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.