Google Plus and Google Plus Hangouts

Google’s social media platform, Google Plus, has been slow-growing for me and still has some improvements to be made before I feel it would replace Facebook as the #1 social media platform.  Like many Google products, some of the ways of doing things aren’t as self-explanatory as I’d like to see them be and even quite complicated at times, but Google+ has great potential and continues climbing in popularity and threat to Facebook.

About a month or two ago, a friend told me about a Google+ Hangout that he thought I’d be interested in that was in regards to discussing Christianity.  Of course I was interested and as soon as I got the chance, I went and checked it out.  Google+ had just won me by a mile with Google+ Hangouts!  I’ll get to those shortly…

Google+ – What’s Special About It?

Despite it’s flaws, Google+ has some great features.  One of them that has gotten me more interested is:

Google+ Communities.  They are a great way to connect with others who share the same interests as you and have discussions, share info, etc.  And if you have an idea of your own, well, you can start your own!  There’s a great beginners guide to Google+ Communities over at Mashup if you’re wanting to better understand them.

Google+ iOS App.  The Google+ iOS App is a nifty app that connects you via your Apple iOS device, allowing you to interact, upload photos, etc. and even participate and create Google+ Hangouts from within the app.  It does however lack some pretty important features, such as the ability to easily add friends/family to your Google+ circles and that’s a huge letdown to me.  But it still will allow you to interact on the go and worth having.

Google+ Hangouts – What Are They?

So … as I mentioned earlier, the best feature I believe is Google+ Hangouts.  It’s similar to Skype, but Google has a much better idea and this also gave them a huge advantage over Facebook.  Google+ Hangouts is a platform that’s integrated in your web browser (no “other software” running all of the time) that allows you to video chat with up to 9 others.  A Hangout can be made public (meaning ANYONE can join) or kept private and limited to those you invite.  But even better, it’s integrated into Google+, combining both a video chat platform along with a social media platform and this is awesome!

I’ve enjoyed having conversations on all sorts of topics with people all around the world and this has sold me on Google+.

Finding Google+ Hangouts

Finding Hangouts to participate in still remains a bit mysterious and ambiguous, but there are a couple of ways that will help.

  1. #hangoutpost hashtag – Searching for the #hangoutpost hashtag is perhaps the easiest way, or just bookmark https://plus.google.com/s/%23hangoutpost/hangouts.
  2. Hangout Canopy – Hangout Canopy is a very popular Google Chrome Extension that adds a small indicator to your top browser bar and notifies you of all available Google+ Hangouts that are public.  I highly recommend this one.
  3. Google+ Feed – As you add people to your Google+ Circles, and the people in those circles participate in Hangouts, you will see notifications in your Google+ Stream of the hangout and usually are able to join the Hangout (depending on if it’s public, etc.).  People also tend to invite others in their circles, so you’ll also find yourself getting Google+ Hangout invites.

Google+ Hangouts On Air (Live)

So if Hangouts weren’t cool enough, they have an awesome feature available with no additional hardware or software requirements to use it … Hangouts On Air!  A Google+ Hangout On Air allows you to broadcast your Google+ Hangout when you get ready to and it will stream live to your Youtube channel so people can watch the Hangout conversation without being in the Hangout.  So imagine the next leadership team discussion, staff meeting, etc. that someone couldn’t be at but wanted to learn from.  Now they can watch live!

And if that weren’t cool enough, it Records the Google+ Hangout On Air automatically on Youtube and is available for playback shortly after the Hangout On Air finishes it’s broadcast!  So now you all can go back and recap what was said and discussed and even use it for future training and reference.

I’ve personally began using the Hangout On Air for Bible studies and see so much more potential for them.  Check out my post on Colossians 1 – Bible Study to see one of the studies I’ve done.  Another inspirational use is by Nathan Cunningham every Thursday to stream their WorshipMob gatherings.  Of course it’s a non-traditional use for Hangouts, but a very viable and practical way to stream a worship service live.

Conclusion

Google+ and Google+ Hangouts sets the Google+ platform apart from any other social media platform out there.  And once you dive in and give it a shot, you’ll see it kinda grows on you and you might even find yourself preferring it over the others.

One of the most inspirational aspects to me has been a hangout started (nearly every day at various times) by Ask A Christian (A Religious Discussion) where the topic of the Hangout is always “Ask A Christian” and people of various denominations within Christianity hangout as well as people of other faiths and even the “faithless” as well.  What inspired me is that Christians of various denominations come in there and have very civil and respectful discussions on various topics, which I’ve often seen such a sharp division in other scenarios.  In addition to that, I’ve seen Atheist, Agnostic, etc. join the conversations as well and ask questions they have and are treated respectfully and not condemned by the Christians there to answer the questions.  The conversations are almost always respectful and civil and that’s such an awesome thing to see that seems to go against what most people see Christians as.  Hangouts seem to be such a priceless resource in so many ways and I hope you find them as useful and helpful as I have and perhaps this info has helped you in some way or another.

 

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