Luke Schierer discusses Pidgin, Open source and life

Pidgin developer discusses the project and also offers advice on why some open source projects fail.

With over 3 million estimated users, Pidgin is an open source instant messaging program for Windows, Linux, BSD, and other Unix platforms. It works with AIM, ICQ, Jabber/XMPP, MSN Messenger, Yahoo, Bonjour, Gadu-Gadu, IRC, Novell GroupWise Messenger, QQ, Lotus Sametime, SILC, SIMPLE, MySpaceIM, and Zephyr.

The program can log in to multiple accounts on multiple IM networks simultaneously and supports many features of the various networks, such as file transfer, away messages, and typing notification. It also provides numerous other features such as Buddy Pounces, which give the ability to notify you, send a message, play a sound, or run a program when a specific buddy goes away, signs online, or returns from idle.

Luke Schierer started using Pidgin (then known as Gaim) in 1999, not long after its first release. He officially joined the project in 2001, after being on the IRC channel and helping out for a few several months. He is now one of the core developers. Somewhere between his full time job working with Linux clusters and his time spent developing Pidgin, he finds time to tell PC World about his life, open source and Pidgin.

When did you first start to use your own words in your blog, "avoiding Microsoft" and why?

In college, working on the first computer that was actually mine, and not a family computer, I very quickly reached the limits of what I could do, using Windows. This, despite the fact that my Pentium II, for the time, was not a poor computer. A friend of mine had already been using Linux for some time. With his help, I set that computer up, first as a dual boot system. The difference was phenomenal. I could do so much more with the same hardware.

So this is what sparked your interest in open source?

(Also) the fact that I could do my school work on my local computer, instead of having to ssh or telnet to the school server.

How much of your time is devoted to Pidgin?

At least an hour each day, several hours many days. I devoted much more time to the project while I was still a student, but working full time on other things takes its toll on the amount of time I have.

What do you find rewarding about working on Pidgin?

When I joined the project, it was the only (in my opinion) truly usable aim client for Linux period. But it was severely limited. Then we conceived of the core/UI split and saw, distantly, the ability to run with a text interface. I wanted that. I also became interested in XMPP (back when it was simply jabber) very early. I'd still like to see that become a larger part of Instant Messaging. In my own way, working on Pidgin, I'm helping towards that. But really, open source is about meeting needs. I need an IM client, my friends do, and my co-workers do. I have this skill, and I'm helping to fill that need. That means something.

What is your favourite computer game?

Heh. I'm not much of a gamer. I like Civilization, it'd be nice if there were Linux versions available for it, and I'll probably get the OSX version of it at some point. I also like puzzle games, and simple games like boggle (from the bsdgames package).

What do you do when you are not working on Pidgin?

I have a full time job working with Linux clusters. I also read extensively, both fiction and non-fiction. I do things with my Church, and with my family.

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