What is the State of the European Union? #askbarroso

Is Europe really emerging from the financial crisis? What’s going to happen to Europe’s 5 million unemployed young people? Does the rise of euro-sceptic politics spell the end of the EU as we know it? Will Europe act on Syria?

Now’s your chance to put these questions and others to the man in charge of the European Commission, President José Manuel Barroso, in a special, live State of the European Union Hangout interview, hosted by the euronews Global Conversation team, but driven by you.

The Hangout on Air takes place on Thursday, September 12 at 20:50 CET / 11:50 PDT, one day after President Barroso’s 2013 State of the European Union address.

euronews is soliciting questions, comments and ideas for the interview until 12:00 CET / 03:00 PDT on Wednesday, September 11. No topic is too big or too small—all you need to do is submit your question (text or video) on Google+, Twitter and Facebook using the hashtag #askbarroso. The authors of the best questions—as chosen by euronews editors—will be invited to interview the President in person, live, in the Google+ Hangout.

To tune in, visit the European Commission’s Google+ page Thursday, September 12 at 20:50 CET / 11:50 PDT. And of course, you can keep commenting up to and after the interview using the hashtags #askbarroso and #SOTEU.

Join the Hangout Comedy Club where your laugh can help change a life

The Edinburgh Fringe festival is one of the largest arts festivals in the world, where thousands of people descend upon Edinburgh to see hundreds of up-and-coming comedians and artists perform in bars, basements and venues around the city.

For those of you who have always wanted to go to the Fringe, now you can enjoy great new talent, laugh ‘til your belly hurts and even heckle a comedian from the comfort of your own home. This summer, you can be in the front row of a live comedy show wherever you are thanks to Google+ Hangouts and YouTube. While you’re at it, your laughs can raise money for a good cause.

We’re partnering with the U.K. charity Comic Relief to bring you the first online comedy club—the “Hangout Comedy Club.” We’ve created a clever gizmo called the “Laughometer,” which will measure how much you enjoy the show and turn your lol’s into an optional donation to Comic Relief. They use the funds they raise to tackle the root causes of poverty and social injustice.

To be part of the Hangout Comedy Club, simply join a Google+ Hangout hosted by one of our famous comedians, including Katherine Ryan, Sanderson Jones and Joey Page. Just like a real comedy club, if you’re brave enough, you can join the front row with up to eight others. If you’d rather sit out of sight, join a Hangout, add your friends, and watch from the safety of the back row.

The next Hangout is today, Thursday, August 15, 10pm BST with Sanderson Jones. Find out who else is starring and get your free seat at www.youtube.com/user/rednoseday/hangoutcomedyclub.

So even if you can’t make it to the Fringe, we’ll bring the best new talent directly to you—and your laugh could help change a life.

Supercharge your summer at Maker Camp

We’re pleased to have Dale Dougherty, founder and publisher of MAKE magazine and Maker Faire, join us today to talk about Maker Camp—a free, online summer camp for teens on Google+. Last year, more than 1 million campers joined in, and this summer is looking even brighter. Maker Camp will officially kick off at 11 a.m. PDT / 2 p.m. EDT today in a live Hangout On Air from San Francisco’s Exploratorium and will go on for the next six weeks. - Ed.

Camping has long been a summer tradition that calls us to explore the outdoors, engage in fun activities and make new friends. Overnight camping might involve setting up tents and gathering around a campfire, while day camps can focus on areas of interest such as chess, computers, robotics or sports (we’ve worked with a lot of these at Maker Media). Yet no matter what kind of camp it is, or where it takes place, camp has to be fun and social.

Maker Camp is a whole new kind of camp: an online summer camp that is completely free and open to everyone. Maker Camp takes place wherever you are, by letting you do fun activities and share them with others through the Google+ platform. You’ll make cool projects, go on epic virtual “field trips” and meet awesome makers.

This is Maker Camp’s second summer, and the format is similar: Each weekday morning, we’ll post a new project or activity on our Google+ page—30 things to make over six weeks. Each weekday afternoon, tune in to a live Google+ Hangout On Air to meet expert makers who create amazing things. And like last year, our Field Trip Friday Hangouts will take you to new places that few of us get to see. For instance, we’re excited to take you to NASA Ames Research Center next week, and this week we’ll be checking out one of the world’s fastest sailboats, from Oracle Team USA.

We’ve added a few things to make this year's Maker Camp even better. There's a new Google+ Community for Maker Camp, so it will be even easier for you to chat with other campers and see what they’re working on. We also have a network of affiliate camps (we call them “campsites”), so you can create and make together in your local library, youth club or makerspace. If there’s a campsite near you, you’ll find it on this map. We’ve worked with Google to supply many of these campsites with maker equipment like soldering kits, LEDs, Raspberry Pi boards (mini Linux computers), and Arduino microcontrollers (good for making robots and other gadgets).

Maker Camp hopes to foster the DIY (do-it-yourself) spirit in young people. We want each camper to see how much there is that you can do and how much there is to explore all around you. Once you begin doing things, you’ll meet others who share your interests, and you can collaborate to work on projects together. We call that DIT (do-it-together). Google+ is a platform for that kind of collaboration, and it extends to any location and any time zone. And when Maker Camp comes to an end, you’ll have friendships that last beyond summer.

Maker Camp might not be surrounded by trees or near a lake, but it has many of the wonderful features of camping. For instance, you can think of your computer as the campfire that we gather around, and with more than a million campers, our virtual campfire is pretty big! Plus, like any camp, you’ll get the most out of Maker Camp by participating. Meet other makers, get involved in conversations, do things you’ve never done before and most of all, make something!

What each of us can do is pretty amazing, yet what we can do together is even more amazing. In that spirit, I invite you all to join us at Maker Camp, starting today. Just follow Make on Google+ to join, and let’s make this the best summer ever.

Connecting across continents

There’s only so much students can learn about the world from the static pages of a textbook. Meeting people from other countries face-to-face provides unique insight into the world’s varied cultures, and the Internet is making this possible in unprecedented ways. To increase global connections, we’re working with First Lady Michelle Obama, the State Department and the Global Nomads Group, to connect students across continents over Google+ Hangouts.

As a keystone event in The White House’s Africa Tour, the First Lady will host a Google+ Hangout On Air from the SciBono Discovery Center in Johannesburg this Saturday at 9:30 a.m. EDT. After Mrs. Obama shares her thoughts on the importance of education, students in Johannesburg, L.A., Houston, New York, and Kansas City will get the chance to talk with one another directly, sharing ideas about education in their countries face-to-face-to-face—it’s a 21st-Century pen pal program, hosted by the First Lady. (RSVP to watch.)

The discussion won’t stop there. This Hangout On Air kick-starts a series of global exchanges on Google+, organized by the State Department and the Global Nomads Group, a nonprofit organization that facilitates cultural exchanges, launching early in the new school year. During the summer, students are encouraged to join the Global Nomads Group’s Google+ Community, “Connecting Continents,” to discover and connect with peers around the world. We look forward to announcing the next hangouts in the near future—stay tuned to the Global Nomads Community for details.

Getting healthy just got a little easier

We’re all looking for ways to get a little healthier and smarter about the choices we make. Having tools and information at your fingertips might help bring a bit of motivation to your routine, and of course good tunes and a strong community doesn’t hurt either.

What’s in that cupcake?
Want to know how many calories are in a cupcake, or how much potassium is in a banana? You can now find nutrition information for over 1,000 foods in search - helping you stay informed about what you eat more quickly and easily. While using voice search, on desktop, your iPhone, or Android device you can ask, “how many calories are in a cupcake?” and you can follow-up and ask, “how about a cookie?” without needing to repeat parts of your question. Fruits and vegetables don’t have labels, and it’s often hard to track down the nutritional info for wine or more complex dishes like a burrito, so type or tap the microphone and easily ask your question for these foods and more.

Explore what’s around you, on two wheels
If you want a change of scenery from the gym, use Google Maps on your Android device to find nearby biking routes. Mount your device on your handlebars to see the turn-by-turn directions and navigation, or use speaker-mode to hear voice-guided directions for more than 330,000 miles of trails and paths around the world. Dark green lines on the map show dedicated bike trails and paths without cars, light green lines show streets with dedicated bike lanes, and dashed green lines show other streets recommended for cycling.

Team up to get fit
Looking to get healthy with a friend? Join a Google+ Community and connect with others that share your diet and exercise goals. Check out Communities such as Eating Right and Fitness & Weight Loss for motivation, tips and inspiration to keep you on track. Use Hangouts On Air to learn what experts like The Biggest Loser are saying about nutrition or jump into a yoga class.

Don’t stop the music
A good beat will keep you moving and motivated. Sign up for All Access, our new music subscription service, and you can listen to millions of songs from Google Play Music. Build an awesome workout mix or start a radio station from your favorite pop song like “We Can’t Stop!” Miley Cyrus says it best.

Keep track—no matter which device you’re on
Counting calories? Apps such as Diet Diary can be easily accessed through Chrome or on your mobile device—that way it’s with you when it‘s on your mind. If spreadsheets are more your style, try one of several Google Docs templates, like this weekly meal planner.

Get inspired by the pros
Need a little more motivation? Why not watch fitness gurus do their thing on YouTube: you can watch Sadie Nardini and her amazing yoga classes, or Cassey Ho will get you in top shape for summer - all in the comfort of your own living room.

Bringing Google+ Comments to Blogger

Reading and responding to comments can be one of the most rewarding aspects of blogging. Not only do they help you connect with your readers, they can also inspire later blog entries. The challenge, oftentimes, is following all the conversations around your content—on Google+, for instance, as well as on your website. So we're making things a lot simpler.

Starting today, you can bring Google+ Comments to your Blogger blog. Once you've enabled the feature through your Blogger Dashboard, you'll enjoy a number of important benefits:

View your blog and Google+ comments, all in one place
Now when you're browsing your blog's comment threads, you'll see activity from direct visitors, and from people talking about your content on Google+. For example, if there's a public Google+ discussion about one of your blog entries, those comments and replies will also appear on your Blogger blog. This way you can engage with more of your readers, all in one place.

Help readers comment and connect with their circles
Your blog readers will now have the option to comment publicly, or privately to their circles on Google+. And when they're browsing blog comments, they can view all of them, just the top ones, or only those from the people in their circles.

In all cases, you and your readers will only see the comments you have permission to see. Giving people these kinds of controls not only encourages more meaningful sharing—it can lead to more blog traffic.

To get started with Google+ Comments, just visit the Google+ tab of your Blogger Dashboard, and check “Use Google+ Comments.” (Older comments will continue to appear in the new widget.) You can also visit any post on the Official Google Blog (like this one), or on Blogger Buzz (like this one), to see Google+ Comments in action.

Happy commenting!

Secretary of State John Kerry kicks off “Hangouts at State” series on Google+

Over the past year, Google+ has been used across the globe to connect people and enable free expression—from Syria Deeply, an independent news site which regularly uses Google+ and Hangouts to report about the crisis in Syria to Tom Fletcher, the British Ambassador to Lebanon, who issues dispatches from one country to another via Hangout.

Today, the U.S. Department of State is building on this trend by announcing a new series of discussions called “Hangouts at State.” Each month, these conversations will bring people together across global boundaries to discuss the most pressing U.S. foreign policy issues, like democracy promotion, human rights, counterterrorism efforts, economic development, climate change and drug interdiction.

The series kicks off on Friday, April 19 with a Hangout with U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry, entitled “The U.S. in the World: What’s In It for Us” and moderated by NBC’s Chief Foreign Affairs Correspondent Andrea Mitchell. The Secretary will be joined by a group of Americans to discuss the impact of U.S. foreign policy on people at home.

Tune in on Friday at 1 p.m. E.T. to watch the conversation unfold, and keep your eye on the Google Politics and Elections page for news about the next “Hangout at State.”

Introducing Art Talks on Google+

An excellent guide often best brings an art gallery or museum’s collections to life. Starting this week, we’re hoping to bring this experience online with “Art Talks,” a series of Hangouts on Air on our Google Art Project Google+ page. Each month, curators, museum directors, historians and educators from some of the world’s most renowned cultural institutions will reveal the hidden stories behind particular works, examine the curation process and provide insights into particular masterpieces or artists.

The first guided visit will be held this Wednesday, March 6 at 8pm ET from The Museum of Modern Art. Deborah Howes, Director of Digital Learning, along with a panel of artists and students, will discuss how to teach art online. To post a question, visit the event page. If this talk falls too late for you to tune in live, you can watch afterward on our Google Art Project YouTube channel.

The next talk is from London. On March 20, Caroline Campbell and Arnika Schmidt from the National Gallery will discuss depictions of the female nude. Details are available on the Art Project’s event page. In April we’ll host a panel examining one of the Google Art Project’s popular gigapixel works, Bruegel’s “Tower of Babel,” featuring Peter Parshall, curator at the National Gallery of Art in Washington.

Additional talks are planned by curators from high-profile institutions such as The Metropolitan Museum of Art, the Museum of Contemporary Art in Los Angeles, the Museo Nacional de Arte in Mexico and the Museum of Islamic Art in Qatar.

Google Art Project aims to make art more accessible to all. We hope that Art Talks is the next step in bringing art to your armchair, wherever you are in the world, with just a click of a button. Stay tuned to the Art Project and Cultural Institute Google+ pages for more information on dates and times of these online lectures.

Fireside Hangouts: Join First Lady Michelle Obama in a Google+ Hangout to discuss Let’s Move!

In the past month, both the President and Vice President of the United States have come to Google+ to participate in "Fireside Hangouts" to discuss the challenges the country faces and answer people's questions. On March 4, it's First Lady Michelle Obama's turn as she joins her first-ever Fireside Hangout to discuss Let’s Move!, her initiative to ensure that all our children grow up healthy and reach their full potential. The First Lady will be joined by Kelly Ripa, Emmy award-winning co-host of popular daytime talk show "LIVE with Kelly and Michael," and families from around the country.

Three years ago, the First Lady launched the Let's Move! initiative to unite the country around our kids' health and create real support for families to live healthier lives. Since then communities across the United States have worked together to share, collaborate on and create ways to improve the health of our nation's children. This year, the First Lady is using Google+ to celebrate the anniversary of Let's Move! and to connect with communities on Google+ who are passionate about healthy eating, fitness and parenting.

For a chance to join the Google+ Hangout with First Lady Michelle Obama, share your thoughts and questions on raising healthier families and communities on the Let's Move YouTube channel. Submit a video or text entry (video is preferred) telling us a bit about yourself, what your family does to stay healthy and a question for the First Lady by Thursday, February 28, 2013.

Then tune in to the First Lady's Fireside Hangout live on the White House Google+ Page or Let's Move YouTube channel at 11:10 am ET on March 4.

Fireside Hangouts: Join President Obama on Google+ after the State of the Union

When President Obama heads to a joint session of Congress tomorrow night, he’ll be honoring the 200-year old tradition of delivering the State of the Union to Congress and the American people. Two days later, the President will turn to Google+ to continue a more recent tradition, by taking questions online after his speech. You can tune in to the Hangout this Thursday at 4:50 p.m. ET.

Much like the Fireside Hangouts held by Vice President Biden and Domestic Policy Director Cecilia Munoz over the past few weeks, the President’s Fireside Hangout will include a group of people who regularly discuss important issues of the day online. During the conversation, the selected participants will ask the President their own questions—but we’d also like to hear from you before the Hangout. To let the President know what’s on your mind, head to the White House YouTube channel and submit a video or text question. You can submit or vote on questions you’d like to hear him address until 11:59 p.m. ET on Wednesday, February 13.

Looking for inspiration for your question? Watch the President’s State of the Union speech on YouTube tomorrow night at 9 p.m. ET, as well as the Republican response from Senator Marco Rubio directly afterwards.

Then tune in to Thursday’s Fireside Hangout on the White House Google+ page or YouTube channel for a unique online discussion between the President and the American people on Google+.