Wednesday, July 13, 2011

Hanging Out with Google+

I’ve been having fun exploring the new Google+ social networking application.  It’s to my advantage that genealogists have jumped all over this product.  It wouldn’t be fun exploring  this new world without a big circle of followers, but I already have about 100 genealogists in my circles, as well as various friends, family and acquaintances.  I started a circle for Mayflower cousins, and it still has ZERO participants- are you surprised?  It would be hard to explore Google+ without a lot of circles and friends posting.

For the past two nights I’ve checked out the “Hangout” feature.  This is the one new feature that Facebook doesn’t offer.  The first night I joined in on a pre-arranged hangout hosted by Ginger Smith, and about six or seven genealogists chatted for about an hour.  Last night I started a hangout, which attracted six chatters, with no more than four of us at a time on screen as some chatters only stayed for a few minutes just out of curiosity!
The first night was a real experiment, since folks didn’t know that a patch was required for the video chat, and some of us had trouble logging on to the chat.  I had to reboot several times, and the chatters could see my name appear and disappear with each attempt.  I finally got onboard, yet lost my wireless connection before the hour was up.   There were a variety of platforms being used by participants, Firefox, Internet Explorer, Safari, etc. and the one causing the most problems seemed to be Chrome (which is a Google product, believe it or not!)  Dick Eastman mentioned that he had to close all his other windows to run the chat properly, and he blogged aboutthis, too.

Another thing I found out is that after the chat, Google+ automatically posted a notice that I “hungout with 6 people”  and listed their names X, Y and Z.   This is an automatic feature, and there doesn’t seem to be a way to edit or change this?  Maybe I’m wrong, but it would be important to know ahead of time that the world is going to know everyone you include in your “Hangouts”!   I suppose you could always delete this post, but for some people that might pose a bit of a problem.
The more people who join your chat, the slower the video seems to run.  The audio kept up just fine, but at some point the video became very jerky.  People would seem to disappear off the screen, instead of seeing them get up and walk away.  A chart held up in front of the camera would appear and disappear, so it would be important to remember to hold it there for a minute or two instead of just waving it in front of the computer (a good hint for genealogists!) 

The second night’s hangout was initiated by a prearranged time, but most people just saw the open invitation to hangout on the stream and joined in that way.  Spontaneous hangouts seem to be the most fun.  I can see that if a family wanted to chat about a topic, or a group of friends decided that posting on line was getting tedious they could just break into a spontaneous video hangout to continue the conversation face to face.
Marian Pierre Louis, who is a professional genealogist, had some concerns right away during our chat about how she looked on video.  Lighting, background, and background noises all seemed to matter a lot in how participants looked and sounded.  One participant had a TV on in the background, and another seemed to be too far away from the microphone and was hard to hear.  Russ Worthington wore a headset (earphones and mic) and he sounded the best to everyone who was listening.  This is not important for just socializing, but for a client conference or a more important conversation these are all things to keep in mind.

It was not necessary for participants to have a webcam and microphone, since there was a built in chat box on the screen.  We experimented with sending messages on the chat wall, and it seemed to work just fine.  It reminded me of the chat wall where the Peanut Gallery posts comments during Thomas MacEntee’s Genealogy BlogTalk radio shows.  I liked this because everyone can participate this way, even if they don’t have a webcam.   Everyone will see the video, even if they are just chatting.  There is a button to “mute” the camera (if you are in your PJs!) or to “mute” the audio (in case the phone rings, which happened to me!).
Since I had initiated the hangout, I was curious to see what would happen when I logged off the conversation.  Would it end the video conferencing?  Or would the other participants be able to continue their chat?  Fortunately, when I logged off, they could continue- which is a nice feature to know about ahead of time.

Copyright 2011, Heather Wilkinson Rojo


  1. Thanks for the review. Good information to know.

  2. Good post Heather! It was nice to "meet" you in the first Hangout you were in. I had trouble figuring out who was speaking since my lag was severe. I'd hear a voice but couldn't see anyone's mouth moving in time with the words. What I didn't realize was that the big picture above the row of smaller ones, was changing each time to whoever was speaking! I thought it was just random switching! I'm going to try another hangout when I have my hair done and makeup and clothes on (other than pjs!)

  3. Thanks, Heather... good report!

  4. head is exploding with Google+. I need a real benefit for my clients. But you seem to be ahead of the game. I just clicked your G+link at the end of post. What did that do?

  5. Interesting to know about those automatic posts. That could create an embarrassing or awkward situation for some folks so it's good to know about it ahead of time.

  6. Hi Heather, great to know that if you, as the initiator of the hangout, logged of, that the other participants could continue chatting.

    I think Google is about transparency, thus the "so and so is hanging out with so and so."

  7. Hi Kathleen, when you clicked that little +1 at the end of the link, you registered one vote for the post. Sort of like clicking "Like" at Facebook. Now there are two votes for this story! I don't know why or how that little widget got there, but it's also part of Google+ so perhaps they work together? Does anyone know the answer to that?

  8. Heather, I did not have the little +1, but with the help of a few other bloggers/genie types over at Google +, we did figure it out. I enabled it on the blog hoping it would work in conjunction with Google +, I think (a very dangerous thing) that it may have something to do with your rating on Google search??? I am sure if I am in error someone will eventually correct me! LOL

    My helpers found the enable button on the Blogger Design screen, then, look at the area that represents your posts. There is a little edit button down in the bottom right hand corner, click, snoop, choose your poison.

  9. When you +1 a blog post, a link to the post will show up on your G+ profile page under the +1's page. Another way of keeping a list of the posts that you liked, I guess, rather than bookmarking them. I don't think others can see your +1 page.

  10. Great report - thank you! The G+ is both a like and a ranking. This link from Google Webmaster tools explains the new features of it.

  11. thanks for the review...

    Aloha from Waikiki;

    PS: My new blog posts are still not updating in blogger/reader OR links on others' blogs
    but I'm still posting! :(

    Comfort Spiral


    > < } } ( ° >

  12. Debbie - There is a setting in "edit profile" that will let others see your +1s but it was turned off by default so most people don't seem to have turned it on.

  13. Sounds interesting. When does it go public?

  14. Charles, if you have a google account (gmail?) you can go to and start a G+ profile.

  15. Great post and thank you for the heads up and Google announcing to the world who you have been hanging with! ~laughs~ Some people could get into real trouble!