Google Helpouts update: Building the community

Google Helpouts is in the early days of the platform, and I’m fascinated by how people are figuring it out. The communities are based in Google+, naturally, because that’s where all the accounts are. There’s an official private community for accepted Helpers (Helpouts Discuss), and a couple of other unofficial communities like the Helpouts Trading Post. I pay attention to Helpouts Discuss and I check on other communities through my Google+ page. I like seeing how people adapt to tools and how tools also adapt to people.

After sharing my experience report on the Google Helpouts launch, I wrote about how I was thinking about scaling up. Here are the results:

  • Update the help page on my site and add different help options to it. Created landing page at http://sach.ac/learn with links to resources
  • Set up a mailing list for Hangout On Air, new Helpout availability, and new resources for different topics. No mailing list yet, but I’ve added a little more availability.
  • Schedule a Hangout On Air experimental Q&A. Scheduled! Details at sach.ac/learn
  • Test conversion through my own page. Keep the session free. Decided to jump to a token fee instead.
  • Package free resources: More progress – Flickr + blogs
  • Be firmer about session preparation. Maybe give guidelines: three questions? I didn’t have to lean on people or cancel any slots. =) I don’t mind the no-shows so much because I can always do something with the time, so it’s just about prioritizing slots for people who want them.
  • Switch to a token fee with a cancellation policy, especially if I can update the listing or autorespond with include alternatives when fully booked. Done! The listing links to sach.ac/learn, so people have someplace to go if I’m out of slots.

The conversations on Helpouts Discuss are great for inspiration. They’re also interesting as a way to see different approaches to challenges. I love it when people share how they’re working around the current limitations, and I’m happy to share my process experiments. Instead of waiting for Google to change things, I’d rather think: “What can I do right now to make this better?” As it turns out, there are lots of things one can do.

2013-11-17 Google Helpouts and action focus

This takes time and effort, of course, but I think it might be worth the investment. A great test for a plan is whether it still makes sense and whether people will still be okay with it even if you tell people about it. ;) Here’s how Google Helpouts fits into my current master plan:

2013-11-16 How Google Helpouts fit into my current master plan

I’m planning to learn from people’s questions and use those as prompts to fill in the gaps by writing, drawing, or organizing useful content. I’m also interested in helping the Helpouts provider community, because there’s a lot to figure out and many people don’t have the time, patience, or skills to do so. If I can get better at helping people learn and connecting with people along the way, then I can build on that network and those skills for future ideas as well.

For example, some of the other providers have been organizing informal Hangouts where we swap tips or even just work on things while chatting with people in the background. (It’s the virtual cafe!) For example, while I’m drafting this post, Matt Gibson is writing his biography for a new website. I’ve been taking notes of the more tip-oriented Hangouts so that we can come back to those tips later. Here are my notes from the first one I joined. (That was a bit of a scramble because I only started taking notes halfway through and I didn’t have anything set up – fortunately, my Cintiq was handy…)

2013-11-15 Helpout Hints Hangout - page 1

2013-11-15 Helpout Hints Hangout - page 2

I’ve been organizing the community tips into a logical order and writing them up, and Al Navas and I are planning a weekly podcast that will have panels and tips. This is fantastic! It gives me more opportunities to practise accelerating people’s learning in a brand-new field.

There’s a lot I want to learn that I can exercise through Helpouts – either helping people directly, or helping people who help people.

2013-11-16 What am I specifically interested in learning from Helpouts

I want to get better at focused conversations, content creation, video/podcasting, conversion… If there’s anything here you’d like to help me and other people with, please share! In the meantime, I’ll keep looking for the next little step I can take and how I can make things better. =)