We know GroupMe can be a great tool for organizing games and events for your teams, but never thought about how it could be so useful DURING the game. GroupMe user Ravi, shares with us how his Capture The Flag team uses their group to add a new element of fun and strategy to their games:
If you’ve heard about Lubbock, Texas, you know about Texas Tech University.
We have the second largest contiguous college campus in the nation, spanning across 1,839 acres. Since my freshman year, I got involved with a collegiate variation of a game we were all familiar with as kids; Capture the Flag.
It’s a great way to meet people and definitely a workout! Players tend to strategize the best methods of hiding their flag within various nooks and crannies of our huge campus. This makes for a great game and keeps things very interesting, however you may soon realize that it’s hard to keep everyone on the same page!
After discovering GroupMe, we’ve been able to keep both teams coordinated. The moment someone spots the flag, the player can alert the rest of his team and coordinate an attack! Also — everybody knows when the round has ended. You won’t believe how many players would hide in bushes for hours after a game has ended! This way everybody knows to meet back at the half-way point after the flag has been captured.
GroupMe has provided what is essentially a free walkie-talkie to all of our players. We appreciate the service!
Thanks for sharing, Ravi! And we are really glad to hear people are no longer left hiding in the bushes for hours after the game ends. Do you have a cool story about GroupMe? We would love to hear it! #)
GroupMe for Windows Phone 4.4: Don't Call Us, We'll Call You
Hey there, Windows Phone users, we have exciting news to share!
The newest update to the GroupMe Windows Phone app now makes registering a breeze. We are rolling out two additional ways for folks who are new to GroupMe to verify their numbers. If you’re having trouble receiving a PIN, we can now call you or you can text us instead!
Also, existing users can now login with their email and password, with no phone verification required.
And for our international GroupMe users, the app is now localized in 11 languages, including:
As with all our updates, this release also includes other improvements like improved stability when returning to the app and bug fixes.
How we built the prototype for Split by GroupMe in a weekend using Balanced.
Hi I’m Neil, a Ruby engineer at GroupMe, and this is a guest post.
One weekend last October my friends Cam and Joey and I hacked together an app for collecting money from a group. We started Friday at 6:30pm and by 9pm Sunday night, we processed our first end to end transaction via the app and website. Then we high fived harder than I have ever high fived anyone in my life.
I’m pretty proud of how it has come together, and the experience of challenging ourselves to go rogue and leapfrog the company roadmap left such an impression on me that I felt it merited this blog post.
Here’s how we built a useful service in a weekend. tl;dr is: Challenge yourself to do what you want with your work, and use Balanced if you have to put money in people’s bank accounts.
1. Already be good at something.
I’m good at web programming. Cam’s good at iOS. Joey’s good at design.
If we couldn’t do the basics in our sleep, we would have spent the better part of those three nights struggling with our tools.
Because we’ve put in the reps in our day jobs, we had all the generic groundwork crap — an https server in the cloud and form views syncing with it on our iPhones — done the first night, giving us two full days to focus on the fun stuff.
Not a programmer? It’s cool. Be good at something. If you’re awesome at making pitch decks for your boss, spend a weekend making a killer pitch deck about your own idea.
2. Work with people you love.
3. Promote yourself.
You’ll have to play a lot of roles that you may not be used to: Product Design, Copywriting, Logo Design, CTO, CEO. If you’re waiting for someone to notice that you could be good at these things, why not just take a weekend and prove it.
4. Steal other people’s time.
You can’t build something of value in 48 hours from scratch, unless you’re one of the best in the world at what you do or you’re freakishly lucky. The trick is: You can assemble something in 48 hours that took thousands of hours to build.
There are tons of interesting companies out there that have spent years creating web services that do interesting things and solve hard problems. Use one or more of these APIs in a novel way and you leverage thousands and thousands of hours of precious time and effort.
Sure, GroupMe’s prototype was built in a hackathon over a weekend, but it would have been an inoperative pipe dream had it not been for the thousands of hours the engineers at Twilio put in to create their service. The same goes for us and Balanced. More on that in the implementation details…
5. Cut half of your spec. Twice.
Every good project starts with a good planning phase. To us, “good” means brief, sparse, and directed. It should result in the dumbest thing that you would actually use.
You want to figure out what’s different about what you want to make, and cut everything else. Limiting yourself to a weekend certainly sharpens Occam’s razor and lends itself to the Pareto principle. It’s still up to you to have the courage to shoot down most of your own ideas.
Our only planning session for the weekend took place over about an hour at Revival after work on Friday.
5. Treat yo’ self
Whatever your body wants, give it that. Maybe your body likes to wake up at 8:30am, eat a healthy breakfast, go for a run by a lake, have a nice latte and head in.
We on the other hand maintained a Ballmer peak like Edmund Hillary. We ordered in pizza and barbecue. We stayed up until 4:00 in the morning the first two nights and woke up without alarms.
When your body is free, your mind is free. Indulging ourselves physically meant that A) We were free to focus exclusively on the app and B) We looked forward to “coming in to work” each day.
6. Years are just a series of weekends
Building something from scratch in a few days is immensely rewarding. You’ll return to your day job with a fresh outlook and more confidence. Plus a sweet service you get to use that you built in a flurry of pure personal expression.
And hey guess what: All of these principles apply all the time. Working the way you want to work makes you realize you never have to work in a way you don’t.
The biggest challenge for us was going to be getting money into people’s accounts. For this product to be useful and get traction, the collector would need to see the money in their account as fast as possible.
We looked into a few options.
Stripe: Stripe is the startup industry standard for payment processing. We already knew how to use it and how painless it would be to integrate for accepting cards. However, Stripe does not support ACH credits to arbitrary bank accounts — payouts from Stripe would only go to our bank account and would take up to seven days.
Dwolla: Dwolla is a really well designed and easy to integrate platform as well, and they have ACH capabilities. Their fees are also much lower than other payment processing companies. The tradeoff is they only work with debit cards and do not offer a white labeled solution — the user explicitly signs up for a dwolla account.
Venmo: Venmo is great for settling up debts with friends, and is the platform that we personally used IRL for a lot of the use cases we thought of for Split. The drawback is that, like Dwolla, it requires people to have a Venmo account, and we were pretty adamant about the buyers only needing to enter a credit card and not needing to sign up for a new account.
Paypal: Most people have paypal, and it does let people withdraw to their bank account, and does allow us to send people money via their email address. The issue is we couldn’t do this programmatically — we would have to have someone signing in to paypal and sending arbitrary sums of money to unverified email addresses.
Setting up direct deposits as an employer for each user: Crazy expensive manual process aaaand probably illegal.
Mailing people checks: lol.
The day before we started, our plan was to use Dwolla for ACH to the creators and Stripe to accept credit cards for the members. That’s when Tanuj, the BD guy that helped make this hack a reality in the GroupMe app, told us about Balanced.
It seemed too good to be true: Just collect bank information in the browser, Balanced tokenizes it like Stripe or Braintree do for credit cards, and you can credit that bank account via a single API call.
Balanced also handles card payments with a similar tokenization mechanism. So all the card debits go into an escrow marketplace, and all the bank credits come out of that marketplace.
Perfect. Instead of spending three days trying to stitch together a solution ourselves, implementing our secret sauce was as easy for us as it is for McDonald’s. (It’s just ketchup and mayonnaise, people.)
The real icing on the cake was their support via IRC. I have never had a better support experience with a vendor. Every time I ran into something that I couldn’t find in the documentation, I jumped in the IRC room via their website and had my question answered instantly. It was as if I had their CTO on iChat, and it sped up the integration process immensely.
Here are the server side implementation details, with failure cases and extraneous details removed for digestibility:
We’ve done months of work since that hack weekend to get our hack ready for GroupMe scale and polished for our daily users. As a result the implementation sketched out above has become more complicated. But, the basic mechanisms of debiting and crediting are still just this easy.
I’m really excited to have released this in our app, and I hope you guys find it as useful as we do.
Experiences is the easiest way to do something awesome with your friends. We help you discover, plan, and pay for the amazing experiences you’ll always remember.
This past July, we were excited to introduce the private Beta version of something we’ve been working on all year: Experiences by GroupMe, the easiest way to do something awesome with your friends. Today, we’re thrilled to announce the public launch of Experiences in New York City.
It’s been a completely amazing summer, developing this new project with the help of our GroupMe users and their friends from all corners of the New York area. We’ve helped groups of friends go on all manner of adventures from hang-gliding and zip-lining to comedy, hip hop and cabaret, to cooking classes, luxury picnics, and special wine tastings. And, thanks so much to all our users for your feedback over the past three months. We’ve just added two of our most requested features: An optimized mobile web view — a better way to buy things on the go on your mobile device — and, for some Experiences, variable group sizes so you can choose how many friends to bring along.
This week on Experiences, you and yours can discover, plan, and split the bill for everything from an exclusive designer dress-up party replete with champagne, hors d’oeuvres and a personal stylist at the brand new Rent The Runway showroom, to ogling some never-before-exhibited works at the Guggenheim’s Picasso Black and White exhibit followed by an artful meal at the Wright. Explore more on Experiences, and find us on Facebook, Foursquare and Twitter for Experiences updates, recommendations, and giveaways, and more.
Experiences is excited to grow, collaborate with awesome partners, and develop new technologies to make sure group planning will be as fun and easy as it’s ever been, but our core goal will stay constant: We look forward to helping make the moments you and your friends share in the real world as fun, carefree, and plentiful as possible.
Experiences is the easiest way to do something awesome with your friends.
We help you discover, plan, and pay for the amazing experiences you’ll always remember.
At GroupMe, we’ve always been motivated by our mission to help groups of people communicate and get together better. We’ve loved watching GroupMe improve the way you stay connected with the people close to you, and we’ve strived to help you bring those online interactions into the real world.
For the past several months, we’ve been hard at work building and testing something very special. Today, it’s a privilege to begin sharing Experiences by GroupMe with the world. Experiences is the easiest way to do something awesome with your friends. We help you discover, plan, and pay for the amazing group experiences you’ll always remember. We also solve one of the most frustrating problems about group experiences: splitting the bill. The memories dearest to us are those we’ve shared with our friends, and we want you to have a lot of those. Sowhether it’s a dinner, party, concert, outdoor activity or a vacation, Experiences is there to make things easy so the moments you share with your friends are as fun and carefree as possible.
We all know group planning has always been tricky. Often, working out the logistics for a great group outing, whether you’re talking about a birthday dinner or a week at Coachella, falls on one person. We’ve created Experiences so you and your friends can get together without a hitch, at each part of the process — especially the paying part. With our group payment feature, we split the bill for you, so each of your friends can directly pay his or her own way and no one has to front money ever again.
And when you plan an Experience with us, of course we’ll set up your group of friends with a GroupMe messaging group so you can share it in one continuous conversation, online and on your phone.
Today, we’re beginning to roll out Experiences to select GroupMe users in New York. Over the course of the summer, we’ll invite more people. If you’d like to sign up for our beta, or want to be alerted when Experiences comes to your city, register here for early access. We look forward to sharing Experiences by GroupMe with you and your friends, and helping you create many more memorable moments in life.
Now, we’re working on a new way to share your GroupMe stories with the world, to help us show people how GroupMe might benefit them. It’s going to be great. But we need your help. Could you take a minute and submit your story to us?
All you have to do is tell us about how you use GroupMe. It can be very general (who do you chat with?) or very specific (the time you did ____). If we want to use your story, we’ll get in touch, discuss it a little, and send you some free GroupMe t-shirts as thanks.
So what are you waiting for? Click here to submit your story. We can’t wait to hear from you.
The following is a post written by our Community Management intern about our upcoming Campus Ambassador program.
Hey there—I’m Michael, the Community Management intern at GroupMe this summer!
Since I’ve been here, we’ve seen some remarkable cases of GroupMe in places that were never imagined. Examples like cancer support groups, neighborhood crime watches, and even tornado relief cases continue to motivate the team daily to keep building GroupMe to be the best it can.
Aside from the often awe-inspiring cases, there’s one place that GroupMe just seems to naturally fit in—the college campus.
Over the past year, I’ve had the chance to use GroupMe at school in many different ways:
Coordinating a team of 20 program directors during an 18-hour dance marathon that raised funds for a local children’s hospital.
Organizing group projects for class and finding those group members when meeting up in the library.
Staying in touch with roommates about buying groceries when someone makes a run to the store.
Communicating with members of the student clubs and organizations that I’m in for quick changes to meeting times and places.
Those are just a few examples of use cases, and we know there are many more out there. That’s why we’re starting a Campus Ambassador program to help bring GroupMe on campus to the next level.
Those selected as Campus Ambassadors will be our representatives on the front line of their campus. They’ll be publicizing GroupMe and helping new users and groups get started in a number of different areas. We’re ready to support those Ambassadors as much as possible - we’ll set up custom web pages, help plan promotions, and provide giveaways. We’ll even throw in lots of exclusive GroupMe swag! #)
We’ll tell you more about the details later. For now, we’re looking for motivated, creative, and passionate college students who understand the power of GroupMe to join us.
What’s more, the Ambassadors that do the best job on their campuses will be offered a paid internship at GroupMe HQ next summer—which, take my word for it, is amazing. Team GroupMe is constantly evolving, and the amount of creativity, skill, humor, and genius here is great.
If you fit the bill, or if you know someone who does, apply now. We can’t wait to meet you. The deadline for applications is July 31st!
The NBA Finals on GroupMe: Almost a Record-Breaker
On Sunday night, we saw a huge traffic spike in groups across the U.S. during the last game of the NBA Finals, peaking during the last hour of the game. In fact, near the end of the game, the count of messages per hour was nearing 3 times average hourly levels. Check out the chart:
(all times EDT)
The spike was so dramatic and pronounced that we nearly assumed it was a record.
A search of our database, though, revealed an even busier hourlong period on a different Sunday night a few weeks prior. On Sunday, May 1, the 11PM EDT hour was even higher, well above 3 times average traffic, and lightyears away from the rest of the pack. So what happened then?
It was the precise hour of President Obama’s press conference announcing the death of Osama bin Laden. Talk about a newsworthy event.
We’re thrilled that people nationwide are using GroupMe to talk about exciting moments in the news as they happen with their closest friends and family, and we look forward to seeing this record broken again and again over the coming months.
This weekend here in New York, hundreds of hackers will participate in the TechCrunch Disrupt Hackathon. That same event was the birthplace of GroupMe last year, so we’re really excited to see what gets made this year. We’ll also be presenting an API workshop and talk today to show attendees how to use GroupMe in their hacks this weekend, and our co-founders will be giving a talk on how to create a viable product in a 24-hour hackathon.
In that spirit, we’re so excited to introduce the GroupMe Client Library today. We’re giving select developers access to a collection of drop-in UI components for Android and iPhone, as well as access to our API. You can bring full GroupMe functionality to your app in minutes—and then customize it however you want from there.
Here’s a quick screenshot tour of what it looks like.
This is a very simple sample app we created just to show what integration of our Client Library could look like. It’s fully customizable, so you’re not confined to what’s seen here, but it’s just a quick example of how easy it is to add GroupMe to any app.
GroupMe tab with introduction to GroupMe. Tap “Start a group…”
Put in your phone number (if already registered with GroupMe, the app is authenticated. if not, we send a PIN to register that number with GroupMe).
Create a group by adding people from contacts or by number or email. Hit done…
And you can view, edit, text, and call the group directly from inside this other app. Tap “Open GroupMe…”
…and you can view the full text of the chat from inside the GroupMe app. If you don’t have the GroupMe app, you’re prompted to install it. Tap the grey “Return to” bar, and you are returned right back to the other app.
Only the groups you’ve created in this other app appear in it… your full list of groups, including any made in third-party apps, will still appear in the GroupMe app.
The Client Library for iOS here, and the SDK for Android is here. Inside you will get a Xcode workspace containing two projects: the actual Client Library and a demo app showing the basic usage of the drop-in UI components and making direct API requests with it. Make sure to read the README.mdown file to guide you through bootstrapping the Client Library in your app. The documentation for the API available to the client libraries can be found here.
You’ll be seeing this library in action in the apps of a few of our brand partners to start, but we’re looking forward to seeing where else it can go. All the repositories are public, but you’ll need an access key to use the API. Request a key here.