Improved way to finding Google+ Hangouts

This week we saw a major interface refresh of Google+ which has had a lot of people talking and there is plenty to like but I wanted to point out one of those things that I’ve found to very useful and that is a much easier and nicer way to find Hangouts.  Rather than compare it with what it used to be like before I’m going to cut to the chase and describe how it is now.  The new interface now has a Ribbon down the left hand side which provides access to various elements of Google+ and among these is an icon for Hangouts (incidentally you can customise this Ribbon to add/remove/re-order icons).  When you click this Hangout icon it takes you to a page which if you’re not familiar you can learn more about Hangouts and it provides links to various other topics related to how you can make the most of Hangouts.

Below this what you will see is a list of Hangouts that you are able to join and the profile pictures of the people who are currently in those Hangouts.  This gives you a central place to find Hangouts that you might want to join in on whereas before you would see it within the stream when looking through posts of your Circles and its for that reason I really like this as it makes it easy to find.

Some things you should know about Hangouts is that they can hold up-to 10 people only and you can join hangouts from your phone which I’ve always thought was cool.  The Hangouts you’ll see listed for you to be able to join will be determined by whether or not you’ve been invited to that Hangout specifically or the Hangout has been opened up to people of Circles that you are a part of or perhaps they’re Hangouts that are open up to Public meaning anyone can join them.

A nice enhancement to this I’d like to see is titles to go along with the Hangouts that are displayed.  So for example if someone starts a Hangout from a post and therefore it’s about that the subject matter of that post then it would nice to know that so you know what you’re getting yourself into from the start (and can decide if you want to join in or not).  Similarly it’s not possible to apply a subject when to the Hangout when you start it simply by clicking the Start a Hangout button.  This will come I’m sure but for now Hangouts remain one of the key unique things that differentiate Google+ from other social network so join in and experience them and have fun!

Holding private Google+ Hangouts

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Hangouts by their nature are generally open to anyone to join in the Circles you start them in but what if you want to have a private Hangout session with only selected people?  There is no feature in Google+ that allows you to do this but there is a way to achieve this.

You can do this by creating a new Circle which you will use for this purpose only and you can add just those people you wish you Hangout with.  What you must remember here is one of the fundamental things about Circles – just because you add someone to a Circle it doesn’t mean they will see posts from you.  They need to have you in their Circle(s) also to be able to see the Hangout when you start it so you’ll need to ensure you’ve got this worked out beforehand.

So the steps to achieve this are:

1. Create a new Circle for your private Hangout (if you don’t already have one) and you can call it something like Private Hangout.

2. Add just those people you want to Hangout with in your private session to this circle

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3. Go to your Stream and click the Start a Hangout link

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4. You will now be taken to the Hangout Green Room to get ready to start the Hangout.  Ensure that you select only the Private Hangout Circle in the box where it says Who do you want to Hangout with? This is the important step to restrict it just to the people you want.

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5. Click the Hang out button to start the session and wait for the others to join

Once you’re done you can either leave the people in that Cirlce if you’re going to be Hanging out with them again or you can remove them and leave the Circle empty to allow you to add different people for a future private hangout.

So there you have it, while there is no feature in Google+ to allow you have private hangouts by creating a Circle with just those people who you want to Hangout with and then starting the Hangout for just that Circle does the trick.