The task for this week sounded like this:

Find a live or synchronous platform that is in use online and list out it's properties (ideal number of users, capabilities, types of interaction). What do you think it was designed for, what use? What is it actually used for? Does the use match the capabilities? What are the successes or problems in it’s design or use?

Synchronous platform: I’ve chose something that I’ve been using a lot in the past few years, both in my professional and personal life: Google Hangouts.

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Google Hangouts is a video conferencing tool created by Google and is very similar to Skype. It entails this list of properties:

  • Ability to call up to 10 participants and have a live conversation
  • Chat with the same people on a side
  • Share screen if you have to show some slides, etc.
  • Google effects — essentially video effects to make a boring call a bit more relaxed and entertaining

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Differently from Skype, it also has this additional feature to stream video. It can be done by using Hangouts on Air.

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By using Hangouts on Air, the video is not only livestreamed right away on Youtube, but it can also be archived on event’s page and Youtube channel for later watch as well. It has these features:

  • While the number to join Google Hangout is limited to 10 people, there is no limit of how many people can watch the video stream and participate at the Hangouts on Air event
  • Below the video there’s also a comment field, where participants can communicate among themselves and ask questions (event’s moderator can also use it as a way to make the stream a bit more interactive)
  • Control room: feature to manage the users: mute audio, show camera, etc.
  • Ability to schedule an event in advance: it’s very good for planning and seeing how many people would join. You can create a public event or choose specific people that you want to invite and make it private (Once, while testing, I created an event named “blah” and invited all few thousands of my contacts. Lesson learnt: be careful.).

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What is it designed for?

As Google Hangouts Wikipedia page says, Google Hangouts is designed to be “the future” of its telephony product, Google Voice.

It replaced three other messaging products of Google: Google Talk, Google+ Messenger (formerly: Huddle), and Hangouts, a video chat system present within Google+.

What is it actually used for?

I believe it can be used for everything (quick chat, online meetings, online classroom among many other ways). I mostly use it when I need to follow up with someone and it is much faster to call than send an email. I enjoy it because I don’t need to leave the platform, everything is in one place.

Hangouts on Air is very comfortable when you need to schedule an event in advance and invite people. You can also schedule when the notification before the event has to be sent out.

What are the successes or problems in it’s design or use?

I believe it has a huge advantage over Skype that it has much bigger capabilities to accommodate more people in the chat. Plus, it’s free, so if you don’t have budget for using more professional services, Google Hangouts is great to accommodate your needs.

However, the same pro can be a con as well: in many times the limit of 10 people is not enough. There are some business video conferencing tools like Bluejeans that eliminate the people limit all together and can be used for much larger teams.

Few articles I found that discuss the benefits of using Google Hangouts:

Google Hangouts App Review: A Step Forward for Video Chat… With Some Drawbacks

Here’s Why Google Hangouts Isn’t As Popular As WhatsApp, WeChat and Others

6 Ways Teachers Can Use Google Hangouts

How Educators and Schools Can Make the Most of Google Hangouts

The Best Way To Use Google in a Classroom

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