Google+ hangouts is one of the more unique new tools creative professionals can use to work with colleagues by creating a virtual space for writers to work together that also enables allowing artists to share their screens as they work, all while enjoying social aspects often missed out on by collaborators when working from separate locations.
There may be an instinct to say that video, voice and chat exist in Skype, which is true. But there’s things G+ hangouts do that Skype doesn’t, and ways it’s being used that Skype isn’t commonly utilized for.
The popularity of “Writer Hangouts” among some circles of writers is a Google+ trend that can be used with close friends, collaborators, or writers that simply drop by.
The ‘rules of play’, such as they are, are fairly simple.
Two or more writers start a G+ hangout. The hangout will be a hybrid of work and socializing. The popular minute markers are 45 minutes of working, microphones off and cameras on, followed by a 15 minute break, microphones on if you feel moved to contribute voice to the conversation. This provides both accountability in work and short breaks to socialize, so using G+ for Hangouts could be seen as a socially modified form of Pomodoro; a popular time management technique when working solo that involves set periods of work interspersed with brief breaks. With two writers it’s a little like sharing your cube on site with someone; pile ten authors in the hangout, and it begins to resemble a writer’s group invading a coffee house or a bustling table in a bar come convention time.
During social periods you can spit ball plot issues or dialog that’s driving you crazy, or ask “Hey, what’s that above your desk?” You can take a tour via iPad of someone’s apartment on the other side of the country, and get in the kind of quality bonding that can be difficult to do when your peers are literally everywhere.
If you want to show someone an issue you’re having with graphics or text work, you can screen share using a function in G+ hangouts. You can toggle between windows to access different files in a project, going from photos you’re processing to text that’s currently in process. It’s as close to side-by-side working as you can get virtually, while still being able to use chat, voice and video to communicate.
Meetings with Collaborators
I have a large group of friends who are always doing projects together; we range from writers and editors to our graphics department and developers. We do our meetings in G+, thereby facilitating a way for a number of people to meet in one room despite being scattered across the United States.
People who are shy about using microphones and webcams can keep both off, communicating purely by chat, yet still listen to and watch other staff members. Those who prefer voice and video can utilize those tools while staying in the loop by watching the chat section of the room. It’s as intimate and noisy as an in-person meeting, but without the ability to toss squeaky toys or tissues. I’ve found them fantastic so far because you can combine visual, text, and audio in one meeting, with the added benefit of being able to return to your work as soon you log out.
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