Throughout the day (whenever I'm taking a mental break from what I'm working on) I check out the #edumooc hashtag on twitter – just in case something interesting is happening. This morning, I see an invite for a Google Plus hangout. I have a few minutes so I click the link. I notice that a few of the folks in the hangout are regular commentaries on my blog, so I figure this could be fun and I join in.
If you haven't tried a hangout yet, I highly recommend it. The quality of video and audio is significantly better than any skype video I've ever done (to be fair, I'm on a Mac and I haven't ever been successful with skype video!). If you want to watch the hangout, it has been captured, so you can see it here.
I'll say it again, Google Plus Hangouts are pretty cool. It was neat to see the faces and hear the voice of people that I've been chatting with over my blog and the Google discussion group. I took a poll of where everyone was from to discover we had representation from: Pusan South Korea, Aukland NZ, Ottawa Canada, Lake Tahoe CA USA, Boston MA USA, Abu Dubai UAE, and Tokyo Japan. You would never have known we were all over the world. The quality of video and audio was pretty decent. I liked the way the camera automatically shifts to show you who is talking. I can imagine that some etiquette is necessary – like being sure to mute your microphone when you aren't using it – but even if you forget, it wasn't really a big deal with seven of us on.
From a research perspective, I see a hangout as a really easy way to do a focus group. What makes it so useful is that the audio and video are clear, and it can be recorded (although I'm not exactly sure how that is done yet). I guess I'll have to try and host one myself sometime.