Yesterday I had the pleasure of participating in my first Google hangout. For my social media class this semester, we were again tasked with delivering a presentation to the class as a class. This time around, the class decided to use Google more for our needed collaboration instead of Twitter as we did before. We used Google hangouts to talk to one another and Google Docs to keep track of everything we were coming up with.
In the end, we finalized our presentation topics, topic order, and general concerns we all had. After this experience I felt that I needed to write about my first experience with the Google Hangout.
First and foremost, it was one of the better online video chatting services I have used. In the past, most programs decided either not to work, had too much dependence on flash, or were too hard to use. I found the hangout relatively easy to figure out. One person sets it up, invites others to “hangout,” and there you have it, a video conference.
When you’re in a room video chatting with 10 people, keeping up with who is currently talking can get tough. Google figured this could be a problem and implemented a simple solution, which is actually pretty cool. Depending on how much noise you make on your end, Google will determine who is talking and show them in the main display. From what I understand, from using it, whoever makes the most noise is featured on the main display. I had to plug-in my computer to charge at the beginning of the hangout. Me just moving the table my computer was on made noise and caused the hangout to think I was talking a lot. This definitely beats having to click on different screens when the person who’s talking changes.
Lastly, Google Hangouts have the ability for video sharing. I didn’t get to play around with it too much, but it seems like a cool little feature that would be useful (maybe another time waster). It seems a little like Chill.com, an online video sharing community.
The biggest con of Google Hangouts is the performance issues. I have a decent computer that can handle almost anything at the moment. When I opened the hangout my computer instantly started slowing down. It took a long time to switch through applications. For instance, I wanted to write something on the google doc we were editing at the same time of the presentation, and it took me a little time to get to document and edit it. I feel that hangouts are very CPU intensive. I stayed after our hangout was over to chat with another person about a different presentation, and it seemed to work a lot faster. It makes sense, the more people in the hangout the slower it is.
I mentioned how Google implemented a solution to change to the video of the person talking above. While it s a good idea, it’s slow as I just mentioned. When the feed finally stopped on someone who was supposedly talking, they weren’t talking anymore. I felt like I was behind in the conversation many a times.
Overall, I liked the Google hangout. It was a new experience and seemed to work for our class. I didn’t like how I had to restart my computer after the chat just to get it working normally again. I would recommend this to anyone, yet I would caution against having more than 5-6 people in the hangout, or you are just asking for a slow computer.