Google+ Hangouts seem to be a really good idea. Is the concept as good as the execution? This last week was my turn to find out. I spent about an hour with Family History Expos working out the mechanics of setting up a Hangout and getting a number of people online to participate. Our goal was see if we could use Hangouts for company teleconferences. I also had another reason, to be ready to hold a Google Hangout for a group of young potential genealogists in Tucson, Arizona last Thursday. It seemed like a good idea to avoid the cost and time of spending almost five hours in the car for a half hour presentation.
Google has spun off the Hangouts as an app separate from Google+. They still have the same 10 person limit and work with computers, tablets and smartphones. Interestingly, you can move almost seamlessly from one device to another. So if you were talking on your smartphone and sat down at the computer, you could switch over to using the computer as soon as you logged in. One feature we planned on using with the Tucson presentation was the ability to share your screen with those on the call.
The plan in Tucson was to hav me on the Google+ hangout on one of the presenter's computers and then project that computer screen so that those in attendance could see the presentation in real time. If we had thought ahead, we might have had me use headphones and a microphone. As it was, we had a significant amount of audio feedback. It would have helped to have a audio speaker on the receiving end that was separate from computer. Not only would the participants have been able to hear better, but likely we would have been able to avoid the feedback.
The whole thing has a great potential. Today, we had another hangout for Family History Expos to plan our Northern California Family History Expo on June 28th and 29th in Sacramento, California. The Hangout went a lot smoother than the first one, but we did have some trouble with the initial invitation being sent and received. I would say that the technology is not flawless but adequate and should continue to progress and become more valuable over time.