I may not be the best one to follow in this regard, since I have a fondness for widgets and plugins (yes, Brent, I know my page is really loading slowly), but I think the Google chatback applet is a great idea. Erick Schonfeld at TechCrunch seems less than impressed, and wonders why anyone would want random people visiting their blog to send instant messages through Google Talk. I see it as just another way for people to ping me about something — even if it’s just to see if I’m around, or to ask a quick question. I’ve already used it several times, and it’s only been a day or so.
Obviously, if people ping me through the widget and I’m busy, then I just won’t answer. But if it’s someone asking a quick question, or telling me something interesting, then I’m happy to hear from them. Some people like to leave comments, some people are happier with an IM message. And I like the idea that my blog becomes the central point of contact for people who may not be able to remember my email, or don’t know whether I’m using GTalk or Skype or MSN. Rafe Needleman doesn’t think much of the widget, but I think he’s being a little harsh.
Rafe mentions Meebo as a better option, and I tried it — in fact, I used it a lot before I found a way around the firewall at work. And I tried the Meebo Me blog widget for awhile too. But you have to keep Meebo open in a browser tab all the time, and it’s hard to know when there’s a new message. I like GTalk because it’s integrated into my Gmail, which is always open. I used Plugoo for awhile because it integrated with GTalk and it worked great, but now that there’s a Google widget I don’t need it.