same location try and connect (check).

This troubleshooting, as well as some further network testing that went beyond the scope of our responsibility, took place in chat. This apparently was not a good enough answer for the developer who insisted it was a problem with ftp. Eventually my co-worker simply typed “this is not my problem” into the chat window. Soon after we were contacted by someone well above our managers rank who wanted answers for the screenshot of “this is not my problem” to the issue that was affecting critical business processes. That’s right, those five words were the only part of a screenshot that was escalated to upper management.

Luckily for my team member, he had the entire chat log and passed it on to this person who followed up with the developer. And surprise surprise, it turned out to be bad code they had recently changed that screwed them up. It’s amazing how loud people get when they’re accusing, but how quiet they get when they’re called out for being wrong.

So if you want to save your ass from some unscrupulous corporate [[CENSORED]], Pidgin will protect you.

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