Last Friday I hosted a Google hangout for “charity” freelancers. Spurred on by what I’d seen at barcampnfp, it was partly a learning exercise to try out Google hangouts and also a way of building up a virtual network of freelancers that work (predominately) with charities and community groups etc.
Despite a huge amount of interest on Twitter the week leading up to the hangout there were only four of us taking part in the end. Even though we were a small group I think it helped when trying out what the hangouts could do.
The quality of the video and sound on the hangout was really good and you can see from the screenshot above that everyone taking part appears on the right hand side as a medium sized thumbnail with a larger shot in the centre of the person speaking at the time.
On the far left of the screen was where you could take notes from the chat and also where you could access documents to collaborate on. The two types were Sketchpad, which incorporated drawing tools, and Notes for standard documents. I didn’t look to see if you could open up other types of documents, spreadsheets etc.
One of the other nice things about having a hangout rather than using Skype is that it can be both public – so anyone with an interest can attend – but it can also be private between just those people you choose to invite. All to often on Skype I’ve found that you make yourself online to talk to someone but then suddenly there’s an influx of calls or IMs from other people wanting to talk to you. Google hangouts seem to give you a bit more flexibility about your visibility.
As well as the technical side of hosting a hangout it felt like a really nice way to touch base with people, particularly if – as with freelancers – you’re often at home on your own. With everyone looking at the screen at the same time it was a good idea to have a theme to hook our conversation around so there weren’t too many awkward silences.
I’d really like to do one again, definitely on a set topic, and definitely with not too many people. Luckily the maximum for a hangout is 10.
How did you find the hangout? How do you think you might use them in the future?