After initially chalking Google+ up to yet another social network, this time with larger pictures, I decided to give it another chance now that it has officially gone public (it was only Beta for a while). Now that there are more people with accounts, it is fast becoming one of my favorite social networks – but for a very unique reason: The Hangout.
Hangouts are a built in feature to Google+ that let you have a video chat with up to ten people at once. I initially dismissed this as a quick tool to connect friends from long distances, like Skype but with multiple parties. The technology works surprisingly well, Google auto detects who is speaking, and makes their face the larger of the ten while that person is speaking. You can choose to have a hangout with your friends, or you can open up to the public from the world over. That’s where the fun begins.
I’ve been trying out the hangouts all the last week in the evening and they have proved to be a constant form of entertainment. I have been surprised at the amount of talent and conversations that I have been able to take part in from the world over. To find the public hangouts (and ones from your circles) it’s helpful to install a free chrome extension from hangoutcanopy.com which quickly helps you find a conversation to join.
One of my first hangouts was with an artist from the US called Cliff Roth who does a really neat thing he calls Google Plus Speedpaint Hangouts. You can watch him make really cool sketches of everyone on the call, which he tries to finish in 10-15 minutes. It was really cool to see the portraits these portraits take shape magically before your eyes, and have the artist basically give you a behind the scenes into his creation.
A lot have people have also realized that if you combine a group of interesting people on a hangout around a particular topic and then livestream it on the internet, you have an instant crowd sourced show.
HangoutParty.com has a regular show where they feature various musicians from all over the globe. Everyone takes a turn performing and talking about their music. Only ten people can participate in a hangout, but if you livestream it to the internet, an unlimited people can watch the show – and countless more can watch the show later after it has been taped.
Photographers Eric Doggett and Dustin Meyer on have started taping a show called Photog.tv in which they discuss various photo related topics. The most recent shows they covered client relations and websites for photographers. It’s interesting to see micro shows spring up on this new platform.