Thursday, July 28, 2011

Google+ for Genealogy at BYU Conference!

Well, the only way to get in the pool is to jump right in! In just a few hours, I'll be giving my first overview presentation about Google+ for Genealogy (or perhaps you're already used to seeing it written as Google Plus for Genealogy), either way it's sure to be an exciting session. We squeezed it into the conference schedule at the last second as anticipation is growing for the official release of this new social media offering from Google.

Stay tuned for more exciting updates as this site and the Google+ service both mature in the weeks and months ahead!

Monday, July 25, 2011

Exploring Google+ Hangouts

So you want to Hangout? But, what's a Hangout? You might be surprised to learn it's about as simple as you think. If you're on your computer and want to connect with a few others — either a specific group to discuss a particular topic or simply anyone to enjoy a spur-of-the-moment conversation about something (anything or nothing), then you can use the Google+ Hangout feature.

Once you're signed in to your Google+ account, navigate to your home page and in the lower right corner you will see a green box labeled 'Start a hangout'. Once you initiate the application (nothing to download, it's built into Google+), you'll see a window similar to the one which appears below. While this feature for multi-party video conferencing is most interesting with a webcam, you can use it without a camera, but you will then be limited to voice and text chat only (although you will be able to view the images of others who join the Hangout).

Currently, there is a limit to just 10 people in a Hangout, but to be fair, that's probably enough if you really are going to have any meaningful discussion — things could get a bit crazy with more.

Note that as soon as you initiate a Hangout, a message will be posted on your Stream (similar to a news feed or wall), as well as the Stream for any of the contacts included in Circle you chose to invite to the Hangout. This serves as a live, active invite which will remain active while the Hangout is in session, and will dynamically let others know how many others and who else are already part of the hangout.

At the conclusion of the Hangout, the message on your profile will simply indicate that you and several others had 'hung out' and comments can follow as part of that Stream.

One thing I found useful, especially in this early 'testing' phase, was to create a specific Circle for those I plan to Hangout with on a regular basis. It's a small group and I can move contacts in or out as I wish, but is useful when I want to start a Hangout to then select my Hangout Circle and away we go!

You might find this YouTube video about Google+ Hangouts helpful.

Saturday, July 09, 2011

Google+ . . . the latest new tool for Genealogy! may have heard. There is another new tool being introduced which may be of interest to family history enthusiasts. This one will deserve special attention because of the company behind it — it's called Google+ and is a major introduction from the Internet's dominant player. The new service is, in many ways, Google's answer to Facebook.

Now, to be fair, it's too early in the game for me to make any meaningful comments about Google+, but there are a few general observations I will make based on having watched how family historians around the world have used and are using their computers, the Internet, search engines, mobile devices, social media applications, and other technology for to enhance their genealogical pursuits.

First and foremost — don't lose sight of the task at hand! What I mean by that is, new tools can often be an exciting distraction. They're fun, shiny, new . . . but you need to ask yourself: Will this help me with the task at hand or slow me down?

You may not be able to answer that question at first, but just keep it in the back of your mind. If you find yourself spending more time managing the tool itself vs. working on the underlying task, then I'd suggest that perhaps the balance of power has shifted out of your control.

I've seen (and heard) of some who spend so many hours on Facebook, but then have to question how did that time directly help them with their research. It may be different if you're using the service to promote a product or service, but if you're interests are chasing down the next clue to break through a brick wall, then be sure the majority of your time is being used to focus on that goal. Don't get consumed with reading every post just because it appears on the wall of someone you are 'friends' with.

As Google+ prepares to toss their hat in the ring (well, they have already, but the service is still in a controlled 'field test' as they call it), the temptation will be great to have to maintain yet another social network.

My advice (to myself as well as anyone reading) is this — it's helpful and healthy to learn what a new tool has to offer, but unless you need to be on the cutting edge, proceed at a pace that is reasonable for you. And only YOU can judge that for yourself. Don't forget about those ancestors who are still waiting to be found. They deserve some of your time and attention too!