GroupMe is a simple-to-use yet powerful group messaging and conference calling service, complete with smartphone apps available for iPhone, Android, BlackBerry, and most recently, Windows Phone 7. The service excels both in its simplicity and its compatibility. In fact, it is not even necessary for the user to have a smartphone; good old standard SMS text messaging will suffice. Gizmodo identified GroupMe as a “life changer” and it truly is. The uses for GroupMe are inexhaustible and have ranged from facilitating family communication to managing college study groups to stopping crime. Despite the growing number of stories about how people have been using GroupMe, very few of them have made mention of GroupMe’s advanced features, and consequently they seem to go unnoticed. These features however, are one of the many reasons why I am proud to call myself a GroupMe “Groupie”.
In September of 2010, I was actively partaking in one of the most quintessential undergraduate experiences, the college fraternity. Put in charge of a group of about ten newcomers who were pledging, I had the task of not only educating them on our fraternity’s long history but also making sure they became close friends with our existing members. In addition, the newcomers were to plan and organize a large-scale community service event and complete an open-ended project where they were required to add something substantive and lasting to our house that would stand the test of time for future generations of members. Needless to say, this was no easy task neither for them nor myself, balancing both school and fraternity obligations. All of this required large amounts of organization, scheduling, and persistent open-communication.
GroupMe seemed like a great option for facilitating the task at hand. I created a group for the new members, so that they could easily coordinate with one another. I wrote a quick script in PHP with MySQL and Cron Jobs that worked with GroupMe’s advance developer features at the time. It took a Google Calendar with the group’s schedule and updated them of deadlines and upcoming tasks in the group. It also pulled information from a database that needed to learn and posted a fraternity fact of the day to the group to help them study the fraternity’s history.
Unfortunately, these advanced developer features which were so useful for me have since been disabled. You can still check to enable them in your user settings, but there is no way that I know of to integrate them into any groups. GroupMe, since having been acquired by Skype has added many features such as open groups, marketed groups, and questions. It has also opened its doors to developers to include GroupMe functionality into their apps with their Client Library. However, it is necessary to request access to the API which I was never granted. It is understandable that GroupMe has altered their strategic aim as such that such a feature came to be neglected, but it is still a shame. It helped transform my favorite group messaging service into something even greater.
Julia Heffernan (@juliaheffernan), a GroupMe employee, has informed me via a tweet that the developer settings I used above can once again be accessed if you append a GroupMe group url to include /bot at the end of the address. I believe it is also necessary to have “Enable Developer Features (Advanced Users Only)” checked in your user account settings in order for this to work. In my opinion, this affirms that GroupMe is still the best group messaging app, especially for the power user!