Last week I invited you to a MakeUseOf Hangout. This past Friday, six loyal readers joined me and contributed to a great conversation around MakeUseOf and technology in general. We received a lot of valuable feedback from this chat. Moreover, participants seemed to really enjoy to talk tech with fellow-minded people, which was also reflected in their comments after the Hangout was finished.
This actually wasn’t our first meet & greet with readers on Google Hangouts. Several months ago Jackson ran a spontaneous and open-to-all Hangout on which James and I joined him. It was a very good learning experience and really helped me in preparing this second attempt.
The Invitation Process
My public invitation contained a brief form, based on which I chose participants. Given the short notice and the specific time zone, the response was not overwhelming, but I still couldn’t invite everyone who responded to the form. I picked nine readers who seemed enthusiastic to join and most of whom I had seen commenting on MakeUseOf before.
In my personal invitation to the Hangout, I was very clear about expectations. My intention was to avoid people talking over each other, being rude, or trying to control the conversation. The trick with these expectations is that you should never mention what you don’t want people to do because you risk planting an idea in their head, which might have an undesired impact. Just try not to think of pink elephants for a moment. So instead of making a list of rules, I shared with them how I envisioned our get together. Now I have to admit that I don’t know whether this actually worked or whether we just have the most awesome readers on this planet; I will leave that up to your own judgement.
Unfortunately, not everyone could make it in the end. However, the smaller size of the group allowed everyone to participate more and we could cover a broader range of topics.
The readers who joined me were (left to right in image below):
- Alex from the US, college student majoring in web design.
- Kay from Germany, working in the test department of a European mobile operator.
- Nazim from France, high school student, music composer, and writer for the French website Fandroid.
- Paul from the US, retired Marine and self-employed in IT support.
- Rajaa from India, freelance IT consultant.
- Siddhant from Singapore, middle school student.
We had quite a range in terms of age, origin, and professions, which made for interesting conversations.
When & How Did You Discover MakeUseOf?
One of the things I am really interested in is how people discover MakeUseOf. With five loyal readers being my guests, I made this my kick-off question. Kay was the first one to take the chance and share his story.
Kay’s employer was looking to do more innovative stuff and while looking for resources online, Kay found MakeUseOf. With time, it became his first stop for inspiration.
If you surround yourself with innovative stuff – software, hardware, whatever – you will be much better in creating your stuff, it’s very inspiring. – Kay
Nazim found MakeUseOf two years ago while searching for Windows application reviews. He read a few articles and found the website so attractive that he subscribed to our RSS feed.
Actually I’m now reading [the feed] every day. In the two years, I read every article of MakeUseOf. – Nazim
Nazim appreciates the diversity of articles and the comprehensive nature of each of our articles.
Alex discovered MakeUseOf in 2008 and has been visiting it on a daily basis since.
Rajaa doesn’t remember how he came across MakeUseOf, but probably through Facebook about a year and a half ago. What attracted him was the variety, ranging from Windows to mobile environment. What really got him hooked was the Q&A section, where he has been an active volunteer in answering questions.
It gives a lot of satisfaction if you can help someone. – Rajaa
When I ask them what they feel is missing, Rajaa brings up MakeUseOf’s lack of a mobile app, a question that has come up occasionally on MakeUseOf Answers. Rajaa recommends us to look into this environment to make it easier for people to follow feeds. Alternatively, he says we could plug our feeds into Pulse.
What Gadgets Do You Have?
Alex, Nazim, and Kay show off their gadget collection. Alex uses one of the first Nook eReaders and Nazim recommends the Nexus 4 as one of the best Android phones. Kay loves his Samsung Galaxy Note II phablet because his hands are quite big. Rajaa has an entry level Android with a QWERTY keyboard, which he prefers over touch input. Kay and Alex chime in that they prefer keyboards too, and Kay wishes that a new Android with a keyboard would come out. Alex says his last two phones had a QWERTY keyboard and points out that if you really need a keyboard, you can just attach a Bluetooth keyboard. He refers to one of his favorite MakeUseOf articles, which was about turning your smartphone into a desktop replacement.
Who Are Your Favorite Writers?
Since we are on the topic of writers, I wonder whether they like anyone in particular. Alex is careful to say that he is not paying attention to the writers (obviously he isn’t!) and immediately adds that everyone has good articles, so nobody stands out.
Rajaa on the other hand openly confesses that he is biased towards Saikat because he is from India. He has also been enjoying articles from Kannon and, as he says, obviously James. Rajaa feels that James is our most technically sound writer, which is of course reflected in his articles.
Being our resident über geek and a routine podcast host, I asked James to stand by for emergency support in case things go awry. So I have him on GTalk and the moment Rajaa’s statement is aired, I receive a very happy comment from him.
Rajaa continues that he really enjoys the opinion polls and the We Ask You section hosted by Yaara and Dave Parrack. He bemoans that it has become harder to find those articles since we removed their dedicated URLs (category or tag).
Like Alex, Kay admits that he doesn’t follow authors, even though he has written articles himself for several magazines. Nazim explains his impression that everyone on the team has their niche.
So I ask them whether there is something that unites our writing and makes our articles recognizable as MakeUseOf articles.
I think it’s the whole group combined that gives [MakeUseOf] the power. I even think it’s better if no one stands out. – Kay
Like Nazim, Kay thinks everyone has their specialty. He compares it to his work of reviewing mobile phone features and says it would be awful if he started writing about topics he isn’t comfortable with.
On Gadgets & Technology
After receiving so much MakeUseOf related feedback, I switch to more general topics that I hope are close to our geeks’ hearts. Last year Ryan wrote an article on Why You Never Forget Your First Computer, which received a flood of engaged comments, so I ask them about their first computer and their favorite gadget.
We also discuss the challenges of IT support.
I have to learn what [my customers] want and learn to get them what they want with their equipment, if it’s possible. – Paul
From IT support, we move on to discussing the future of operating systems, Cloud security, software licensing and subscription models, innovation at Apple, and much more. If you would like to see the whole conversation, you have the chance to watch it on YouTube.
Just a small note: Matt Smith, who manages our Rewards section, confirmed that hardware rewards are in fact available for all countries. We changed back our policy for both Rewards and Giveaway contests, to be open to participants worldwide again.
It was incredibly rewarding and inspiring to host such a knowledgeable and geeky group of people. In review it would have been nice to have a co-host to take care of the chat and some technical details. Sometimes it was hard for me to focus on the conversation. For next time, I’m hoping our YouTube channel will be properly set up, that we will give readers more of a heads-up for participating. We will promote the event more beforehand and maybe take in live feedback from a bigger audience.
Finally, I want to express my gratitude to Alex, Kay, Nazim, Paul, Rajaa, and Siddhant for joining me. It was a pleasure to have all of you in this hangout! I very much appreciate your patience while I was prototyping what will hopefully become a regular event at MakeUseOf. Thank you very much!