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?