[JDEV] Jabber Client Design Tutorial

Michael Brown michael at aurora.gen.nz
Mon Sep 24 03:51:01 CDT 2001

> Julian (x-virge) and I were discussing client design
> yesterday and I think you are a prime example of
> our discussion.  There is a problem with Jabber,
> in general it's not everyones first IM client.

Great!  I've always wanted to be a prime example :-)

It's true I guess, but it's not the only reason that people are turned off
Jabber.  Really, the Jabber clients are very immature compared to the
clients for the commercial services.  This is not meant as any disrespect to
the client authors - none of them have the resources of AOL or Microsoft
behind them, but this doesn't matter to the end user.  To convince them to
switch services, the clients have to be at least 90% as good as the one they
are switching from.

Also, the argument about switching from one of the proprietary services also
applies to switching between Jabber clients, so it would be nice to have
some sort of consistency between them if possible.

> Users have generally been on another large network (AIM, ICQ,
> MSN, Yahoo!) before they come to Jabber.  Despite their not
> liking the system (that's why they came to Jabber isn't it? ;-])
> they tend to like their client, usually because they are comfortable
> with it.

That's true in some cases.  My reason for wanting to move from ICQ to Jabber
is more political than dissatisfaction with ICQ in the first place.  I would
prefer that Jabber would become a system that attracts users by what it has
to offer, rather than just waiting for people to get sick of their existing

> If i had to guess, by reading your doc (which I did),
> you come from ICQ.

If you had read my doc there should be no guessing involved.  I am clearly
biased toward the ICQ interface as I have said since it is the one I have
used the longest (as it was the first one available), but that is not to say
that I have never used any other products.  I use Lotus Sametime all day at
work, and have MSN installed.  At the moment I am using Go Messenger as my
Jabber client, and have used JabberIM quite a lot.

> Now I say this with absolutely no direction to you, but I find
> ICQ's UI absolutely atrocious, even AIM's is pretty wicked,
> so is Yahoo!, MSN is partially acceptable, but has many
> disparities.  I say all that from a purely UI centric view.

I was hoping for something a bit more substantial I have to admit.  Saying
"xyz is atrocious" is not really productive, unless you can back up your
opinion with examples, and better options.  ICQ's interface is a bit
confusing for a first time user, I have to admit, but for power users it is
great.  AIM and MSN are much more basic clients, since their services lack
many of the features that ICQ and Jabber offer - such as offline messages -
but there are things that we can and should learn from them.

> The idea of a doc to help get people rolling
> beyond the protocol is a great idea and there are many
> odd things about Jabber that merit UI discussion (iq:browse,
>  it could easily have a browser view like winjab, but could
> also be a simple tree view like the explorer sidebar), but I
> would encourage you to weigh in many options, not a
> single view.

Sure - more opinions the better - that's the whole aim.  That and to give
client developers ideas that they may not have thought of.  Client design
doesn't have to be as black and white as the protocol, but there are
definitely some rules you should go by.

Let me look into iq:browse, I'm not exactly sure how it is used or the best
way to present it.

> Open it up, and don't suggest that only one thing
> is correct, because you never will please everyone,
> especially in the IM world.

Never aim to please everyone...


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