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All my hangouts are archived, yet Google Hangouts is deciding to show me some arbitrary list of people in there. How do I hide some of them? This list I can see in both gmail and g+.

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From what I can see, that list is automatically generated from the people that you're regularly in contact with, and not just via Hangout. I don't use Hangouts with my wife at all, but I email her a ton, and she's there at the top of my list. It doesn't look there's a way to manually exclude anyone from that list short of blocking them. –  Al E. Nov 16 '13 at 19:16

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They default that list to 10 people. Unfortunately there is no way to remove the arbitrary list of people. If I understand your observation correctly, it also occurs when you start typing a contact's name in the search box as if you were going to chat/(hangout) with them.

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