Google + Hangouts

I just finished hosting my third hangout on Google Plus. I’ve also attended one hosted by Andy Leonard (blog|twitter) and one hosted by Tom LaRock (blog|twitter). I am blown away by how useful these things are. I’m actually struggling to try to put it into words. This may be something of a ramble.

Jorge Segarra (blog|twitter) brought it up during the conversation this morning, you can’t know everything. You can’t. So what do you do when you’re hitting an issue that you can’t solve because you just don’t have the knowledge? Well, you contact someone who does have that knowledge. You work your contacts and your network and track down the information, because someone you know either knows that bit of information or they know someone else who does. That’s a huge part of what the SQL Server Community (capital “C” on purpose) is all about.

Now, there’s this Community out there. People are tweeting, blogging, publishing articles, publishing books, posting on Facebook, G+, LinkedIn. There are online seminars, free or paid, that you can hook into and get presentations by amazingly smart, talented, skilled people. There are good old fashioned discussion forums and fancy new question & answer forums. But, with all that, the conversation isn’t really a conversation. And the connection is still through a keyboard, not your eyeballs & ears. If you attend a SQL Saturday or the PASS Summit or Connections or SQLBits, you can make that direct, in-person, watching someone’s face contact. But, let’s face, it’s hard to get to too many SQL Saturday events if you have a life (and I’m paid to go to SQL Saturday events as part of my job). Plus, once you’re there, things get really busy and you don’t get the chance to sit down & chat with people all the time, or certainly you don’t get a chance to chat with as many people as you’d like.

That’s where Google Plus Hangouts come in. Now, you’re sitting at home, but you’re also sitting on Andy’s deck and in the offices at PragmaticWorks with Jorge. You’re having a conversation (or listening, seemed like more people lurked than talked, still) with these people. They’re sharing stuff that comes to mind. You’re getting Jorge’s thoughts on appliances (assuming there are no blue badges around) and you get to hear how Brent Ozar’s (blog|twitter) new consulting business is going. And you get to see their faces and hear their voices and it’s all incredibly powerful because it’s interactive. It’s level. It’s not a teacher with a captive audience like an online seminar. It’s completely open.

I’ve been reading a book called Tribes: We Need You to Lead Us by Seth Godin (blog|twitter) as part of my 12-Book commitment. In it he talks about how businesses and individuals, more and more, need to build up a tribe around them. Interested, dedicated, excited people, who care about the cause, the business, the technology, the whatever, who want, actively want, to be there. Google Plus Hangouts. You have to try to get there. You have to want to stay. And, most importantly, you, by going, by staying, get to drive the direction of the tribe. You get to make your voice heard or get the information you need because it’s your tribe too, not just the person hosting it.

Tom’s hangout was very specific with an agreed upon agenda and purpose, like a study group. And it worked, because it was exactly like a study group. People who knew stuff shared with those who didn’t and you were able to ask questions. It’s just amazing how powerful it felt. So far, my hangouts have just been free-flowing affairs, all about the conversation, but I can see how you can make them targeted from what Tom has done. And it’ll work and be powerful, because it’ll still be a conversation.

I came out of the hangout today with a series of web sites to look at, a white paper to read, and a new book for my reading list. By taking part in this thing, I’ve got more tools to make myself better at what I do and I’ve engaged more tightly with my tribe. This will help me as a person and as a representative Red Gate. And, hopefully, I’ve helped others by opening up the tribe so that anyone can join.

I’d like to see a few changes to Hangouts. First, we should be able to record them and post them. Second, 10 is just a bit too small. I’d rather see it go to 15. But no more than that because too many and the conversation will stop. Sharing a desktop would be good too.

But I’m going to do more of these things. I’ve already set up a special circle on Google Plus that’s only people who are members of the Friends of Red Gate. I’m going to have targeted sessions with them and conversations, to try to improve that tribe. I’m also going to try out some other stuff for other tribes. I’m going to host them at various times of the day so that people in different time zones can take part. Today, I covered the planet. I had people from Australia, the UK and all over the US. I’m sure I can do more.

If you’re thinking about trying to make a bigger splash, host one of these. Tweet about it. Post it on Facebook, heck, let me know, and I’ll post it on G+ or Twitter. I also would be interested in what you think about these things. Excited, bored? Interested or not. I feel like we’ve got a new tool but I’m still not 100% sure how it works or the impact it’s going to have.

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