Google + hangouts: Much easier than they look.

Where to start a hangout

A cunning disguise

The new kid on the block, Google +, has actually been around a while. Long enough to know better anyway. 

Google + is a social networking system (It’s not just a site, although if it was it would be much simpler to get to grips with). It belongs to Google and currently has some 400 million members of whom I am one. 

Most of us joined in the same way we buy insurance, because we think we ought to. 

And, like the best kinds of insurance, once you’ve joined you promptly forget all about it. 

It has nagged at me a little bit as I’ve tried to see what the (Google generated) fuss was all about. My few visits didn’t find it desperately welcoming or easy to get. 

But because I’m determined to be seen as an early (ish) adopter, I have persisted. 

At last, lately I have learned there’s a big benefit to Google + (G+ to it’s pals). It’s the hangout – which even manages to sound ever so slightly cool. 

Hangouts are a way of meeting people on line. They are very flexible and allow, among other things, to watch something on a website (opening the possibility of a virtual movie night), public or private hangouts, up to ten participants, sharing what’s on screen and, most importantly the addition of funny hats and silly noises. 

Yes, they mostly do what Skype does. Apparently – and I don’t know either system well enough to comment – G+ is more stable and has all these other options. Also, and I have this from no greater authority than Rosie Scribble who works for G+, if you do a private hangout it is very secure. Secure enough for G+ to use for their business meetings. 

With the patient assistance of Karin at Cafe Bebe and Rosie I have hosted a hangout or two. 

Here’s what I’ve learned:

You need to be in the circle (ie a G+ friend of) the people you want to hang out with. This isn’t as easy as it seems as the search facility appears to be a bit pants. It might be old-school, but emailing your G+ IDs could be the way to make sure you’re all joined up. 

G+ hangouts work better on a computer (with a camera and a mic) rather than a phone or a tablet. They do work, just not quite so well. 

If you start a hangout, you need to invite the people you want to talk to. (And they have to be in your circles). 

Someone else cuts a dash too

You decide if your hangout is going to be private or public (very simple to do).

If it’s public anyone can watch – if it’s not then no one can. 

If it’s public then you can use the recording of your hangout like a video. There’s one I took part in below. 

The silly hats and noises do take away the awkward intensity of seeing yourself on screen. 

G+ might provide something of social life to those stranded at home with children or otherwise isolated. Regular hangouts over a glass of wine could become a thing of the future – or at least I hope so. 

Drop me a line/email/tweet/text or pigeon if you fancy a hangout.  

Here’s my first hangout – a public one at Britmums Live earlier this year. 


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