Hello Again; Today, I want to share some things I have learned about google hangouts as I am making the transition from a regular google video hangout to a video hangout on air. I will also share some of the mistakes made, problems found, and planned solutions. But before I get to the meat of this post I need to send out my heart felt apologies to those great friends of mine who tried to participate in last night’s first hangout on air. I am sorry to have wasted your time and the opportunity to start building my audience. I can assure you that I am working on finding solutions. And for anyone who knows me, they know I’m not going to give up easily especially when I can feel the potential of this service.

Types Of Hangouts

First, I believe I should outline the various types of google hangouts and mention some of the differences between them. From my experience there are three types of hangouts. First, there is a text hangout which is just like an online chat room or like when you text back and forth with friends and family. There doesn’t appear to be a limit to the number of people who can be invited to these. But then text puts a much lower level of strain on google’s system, so that is not a surprise. You can connect your google accounts with your phones so you don’t have to be at your computer to take part either. Any member of a hangout group can send out an invitation which will go out to all the members of that group or of a predefined circle. The second type is a video hangout. These are what I was doing in the beginning. I have written about my experience with them as a blind person on the post My First Google Video Hangout Tune In Next Week In these you can only have up to ten people at a time. You are limited on the number of people you can invite directly, but you can make the invitation public. This is because people don’t have to be specifically invited to participate. The third kind is a video hangout on air. This is the kind I was trying to do last night. And it is the kind I plan to do in the future. The primary advantage to this one is that the hangout is recorded and then posted to youtube where it can be viewed later by anyone who wasn’t able to attend in person. Because of the increased storage required by automatically archiving these hangouts on air people have to be invited in order to participate. If they are not invited, they can watch; but they can’t hear what you are saying or talk to you. However, they can watch it afterwards and hear the audio. I don’t quite understand this quirk of the system. You can invite up to 100 people. And as long as someone was invited they can jump in on the conversation at any time. I should say that considering this service is completely free that the restrictions are more than reasonable.

When The Problems Started

After three successful standard video hangouts, I thought I was ready for my first hangout on air. I told everyone I knew to stop by at the appointed time. I posted about it on social media, and I asked people who couldn’t attend to submit questions I could answer during the show. I had assumed it wouldn’t be much different than a regular video hangout. Well, there is a famous line about the dangers of assuming. First, the form to start a hangout on air is more involved. And much of it was difficult to navigate with speech. Most steps require additional confirmations to make sure you really want to do this and have your show recorded to youtube. I also didn’t expect to have to go through an additional section where you agree to all the google rules. I didn’t start until a few minutes before when I was supposed to go live. I didn’t actually get online live until at least 30 minutes after I had planned to be there. Most of my friends who had tried to come on with me had given up. They kept messaging me wanting to know why I wasn’t on yet, and I kept messaging them back saying I think I am now. I was very disappointed in the amount of google’s prompts that could be figured out using just my screen reader. But after the show was over a new friend name Mitchell Walker from Kansas worked with me to solve some of my problems.

Some Things I Learned

Earlier I mentioned that people have to b invited to participate. It was Mitchell who figured that out. It was frustrating during the call to finally have the system go from zero viewers to one and not b able to talk to them. Mitchell called me on my cell phone to let me know he had been there. Well, I’m blind, and it wouldn’t let his voice come through; so I really had no way to know who it was otherwise. smile He was also the one who found out about the limit of 100 people and that uninvited guests can’t take part. So, the next question is how do I get around this problem.

Brainstorming Session

The first problem here is inviting people. Mitchell suggested creating a separate circle on Google Plus just for people who would b invited to the next hangout on air. This won’t work for me because the selection of circles and adding people to them is not accessible with speech. Th different circles are not labelled. For this reason all my connections on there are in my friends circle. Also, it would mean knowing who to invite in the first place. So, even if I didn’t have the problem using google circles; there would still be the difficulty of getting people to tell me in advance that they want to be included. Then I realized I could add people to the list and leave them there until they ask to be removed. After all, just because they get invited each week doesn’t mean they have to attend. This still leaves the question of how to create the circle and add names to or remove names from it.

A Kind Offer

Mitchell generously offered to moderate my hangouts on air until a better solution is found. He said he would create the circle on my page with my log in information. He would add his name to it as well as the names of people I think would want to take part. Then he could start the hangout and help keep me online. We agreed to give it a trial run the next night. We planned the test for 10 PM Eastern 9 PM Central the same time slot I plan to use for the regular Wednesday night get togethers. This was done because it is generally the best time for Mitchell. But it seems to also be a better time for most people thinking of participating.

Trial Run

This time I made a point to b online and ready to start at least a half hour early just in case some part of our plan didn’t go well. This was a good idea as our assumptions about the google hangout on air system were a little off. We thought that if Mitchell was in the circle that he could start the hangout. That was wrong. Whoever creates the event has to initiate the hangout. I didn’t think people would want to attend if the invite came from Mitchell instead of from me. I also thought it would cause confusion among people in Mitchell’s circle. And even though all the people got an invitation, you still have to invite them again when the hangout starts. Since we were both online together this time, Mitchell was able to help me locate the place where you invite people. Through trial and error I figured out that I could just type in the name of anyone in my circle and they would get an invitation. I also learned that I could just type the name of a circle in to that field. This is handy as we have created a new circle called hangout on air. There was another confusing thing about the voice prompts. Apparently when you send an invitation the system considers that person connected to the hangout. So, several times I got messages saying someone had left the hangout that was never there as far as I knew. Mitchell and I had a nice conversation while we both sent out invitations trying to get a third person to join in. Since we weren’t able to test my ability to manage a hangout with more people, Mitchell has agreed to continue being my moderator until he is sure I can handle it by myself.

Managing The Hangout On Air Circle

I mentioned before that managing any of the circles is difficult with a screen reader. But to make my future use of hangouts as independent as possible, I needed to get people moved into the circle Mitchell had created. This wasn’t as easy as I thought either because I had reached the limit of 5,000 set by Google. So, I needed to move people from my friends circle to the hangout circle. And what about any new contacts? To add someone new I would have to delete someone. I can assure you the prospect of going through all those connections to find the ones I could afford to remove was daunting. Mitchell had an idea. He said he would go through them and find contacts that hadn’t been active on Google. He would then read me the name and ask if it was someone I wanted to keep. This way we were able to quickly complete the hangout on air circle for next week’s event and send out an invitation.

Want To Join In?

We will b having the next hangout on Wednesday Mar 19 at 10 Eastern, 9 Central, 7 Pacific, etc. If you think you would like to take part, then it would b a big help to me to know in advance. please send me an email or add me on Google Plus and send me a message through their system asking to be added to the guest list. I have been told that my doing these hangouts has inspired others to try them too. I’m glad to hear that and hope some of you will invite me to your own hangouts soon.

I still feel that a google hangout on air has potential to help grow my business or I wouldn’t be working so hard to do them. I think they will b a good platform to connect with people, build relationships, and promote available products and services. And as I build an audience I may need to require people to RSVP, or I may have to move to a paid webinar service. Of course, that would require additional income from advertising, sponsorship, or more robust equipment sales. If you have any suggestions for making this process easier, or if you have an opinion to share; pleas let me know in the comments section. If you like the post, then please share it with your friends. I look forward to hearing you on a hangout soon. Thanks and take care out there, Max