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First Impressions of Using A Google+ Hangout for Agile Standups

Now that I am working remotely, I had my first standup in a Google+ Hangout today. The experience was not fantastic, but does hold some promise.

To give you an idea, I am well used to the practice of having remote standup meetings with a distributed team. The best I’ve had used IRC, and we had a degree of structure to the whole affair. Each person would prepare their contributions in terms of “what I did yesterday, what I’m doing today” and have them ready to paste into the chat window. The PM would make sure everyone was present in the chat room, and would nominate someone to start – they would then paste in their contribution and nominate the next person and so on. Questions were allowed, but were always queued until the end of the standup. This worked really well, and gave us a searchable archive of what people had been doing, and also allowed deeper discussions to evolve without taking up everyones time.

Today, in a new team, we tried something different – running our daily standup in a Google+ Hangout. In a team of 8, 6 were present together in the office and myself and the team lead were at separate locations.

We started the hangout and had a bit of fun with some of the effects (like giving yourself a silly hat or a cat mask) which is funny for about 2 minutes. We had a little problem with people signing in, and initially the office team were signed into two computers, which didn’t really work for them. I left the hangout believing that we were going to run it on skype instead, and found that I couldn’t get back in without being invited.

Then we got down to business. The sound quality was quite poor, and I found that after a while I was getting particularly unpleasant feedback from my own voice, and that I could hear an echo of the team lead’s voice coming in from the office’s computer. These things can be fixed with better algorithms. The worst offender in the whole deal was the “large video pane” in Hangouts, which seems to focus on whoever’s feed has the most movement, and continually skipped between the two others. I wished I could either disable it, or fix it to one feed, but I completely failed to find an option for that.

All in all the experience wasn’t fantastic, and while we found the same when we ran IRC standups (it wasn’t great to start with) the reasons there were purely to do with process and familiarity of usage – I can’t help but feel that, at the moment, Google+ Hangouts have more problems than can be solved by the way in which they are used (at least for semi-serious meetings).