the hangouts forum

help??????????

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One of the best shows on TV is a little-seen show called A.P. Bio. It was canceled last May and then it was rescued by NBC for its Peacock streaming platform, because everyone has one of those nowadays. The third season dropped on Thursday and it’s great. A perfect little show. A.P. Bio, once it got over its initial first-season premise, is what some might call a “hangout comedy” — a show where the characters mostly just hang out. In my opinion, it falls in the same bucket as shows like Happy Endings, or New Girl, or Cougar Town, all of which started with contrived premises and became laid-back, plot-light shows about friends getting into hijinks.

Anyway, I was watching A.P. Bio and I googled “hangout shows” because my brain is mostly mush and all I can watch anymore is shows like that. One of the top links was not about hangout comedies but was about Google Hangouts, which makes sense in retrospect. Google Hangouts, in case you are not between the ages of 27 and 35, is Google’s absolutely awful chat program. A disastrous evolution of Google Talk (“gchat,” colloquially) that turned a useful IM tool into a pale imitation of other messaging apps. Hangouts is mostly useless, tacked on to Gmail as an afterthought, and befuddling in its implementation. Anyone who had a hand in making Google Hangouts should be banned from using any computer or internet-enabled device, just like black-hat hackers.

Anyway, the Hangout-related link I stumbled across was on the help forum for the tool, and it was a guy asking a very important question.

Some very polite posters explain to Nick that Hangouts is built into most Android devices and he’s likely just automatically on it because he’s using an Android phone.

The next day, Nick came back with a helpful update.

That’s great, Nick! I hope things are going well for him. Some people might say this is too much information, but I think it’s just the right amount of information. I love context!

Part of the reason Nick might have felt compelled to overshare here is that seeking help for Hangouts — a product that even Satan would say is “kinda overboard” — is a somewhat arcane process. You can look up standard questions in Google’s Help site, but the company also runs a forum populated by real human users, who respond to each other and help people out. And so people, not quite understanding the product or how to diagnose their problems, share a lot of information and context to try and help sleuths figure out a) what the actual problem is, and b) if there is any actual way to fix it.

So just for fun, I decided to search the Google Hangouts support forum for words like “boyfriend,” “girlfriend,” and “cheating,” and I think the results help paint a picture. A picture not just of an atrocious piece of software (whose source code should be placed on a single hard drive locked in the Indiana Jones warehouse and deleted everywhere else), but also a depiction of modern love.

Jane escalates quickly

(thread)

Rachel learns about the block feature

(thread)

Rupert is a Hangouts support forum VIP. He’s constantly crushing it on these threads. Case in point…

“very questionable women”

(thread)

????

(thread)

The cybersleuth

Rudy doesn’t really have anything to worry about here, but this is one obvious result of Hangouts acting as a hybrid real-time and asynchronous messaging app. It’s just bad design!

(thread)

I salute the boys for putting themselves out there

(I’m not sure why Andy marked this as an answer but I guess it helped.)

(thread)

Sure hope Patrick found those messages!

(thread)

Ooh, this guy’s in trouble

(thread)

Grady keeps it short and sweet

(thread)

Salvatore shoots his shot

(thread)

This is just a tiny, tiny snapshot of what happens on the support forums of megaplatforms every day. A tool is released, nobody is quite sure how to use it, and everyone has to fend for themselves and lean on each other for help. I find most of these to be funny but some of the others I came across are depressing. People discussing getting scammed, harassed, kidnapped and blackmailed via Hangouts (or in this guy’s case, threatening blackmail, which is an interesting gambit).

With a company as large as Google, with so many interlocking services, this sort of confused advice-seeking is inevitable. But I think it also reflects the arc of the internet over the last decade or so, from gchatting people individually to public social networking, and then a recession back to private conversations. A lot of the paranoia evinced in these forum posts comes from a conception of Hangouts as a way to meet new people (like a DM slide or friend request) when what Hangouts really is is a more casual way of interacting with people that the user already knows.


Elsewhere…


Thank you for reading BNet. I really can’t stress enough how terrible Hangouts is.