Soon after Mr. Justin Trudeau was sworn-in as Prime Minister this morning, one of his first acts was to reach out and hosted a Google Hangout (like a video conference) to talk to students from five schools across the country. Since Prime Minister Trudeau also appointed himself as the minister of intergovernmental affairs and youth, it should not be surprising that one of his first actions was to reach out to young students. Inspiring Canadian youth is not often an explicit goal of a prime minister, but then how many prime ministers actually has the additional title of minister of intergovernmental affairs and youth?
Prime Minister Trudeau talked to students from the following five schools to answer their questions,
1) From Tusarvik School in Repulse Bay, Nunavut (time code 0:00)
2) From Ecole Romeo-Dallaire in Winnipeg, Man. (time code 3:04)
A student asked a question in French at 3:40.
3) From Lawrence Heights Middle School in Toronto, Ont. (5:33)
Grade 8 student Roya asked at 5:53, “In your election speeches, you said that you will lower taxes for middle-class, and increase taxes for the richer and higher class but will this help in ending poverty for the lower class people on the streets?”
4) From Ecole du Dome in Gatineau, Que. (7:21)
A student asked a question in French at 7:35
5) From Membertou Elementary School in Sydney, N.S. (9:08)
(9:15) A student asked this question, “What did you enjoy most about teaching? And how did you use those skills as prime minister?”
Ideas to make Prime Minister Trudeau’s future Google Hangouts better
Allow this reporter to first set the stage. This reporter has been using Google Hangout since 2011, using Google Hangout LIVE broadcast technology since 2012 (helped in reporting Montreal Demonstrations – streamed LIVE Apr 28, 2012 ), and actually was one of Google Hangout’s first Canadian beta testers (the long name for this LIVE broadcast technology is Google+ Hangout On Air). So it is really wonderful to see the Trudeau government adopting this technology right on its first day of governing.
Without meaning any disrespect to Mr. Trudeau’s technical team, here are some ideas to make future Google Hangouts better:
1) First of all, Google Hangout is not just a great tool to reach out and communicate openly with students in schools. Google Hangout can and should be used to communicate with Canadians across the country and on a regular basis. Now, the actual strategy and implementation planning is obviously beyond the scope of this article.
2) It is rather unfortunate that the PM’s computer’s video camera seemed muted (turned off??) during the whole Hangout. (update: This seems strange after seeing CBC News report. See note 1 below) So the students in the five schools and LIVE viewers across Canada/world were basically reduced to looking at a flag of Canada when the PM was speaking with passion. No matter how patriotic students were on this momentous day and a brand new prime minister speaking to them LIVE, they looked bored as they were forced to stare at a picture of a static flag during the whole Hangout. So it is important to make sure the PM’s video camera and audio mic are working and are not muted accidentally.
3) Technical checks by staffs at all participating locations is a must. It is also important to ensure the source location (wherever the PM conduct future hangouts) have steady and high speed internet connection as video stream consumes a lot of data bandwidth. Avoid wireless connection and used fixed internet connection if possible. If wireless/Wi-Fi is the only option then make sure the wireless connection is very stable and high speed. If the internet connection speed is unstable, then the video/audio quality may suffer and get very choppy.
For example, while it is possible to participate in a Google Hangout via cell phone (this reporter has done it many times), the risks of video frames dropout and unclear audio must be anticipated and these risks mitigated.
4) The time delay (over 40+ minutes from scheduled) of the Hangout likely reduced the number of people who could watch it. And the confusing viewing instructions also didn’t help. A direct link to the Hangout could have been provided at some point.
5) As Prime Minister Justin Trudeau said, “in Canada … better is always possible”! Well, it is a good start for the PM to communicate and engage with Canadian students today. And it will be wonderful to see future Google Hangouts keep on getting better and better. In fact, why stop at hangouts with PM? The ministers and the Liberal MPs can also have their own Hangouts with Canadians stay connected using these cutting edge tools.
By the way, a shorter version of this article has been posted at examiner.com
Note 1: (8:46pm MST update) This reporter just reviewed CBC News behind the scene report of the PM’s Google Hangout from within the PM’s office. Looking at the clip from 0:05 onwards, I saw the PM’s camera seemed to be working fine at that point in time as we can clearly see his smaller thumbnail on the bottom on the screen was an image of him sitting in his office and *not* a Canadian flag. Puzzling problem?!
One possibility was the CBC footage was a test shot as the CBC camera person need to be in front of the monitor. Another possibility was there was some deeper Google problem. In either case, it was a shame that the broadcast footage showed a static Canadian flag image instead of the passionate PM Trudeau speaking in person in lively video.
Note 2: In October 2012, this reporter had the honour and pleasure to participate in the second Google Hangout President Obama had with a Reno TV news station. Unfortunately, as far as this reporter knows, President Obama did not continue to do many more Google Hangout afterwards. Google Hangout didn’t seem to have been used much to try to engage American citizens. Seemed like opportunities lost.
This is a nice pix too,