One of our lesser known but very useful products is the Yahoo! Messenger Pingbox. With a copy and paste of some code, you can embed a chat window into your website, blog or social networking page. Then when visitors come to your page, they can see when you’re online and initiate a private IM conversation with you.
My friend Jim has a Pingbox on his neighborhood blog. While he’s on Yahoo! Messenger all day, his status says “Available” in his Pingbox. When visitors come to his site, he can see the counter change next to the Pingbox in his contact list. If someone wants to chat with him, they simply start typing in the Pingbox on the website, which in turn opens up a new IM conversation for Jim. His visitors can remain anonymous or give themselves a nickname while they chat.
One of the greatest things about Pingbox is that there is no need for anyone to know your Yahoo! ID or for you to know theirs. In fact visitors to your site don’t even need a Yahoo! ID to start chatting with you. You can also turn your Pingbox on or off right from your Yahoo! Messenger 10 contact list, so if you find you’re being interrupted too often by chatty visitors, you can go dark for awhile.
Jim says one of the things he really likes is that when he hovers on the Pingbox visitors in his contact list, it will show him what page on his site that visitor is on. But mostly he likes to see the number of people that are passing through his site all day and be available to them. He says he’s gotten some good tips about neighborhood stories from his Pingbox chats.
If you have your own blog, website or social networking page, it’s easy to add a Pingbox. Just visit the Yahoo! Messenger Pingbox Studio and click the “Create a Pingbox” button. You can customize your background, text size, display name, and whether or not you want to show your display image. You can even put in a custom message that users will see in the Pingbox when you’re online, or when you’re offline. Once you’re done, you’ll receive some code that you can copy and paste into your site.
Then just login to Yahoo! Messenger using the same Yahoo! ID under which you created your Pingbox and voila – you’ll see a new group in your contact list and if you have visitors, a count next to the group name. Note that in order to appear online and receive messages from your Pingbox, you need to be signed in to Yahoo! Messenger 10 or Yahoo! Messenger for Mac. However unlike version 10, the Mac version does not display your Pingbox visitors in your contact list.
Do you use a Pingbox on your website, blog or social networking page (e.g. Facebook, MySpace)? Tell us about your experience in the comments.
One of my fellow Yahoos, Victor Tsaran, was on a local morning news show this week, talking about his work. Victor is a program manager on the Accessibility team here at Yahoo!.
The Accessibility team’s charter is to work with product teams, including Messenger, to make our technologies as usable as possible for disabled users.
Seeing Victor on TV reminded me of the interview I did with him in early 2007, not long after the blog started. In the video below, Victor shows me how a blind person can use Yahoo! Messenger. Close your own eyes, pretend your mouse is useless, and then think about how you would use Yahoo! Messenger.
With the help of screen reader software, a visually impaired user can enjoy the Internet and products like Yahoo! Messenger. This kind of software responds to a user’s key commands. It scans the page or application and reads the content aloud. In this way, visually impaired users can “hear” where they are on the screen or web page.
Because it reads the words aloud, a screen reader may sound wordy to people unaccustomed to it. But a visually impaired user who is adept at using the reader can set the audio playback at a lightening pace. When Victor demonstrated how he uses Yahoo! Messenger with a screen reader, it sounded to me like supersonic gibberish. But as you’ll see in the video below, Victor slowed it down for my (and perhaps yours) less able ears.
Needless to say, it gave me a unique perspective on what it’s like for a visually impaired user to use Yahoo! Messenger. For more about Victor – even his life outside of Yahoo! – check out this article and video from the Yahoo! Corporate Blog.
In the new Yahoo! Messenger 10, we added an alternative view of your contact list – the Y! Updates tab. When you jump into that view, you’ll see a running list of updates from the friends on your contact list.
Your friends’ updates can vary from a change to their Yahoo! Messenger status to their latest tweet on Twitter; even the last song they listened to on last.fm or their latest changes to their Avatar. Yahoo! supports updates from dozens of both Yahoo! and non-Yahoo! services.
In addition to the new Updates view, we also added detailed preferences to help you control what types of updates you see and from whom. So if your friend Samantha is a tweet-aholic, you might want to turn off her updates. Or if Uncle Lenny’s taste in music is light years away from yours, perhaps getting his last.fm updates is unappealing.
No worries – changing it is easy. If you’re in the Y! Updates tab, click on the tab’s dropdown menu and select “Customize Yahoo! Updates” (or go to Messenger > Preferences > Yahoo! Updates).
When the window appears, you’ll see a list of sites from which Yahoo! offers updates, followed by your list of contacts. If there’s a type of update you prefer not to receive, just uncheck the box next to it. Be aware that unchecking a service in the list means that you won’t receive that type of update from anybody.
If you’ve had enough of someone’s updates, you can also turn them off. Just uncheck the box next to their name in the list. You will no longer receive any updates from that contact in your Y! Updates view. Note that you’ll still be able to see their updates by viewing their contact card anytime.
With the latest version of Yahoo! Messenger for iPhone (v1.3), it’s now possible to not only share photos, but also videos that you take on your iPhone 3GS.
While you’re in a conversation, tap on the emoticon icon to bring up the message options. Tap on the Media tab where you can choose to take a new photo or video clip, or choose an existing one from your photo gallery.
Your friend will receive a notification that you’re sharing a file with them, and after the file finishes transferring, you’ll see a confirmation on your phone. At anytime while the file is sending, you can tap on the speech bubble to view it.
Friends can also IM you videos (.mov, .mp4), and photos when you’re on your iPhone. When a new file is coming in, you’ll see a message asking if you want to accept or decline the incoming file transfer. Accept it, wait for the download and then just tap the speech bubble to view the image right in the app.
A handy thing about this new feature is that it allows you to send and receive files up to 15MB in size. So when you video your baby’s first steps on your phone, you can instantly send it off to friends and family on IM. And best of all, it won’t count against your data plan the way MMS messages do.