Bitlbee, The Wrong Solution that Works

About a week ago, time of writing, I switched all of my instant messaging to a little program called Bitlbee. Basically this is a program that runs locally as an IRC server and connects to various instant messaging and "presence" protocols and exposes them to the end user client as if they were IRC. Weird.

This is, emphatically, the wrong solution to the problem of finding a sane technological solution to consuming real-time information (e.g. instant messaging, twitter, xmpp, etc.) Previously, I'd been using an XMPP-only client and running jabber-to-IM transports on the server, which I think is more of a right solution. Why then did I switch?

  • I wanted to use irssi, which I think one of the most cleverly designed and useful pieces of software out there.

  • Transports that allow XMPP to interact with other services are an ideal solution and I think the inclusion of transports in the design of the XMPP protocol is a major selling point for the XMPP technology. At the same time the most stable transports aren't terribly stable and while there could be transport widgets for all sorts of things there are only a few general purpose transports.

    Practically speaking the jabber-to-AIM transport that I had been using, had a habit of dying without cause once or twice a week, and it used a lot of system resources for something that could (should?) have been much simpler.

  • The truth is that while XMPP is a nifty technology, and I really enjoy using it, I'm starting to think that it's not ideal to expect that XMPP replace IRC, as both accomplish different things for their users. So while I always saw bitlbee as "giving into IRC" it's really just an interface. And frankly IRC clients do IM better than IM clients do IRC.

  • Bitlbee works really well as a client for Facebook chat (which is a weird XMPP flavor) and is a functional twitter client. With the delight of using irssi, I'm able to really interact on these networks without having to spend too much brain power sifting through crud.

So here I am. Switched. The buddy list on bitlbee leaves something to be desired (but I have a particularly large buddy list) and I've yet to get used to the syntax for creating and administering group chats inside of bitlbee, but other than that? It's pretty rocking.

Onward and Upward!

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