Empathy chat room improvements

Folks who’ve tried using Empathy for IRC will have found the experience a bit lacking. While some of this is due to Empathy itself, many of the problems are due to Idle, the Telepathy backend for IRC, being sorely in need of love and caring. Happily, Debarshi Ray has taken it under his wing. Most visibly, he’s implemented the ContactInfo interface, which allows Telepathy UIs to show WHOIS information. I threw together a few patches for Empathy to take advantage of this information:

Contact information for ‘wjt’ on Freenode, showing other channels, away message, and other IRC-specific details

Please ignore the ‘missing image’ icon!

Sadly, the “Channels” field is not very useful on most major networks, like Freenode, since—by default—you can only see the rooms that both you and the contact are in. In the past, on IRC, that window was positively anaemic, showing only the first three lines. Now it’s full of information, and could do with some advice from designer types: how can we show all the information described in his blog post without the dialog becoming even more a massive grid of words?

Rishi’s also fixed up many less obvious annoyances in Idle, like making it sending pings to keep otherwise-idle (ahem) connections alive. It’s great to have him on board!

Stepping away from IRC, I’ve recently been using XMPP chat rooms more, and noticed a subtle improvement implemented by Chandni: Empathy now shows per-user typing notifications in the user list. Now I wish this were possible on IRC too, or that more channels would move to XMPP: it’s really useful information to have, particularly in smallish rooms.

8 comments ↓

#1 Johannes on 05.12.11 at 2:39 pm

First, thanks for finally making IRC a good citizen.

I am not a designer but some things seem to be easy to fix:

* The nickname is shown three times, as title, as nickname and as alias
=> Don’t show nickname at all if it is in title (I know I clicked that name…) and don’t show alias unless I really set one which is quite unlikely for IRC.

* Showing “Account” also doesn’t look very useful to me as I think that information is quite obvious.

So showing only “Contact Details” looks like a good solution to me as this information is in some way valuable.

#2 Will Thompson on 05.12.11 at 3:01 pm

Rishi’s the one to thank. :)

IRC’s a special case in that the alias is always equal to the contact identifier, possibly modulo case. But the title is always the alias, which defaults to the identifier if there’s no alias. So definitely there’s some de-duplication to be done. (That said: is it important that the user be able to copy-and-paste the alias?)
I don’t necessarily think that the account is useless information. Maybe you could argue that, since I’ve clicked on a contact in a particular chatroom, I can be expected to know whether that’s on Freenode, OFTC, or is an XMPP MUC on my personal account or on my work account? I’m not so sure.

#3 Debarshi Ray on 05.12.11 at 3:37 pm

Hey Johannes, interested in hacking a Xchat-GNOME-like client based on Telepathy Idle? I have some pre-pre-alpha code but I am not pushing it due to the lack of time and my growing list of 60% complete personal projects. :-)

#4 Hylke on 05.12.11 at 3:44 pm

I’m going to ignore the missing icon.
Alignments! :)

#5 Will Thompson on 05.12.11 at 3:50 pm

I can’t figure out why there’s bonus spacing above the channel list. I’m sure I’ve typoed somewhere, but I can’t find it.

I wonder if doing away with the labels entirely for the stuff above the “Contact details” subheader would work. So having got rid of the Alias row (because the alias is the window title) it could become:

foo@barchat.com (on [xmpp icon] will.thompson@collabora.co.uk)

Contact Details
Full Name: Foo Bar
Email address: foobar@opensource.bar.com

#6 z on 05.12.11 at 5:24 pm

What the irc window needs as well is more polished contact list. I mean icons and stuff, look at the pidgin irc window for comparision

#7 Adam Williamson on 05.12.11 at 6:38 pm

Something that’s a deal breaker for me is that in GNOME 3 I get no notification if someone messages me within a public channel (i.e. types adamw: blahblah). Within the empathy / telepathy window that channel name turns red if I’m in another channel, but no GNOME notification is sent. That’s one of the things that really needs to work for Empathy / Telepathy to be a practical IRC choice, for me.

#8 Will Thompson on 05.13.11 at 9:25 am

Z: do you mean presence (that’s fd.o#21957)? Or do you mean operator/voice/etc. information (for which there’s no Idle or Empathy bug that I can see)?

Adam: I believe (but could be wrong) that Empathy does send highlight notifications, but the Shell explicitly ignores any notifications sent by Empathy since it shows its own IM notifications.

In both cases, folks, see the title of this blog. ;-)