GroupMe Chat

So, we’re trying out GroupMe this year since it can be used on dumb phones as well.

Since it’s new to us, we’re definitely experiencing growing pains. Turns out if someone doesn’t give any response after like 10 messages, they get auto-muted and stop receiving messages. (We seemed to have fixed this by telling everyone to say hi once they’re on)

Then we have the issue of some people using it too much and students complaining about the spam.

A. If you use GM, what’s your team policy to make it work?

B. If you use something else (that can be accessed via dumb phone) what do you recommend?

We have used GroupMe for the last 2 years. It has been our experience that as soon as a new member responds they will not be kicked out of the group.

We have been relatively happy with it. I think in the near future maybe this year, maybe next year we are going to switch to Slack. It has the ability to split things into threads and have separate discussion for our different sub teams. I am not sure about non smart phone applications.

We use Slack. People without smartphones can use it in a web browser.

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4646 used GroupMe for a few years. We did a few things to make it a smoother experience before moving to Slack in the summer of 2018.

To deal with A:

  1. Anything that didn’t need immediate attention was moved to a team mailing list, made with Google Groups. This was also better for long-form discussions, due to GroupMe’s lack of different channels.
  2. Students were asked to keep things team-related in the chat. Some students went off and made a “fun” version of the chat, which we had to take care of due to concerns about not every student being included and no mentors monitoring the chat.
  3. Like your team, we asked new students to say hi as soon as they were added. I don’t think this is avoidable since GroupMe probably doesn’t want their service used to easily distribute spam texts.

We also did GM because it would be challenging to try Slack with our parents, considering some don’t even check email. While texting works, it doesn’t work for larger groups and GM makes it easier. Ultimately the students on the team 2 years ago were already using GM.

Signing up new students, we just have to keep at them. Invite them and remind them about it. I still see 1-2 have muted the main GM, so I may check with them in person.

GM seems to get unmanageable at scale, but with 4-5 active GMs it is okay. I also don’t mind to make a event specific one, just so the conversation is contained. My policy is post new GMs to the main GM, and don’t make private GMs for team stuff. I should take the 4-5 we have and permanently put their links somewhere (website, whiteboard, handbook) so anyone can join.

Right now we have a main GM, and then ones for CAD/design, programming, and leadership. I’ve long thought about a Meme/chat one, to clean up the main GM, but haven’t quite got to it. Ideally, you might keep a ‘announcements’ GM that everyone keeps unmuted. Everyone once in a while the main GM gets unruly, and with 50+ members that is a lot of unneeded messages.

We do have a curfew between 10pm and 6am, mostly for the main GM. I wish I could just set it up to be automatic.

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We use it, but only for at-event communication. The rest of the time, it all goes through email. That helps keep the level of clutter down quite a bit.

At events, we stress it’s not for chatting. The whole purpose is for urgent and organizational messages - when we need someone in the pits, or to relieve a scouter in the stands, or when lunch is ready, that sort of thing. The day at events is long, and having your phone constantly going off, or constantly use it to text people is going to drain the battery, and then you’re sitting there without communications. So we stress it should be used sparingly!

We also treat it as student-only, no mentors are a part of it. Mentors have our own separate group text going, which gives us some redundancy - since we always have at least one mentor in each area the team is supposed to be in, we can get the word out for anything important that way, too.

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We use Group me for AT competition conversations, when we get cell service. Typically for things like “we need * in the pits”, “lunch is here”, “everyone met at the team trailer” ect. They are short easily answered text and respond type of things.

The rules are:

  1. Only one response is needed.
    We’re don’t need 20 people saying “ok” or “he’s on his way” only the person indicated responds (or the ONE person they ask to text for them)
  2. No response is needed for group indications unless specifically asked for.
    We will assume you all got the text for lunch unless you don’t show up then a search party will be sent and an explanation will be needed. (A quick indication that you will be late is allowed)
  3. No chatter.
    Mentors- are old and can’t read fast. Please send congratulatory and other such texts to personal phones (we know you all have each other’s numbers) and not to the group.

These are our 3 simple rules. Each made in response to issues were had when starting out. Since we implemented the rules the group me’s have been great. A mentor starts a new one for each event and closes it about two days after the event. (In case someone lost something at the event they can post)

We don’t use it as our main forms of team communication though.

Official communications (from the Mentors to the team) are in the form of emails (google groups) or text (remind). Text is used only if we need to make sure it get seen right away. (Eg. Leaving for competition and the meeting spot changed that morning) Team Announcements are always made one of these two ways.

Team communications (between everyone on the team) use Discord. Team Announcements may be repeated here but this is not to be viewed as official.

Group me is used at competitions and usually includes only those present. (Unless requested, we have a few parents that do and that’s great but they should be ready to get wierd texts all day.)

If your using Group me as your only form of team communication, I would suggest rethinking that. It may be serviceable for a very small team but as your team grows (and we hope it does) it will become cumbersome, as it seems to have already.

I’d recommend making a separate student chat for student to student communication that’s opt in, nothing important in there, and having a general chat with mentors in there for important information