Friday, March 2, 2012

Sure, You Can Have My Seat!

I've had quite a few presentations lately at various family history conferences, both in the United States and in England. Among the many Goolge+ questions I get, the most (from non-users) are about Hangouts. How they work? Whether or not special equipment is required? And how to know who to connect with . . . that sort of thing. For some reason it seems that some just aren't getting the concept of a "Hangout" and so I explain it like this.

Imagine walking into a large, very crowded cafeteria at a genealogy conference. You look around, see an assortment of round tables each with 10 chairs. Some are empty, some are partially occupied. You could simply walk up and ask to join a table and in short order, likely join the conversation. OR you could walk up and start a table of your own with one or more friends who may be waiting in line with you. As a table fills up, you max out at 10 and the conversation continues. Now - that's pretty easy to understand. In addition, you could plan to meet a certain group of friends every Tuesday at 1pm to chat about a common interest. My dad does this almost daily at his local Dunkin' Donuts . . . they sit, have coffee (and I'm sure at least one donut) and chat about a range of things, then go about their day. My point is that these get togethers are Hangouts. Whether spur-of-the-moment or planned, it's a group - sometimes friends, sometimes unknowns, joining together to enjoy conversation.

NOW - given that explaination, let me share today's Hangout wish list item. There are many occasions when I want to join a particular Hangout, but I can see it's full before I even try to join. It's like walking up to a table, even though you can see that all 10 chairs are full. I click the JOIN HANGOUT button, as if my luck may just slip me in as someone was leaving, but often times it's full and the message tells me, SORRY - THIS HANGOUT IS FULL. Depending upon what I've got on my plate at the moment, I may press TRY AGAIN or simply bail out until later.

Wouldn't it be great to know just how many people there are ahead of you in line? If you knew you were next, it would might certainly be worth the wait. If you knew 30 people were in queue ahead of you, you'd probably bail and perhaps start your own hangout. BUT - for certain discussions, when a carefully controlled crowd is discussing something, you may want to carefully excuse yourself and pass your seat to someone in particular. As if being the perfect gentleman, you may wish to give your seat to a lady - or a colleague who you know has something specific to add to the discussion. It would be great to be able to pass a token so that you particular seat could pass to someone you designate, thereby allowing them in just as your session expires. Certainly an electronic token could be passed from one person to another.

This would be a wonderful addition to an already wonderful service. Just wishing. How about you? Thoughts?

Thursday, February 9, 2012

Finding Hangouts Needs to be Easier.

Well, it's been a while since I've posted here. Mainly because the team at Google has been rolling out feature after feature, improvement after improvement, bug fix after bug fix, faster than we can all get our hands and arms around all that Google+ has to offer.

Tonight I participated in a Hangout with, of all people, some members of the Hangout team at Google. It's GREAT that they can use their very own product as the mechanism to gather feedback. I commend them for hosting these - not just today, but in the past as well. It's been interesting to hear the discussions about how others are using Google+ Hangouts, how they WISH they could use them AND WHY. Also great to hear discussions a couple months ago and see those features live today.

That said, here are two enhancement requests that I'd really like to see. OK, make it three.

1) When I sit in front of my computer and click on +Dan, I enter my Stream (Home page). I sometimes want to quickly see/know if there are Hangouts taking place right at that moment. No realy easy and obvious way to do so. SURE - I've saved a Search Query as part of my Sparks List searching for "is hanging out with" and that will then search the stream and display them for me. BUT, I try to teach others how to use Google, G+ and the Internet and it really should be easier. Especially for my parents generation.

2) Building on that first example, now, if I click on my Genealogy Circle, I'd like a way to see - SPECIFICALLY - if there is a Hangout occurring withing my Genealogy Circle of friends/contacts. But it won't do both. It will either show me my Genealogy Stream OR will execute my query for "is hanging out with", but will not show both filters at once. I've tried to monkey around and manually edit the URL but not even that seems to work. SO, it's made my official wish list.

3) Lastly, when trying to join a Hangout, sometimes I see they are full, but I really want to join for a particular discussion . . . so, I Try Again and Try Again and Try Again. Wouldn't it be great to know how close we are to the head of the line? If there are 1 or 2 or 3 ahead of me, I may opt to just hang and wait, but if I'm 34th, well then maybe I have time to do the dinner dishes or even run 10k or something. Who knows?

Any thoughts from my fellow G+ users? Fellow family history enthusiasts?

Sunday, August 28, 2011

Add 'Cancel' Button in 'Edit Profile'

This is about as easy as it gets, but I can't say for sure how many times I've already wished I had this capability. When using the Edit Profile capabilities, the dark red/orange band appears at the top of the screen. That horizontal bar also includes a 'Done Editing' button.

Even though each of the 18 'About' elements is individually editable, there should be an overall bailout button in case one should change their mind and decide we're not happy with what we're working on. The only option now is to bail all together (close browser, click back button OR click Done Editing).

Clicking a 'Cancel' Button could essentially be a 'Reset' back to content before the Edit session began. Just my thoughts.

Friday, August 26, 2011

Excluding Circles in Stream

I feel as if I shouldn't even have to write this post. Perhaps hoping deep down inside that before I can even finish writing, Google will rollout a code update that will incorporate this new feature into the Circles integration with display of content in the Stream on the Google+ home page.

So...we've been using Google+ for a couple months now and we've seen some pretty rapid development. That's fantastic! It's probably the nature of things — the more we get, the more we seem to want. The higher the bar that Google clears, the higher still we raise it for the next jump.

With quite a few people in a total of 20 Circles, I've tried really hard to have the groups be meaningful to me so I can have 1-click access to filter my Stream and read just the pieces I want or need at any given point. But the way I've created my Circles, sometimes I want to read 2 or 3 or four Circles in my Stream at the same time OR sometimes I want to see most of my Circles, but exclude a specific few where there are lots of comments to the posts (some with 70, 80 or more comments). That really gets crazy - even now with collapsing comments.

I can write the spec for this, but I'm sure the engineers at Google have already considered this. How about giving users the ability to pull up their list of Circles on the home page and click the circle bullet that appears before the label. If it's filled in, then it means show the Circle in the post, if it's empty, don't show it. Or vice versa. Either way, some sort of Show/No option for each.

I know they want to keep the home page and navigation looking as good and clean and awesome as it currently does, but there also needs to be a nice balance between that and useability. The stream gets totally out of control when we can't filter it just the way we want/need to based on our real life Circle of contacts.

Anyone else have thoughts or comments on this?

Wednesday, August 17, 2011

Drag & Drop on G+ Homepage

With such clever integration between the Stream and Circles, I find myself wondering why one additional feature hasn't yet been implemented on Google+.

While reviewing/reading items in my Stream, I sometimes realize that posts from certain individuals are no longer as useful as I had thought they would be when I first circled them. It's not that I want to block this person, but rather that when many people are circles, the Stream flows more like a Rapid and that's partly my fault. I've refined my Circles a bit and that has quickly helped, but that takes more clicks and jumping from screen to screen — something I don't often have time for.

I think it would be very useful to have the capability of dragging a post from the Stream and dropping it in another Circle or, better yet, in the Incoming Circle. This way, I've not blocked someone, nor have I muted their post, but I've essentially reassigned or demoted the importance of their posts (for now) and can always check the Incoming posts with a single click when I have time. And when I find that my interest in a topic peaks again, I drag a post (and therefore the author) back into one of my circles.

As always, let us all know what you think? Good idea? Bad idea? Is there a better alternative I've not considered?

Sunday, August 14, 2011

Sharing Desktop in Hangouts

This is quick, easy to explain, and I would think fairly easy to implement from an engineering perspective. While in Hangouts, I often find that I'm in discussions with others where I want/need to share my desktop with them or they need to share theirs with me/us.

I know there are third-party applications that can help achieve this, but I don't like installing all sorts of extra software on my machine unless it's absolutely necessary. There's enough on here as it is and I don't want to risk introducing a conflict. So, I've found myself jumping out of Hangouts and into a Skype call, just so I can share my screen with another and then discuss a length if needed, and, well, you see . . . now I'm no longer in the Hangout. No need for that.

In the last couple days alone, there had to be at least a half-dozen different situations. Someone was asking others to review and help decide on which new logo they liked better. He held printouts out up in front of his camera, but that just didn't cut it. Another person wanted to show the work they had done on their family tree and how impressive the chart is now that many generations are filled in and well documented. I wanted to have others review/critique slides for an upcoming webinar.

Well, I probably don't need to go on here, I simply want at least a basic ability to share my desktop with others in a Hangout. And I want them to be able to do the same on their end, at their option, of course.

What do you all think about this one? Share your thoughts.

Friday, August 12, 2011

SPARKS . . . part 2

A few conversations following my last post on SPARKS (via Google+ Hangouts) had me doing some more poking around G+ and also thinking about Sparks in general.

More than a few said they wanted to see a Genealogy default and sure, why not, because many of those in my circles and reading the posts initially are the early adopter genealogy crowd. But getting beyond our personal interests (like why not have a Photography default too), I have some other interesting thoughts to share and solicit feedback on.

When you are within Sparks Central (my name, not sure it has an official name), the Google Suggest feature helps you refine your query. One thing that has pros/cons that could be implemented in the results is something Google typically does with Web results — that is to bold the keywords that were part of the search. Now, that may not sould terribly needy or interesting at first, but then consider this. Another feature is the use of the tilde symbol (~) for a similar words search. So if you search for ~genealogy, you would also get keywords like family history and others. When those appear bold, it allows you to determine which keywords are or are not considered 'similar' according to the Google search engine and that can have some benefits.

So, my question is, how many of you regularly use the tilde symbol and have you tried it when creating Sparks.