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With the launch of Google Hangouts, the world just got a lot more social!

As +Vic Gundotra puts it, Google is now connecting people in new ways, with one of the new ways being Hangouts.

Never heard of Google Plus Hangouts? Read on and discover one of the most useful tools for global socializing and collaboration.

What are Google Hangouts?

Google Hangouts launched in May 2013 to replace Google Talk, Gchat, what used to be called hangouts but were really ‘Google Plus Video Chat’ without the integration, and Google Messenger. Phew. I think life is about to get easier in the Plus. But what are they all about?

Using +Vic Gundotra‘s words, a great metaphor is this – hangouts are people sitting on a porch…

Think about it this way:

Hangouts are like a party on the porch front. You are walking by and see people are chatting away on the porch and decide to pop in and say ‘hi’.

Check out this video and see what they are all about…

‘Hangouts’ now mean something ‘more’ than they did when Google Plus launched – they are still hanging out on a porch, but it seems there are currently two ways to hang: text chat (in something like the old GChat but now with groups) and ‘video calls’ (what many have come to think about as ‘hangouts’)…

In the text version you are in a ‘group chat’ with whoever has been invited to that ‘hangout’, whether or not you joined the ‘video call’ aspect. Worth noting, you cannot just have ‘audio’ without the video, but you can easily swicth off your camera.

New AWESOME Video on Google Hangouts

Below you will see a complete overview of hangouts, including an introduction to hangouts-on-air.

You can have up to 100 people in the text chat hangout, and up to 10 in the video call (unless you have a corporate account and then it is 15).

If you want all the technical spec on Google Hangouts then check out system requirements.

Thanks John Elstone for this information.

BTW: in the upper right of the screen when you are logged into Google Plus you will often see a green speechmark – this will bring your hangout box back into play if it has disappeared! This will open up a box in the right of your screen.

Screen Shot 2013-05-17 at 12.12.03

Getting yourself set up on a desktop or a laptop

Download the app for your system and ‘Hangouts’ that you have ‘open’ will now be on your desktop instead of appearing within the browser.

iOS – http://goo.gl/h3glR

Android – http://goo.gl/g61QW

Chrome App – http://goo.gl/cr3XE

You can also move them around the screen as well. Handy. (Thanks Laura Manach for the links)

Tip: use a Chrome extension for more flexibility

If you use Google Chrome then you can add the Chrome extension for Hangouts: http://goo.gl/8y36V).

To start or join a hangout, and video call:

There are several ways to start or join a hangout, each with a slightly different meaning.

Option 1. – Straight from a Profile (A)

On a person’s profile you can click the button looking like a single speech mark…

Screen Shot 2013-05-17 at 13.01.33

This in turn brings up a box:

Screen Shot 2013-05-17 at 13.02.28You will need to start typing and send that message for them to know you’ve got this screen open.

Option 2. – Straight from a someone’s profile (B)

When you are on the profile of someone, you can also start a hangout by clicking the large green box ‘Say hi to…’- this opens up the hangout box to the right:

Screen Shot 2013-05-17 at 14.32.55Note: you see ‘Lee Smallwood’ is underlined in green in the image above? This means he is ‘online’ and available.

Option 3. Wherever you see the green speech marks!

Screen Shot 2013-05-17 at 12.24.00

Or just click on the ‘green speech marks’ where you see them, this will open up this section of hangouts (the text part) and then start typing where is says ‘+ new hangout’:

Screen Shot 2013-05-17 at 12.25.43Ok, so you’ve almost got on started but next, just start typing into the box where it says “name, email, number or circle”

Then you will see the options for e.g. choosing circles of people.

Screen Shot 2013-05-17 at 12.28.50Next, check a tab or number of tabs to invite that people into the hangout.

And also choose whether you want to initiate a text call or a video chat – you can see I’ve chosen text in the image below as the icon is green…

Note: it would appear there is an upper limit to a hangout party – I am getting around 100 people in chat and still 10 in the video call aspect (I am basing this just on what circles I can invite) – but I do not seem to be able to invite larger circles e.g. 500 people.

Option 4 – ‘Start a party’ from chat.

Screen Shot 2013-05-17 at 14.49.24Just go straight to a video call from the chat part of the hangout by clicking ‘start a party’ at the bottom of the hangout section….

Option 5. Join an existing video call by clicking the green video icon

Also, you can see ‘in the green section’ below who is already in the video call.

Screen Shot 2013-05-18 at 08.53.24Click on the green camera icon and you will join the call (with other people shown).

There are many other options e.g. starting a hangout from Gmail, but these are some of the main ones you will need.

What happens once you started a hangout?

What happens once you get started with a hangout depends upon who you have invited, how you’ve got your notifications set up, and some other important considerations as well.

Let’s begin looking at a hangout party in full swing first, then a more intimate hangout of 2 people.

Scenario A – Group Chat

Screen Shot 2013-05-17 at 12.06.24You can see here there are 70 people in the group chat (by the icon on the top bar)…

Click on the cog to bring up a screen similar to the one below.

Screen Shot 2013-05-17 at 12.06.52

In this same screen on EVERY hangout you can do the following:

1. choose whether you are notified with new messages within the hangout chat

2. save the history of message

3. archive a hangout – this removes it from that ‘front screen’ and you can re-enter later (look under ‘archived hangouts’ to do so)

4. delete hangout

5. leave the hangout

Note: if you don’t ‘Leave the hangout’ it will remain ‘open’ i.e. the party is still going on!

Scenario B – Just 2 people are hanging out

Screen Shot 2013-05-17 at 12.39.20When is it just 2 people in the hangout the following will apply…you also have the option to ‘block’ when you click the cog as well.

Also, if you see someone in your hangout list that you don’t want contact with, you can click on their name (without inviting them to chat) then just click the cog, and then choose ‘block person’.

What does blocking do?

If you are in the same hangout as some you’ve blocked, then you will be able to ‘chat’ in the hangout but not be able to go into a video call if someone has you blocked.

If someone else is in the ‘room’ i.e. the video call, the person who has a) blocked or b) has been blocked CANNOT enter.

This is when it is ‘ignore’ type of blocked or when it is a ‘permanent block’.

Note: in the latter case, in the text part of the hangout, they become a ‘bluehead’.

This is the same from a comments thread viewpoint e.g. Let’s say a 3rd party sends a circle and if you have someone blocked you can still e.g. both comment on other people’s threads.

What if you need help?

Well, here is the group for Google Hangouts.

People are also very supported in Google Plus Communities. I recommend Google+ Discuss, Google+ Helper and The G+ Resource as well.

How to change who can contact you in hangouts:

If you click on the tab in the upper right, you can snooze notifications for e.g. an hour or more.

This will help you not to party too much.

Screen Shot 2013-05-18 at 14.20.17If you ‘Sign out of Hangouts’ you will, well, shut it down – but the party may continue without you!

Also, you see ‘customize’ new requests? This is a very useful thing to look at doing – especially if you have a lot of circles! Check it out below…

Want to customise who can invite you to hangouts? Or getting too many notifications?

This is something you may want to adjust if you are getting too many invites to hangouts…

Go to https://www.google.com/settings/plus

Screen Shot 2013-05-17 at 12.14.01Choose ‘Who can hangout with you? click ‘Customize’ – that will bring up this screen…

Hangout settingsAnd you can then choose either ‘Send request’ or ‘Hangout with you’ – if you choose ‘Hangout with you’ then you don’t have to ‘approve’ the contact when they get in touch.

Also, you can choose whether you ‘get notified’ at all by checking or unchecking the box.

You will need to do this on every circle that you feel is relevant as at present no global change possible.

Tip: As you can see above I’ve created a ‘HANGOUT CIRCLE’ set up a circle (or circles) of people with whom you are happy receiving ‘requests’. This will bring it very much in your control.

Google Hangouts – video call

As you may expect, this is the video aspect of a hangout – just like what many people used to call hangouts before hangouts were hangouts!

Here is a video describing the features of the video call section of the hangout:

Note – this link starts at the right spot: CLICK HERE

I will redo the video soon, but all of that information onwards still stands since the updates.

What equipment do you need for the video call?

If you have a computer, a smart phone or a tablet you are well on the way.

The real benefit of Google Hangouts are the ability to see people in the ‘video call’, so having a camera is ideal. But when it comes to the ‘video call’ aspect of hangouts there are a couple of options:

a. using your internal computer/mobile/tablet

b. using an external camera

Next, you want to consider your microphone, again you could use the internal microphone or you could look at getting something like a Snowball.

There is a great post here if you really want to get this area sounding spot on.

Note: once in the video call you can change the audio and video settings in the hangout by clicking the cog in the upper right.

After you start or enter a Google hangout…

So, you enter the Hangout and then what?

Sometimes you may use hangouts for business, and sometimes just for fun. When it comes to business, well you will get a good idea of how formal you should be. But when it comes to justing ‘dropping in’ you may like a few tips…

Here are a few suggestions when you don’t know the people, but of course, very often you will be inviting people yourself.

1. Say hi!

Why not let people know you are there when you arrive? And note that you will be muted when you enter the ‘room’ (this is an auto-mute feature), so you will need to ‘un-mute’ by clicking the upper right ‘mic’ button.

2. Say where you are from.

You can also let people know where you are from or what part of a business you represent etc.

People love to connect with people from anywhere in the world. And Google Plus is a true global community! Regularly this information is the next question you would have been asked in any case if people don’t know you already.

People love to hear about foreign places, as they journey in their minds through your stories; as well as being reminded of their home as well.

3. Listen to what people are chatting about and engage around this topics.

If you are new, you may like to listen for a little while first and then speak. Sometimes long, hilarious, serious, or even exciting hangout conversations will have been going on before you arrived.

4. Think about it like a porch!

If you just stand there and say nothing, you are not really contributing to the dynamic. That can be ok but let people know you just want to listen in.

Sometimes, people who haven’t much English may want to be quieter, but so many hangouters will be patient with you, so don’t worry too much about this.

5. Engage

Hangouts are an incredible way to engage with people. The more you know about those hanging out, the more you will probably relate to what they are saying.

Maybe you want to have a look at people’s profiles so you can understand more of the contexts of the conversation. With me, for instance, knowing that I love psychology and comedy will give you the context if I am anlalysing the benefits of Google+

6. Be nice

Ok, this is just my advice but remember:

If you are inappropriate then you will probably get blocked. I’ve seen this happen.

If you type too much, you will find yourself auto-muted i.e. you may find yourself getting put into the naughty corner.

Personally, I aim to be upbeat and positive – people respond to your mood in the same way as they do in real life.

So often people will all be laughing in the hangout when one person starts. Fun is infectious.

7. Enjoy being yourself!

Relax as much as you can when you learn from some of the people that have been on here since last June. The topics covered will be as numerous as the people you hangout with.

So, in summary – think about it as a porch. This is new technology and that is one of the handiest ways to look at it – say and do what you would do if you were chilling on a porch. The culture is extremely supportive and will help you out if there are any issues you’ve found with learning how to use Google+

Adding photos to the party

One very cool feature is how you can add in photos…

As you can see, there is a little camera icon in the corner of the text aspect of the hangout.

Screen Shot 2013-05-17 at 13.18.36

This is clickable and will bring up a screen (below)…

Screen Shot 2013-05-17 at 13.18.43

From there you can add pictures to the text part of the hangout – and note, they will be seen by everyone who is part of that hangout.

Having even more fun in hangouts:

You can add emoticons, dancing ponies, an array of funny little images and more…

There are two ways to do this:

1. Click the lower left icon of a smiley face – on the other side of where you clicked to upload images – and then this screen will appear. Select the from the upper category and click an icon to select.

Then press ‘share’ to entertain the hangout with you playful nature.

Should be interesting in business meetings :D

Screen Shot 2013-05-18 at 11.28.25And…

2. Below is a list of the ways to bring up some more weird and wonderful hangout hilarity…

Easter eggs

Thanks Moritz Tolxdorff for posting this. Note: the konami needs to be in lowercase.

How to create a hangout-on-air, integrate with a Google+ event and set it up on YouTube afterwards

Once you’ve got to grips with joining and starting Google hangouts, you may well want to ‘go live’.

The great thing about hangouts is how they integrate with Google events, play live on your connected YouTube channel and get saved there as well.

So, the first thing to do is ‘start a hangout-on-air’.

In this video, Ronnie Bincer shows you how to get it going:

From there, you may like to embed the code of the hangout-on-air into the event.

As such, after you’ve watched the video above, I have started the video link at the relevant section:

Google Plus Hangout-on-air process – integrating with an event, and what to do on YouTube later on.

Also note: there is now a 1 minute delay between what the audience sees and the live event – this is something to know when e.g. people are commenting on the event stream.

Once you get to grips with this, check out Ronnie Bincer here: www.thehangouthelper.com as he rocks the Plus when it comes to this area!

Conclusion

Hangouts are one of the greatest features on Google+. With both text and video call they will be lead to people connecting in new ways. It really is quite an incredible experience and a fun one as well. Enjoy!

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