Should You Be Using Google Plus Hangouts Instead of GoToWebinar and Skype?
My friend an avid Googler Chris Lang persuaded me to try out the new Google Plus Hangouts feature.
We scheduled a private hangout for the two of us, and his fab wife Margie. Well we didn’t actually schedule anything, Chris invited me to the hangout and when I finally managed to overcome the technical difficulties, I accepted the invitation and the hangout started. Later I learned you can pre schedule a Google Plus Hangout if you sync it to your Google Calendar.
Preparing For The Hangout
I love my Firefox browser. I have long ago left Internet Explorer and avoided Google Chrome like the plague.
Chris insisted I install Chrome. No disrespect to all Chrome users, but I don’t like the idea of Chrome and I got a strange big brother feeling as I installed.
The positive thing about this extension is that it notifies you when you are being invited to a hangout. (For a moment I felt transported to an Eastern Airport, then I realized my Hangout was up…)
Install Plugin Nightmare
Installing Gtalk was simple, however, since I had never before used Google voice on my PC, every time I tried to open the Hangout window I was prompted to install a plugin.
We managed to get on the Hangout, Chris suggested I record some of it with my Camtasia Studio screen capture. Little did I know installing Gtalk completely screwed up my recording settings on my computer.
I found this out only after we concluded our hangout and I attempted to save the recording and edit it. All the sound was gone… or rather replaced with awful noise.
Lesson – Record a very short segment as a test before going in for the kill….
The Hangout itself was pretty cool, the basic features are there, you can share your screen , add people to the hangout, make it public by inviting +public to your hangout. You can see all parties that participate in the Hangout and each has the ability to turn on a black screen (in case they need to do something behind closed doors during the hangout. )
You Tube Within a Hangout
We even watched a YouTube video together, though while the video played we could only talk while pressing down a green Talk button (reminded me of my childhood walkie talkie).
Now this is where it gets tricky. How do you successfully manage a group of ten people in a discussion? During the hangout I had a few creative ideas for needed widgets –
- The bleep – for every time someone says something inappropriate
- Hand up – Hey I have something to say about this
- Two thumbs up – Awesome point, I totally agree
If your hangout is more limited, you might take the time before the hangout starts to lay out the ground etiquette rules.
Are Google Hangouts Better Than Skype?
I kept asking, how exactly is this better than Skype? I conduct most of my business on Skype, whether I am meeting a new consulting client via voice or video chat, or exchanging bits of data, Skype has earned a warm fuzzy place of respect in my heart.
Now here’s the thing, most people don’t have a Google Account, certainly not a GPlus account. Most people are afraid to install new software, extensions and plugins on their computer. Google provides no real support documentation for the installation process. There is no way I would ever ask a client to go through that just to talk, when Skype works great and is free. Perhaps this will change over time.
Now I know – Hangouts are not better than Skype. At least not right now. I don’t see a crowd of 10 people any kind of competition for my GoToWebinar yearly subscription.
For the select few that have streaming Hangouts this is a different story.
Google Plus Streaming Hangouts
Select users can now broadcast their Hangouts, which turns the intimate chat sessions into a live stream that can be watched by an unlimited number of participants.
The Hangout is broadcasted to their Google Plus profile as well as YouTube. Any one passing by can tune in, though the 10 participant rule still applies. Perhaps this is the real future of hangouts, though some legal issues regarding the streaming need to be sorted.
I also discovered this cool site that shows you popular hangout schedules so that you can hop on board…