Group text / phone message apps or services

Started by EBuff75, January 12, 2022, 08:16:43 PM

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EBuff75

Another month, another CERT meeting with a new question for the hive mind!

Our CERT doesn't have a good solution right now for group notifications.  What we're looking for is some type of app or service which would allow for group text message/notification and/or mass phone call (ability to record a message and then blast it out to a distribution list).  We are a non-profit, so any services which offer discounted rate (free would be great!) for this would be best. 

We had set something up on GroupMe in the past, but drifted away from it for some reason (the CERT commander couldn't remember why we weren't using it any more when we talked tonight).  It might be an option to go back to using that and I'd like to hear from people who have had experience with it.  Right now notifications are done via email / post on Facebook and then start making phone calls to everyone on the list.

Any suggestions for how to address this?
Information - it's all a battle for information. You have to know what's happening if you're going to do anything about it. - Tom Clancy, Patriot Games

NT2C

Why not just group everyone's number into one group on your phone (or someone's phone) and just SMS the group that way?  It's what I do with the staff from here.  They get added to my forum staff group and when I have something to send I can send it to one or all.  No special app is required.
Nonsolis Radios Sediouis Fulmina Mitto. - USN Gunner's Mate motto
Sic quemadmodum gladius neminem occidit; occidentis telum est - Seneca the Younger, Epistles
Current Weather in My AO

EBuff75

Quote from: NT2C on January 12, 2022, 08:24:32 PM
Why not just group everyone's number into one group on your phone (or someone's phone) and just SMS the group that way?  It's what I do with the staff from here.  They get added to my forum staff group and when I have something to send I can send it to one or all.  No special app is required.

A quick Google search shows SMS group size limits vary from phone to phone, but is usually either 10 or 30.  Technically we have a roster of around 50-60 people, but not all of them are active.  We probably have 15 who are regulars and another 10-15 who help out occasionally.  An SMS limit of 10 people would obviously be too few, but 30 might work.

The preference would be for an actual group messaging service though, so that we could include everyone, just in case some inactive members decide to jump in and help out.  It would also give us the option to include work phones, spouse phones, other organizations (selected first responders, Police Explorers, etc.) in the distribution, just to make sure that we reach everyone.
Information - it's all a battle for information. You have to know what's happening if you're going to do anything about it. - Tom Clancy, Patriot Games

NT2C

Quote from: EBuff75 on January 12, 2022, 08:39:08 PM
Quote from: NT2C on January 12, 2022, 08:24:32 PM
Why not just group everyone's number into one group on your phone (or someone's phone) and just SMS the group that way?  It's what I do with the staff from here.  They get added to my forum staff group and when I have something to send I can send it to one or all.  No special app is required.

A quick Google search shows SMS group size limits vary from phone to phone, but is usually either 10 or 30.  Technically we have a roster of around 50-60 people, but not all of them are active.  We probably have 15 who are regulars and another 10-15 who help out occasionally.  An SMS limit of 10 people would obviously be too few, but 30 might work.

The preference would be for an actual group messaging service though, so that we could include everyone, just in case some inactive members decide to jump in and help out.  It would also give us the option to include work phones, spouse phones, other organizations (selected first responders, Police Explorers, etc.) in the distribution, just to make sure that we reach everyone.
Simply use multiple groups and nest them.  If you can't have a group within a group (never tried it) then it's still easy to cut and paste the same message to two or three additional groups.

Use this as an interim measure until you can find an SMS broadcast host/platform.
Nonsolis Radios Sediouis Fulmina Mitto. - USN Gunner's Mate motto
Sic quemadmodum gladius neminem occidit; occidentis telum est - Seneca the Younger, Epistles
Current Weather in My AO

CG

What about something like the Remind system the schools use?

The problem with texting is that somebody always replies to everybody about something unrelated, or someone changes their phone number but people keep replying to the old groups so they don't get the new messages.

EBuff75

Quote from: CG on January 13, 2022, 06:54:15 AM
What about something like the Remind system the schools use?

The problem with texting is that somebody always replies to everybody about something unrelated, or someone changes their phone number but people keep replying to the old groups so they don't get the new messages.

I'm not really familiar with Remind, but from their website, it looks like designed for schools and education.  Do they let other organizations use it?  Also, we're really only looking for text messaging; we don't need ability to share photos, files, react to things, etc.  This isn't intended as anything other than the ability to do a text-message blast.
Information - it's all a battle for information. You have to know what's happening if you're going to do anything about it. - Tom Clancy, Patriot Games

CG

Quote from: EBuff75 on January 14, 2022, 02:10:49 PM
Quote from: CG on January 13, 2022, 06:54:15 AM
What about something like the Remind system the schools use?

The problem with texting is that somebody always replies to everybody about something unrelated, or someone changes their phone number but people keep replying to the old groups so they don't get the new messages.

I'm not really familiar with Remind, but from their website, it looks like designed for schools and education.  Do they let other organizations use it?  Also, we're really only looking for text messaging; we don't need ability to share photos, files, react to things, etc.  This isn't intended as anything other than the ability to do a text-message blast.

I saw something in there that sounded like they might let other non-profits use it.  The only other programs I know are church specific.

Moab

Telegram. Its an amazing app. Very popular.
Facebook Messenger works well. But its facebook...
"Ideas are more dangerous than guns. We don't let our people have guns. Why would we let them have ideas?" Josef Stalin

EBuff75

Quote from: Moab on January 14, 2022, 11:37:46 PM
Telegram. Its an amazing app. Very popular.
Facebook Messenger works well. But its facebook...

Unfortunately, neither of those would be an option, as only about half of the group uses Facebook and we have some who don't have smartphones.  That's why we're looking for something which can work via text messaging or possibly recorded voice calls as well.  Its fine if it can do more than that, but the minimum requirement would be something that will work for people who have "dumb phones."  I _think_ that everyone has a cell phone, but I'm not even sure about that, which is where the ability to record a message and then blast it out to the team would be useful.

The main concern is for the messaging to be a push to our members.  We're not necessarily expecting that people will respond back, but we need to be able to reach out to them if there is a need for our team to mobilize. 
Information - it's all a battle for information. You have to know what's happening if you're going to do anything about it. - Tom Clancy, Patriot Games

Anianna

Feed science, not zombies!

Failure is the path of least persistence.

∩(=^_^=)

EBuff75

Quote from: Anianna on January 15, 2022, 02:29:45 PM
Have you tried Discord?

Discord is an online chat/discussion service (voice/video/text), not something which could be used to send text messages to flip phones.  I've used it with other groups (such as ZS and NaNoWriMo), but it wouldn't work for this situation.
Information - it's all a battle for information. You have to know what's happening if you're going to do anything about it. - Tom Clancy, Patriot Games

Anianna

Quote from: EBuff75 on January 15, 2022, 02:49:44 PM
Quote from: Anianna on January 15, 2022, 02:29:45 PM
Have you tried Discord?

Discord is an online chat/discussion service (voice/video/text), not something which could be used to send text messages to flip phones.  I've used it with other groups (such as ZS and NaNoWriMo), but it wouldn't work for this situation.

I didn't realize flip phones were involved. 
Feed science, not zombies!

Failure is the path of least persistence.

∩(=^_^=)

Moab

Quote from: Anianna on January 15, 2022, 04:11:07 PM
Quote from: EBuff75 on January 15, 2022, 02:49:44 PM
Quote from: Anianna on January 15, 2022, 02:29:45 PM
Have you tried Discord?

Discord is an online chat/discussion service (voice/video/text), not something which could be used to send text messages to flip phones.  I've used it with other groups (such as ZS and NaNoWriMo), but it wouldn't work for this situation.

I didn't realize flip phones were involved. 

Ya. Whats the deal with flip phones?
"Ideas are more dangerous than guns. We don't let our people have guns. Why would we let them have ideas?" Josef Stalin

EBuff75

Quote from: Moab on January 16, 2022, 12:02:09 AM
Quote from: Anianna on January 15, 2022, 04:11:07 PM
Quote from: EBuff75 on January 15, 2022, 02:49:44 PM
Quote from: Anianna on January 15, 2022, 02:29:45 PM
Have you tried Discord?

Discord is an online chat/discussion service (voice/video/text), not something which could be used to send text messages to flip phones.  I've used it with other groups (such as ZS and NaNoWriMo), but it wouldn't work for this situation.

I didn't realize flip phones were involved. 

Ya. Whats the deal with flip phones?

Well, at almost 47, I'm one of the younger members. That could have something to do with it...
Information - it's all a battle for information. You have to know what's happening if you're going to do anything about it. - Tom Clancy, Patriot Games

Barr

There is an app that will do what you want, and it's free, however it doesn't work with flip phones since those are considered to be as outdated as 56K modems and 5 1/2 inch floppy drives in the current tech dominated communications space.

If most people are using smart phones from the last 3 years or so, I'd go with Slack (https://slack.com/) it's free to use up to a certain point and will send push notifications to your phone, but it's not gonna do a damn thing for the old school flip phones especially since most of them should be reaching End of Life anyway.
Quote from: Vicarious_LeeFuck it I'm Zombie Squad. I got this shit

Moab


I understand your limitations ebuff. Some folks are hard to change. But in this day and age. You could find a smart phone that is decades ahead of a flip phone for fairly cheap. Especially if you consider an off brand android. Im talking sub $100(?). Maybe even cheaper. Even a Samsung Galaxy from 3 or 4 years ago. Must go for cheap. But i think you could find even nicer off brand models.




Im all for using simple outdated tech for solving problems. Seriously i am. I even love mind excercises revolving around that idea. I cant tell u how many projects like this ive worked on. I used to make self contained tracking units out of old garmin 12cx gps units and a motorcycle battery. Lol.




But flip phones are a bit like using smoke signals at this point. U might be better served trying to find a deal on cheap simple smart phones.




The only other thing i can think of is Textline. Its a text software utility. That allows you to connect with customers via text. Its a very good program. They may have an android version too. But at least one person - the info hub lets say, the one putting out the messages - has to run an android smart phone.




If u just need this as a sort of broadcast system. Maybe you could develop a system where one or only a few of you have smart phones. And you guys do the broadcasting of info to all the other phones? Like even if u had the only smart phone. You could use textline or telegram on it to manage all the texts that go out to your members. The flipphones will of course not be able to text back.




But wait. (Thinking here. It takes a minute. Old hard drive and all. Lol.) I think they could text back with textline. But agin u need one android smart phone to make it work.




https://www.textline.com/




If u had one android smart phone running textline it could broadcast to all the others. And i cant think of a reason why tjey coukdnt text back to the main nroadcaster or main android smart phone running the text software.


Here it is for android.


https://www.textline.com/blog/textline-android-app-released#:~:text=The%20official%20Textline%20Android%20app,conversations%2C%20and%20even%20send%20announcements.

"Ideas are more dangerous than guns. We don't let our people have guns. Why would we let them have ideas?" Josef Stalin

wolf_from_wv


SCBrian

Old school for the win?
If you're just going to have 1 person send it out (ie. a Secretary) what about creating an email group.  and send it from an internet connected mail service. 
Most phones have (or at least had, I havent used it in forever) an email address (even the old flip phones) that look similar to:
5555551212@sms.somecellservice.com
that can be used to send texts out without having a phone yourself.   This might be a free option.  If you BCC all the phone addresses any replies should only come back to the originator of the message.

Pros - Free. 
cons - Will take a little time to setup to figure out everyones email address. 

this looks like an easy breakdown:
https://www.digitaltrends.com/mobile/how-to-send-a-text-from-your-email-account/



BattleVersion wrote:  "For my Family?...Burn down the world, sure... But, I'm also willing to carry it on my shoulders."

NT2C

Quote from: SCBrian on January 17, 2022, 09:50:50 AM
Old school for the win?
If you're just going to have 1 person send it out (ie. a Secretary) what about creating an email group.  and send it from an internet connected mail service. 
Most phones have (or at least had, I havent used it in forever) an email address (even the old flip phones) that look similar to:
5555551212@sms.somecellservice.com
that can be used to send texts out without having a phone yourself.   This might be a free option.  If you BCC all the phone addresses any replies should only come back to the originator of the message.

Pros - Free. 
cons - Will take a little time to setup to figure out everyones email address. 

this looks like an easy breakdown:
https://www.digitaltrends.com/mobile/how-to-send-a-text-from-your-email-account/

Two cons:

Email is far from "instant", and can take 30 minutes or more to route.  Two, if you BCC you protect everyone's email, but then the person sending the emails gets stuck responding to every reply, tying them up at a time they might be needed for other things and slowing the spread of what might be valuable information.
Nonsolis Radios Sediouis Fulmina Mitto. - USN Gunner's Mate motto
Sic quemadmodum gladius neminem occidit; occidentis telum est - Seneca the Younger, Epistles
Current Weather in My AO

NT2C

#19
How about this?


https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=DumgHz56IjI

I was not familiar with this at all and am just learning about it now so I can't answer questions you might have, but it sounds like it might be the perfect answer to your problem.

More:


https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=OwTy_-Y-A5o
Nonsolis Radios Sediouis Fulmina Mitto. - USN Gunner's Mate motto
Sic quemadmodum gladius neminem occidit; occidentis telum est - Seneca the Younger, Epistles
Current Weather in My AO

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