Curated by: Luigi Canali De Rossi

Tuesday, November 7, 2006

Cost-Effective Mobile Group Text Messaging Empowers Distributed, Mobile, Smart Mobs: 3jam - Video Intro

Mobile group text messaging, the ability to send out SMS messages to a number of contacts at the same time, is a quick and easy way of getting in touch with a number of contacts with the minimum of hassle. Writing one message instead of three, five or twenty can be an efficient way to get the word out on something fast.

Photo credit: (c)

But this can seem impersonal to the people on the receiving end, who may not feel the need to reply to a message that isn't directly addressing them, and can end up costing a lot of money if there is a long enough list of people in your phone's address book (especially if your contacts are scattered around the world).

Enter the new raft of internet based mobile group text messaging services. These services promise to make contacting your friends through text message an easy, cheap and enjoyable experience, adding the speed and social dimension of instant messaging to the world of mobile communication.

Dodgeball is one such service, and it offers the ability to send text messages to friend groups, but only if they happen to live in one of 22 of the USA's larger cities. In addition to this limitation, the service has a tight focus on letting friends know where you are, or where you're going to be after work, but doesn't extend much beyond these basic abilities.

Swarmteams excellent Swarm-It! and Swarm-pro! services offer a well-rounded array of mobile group communication solutions including the use of fee-based worldwide group SMS text messaging.

But what if there was a way to enter a group conversation with your contacts from anywhere in the world, for free or for the price of a single, local text message?



Introducing 3jam

Whether your contacts are scattered around the same city, or dotted around the globe, Smart Mobs popularized by Howard Rheingold.

While this service is not the first of its kind to offer group text messages, it does seem to be unique in offering a service that it is at once international and free of charge.

This can be a great communication boon to small international operations like this virtual newsroom in which I operate while interacting and collaborating with other news editors connecting from other parts of the world.

Key Features

What are the features that make this new service a contender in the world of group text messaging?

In this short animated video - taken from 3jam's website - you can view a demonstration of the main function of the service: making it easy for you and your contacts to get in touch with each another as rapidly and as simply as possible.

Friends can be added to a group either on the fly, using a text message to bring them into the loop, or added all at once from the 3jam website. Once part of the loop, they can choose to reply to the whole group, or select key members that they want to include in their reply. Regardless of the numbers, they only need to send one SMS, and are only charged for one SMS. 3jam then volleys that SMS to the recipients for free.

Video (c)

Mobile or Web-based Functionality

What I like about the service is the fact that it retains its full functionality out on the road. While it is possible to send out messages, form groups and invite friends from the 3jam website, all of these functions can be accessed via your mobile by sending simple text commands to 3jam via SMS.

When you first join the service, you add 3jam's number to your phone's address book and from there on you are enabled to start adding new 3jam contacts via your mobile phone. Adding a friend is as simple as sending an SMS with the command "add" followed by your friend's name or nickname, and their telephone number. For numbers outside of the US, you simply add the appropriate international dialing code.

What's nice is that you can add up to five friends at a time. In this way, you only use a single SMS message to 3jam, making the set up costs truly minimal. Friends can also be dropped from the conversation, via the "drop" command in the same way.

In addition, the web-based 3jam console makes it even easier to send out messages, allowing you to send SMS group messages from your computer and with the added bonus of not even costing the price of an SMS message.

Photo credit: (c)

Groups or Individuals

Using the console, it is very easy to add the names of your contacts to groups. It is perfectly possible to add the same people to more than one group, so that you can create a series of groups for a variety of contexts.

Sending messages from the website is a matter of selecting the names of individuals or groups, tapping out your message and hitting send.

Photo credit: (c)

The groups you establish can also be used in your phone-based messages, so that instead of having to enter the names of each person you want to message after your SMS text, you can simply enter a group name, and have the message reach everyone assigned to the group. This is a great way of saving all important SMS characters, and giving your thumb a rest at the same time.

Just like Swarm-it "rings", by assigning different people membership to your variety of groups, 3jam allows you to create inner and outer circles of intimacy or importance, to separate out work and friendship groups, or to band people together in any way you see fit.


While some services require a Symbian or Java-based phone to function, or require you to download software to make use of the service, 3jam will work on any mobile phone that has the capability of sending and receiving SMS.

For those with the latest smartphones, however, 3jam has developed a free downloadable application that can make immediate use of the contacts in your mobile phone's address book.

(At the time of writing this 3jam feature is limited to users of the Sprint Wireless service using one of Palm's top-end Treo phones. Integration with further models and phone companies are, according to the 3jam website, being developed.)

Photo credit: (c)

Empowering Distributed, Mobile, Smart Mobs

Besides organizing meetings and nights on the town, though, a group SMS service that is at once global and free to use, has the potential to empower distributed, mobile groups in a direct and tangible way.

In countries where internet access is still far from ubiquitous, and even in locations where it is, mobile group messaging has the power to allow distributed groups of individuals to act in unison, as if they are invisibly tele-communicating to each other like a swarm of bees. This is what Howard Rheingold has called, in his best selling book, Smart Mobs. Illustrating the power of mobile group messaging, Rheingold writes:

''In the Philippines, a million citizens used SMS to organize street demonstrations that helped topple the Estrada regime.

In South Korea, the cyber-generation, seeing their favored candidate losing in exit polls, used the collectively published "we journalism" OhMyNews site to organize a get-out-the-vote campaign involving 800,000 personal e-mails and uncounted SMS messages, turning the tide in the election's final hours. Now the self-organized cyber-savvy youth who helped elect Roh are fighting another political battle around his impeachment.''

(Howard Rheingold, Political Texting: SMS and Elections)

By further dramatically cutting the cost of sending out SMS messages to groups, 3jam proves itself not only to be an effective tool for friends and business people wishing to broaden and simplify their web of communication, but also provides an affordable inroad for grassroots democracy, flash-mobs and people wishing to take collective action, regardless of their location or economic circumstances.

3Jam is completely free when group messages are sent from the 3jam Internet console, while costing only the price of a local text message when sending group messages from your mobile phone.

Cost-effective, international, group mobile messaging has a new contender.

Further Resources:

Readers' Comments    
2007-12-20 22:43:32

Matthew Penn

Another new Group Text Messaging service is

2007-03-18 17:17:45

Eligh Estoni

I agree... has a much better interface and there's no need to remember a bunch of commands. It also lets you limit the amount of text messages you receive, so you won't go over your monthly limit.

2007-03-12 15:32:28

jeff williams also provides free group text messaging. I like thier interface better than 3Jam's and it has some other features.

2006-11-07 09:36:30

Jean-Louis Seguineau

SMS stands for "Spam Mobile Service", or am I mistaking ;)

posted by Michael Pick on Tuesday, November 7 2006, updated on Tuesday, May 5 2015

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This work is licensed under a Creative Commons License.




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