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Experimenting with Google Plus

Ben James Ben James | 12:11 UK time, Friday, 5 August 2011

Courtesy @djmatty007

This may entirely change the way WHYS carryout its show. It will give unprecedented access to contributors, fans and listeners. I am joining the hangout right away!

... so posted enthusiastic Blaise in Virginia, when we announced on Facebook the first ever, pioneering WHYS Google Plus "hangout".

The picture shows some of what went on - I'm chatting to Blaise, Kimenyi in Nairobi & a silhouette representing Matt in Melbourne (with WHYS boss Mark peering in from above!)


Resident WHYS web guru Ben Sutherland recently did all the groundwork to set up our presence on Google Plus - Google's latest social networking venture.

After Thursday's experiment, I want to get your ideas about how we can best use it - are you as excited as Blaise about the possibilities? Let me explain more ...

A "hangout" on Google Plus lets you sit and chat online on webcam with up to 10 people at once who can dip in and out as they wish.

Does it seem familiar?! In terms of look, there's something of a resemblance to WHYS on TV (see below) - which is partly why we're excited about what we can do with it. It feels like it's on the same wavelength as the programme. And, of course, the idea of a bunch of people getting together online to chat to each other is the whole point of World Have Your Say.

So yesterday, while doing the usual Facebooking, Tweeting and blog scouring of the WHYS social media producer, I sat in a hangout for 5 hours chatting to anyone who cared to drop by, as another means of feeding your thoughts into our discussions.

The fact you're "hanging out" pops up on your news feed and you can send people to a fixed URL to find you.

It was great talking to Blaise (he was there throughout!), Kimenyi (and daughter, briefly!) & Matt (until 3am Melbourne time!) - as well as Mark in Paris, Jay (who briefly popped up with his daughter too), Zoya in Karachi (sorry the connection wasn't strong enough), Kane (a WFYI listener in Indiana), Akpo in the east of England & Dan in Manchester (sorry we lost you early on!).

Thanks for the technical trouble-shooting too - I was in safe hands when my microphone packed up.

The whole afternoon was a bit like presenting a marathon WHYS show for me ... here are some of the topics we covered:

* How best to harness Google Plus for WHYS (I'll come back to that)

* Potential personal consequences of the latest financial jitters (Blaise told me the potential movement of the dollar against the pound has big implications for his intention to come to the UK to study from next month)

* How climate change is reported

* Why it's taking Nato so long to remove Colonel Gaddafi

* The upcoming elections in Cameroon (Blaise and Mark are both originally from there)

* The effect of the 'Arab Spring' on expectations and political aspirations of young people in sub-Saharan Africa - will they demand more at election times in future?

* Whether the potential success of the Cameroon national football team is compromised by the egos of some individuals

... and so on. It was also fun to answer questions about how the programme works and what we do (although it was a shame, that when I attempted to take the laptop through to studio S.38 to show the hangout our broadcast, the wifi signal didn't quite stretch that far ...!)




So how can we use this in future? Various ideas have come up so far ...

* Exactly what we did yesterday: a "hangout" always enabled in office hours, so anyone around the world can 'drop by' the WHYS office to come and have a chat, suggest ideas, make points ... For us, that would be another great way of finding interesting people who can speak on our programmes.

* Using a hangout on-air on the WHYS TV programme, putting your faces and voices on screen in a new way. Maybe the hangout is talking in parallel about the issue on the TV programme and we can dip in to hear where the conversation is going.

* Setting up a hangout AFTER each edition of WHYS for you to chat to each other about what you heard / saw, if you didn't manage to speak on the programme proper.

* Bringing a hangout into our editorial meetings to give you even more input into the issues we cover.

Obviously we're aware of potential limitations too: not everyone has access to the technology, there's not a critical mass of people using Google Plus at the moment, sometimes the technology doesn't work smoothly, sometimes we might encounter people who don't respect the courteous house rules of WHYS, etc ... If we use it regularly in future, this will only be one of many ways you'll be able to talk to us.

But if you have any more ideas about how we could harness it, or you have points to make about your experiences using Google Plus, or if you have suggestions for other sites we should be looking into instead, I'd be pleased to read them - post below!



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