Tuesday, February 5, 2013

What Does "Joining" a Hangout Mean?

Hangout logo
People new to Hangouts and Hangouts on Air (HoA) are often confused about what it means to "join" a Hangout. It's no wonder, since the meaning varies with the context.

Joining a Hangout

If someone sends you an invitation to join a Hangout, you'll get a notification with a pretty blue button that says Hang out. In order to join the Hangout, you just need to press the button.

What will I need?

At a minimum, a webcam of some sort, a microphone of some sort, ear buds or headphones, and the Hangout app. The app will download automatically the very first time you attempt to join a Hangout, so that part's easy. Most laptops have built-in cameras and microphones that will work fine. The one extra piece you'll absolutely want it head phones or ear buds because your computer speakers can cause feedback and echoes. You won't need anything fancy, just the ear buds that came with your mobile phone or iPod will work fine.

Not at home? If you have the appropriate app installed on your smartphone you can join the Hangout. Your sound and picture quality may not be great, but a Hangout on mobile is certainly an option. If you have the notifications set up properly in your Google+ settings, your phone will ring to alert you when you're invited to a Hangout and you'll be able to join on whichever device you wish.

Joining a Hangout on Air

There is often real confusion about what it means to "join" a Hangout on Air. Almost always, when the text in the Event page asks you to join someone for an HoA, it means go to the Event page and watch the live broadcast.

An HoA is a two-step affair. First step is to start a Hangout and enable the On Air portion. If you're going to be on the panel, the host/moderator will send you an invite that looks exactly the same as an invite to a regular Hangout, because it is. The only difference you'll experience is that you'll have to agree to be recorded before you are allowed to join. The second step is that the host/moderator will start the broadcast, and everyone, including the panelists, will see a red On Air warning in the upper left portion of the screen while the broadcast is being recorded.

What will I need?

Exactly the same things as for a regular Hangout. If it's a full Hangout, the moderator might request that you alter the settings to Low Bandwidth (click the gear to change Settings).

Hangout Courtesy

Turn off any radios, televisions, or other audio devices before joining the Hangout. If it's an HoA and you leave a radio or other audible device on, the moderator could be hit with a copyright strike and have all sorts of issues including YouTube account blockage.

Keep your microphone muted unless you are actually speaking. Yes, everyone can hear you typing. If someone mutes you, don't immediately unmute yourself. They did it because you're making noise.

If you really need to have your phone handy, make sure it's silenced so it doesn't go off while you're talking. That ringtone you're so fond of might cause a copyright strike.

Never mute the host/moderator.

When joining a Hangout, mute yourself immediately. If you're joining a Hangout with three or more people already in it, you'll be muted automatically. Wait until the host/moderator greets you before you unmute yourself and start talking. That way you won't interrupt whatever is going on. If you're the host/moderator, be sure to greet every individual who joins at the earliest opportunity.