Starting and Joining Hangouts

So you've joined Google+, you've managed somehow to find a few friends you want to try out some of these cool features that all the cool kids are talking about. Hangouts being one of the new features! I've made a wee FAQ (Frequently asked questions) for those folk that don't really know and haven't managed to ask yet.

So what is a hangout?

A hangout is Google+'s video conferencing chat... that might sound kinda techy and scary to those not in the know, but what that means that people can join in a little common area on Google plus and video-voice-type-chat. These can be opened publicly, just to certain circles or just to specific people you want to share to. And it's not just for the people on computers! If you have the app on Android or iPhone, you can join in the hangouts that are already happening on your stream!

What do I need to hangout?

Technically, you just need an internet connection and the ability to install the google talk plugin (it's super-easy to do, it'll ask you to install the first time you go on, click the button to install the plugin and follow the instructions on the screen), although it's recommended that you get a microphone, headphones (or a headset to combine the two) and a webcam. But they do have a chat facility on the side of the hangout. People like it to be able to see people as well as speak to them. Especially if it's a hangout filled with people that have cameras on.

If you're having problems with your camera or mic, pop into the cog icon for settings and make sure things are selected properly. If you can't hear sound in the hangout, then check you're plugged into your speakers/headset and that the volume is up, not just on the headset/speaker itself, but also the volume of the computer itself is turned on and up.

A handy tip is that by clicking the picture of the microphone or the camera, you can disable the mic or cam quickly and easily. Just click again to put it back on.

So what can I do on a hangout?

Well, this is where you can follow the conversation or get creative.
Some hangouts have names (those are on Hangouts called Hangouts with extras - we'll talk about them in a bit) Normally starting off with introducing yourself if you don't know people is a good way to go, but just like in polite society, it's not cool to interrupt, so my advice is to hold off till there's a lull in conversation or post a hello in the chat bar (On a hangout, there's a button at the bottom of the hangout called Chat, it'll bring up a chat pane... and there's a >> bar to the far left in Hangouts with extras if you can't already see a white chat bar pane on the left). Sometimes hangouts have a topic, sometimes they don't... I like to show off geeky plushies I've bought or if I'm in a girly hangout, the new beauty stuff I've been buying/given. Occasionally we've had hangouts where people perform music, do artwork live on hangouts and dance. I even managed to hangout from my birthday party on a mobile device!

What's the extras in Hangouts with Extras?

Well, it's the preview section for new features in Hangouts. You can name a hangout, share Google Docs with people in the hangout (if you're so inclined - if you want to learn about it - https://docs.google.com/support/bin/answer.py?answer=49008), you can share notes and use a common sketchpad - not just for fun, but could be used if you wanted to use hangouts for work with collegues... And you can screenshare, something that can become very handy if showing someone how to do something or letting someone see something on your screen. Just make sure that if you do screen share, you don't show off information you're not happy to share... like passwords. Don't do that.
To start a Hangout with Extras, you'll need to click the wee text link under the Hang out button on the 'Check your hair and make sure that your mic works! screen.

How do I start a hangout?

On a stream, (when you see what people are posting) there's a Start a hangout button on the right hand side.

How do I find hangouts to join

There are a few ways to find hangouts:

1. If someone's currently hanging out and they've shared the hangout with you, you will have a stream post that will say that the person is hanging out (and who with) and a button underneath to Join this hangout.
2. Over the right hand side of your streams, if you have any hangouts that are live, you'll have a clickable link to see however many Hangouts are live now! It'll fold out and allow you to join individual hangouts there.
3. By being directly given a URL to go hangout. Whether it be through an email, instant chat, a post URL or some other method... although don't click links from people you don't trust.
4. There are apps for Google Chrome browser that find hangouts and display your hangouts to other people. I can suggest https://chrome.google.com/webstore/detail/dbjbjpicplblhgkjjdbplpgkmhojmjom or https://chrome.google.com/webstore/detail/cfinllcgkoaclehohigffcfmgibaomeh

So I've met a lot of my circled peeps on hangouts... and it's one of my favourite features on Google+... have you got a memory from a hangout like when everyone share-screened my picture on my birthday to make me hangout with multiple me's? (https://plus.google.com/u/0/103038287804535196503/posts/S5rQWH8qmnT)
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