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Google Chat: A Bloggers Best Friend

google-chat.jpgToday Eric Hamm from Motivate Thyself and Blogopolis Blueprint takes a look at Google Chat and suggests it as a great tool for bloggers.

I’m a cloud computing fanatic. Web 2.0 may just be a buzz word, but the growing number of ways we can connect over the digital airways is increasing by the day. Intertwined and interconnected, our blogs, social media, news sites, and so on, all breathe the same air and share the same massive cluster of server space. As a blogger in this opportunistic information age we must harness the right tools to communicate with fellow cloud cadets and utilize every opportunity allowed. The telephone used to be the standard, then came email. Now we have available to us a vast number of tools to tap on the shoulders of our fellow bloggers.

Over the months I have used many of these tools for both general communication as well as in depth collaboration. Out of all these tools I have found NONE to match the flexibility and all around effectiveness of Google Chat. Being the little brother of Google Talk, Google Chat (or Gchat for short) has really grown up over the last couple years and now offers a mature range of communication capabilities.

The difference between Google Talk and Google Chat:

Google Talk is Google’s standalone IM software that can be downloaded and installed on your computer. Very similar to AIM or Yahoo Messenger, Google Talk can sit in a nice, neat little window in a LCD location of your choosing. Google Chat, however, is the integrated chat feature in Gmail. Though they share many of the same feature and uses, Google Talk is more ‘well endowed’ when it comes to capability. But, as you’ll see in a minute, Gchat is ever expanding and much the capable little ‘chat box’.

7 Google Chat Features You Might Not Know About

1: Transcript. One very simple, yet amazingly useful feature of Gchat is the fact that each conversation is saved in a transcript form email. This means you not only have access to all the words shared, but you can treat them like those in an email. They can be searched for, forwarded, labeled, etc… And they all reside in the ‘Chats’ section, just two links down from your Inbox.

I didn’t think much of this feature until I started using Gchat on a regular basis. One day I had a great conversation with a fellow blogger and had discussed ideas for future blogging projects. Weeks later I wanted to reference a few sentences that had passed back and forth. So I just typed in a few key words in the Gmail search field and BINGO! There was the entire conversation, ready for reference.

2: Go off the record. If, for any reason, you don’t want your conversation recorded, there’s a nifty feature of Gchat that handles this beautifully. Just click on the ‘Video & more’ button on the bottom right of your Gchat window and then click ‘Go off the record’. It’s as easy as that! Just keep in mind that, if not changed back, your future ‘conversations’ with that particular Gmail user will always be ‘off the record’.

3: Pop-out. In that same menu from the ‘Video & more’ button you can click ‘Pop-out’. This will un-integrate or unstick the Gchat window from your gmail page and allow you to move it where ever you prefer. This is great for so many reasons! You may want to keep ‘talking’, but move away from your Gmail page to a different location on your computer or in your browser. I love to pop my Gchat window over to my second monitor and fully enjoy the freedom of ‘chatting’ and working/surfing at the same time. It’s Googleiscious! :-)

4: You can have multiple ‘conversations’ at the same time. A few weeks ago I was having a ‘back and forth’ with a friend when I received a Gchat message from a fellow blogger who I’d been waiting to hear from. My knee jerk reaction was to say goodbye to the friend so I could talk to the blogger. But I decided to see what a double conversation felt like in the land of Gmail. Within a few seconds I realized that it was not only possible to talk to two ‘chatters’ at the same time, but actually quite efficient!

If you IM much you know there’s that little bit of downtime between ‘pings’. With two people to talk to you can get into a natural rhythm which fills all those time voids and allows for maximum use of conversation time.

5: Group chat. Once again, located in the pop-up menu of ‘Video & more’, you can select ‘Group chat’ to connect with more than one ‘chatter’ and create a three-way conversation (or more). You just initiate the chat with one of the users and then click on ‘Group chat’ to start bringing others into the conversation. I’ve found this to be an amazing way to collaborate and just chat away with groups of friends, bloggers and colleagues.

6: You can chat with AIM and iChat users. For a while I didn’t realize that a blogging friend of mine whom I chat with regularly, was using his iChat to connect with me on Gchat. It all felt the same on my end as the connection was seamless. And if you have an AIM account you can log directly into it and chat with other AIMers, all through your Gmail account.

7: Video/Audio Gchat. Back in November Google added an exciting feature to Gchat. Now you can see and hear those you are in conversation with, which can be a wonderful change from the tedious typing when your conversations become more involved.

A few months ago Leo of zenhabits and I were ‘chatting’ about a blogging project. Very quickly I realized that this ‘typing conversation’ wasn’t going to be very efficient while trying to answer some of the questions we were presenting each other. So I asked if we could go to video. Little did I know that all this could be done while in Gmail. So, being an uneducated Gchatter, I closed Firefox and opened iChat to prepare for the new conversation. But Leo, knowing more than I about these nifty new features, sent me a link to the necessary plugin to enable this feature. (You can find it HERE.) After I downloaded and installed it and then restarted my browser, we were able to dive right back into our discussion, but now with the convenience of full audio and video.

A few more tidbits on this new feature:

You have the choice to go with just audio or both audio and video. This is nice because there are certainly times when you’d rather have a phone-esque conversation as apposed to having to see and be seen. Sometimes I even find the video part to be distracting when I’m discussing ‘thinking’ matters such as business collaboration. Also, depending on your Internet speeds, the audio may be ‘cleaner’ when not coupled with the video.

And don’t forget that you don’t have to stick to the tiny screen on the bottom right. You can either click ‘Pop-out’ (as mentioned in #3 above) and not only become mobile, but grow in size by about 50%. Then, if you REALLY need to see every hair on their head, you can go FULL SCREEN. The main downside to this is that it becomes a little grainy, but only noticeable if you are right up to the screen.

Finally, I wanted to point out the quality of Gchat Audio/Video. I’ve spent a lot of time on iChat video with Sean Platt of Writer Dad, while working on some blogging projects and we both agree that the Gchat offering is noticeably ‘cleaner’. On iChat I often heard an echo of my voice while speaking to Sean, but since we’ve been using Gchat it has been crystal clear.

Final thoughts on Google Chat:

Just like any other form of communication, becoming proficient with this amazing tool is the key to getting the most out of it. When we seek connection with fellow bloggers we want the topic, not the form of communication, to maintain most of our focus. The more Gchat becomes and extension of our tongue, the greater the efficiency and effectiveness of our words. So if you haven’t already, be sure to dig into all that Google has to offer when it comes to moving information. You may have tapped on the face of Gchat before, but until each feature is under your belt you will only benefit by the smallest degree.

Eric Hamm is a blogger and WordPress designer/consultant. You can find him at his 2 main blogs, Motivate Thyself and Blogopolis Blueprint or utilize his affordable web design services at FrugalSiteDesign.com.

About Darren Rowse

Darren Rowse is the founder and editor of ProBlogger Blog Tips and Digital Photography School. Learn more about him here and connect with him on Twitter, Facebook, Google+ and LinkedIn.

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Comments

  1. Robin says:

    Thanks for the thorough explanation, of the features and ways to use this tool.

  2. This is a very informative article Eric. In fact, I wasn’t aware about most of these features. I guess I will be able to use Google chat more efficiently now :)

    http://savefewbucks.blogspot.com

  3. Wow!! this is awesome review of Google Chat. Yeah its right. I have some of friend and they are blogger like me. And really google chat is better then gtalk.

  4. very cool !, im gonna try it :)

  5. jan says:

    Very nifty blogging tool indeed for bloggers, this Google chat . Great tool for collaboration especially involving projects or even consultation between mentor and his student. Lots of uses actually: it can be used by a blog author ironing out kinks of a post submitted by a guest writer, with Google doc opened as the chat transpires, among other things.

    “Now we have available to us a vast number of tools to tap on the shoulders of our fellow bloggers.”

    That’s a lovely thought you’ve got there, perfectly capturing the spirit of collaboration

  6. Craig Mische says:

    I have found the video chats in Gmail to have superior audio and video than video iChats. Not sure why this would be but a family member that I video chat with often and I tested it on more than one occasion and the quality difference was discernible.

  7. Harry says:

    Always thought Google chat is same as Google chat…this post does explain some differences.

  8. I prefer Pidgin for Chats. Its a free open-source chat client that supports multiple networks (google, yahoo, aim, jabber and lots more). Bloggers usually have to talk to people of multiple networks, not just google’s. Thats where pidgin comes handy.

    It saves the chats too. And chats saves are searchable. But the search is not as good as google chat’s search.

    Cheers :)

  9. Paul Bosetti says:

    I have been an avid Skype user for Video chats, but until now I have not used the Google Video Chat. Nice service.

    Great write up by the way. Thanks for the information.

  10. Thanks for the good article. I had forgotten about the video plugin that was necessary. I had it installed on my old laptop and my personal system but not on this computer.

    Will it work with 3rd party tools like Adium and Digsby?

  11. Miranda says:

    I love Google Chat. I use it regularly. In fact, I used it when a TV station in Texas interviewed me a couple of months ago. That way, the viewers could see me, and not just hear me over the phone. It was pretty cool.

    Great post on how to effectively use Google Chat as a blogger.

  12. Boss says:

    Google Chat is a lot more involved than I thought it was. I’m going to have to dig deeper into it.

    Google is going to take control of every single aspect of communication. Pretty soon, you won’t use the word Google as a synonym for searching, but as a synonym for communication.

  13. Stuart Flatt says:

    Not to be down on the subject but always one to start a thoughtful debate… Skype?

    I don’t see how gchat really helps blogger’s in any new and exciting way? It is just another window / tab to have open (as most will download their gmail to a 3rd party mailbox I guess?)

    Maybe I just work differently to everyone else… Not trying to flame and it is a well written piece, just not overly ‘cutting edge’

    heading out soon, so if the debate needs me, twitter/stuartflatt

    Ta

  14. Elliot says:

    OH man does this looks impressive!, and as for that transcribe feature thats just insane!.

    How many times have you been in a great conversation with people using IM, and you forget half of the great things said!.

    This is a great tool!!.

    Thanks!.

  15. Eric, you are Mr. Gchat.

    I love the picture you have for this post… you and Leo having a good time.

    Good information. I too love Gchat… I think it rocks.

  16. Thanks guys for all the great comments! :-)

    @Stuart: I totally understand where you’re coming from. Actually, most of the blogger reviews that I do at BlogopolistBlueprint.com are from bit time bloggers who use Skype as their default.

    But for me, you can’t beat having ALL of these features and still have it built right into your email client. And not just ANY email client, but one that has the absolute best search and archive feature out there. I’m all about simplicity, so why would I carry around a somewhat clunky (not trying to flame either, it’s just that Skype is a bit more bloated than it needs to be), independent program, when I can have my cake and eat it to.

    I’m just say’n… :-) Eric

  17. @Elliot: Yeah, the transcribe feature is one of my favorites as well.

    @Bamboo Forest: Mr. Gchat….? I like that! Thanks, and I’m glad you enjoyed the post. Eric

  18. Another nice write up Eric. Some features there I wasn’t aware of.

    Got to agree on the bloatware that is Skype. It was once *the* communication tool to have. Now it suffers from trying to do too much. A shame really.

  19. I agree with Stuart Flatt in I really don’t see any usefulness over Skype or any other other currently available chat programs.Most every chat program allows you to save transcript, most chat apps allow you to go video and voice.

  20. Writer Dad says:

    Wassup, my Gchat hombre?

    I still love the ichat, and think it’s cool that you can record the conversation with the click of a button. But the fluidity and clarity of Gchat is hard to argue with.

  21. I love Gchat, but if you want to chat with your readers there is a Google Talk widget for WordPress that’s very simple to use. You can’t get much more web 2.0 than that.

  22. Yum Yucky says:

    Never heard of it. I’ll check it out – sometimes I feel like I’m still in the Stone Age.

  23. balbir says:

    nice post but what so specific for bloggers or some thing that is of great use specifically for bloggers, as far as i know the best possible use of gchat for bloggers in chat transcript feature, it could be used to interview some great person and then post the whole transcript as a post on the blog.

  24. balbir says:

    nice post but what so specific for bloggers or some thing that is of great use specifically for bloggers, as far as i know the best possible use of gchat for bloggers is chat transcript feature, it could be used to interview some great person and then post the whole transcript as a post on the blog.

  25. Isaac says:

    I hate it when people write snobby comments and say things like, “It should be ‘A Blogger’s Best Friend.’” Know–it-all jerks.

  26. tim says:

    WOW! Thanks for the article! I hadn’t notices Google’s video chat feature.

  27. Stuart Flatt says:

    @Eric – True, if you use gmail then it is great I’m sure. What are you two laughing about in pic anyways… ;)

    @balbir Do you want to use the word bloggers anymore lol

  28. Linda says:

    I wonder if anyone ever talks to their friends face to face these days? Much more fun!!

  29. @Stuart: I can’t quite remember what we were talking about. I’m sure it was super deep stuff, though. :-)

  30. wo wo woh..googleG!!1..stop there guys!..I dont think that Gcharts is really as great as people are spreading the romours.I found a number of good things in it but also some dislikes lol.am sorry for being a jerk.but I guess people are just carried away simply because it’s google product..

    however if its your first time using video chart then you will find it amazing…

  31. This may be a good feature to conduct interviews for a blog post.
    Linda makes a good point in her comment and reminded me of a joke that Jay Leno made last night about the bad economy. He said something like (not verbatim, but it’s the gist of it…”The economy is so bad that people are actually talking to each other because they cannot afford internet access” or social networking or something like that.

  32. Dorai Thodla says:

    GTalk has a recording feature too. You turn it on/off using Settings/Chat.

  33. Wow! I’ve been playing with GoogleChat but had no idea it had so many features. Thanks for listing them for me. Now to find someone to be a guinea pig while I try them out! :)

  34. Lee Ka Hoong says:

    Great tool from Google! Between, it’s something like Skype or MSN, can be talked by using webcam as well. But I less talk by using Webcam. So, perhaps this is a great tool for others, but not for me. :)

    Anyway, thanks for the review Eric!

    Regards,
    Lee

  35. I’ve never used Google Talk seriously till now. I always do it in the browser. Google Chat is expanding everyday. However, it still needs a few more features.

  36. Rohit says:

    One more exciting feature on Google chat is the ‘Invisible ‘ feature.
    In case,you are busy with important work and can’t chat,just go invisible.

    With this feature,no one can see you online but you can view who all are online.

    Thanks for the other features,Eric.
    Didn’t hear about them earlier….

  37. Hey another option in Google chat is of being invisible which is not there in Gtalk..

  38. mike says:

    Hard to believe how far the Internet has come since the mid 1990s.

  39. Collinwood says:

    Thanks for sharing detail infos.I prefer Google Chat than Google talk.

  40. MJ Ray says:

    Is Google chat open to people without Google accounts? Open to people surfing from phones and other small devices? If not, I think it’s better to stick with Google Talk, its features and the available widgets for it. Talk is built on the open XMPP system so non-Googlers can access it fairly easily.

  41. Agent 001 says:

    Never heard of Google Chat. I will give it a try. I use Gtalk and it is very helpful to me. I got my biggest sponsor through Gtalk only.

  42. MJ Ray says:

    Is Google chat open to people without Google accounts? Open to people surfing from phones and other small devices? If not, I think it’s better to stick with Google Talk, its features and the available widgets for it. Talk is built on the open XMPP system so non-Googlers can access it fairly easily.
    P.S. – Sorry, forgot to tell you great post!

  43. Innovation says:

    Even though Google chat is okay, but I really prefer skype :)

  44. Innovation says:

    In addition .. Google talk I have never used because my contacts use Skype .. and the old fashion phone

  45. ITrush says:

    Both are really good, been using it for quiet some time now and I’m really satisfied with its features.

  46. Puspanjali says:

    I have been Skypeing so long I cannot think of another service.
    And Skype has this cute facility to take snapshots which I usually do.It has full screen half screen and picture within frame facility.
    The voice quality is great.But what I often do is I use Skype to voice chat and Yahoo Messenger for video….All for voice chat with the same person.I combine the two for a great session of voice-cum-video chat.I often use the conference call facility when my brothers are traveling and all of us are in different countries.In fact we hardly ever use the phone to communicate with each other any more.I do all kinds of file transfer including songs.We specially use the photo sharing facility of Yahoo Messenger.
    It is really fun to be able to communicate so well over the net.

  47. This is heady stuff–I only have a couple of months as a blogger and I feel like my head will explode. And I have some miles on me too. But I also remember a movie in which Rocketman finally ends his first flight, crashing into a swamp and saying: “I like it!”

  48. Great post. Gmail and all of its features are very handy.

  49. Well, it is good to know about GChat and all. But I ended up mentioning these chats as one of the top 5 time-wasters for any blogger.

  50. Archana says:

    Also, you can be in “Invisible Mode” in Google chat. I don’t think its available yet in Google talk..