Tuesday, May 06, 2014

G+ Public Hangout Fail

tl;dr:Do not use public Google+ Hangouts under any circumstances, because people suck.

Before the PyCon 2014 CFP came due, PyLadies hosted several G+ hangouts for talk proposal brainstorming. Potential speakers could talk over and flesh out their ideas with each other, producing better talk proposals. More importantly, it was a nice psychological stepping stone on the way to filling out that big, scary CFP form all alone. I thought they went great.

I wanted to emulate them for Postgres Open and PyOhio, which both have CFPs open now. The PyLadies hangouts had used EventBrite to preregister attendees, and I unfortunately did not consider this and the reasons why. Instead, I just scheduled hangouts, made them public, and sent out invitations with the hangout URLs, encouraging people to forward the invites onward. Why make participating any harder than it has to be?

The more worldly of you are already shaking your heads at my naiveté. It turns out that the world's exhibitionists have figured out how to automatically detect and join public hangouts. For several seconds I tried kicking out and banning them as they joined, but new ones kept arriving, faster than one per second. Then I hung up - which unfortunately did not terminate the hangout. It took me frantic minutes to find how to delete a hangout in progress. I dearly hope that no actual tech community members made it to the hangout during that time.

I had intended to create a place where new speakers, and women especially, would feel safe increasing their community participation. The absoluteness of my failure infuriates me.

Hey, Google: public G+ hangouts have been completely broken, not by technical failure, but by the degraded human condition. You need to remove them immediately. The option can only cause harm, as people accidentally expose themselves and others to sexual harrassment.

In the future, a "public" hangout URL should actually take you to a page where you request entrance from the organizer by text message (which should get the same spam filtration that an email would). But fix that later. Take the public hangouts away now.

Everybody else, if you had heard about the hangouts and were planning to participate, THANK YOU - but I've cancelled the rest of them. You should present anyway, though! I'd love to be contacted directly to talk over your ideas for proposals.


Unknown said...

I'm so sorry this happened to you Catherine! What do people gain by crashing public hangouts?

Unknown said...

Your post is just another reason why any of Google's services just suck. And I agree. I always hate YouTube when I use it for many reasons from them not solving the how should be posting official content (TV shows as an example) and the interaface/UX is degrading.

Unknown said...

arf, it's sad.
And if you need help to implement a better alternative for your next events, I would be happy to help you.
But in an objective view, blogger.com is a very nice platform powered by Google too. ;-)

Paul said...

Ugh... I have used G+ hangouts pretty frequently in the past few years, and yes... all of us who did (the ones eager to try Google's new tech creations) soon learned to never make your hangout "Public"... It is completely unpredictable how long before the next 35 year old Bolivian man appears in an open slot—naked from the waist down, clad only in a Che Guevara t-shit and a beaming gold-toothed smile (or, then again, it could be some guy dressed the same way from Y-Combinator who had five too many mojitos at the 25 Lusk party after after Demo Day presentations—you just never know.....although I expect the t-shirt to be emblazoned with the logo for XOBNI or something similar).

You only need to create a circle for all of the PyLadies (or better yet, a community (which has varying degrees of security), and then just add people to the hangout. Depending on how you set it up, the people you invite can then also add people to the hangout (for instance, they can include the link in a post with is shared with a "coding" circle they might happen to have).

Either way, they are very useful, very well designed, but yes, I fear that certain members of our species just don get rudimentary decorum....and as such, a few precautions need to be taken.