Local Groups - tools and ways of interacting

Ted Penner
Ted Penner used Ask the Experts™
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I am looking to form a local group that gets together to have lunch and otherwise interact, on a daily basis.
I am in search of the right tool to facilitate this type of local communication.

My thoughts so far are in this sheet.

https://docs.google.com/spreadsheets/d/14OH97o7dSVa5eC4WXjwHKdzmsJEinQLrVldaqOF-MwE/edit#gid=0

Additional options and your thoughts are greatly appreciated.
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Martin NguyenHelpDesk Technician
Distinguished Expert 2018

Commented:
Only have experience with Slack as a group chat app. It works well and it only costs money if you wish to archive more than 10,000 messages. It works well if you want everyone in that local group to find other members easily and have their own 1:1 or small group messages. Also, members can create private channels, their own channels, etc.

Twitter - I find if they start following other people their feed can get congested with things not related to your group. It would not be a good centralized place for people to communicate in a group imo.

Hangouts - Aside from what N8iveIT mentions above, I think it would be difficult to find other members or have side conversations without it being hard to manage. The interface is not the greatest on desktop or phone for communicating and reading back logs of messages. In my mind, its basically like being on a group text.

If you wanted to use a Google app to manage group communication, Google Groups might be something to look into. Its basically a mailing list, which has its drawbacks of communicating by email, but you can set it up where users can know who else is in the group and be able to communicate with each other privately.

tl;dr I'd suggest the free Slack as a way for a group of people to communicate with each other based on my experience.
Michael ElliottHelpDesk Technician

Commented:
Discord is phenomenal and I use it a lot for various things.

It has everything you could need unless you need to upload huge files directly to the chat.

There are roles, servers, channels, and hundreds of unique bots and scripts you can use. There are also voice channels.

I prefer Discord for everything, even if it's marketed towards gamers. It's basically a more usable Slack with more features for free. My biggest issue with free slack is that you can't see old messages.


You can create groups of channels, voice channels, etc.

Let me know if you have any questions, but I know that Discord can do just about anything you'd need.
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David FavorFractional CTO
Distinguished Expert 2018

Commented:
Skype - Still a great free IM tool, which works well.
David FavorFractional CTO
Distinguished Expert 2018

Commented:
Twitter- No cons that I can think of.

True until the Twitter thought police determine you violate one of their randomly enforced terms of service restrictions.

Best to use a tool like Skype, which provides private group conversations.
Ted PennerSoftware Engineer

Author

Commented:
I'm leaning there Michael.  Thank you.
Michael ElliottHelpDesk Technician

Commented:
You're welcome, Ted!

Let me know if you have any questions about Discord. I use it a lot and quite like it.
Ted PennerSoftware Engineer

Author

Commented:
Michael. This is perfect. How can we discuss it in real time with screen sharing? I would greatly appreciate your guidance in getting acclimated
Ted PennerSoftware Engineer

Author

Commented:
I had ruled out Facebook Messenger but am currently unsure why.
Scott FellDeveloper & EE Moderator
Fellow 2018
Most Valuable Expert 2013

Commented:
Any type of messanger app will be hard to use. By that I mean sms/texting, Hangouts (still alive for gsuite), Facebook messenger/lite etc.

The reason is those work well for immediate response or few interactions. A good long discussion will be hard to follow. Need to cancel a meeting last minute? That's what instant messaging is good for. With that said, if your communications are generally one way and one or two times a week, it would be an easy option to adopt.

For two way conversations amung a group of people, your two best choices from above are slack and discord. I would also look to Facebook for a private group as many people already use it on a regular basis. Also look at https://www.facebook.com/workplace.

If you are a gsuite fan, there is a new product called currents https://gsuite.google.com/products/currents/. My beef with Google however is they keep changing their minds on which product to support. (Gmail/inbox, talk/voice/Hangouts). I have one team on gsuite and am trying to test it out but it is not yet available. Calling support gets the response, "I have never heard of that product" That is Google for you. It can be dropped next year. This is why I am not a Google fan.
Michael ElliottHelpDesk Technician

Commented:
Ted, I'm available just about all day to talk you through some of discord's features if you would like.
Ted PennerSoftware Engineer

Author

Commented:
Hi Michael,

I have been testing WhatsApp which allows me to invite via cell phone or via email, name the group, etc but lets everyone see the contact details of each of the other participants which I would prefer to avoid.  The numbers are all shown.

Will Discord allow me to keep the identities of the participants hidden?
Michael ElliottHelpDesk Technician

Commented:
Hi Ted,

As far as I know, only the username of the participants is shown when users are in a group chat or call on Discord.
Ted PennerSoftware Engineer

Author

Commented:
Discord appears to prompt you to sign in.
Michael ElliottHelpDesk Technician

Commented:
Yes, if you'd like to use Discord you have to sign in to an account, there is no guest or non-logged-in mode as far as I'm aware.
Scott FellDeveloper & EE Moderator
Fellow 2018
Most Valuable Expert 2013

Commented:
I just looked at your google sheet.  It looks like having users log in to something is something you want to rule out but at the same time you want  control who has access to the group.   Do do that you would have to either use some type of group system that does force a log in so you can maintain control or use a method to push data out only to specific people you choose which points to either email or group texting.  

As far as group texting, Twilio is a large brand and they recently purchased SendGrid for several billion dollars. You are saying it is an unprofessional name, but it is not far off from Twitter and look how that is used. If you want to use group sms, I would not rule out twilio just for that reason.  The real downside to using Twilio is it may not be something you can use out of the box without some of your own programming unless you use flex  https://mailchimp.com/help/getting-started-with-groups/ which does look like it could fit your bill as it can use multiple channels to reach people.  Though all of this is at a cost.

Mailchimp ( I know, not a professional name either but a very large and respected email marketing system) has groups https://mailchimp.com/help/getting-started-with-groups/.

Really,the system that is set up to manage group get togethers is meetup and they offer private groups. This should really be on the top of our list.

If it were me, I would want to be part of a private ONE WAY SMS group where the group leader only sends very few sms messages. I tend to not get to email very quickly.  Meetup.com would be my second choice and I use that for local tech meetups.
Ted PennerSoftware Engineer

Author

Commented:
Mailchimp isn't texting, so that's why it isn't in there.

One-way SMS could be a great option if you can make it one-way.  How can you do that?

See the SMS row in the spreadsheet https://docs.google.com/spreadsheets/d/14OH97o7dSVa5eC4WXjwHKdzmsJEinQLrVldaqOF-MwE/edit#gid=0
Scott FellDeveloper & EE Moderator
Fellow 2018
Most Valuable Expert 2013

Commented:
That is what Twilio does.  

1) Finds a contact in the database
2) Sends the pre-made text
3) Loop the db to find another contact

The api also allows you to accept (or not accept) return text messages. If you accept them, as the admin, you can deal with them one on one.Your own programming can add any type of logic.  You can code your own https://www.twilio.com/blog/twilio-hosted-group-messaging-service-sync-functions-sms or use https://www.twilio.com/flex.  I have it on my to do list to try it out myself. Otherwise, I have used the api to send out on off sms messages in mass as well as use it to interact with a website.
Ted PennerSoftware Engineer

Author

Commented:
We are testing callfire which does somewhat the same thing but requires me to use their number.

I'd rather not have to do that but it is turn key.
Scott FellDeveloper & EE Moderator
Fellow 2018
Most Valuable Expert 2013

Commented:
That sounds good. I would be interested to know exactly how you ended up using it and your experience!
Ted PennerSoftware Engineer

Author

Commented:
Not quite there with that one.  I'm now testing something by callmultiplier.com. It appears to be the best SMS solution. Even so, this based on SMS as opposed to web-based group messaging, that would actually be better if we could find a way to hide the identities of the participants.

The spreadsheet has been updated again to reflect where we are. It shows which web-based and which sms-based options are currently being tested.
Software Engineer
Commented:
The best solution for our needs did turn out to be SMS-based after all.  It is through eztexting.com. The price plan is a pay-as-you-go plan and is not listed.  The $49 per month is the lowest listed option.

They also charge $25 per month for key-words that perform specific actions, and they also charge $25 per month extra for being able to use your own shortcode joining.  Both of those features are included with the $49 per month plan.

I have opted out of both and choose only to test for now with the pay-as-you-go plan which I think will work well for us until our efforts in this endeavor become profitable.  I would greatly appreciate the ability to connect with anyone else that is using eztexting.com as I think we would both benefit from the relationship.

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