Monday, January 16, 2012

Confessions Of A Hangout Junkie

I'm not a psychologist so can someone more qualified in human behavior please explain to me the hypnotic nature of Google Plus Hangouts. They are truly addictive.

Yesterday morning I had a few minutes before I was supposed to leave the house for breakfast and church.  I decided to clean up a couple of emails that had come in overnight and to quickly scan all my the social network feeds. On Google Plus I noticed my friend Bruce was in a hangout and I thought I would just pop in for a moment to say hello.

Hangouts, for those of you who have not experienced them, are self-directed video chat sessions. You can have up to ten people in the session at any one time. Everyone is lined up in a row of thumbnail size videos across your computer screen. The person speaking is automatically displayed to everyone in a large window so you always feel like you are speaking directly with that person.

I found it easy and natural to sit and chat with Bruce for quite a while. Nothing heavy, just the usual breakfast counter type of conversation. After a short while, another good friend Robert popped in. The topic shifted to a more serious one around some business concepts we have discussed several times before. It's hard to put into words the comfortable feeling I had sitting and chatting with a couple of guys. It was almost as if we were at the same table in a coffee house. Only Bruce is in Boston and Robert somewhere outside of Providence.

As the conversation continued, Laurie who lives outside of Houston, popped in. Despite being in a bathrobe, with pillow hair and no makeup, she was warmly greeted by us, her friends, and she took the conversation in a whole other direction. She shared her issue with us and we quickly threw several ideas and suggestions at her, alternately bouncing other problems and possible solutions off one another.

A couple of other people wandered in and out of the session and in the last few moments it was just Laurie and me. We each discovered so many new things about each other. For instance, she didn't know I was a former CIO and I had no idea she was in the recruiting game. We already respected and admired one another, having crossed paths on Google Plus before. But our conversation this Sunday morning pushed our relationship to a higher level. Several of us have since connected on LinkedIn.

Signing off some two and one-half hours after the start of this hangout it struck me. Of course I posted to Google Plus to share my observation with the handful of people who had been in this hangout. But I wanted to describe the interaction to all of you, my readers, to see if you can help me determine exactly what it is about this technology that draws you in, keep you coming back and makes it so easy to interact with other people?

Part of me wants to believe there is some magic in the technology which makes it so natural to meet and discuss with other people. Being able to look into someone's eyes while listening to them has been possible with videoconferencing for some time. It is the novelty of being able to do it on any desktop, tablet or even smart phones? Is it perhaps the people and not the platform that makes it work?

Whatever the answer, I know I am not alone in this addiction. I can find people in hangouts virtually any time of the day or night. I sense there are many more hours of hangout in my future.

So I don't know what the answer is. Maybe we could hangout together and discuss it sometime?

Captain Joe

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