Things we learned doing Google+ Hangouts today, testing potential for podcasting and/or training purposes

Today, a bunch of the friends of the Home Server Show and I did several Google+ Hangouts, over a period of nearly 4 hours. Special thanks to David McCabe, Jim Collison, Rich O’Neil, Michael Faucher, Mike Howard, John Zajdler, Tim Black, and many more. This was a revisit of sorts, given some new features have emerged since 2011. We learned a few good lessons along the way, including:

  • XSplit Broadcaster and a partner like justin.tv may currently be the best way to stream and record such hangouts live, but I’ll need to retry that functionality again, once I square away an issue with my Premier license so I can get my higher resolutions back
  • mixing in audio from everybody continues to be a challenge (I’m more accustomed to using Camtasia Studio with various corporate web meetings, audio mixing is then quite easy)
  • Google Hangout on Air sounds like a very promising upcoming feature, provided you have a YouTube account enabled for video longer than 15 minutes (thank you Jim Collison!)
    the idea is to let folks can watch and listen to live podcasts being recorded, and/or review playback from YouTube later on, the jury is out on how good the quality will be for screensharing/training purposes
  • Note the new feature, the little yellow stars next to the Screenshare button, where you can now customize your webcam with fun overlays such as sunglasses or snorkels:
    This wasn’t exactly seen as an important new feature, wishing instead that Google would instead focus their time on improving audio and video quality
  • for now, Google Hangout on Air requires you to check the option “Enable Public Broadcast,” an option that won’t show up until a “Google Plus Community Managers” invites  you, not sure yet how that gets done
  • Creating a Google+ Hangout is simple enough, but you barely have any control, you can mute somebody’s audio, but then can then take themselves off mute, or you can block them entirely, but that takes several seconds to do, so you really need to trust all those who are in attendance, which leads me to…
  • Creating a Google+ Hangout open to the public is not a great idea, for many obvious reasons, including the fact that you are quickly featured prominently as broadcasting live, so random folks will join (of course), who may not have your event’s best interests in mind

Once I opened the Hangout to the Public, it took only about 15 minutes to go from 6 guys to 10 guys total. We continued for about half an hour with random folks popping in and dropping right back out of a couple of those 10 spots.

Finally, it all took a sudden turn for the worse, when one attendee began to do screensharing of inappropriate (violent) video, quickly spoiling the fun for all. Yeah, I could block that person and essentially rat him out, but it takes time, and the fun mood is already lost. But this particular person bailed out himself, perhaps trying to avoid being reported. I also noticed that even when I exited for the day, leaving the Hangout I had started (and entirely closing Chrome), the remaining attendees could still see and communicate with each other, which means I have absolutely no control until those folks all leave.

So yes, of course, only invite those you trust, which leads me to this very helpful YouTube video…
Google Hangout on Air Getting Started
which includes warnings that untrusted visitors could get you caught up in a copywrite violation, possibly getting your Google Hangout on Air privileges revoked, and perhaps even your YouTube Channel being taken down.

Ok, let’s end with a bit of nostalgia, a look back at 1995 and 2011. Steve Edgar seen at bottom-right, a key CU-SeeMe developer that I knew and worked with.

and finally, 2012, as we reached the maximum of 10 participants:

Interesting that with modems back in 1995, we still managed to get around 10 frames per second in black and white, where today, we get a bit less than than, with desktop sharing at only about 2-3 frames per second. So yes, there is still room for improvement, which I very much look forward to!


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