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3jam: New SMS Group Conferencing for Treonauts

While in San Francisco, a friend introduced me to a new company which she said “does SMS group conferencing”.  Like many my first reaction was “doesn’t someone else already do that?”.  The answer is no.

3jam, as the company is called, uses patented technology to deliver the first service that provides Treonauts (as well as all other standard cellphone users) the capability to simultaneously broadcast a single private SMS text message to as many people as you like and for any replies to be similarly received by all people in the group.

As it stands today, you could send the same text message ‘outbound’ to multiple recipients without 3jam.  However, none of your recipients is able to know who else received the message and their ‘inbound’ replies are limited only to you instead of the whole recipient group.  3jam addresses and solves this by making it easy to start a sort of ‘SMS conferencing’ among a multitude of handsets in which all parties are participants not just the original sender.

Additionally, aside from providing an extremely useful service the best parts about using 3jam is that 1) it is completely free; 2) it saves you money because you only pay for one SMS message sent even if you’re addressing it to 10 people and 3) it works without the need to install software of any kind on your Treo smartphone or standard phone.

The company claims that ‘3jamming’ is a totally new way to communicate via SMS and I am strongly inclined to agree particularly as they make a very convincing case as to why people will find 3jam easier and more convenient to use when compared to other forms of communication:

Why not just call people?

  • People are busy. Phone calls are more intrusive than text messages. People are not always available to have a conversation at exactly the same time.
  • It’s not always easy to engage a group of people to make a decision over the phone. It requires multiple phone calls and can result in a less than ideal outcome where only the caller is party to the entire conversation.

Why not use email?

  • Email only works when people have access to it (are sitting behind a computer). Most people don’t use mobile email.
  • Even if people have mobile email, there is too much noise in everyday email. I don't want my phone to buzz every time I get an email events newsletter, an email notice that my credit card statement is online, or worst of all spam. But I do want my phone to buzz if a friend is sending me a message.
  • It doesn’t work well for conversations that need to take place in near real-time

Why not use mobile instant messaging?

  • Only works when I’m signed in
  • Not all of my friends are on the same IM network
  • Not all phones have IM, and even if they do I have to learn how to do it. Text messaging is much easier and ubiquitous.
  • Friends on computers will send long responses and clog my inbox

Why not use Push-to-Talk?

  • It’s less intrusive and easier to receive and respond to a short text message than a voice message in loud crowded places.
  • I can read and respond to the messages later if I’m busy at the moment it’s sent. There is no store and forward for PTT messages

Getting Started With 3jam
Although 3jam has not yet officially launched I suggested that we could provide the perfect launch platform for their services as Treonauts are known for their pragmatic and constructive input.  3jam agreed and it has offered to provide the first 250 Treonauts to sign up to their service with a full free preview (currently restricted to US cell numbers).

Getting started is extremely simple.  You can either follow this link to the 3jam/Treonauts web page and enter your name and US cell number or alternatively send an SMS message to 3jam’s server at 415 489 8140 with the text “signup yourfirstname yourlastname”.  You will then receive a welcome text message from 3jam – save this number in your phonebook.

Next you’ll need to add friends or colleagues’ cell numbers in your 3jam address book.  For example, to add Mary Lewis you would send an SMS message to 3jam (415 489 8140) with the text “add mary lewis 2125552233”.  Simply repeat this step to add more numbers – you can only send group text messages to people who are in your 3jam address book. [3jam plans to add an online address book upload tool in the future to facilitate this process.]

Finally, you’ll be ready to send group text messages.  Here again you will send an SMS message to 3jam (415 489 8140) but this time with either the first or last names of people in your address book plus the word “chat” in front. For example, to start a chat with Mary and Peter, you would send the following message “chat mary peter”.  You will receive a confirmation text message that your chat has started. Reply to it to send a text message to your selected group.

3jam In Action
A quick scenario using 3jam in a business environment could be to seek a simple and quick confirmation from all members of a team who are currently out in the field.  For example:

From Andrew to Peter, Mary, John: is everyone ready for the presentation this afternoon?
Reply from Mary to <all>: almost done. waiting for one last slide from john
Reply from John to <all>: all done here. slide on the way to mary within 30mins
Reply from Peter to <all>: done. flight delayed 20mins but should be 4 meeting on time
From Andrew to <all>: k let me know changes. counting on you to make it happen! meet client lobby 15mins prior.

If you like 3jamming please let me and 3jam know via the comments section below and naturally also if you have questions or suggestions for improving the service in the future.

[Please note that I have made some updates to this post for additional clarification of what 3jam’s service has to offer.]

Treonauts are always jamming

Posted by Andrew on April 11, 2006 at 09:50 AM

Treo Software | SMS

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Tracked on Apr 20, 2006 4:16:05 AM


by 4thinker | Apr 11, 2006 1:21:35 PM

I've been looking for a service like this. I'll be using it to broadcast things out to our large family. I've signed up and am trying it out right now.

by Ekauq | Apr 11, 2006 1:47:54 PM

one big thing i can think of right off the bat for this is to be able to assign friends to groups

something like:
-3jam number- make group person1 person2...
-3jam number- addto group person1 person2...
-3jam number- removefrom group person1 person2...

(and the people would be be ones you've already added to the list)

that way if you had 10-20 people you'd want to send a message to, you can just send it to a group...also have this function on the web for easier manangement

by G Lowe | Apr 11, 2006 1:59:20 PM

I don't understand...in my messaging app I have the ability to add as many contacts as I want and I can then send an SMS that I THOUGHT reached all of them...

by W Lian | Apr 11, 2006 2:13:50 PM

Another thing would be to be able to create virtual names for people sho have the SAME first name and send to those names?

by Andrew | Apr 11, 2006 2:26:53 PM

4thinker - glad you like it! Let us know about your experiences using it.

Ekauq - totally agree and I suggested the very same thing to 3jam in our meeting. As you point out a web management would also facilitate the process.

G Lowe - yes, it's true that you can address an SMS to multiple recipients with your Treo.

However, if you wanted to send it to five people you would be charged for five SMS messages while 3jam would only require one.

Additionally, without 3jam all replies would only be sent to you and not to the other parties in the group.

W Lian - really like your suggestion to add 'nicknames' to contacts.

Cheers, A.

by W Lian | Apr 11, 2006 4:12:49 PM

My brother and I have the Same first initial and last name, so when we are talking back and forth, it shows just says WLian and doesn't differentiate who is talking at the moment to the third person.
But otherwise, definitely a cool product.

Also, like 4kauq said, sending to specific groups would be better, if there were 20 people in a chat, that might use 2 messages just listing the people we are talking to!

by Emanuel | Apr 11, 2006 4:50:52 PM

Is there a way to remove a contact if you added their number incorrectly?

by Andrew | Apr 11, 2006 5:00:56 PM

Emanuel - yes you can. Just send an SMS message with the text "remove firstname lastname".

For other commands you can also send the text "help" to the 3jam number.

Cheers, A.

by RT | Apr 11, 2006 5:53:31 PM

I like the idea of being able to send to multiple recipients, but aside from cost savings is it revolutionary?

My phone, an LG from Bell in Canada has the ability to specify multiple "To:" fields, for a single message.

A second question - mobile email: this is a rant, maybe.

Why do people in North America settle for SMS text messages when clearly they are just single packet chunks of text that if aggregated can act as email. Furthermore, if you have an internet server at your carrier that takes emails sent to an address and forwards them to your phone, suddenly you have... EMAIL.

When I lived in Japan, even the phones you buy at the convenience store come with email that is user configurable for the address. I had a @q.vodafone.ne.jp. So I could email anyone, including other people's phones. Text message to me, just doesn't make any sense. Why don't the consumers demand more?

Treo is nice because it does email, but how hard is it to produce a backend server to process this kind of stuff. Not very, because the major carriers that service blackberry and palm are all providing email services anyways.

Gah. So sick of SMS. What a useless format.

by Malatesta | Apr 11, 2006 7:47:38 PM

"However, if you wanted to send it to five people you would be charged for five SMS messages while 3jam would only require one."

Actually, not to nit-pick here but isn't it really *TWO* messages I'd be charged for?

1)For example, to start a chat with Jon and Andy, you would send a text message to 3jam (415 489 8140) containing ‘chat jon andy’.You will receive a confirmation that your chat has started.

2)Reply to this message to send a text message to the entire group

So you send one SMS to start the chat, then send another out for the actual message, unless I'm missing something.

I still signed up and will give it a shot...It's a nice solution to unfortunatley a dumb problem.

by Andrew | Apr 11, 2006 7:56:49 PM

Malatesta - thanks for pointing this out. You're right and I stand corrected.

Perhaps this is something that 3jam could modify in the future to only require one SMS.

Cheers, A.

by Andy Jagoe | Apr 11, 2006 9:16:24 PM


Thanks for trying 3jam. There actually is a shortcut to allow you to start a chat with one message. You can send a message like 'chat name1 name2 nameN. any message'

We have yet to publish various tips and tricks to make the service easier to use.

3jam, Inc

by TIAN | Apr 11, 2006 10:47:45 PM

I personally find sms quite useful for confirming meetings and gatherings.

Mass sms is particularly useful when there is a need to inform more than 2 or 3 people at the same time. Although the current message app allows for sending same message to more than 1 number, I am not able to send to a predefined group of numbers or send based on the attendees list of my Agendus software.

For me, more integration of the current software would be preferred to an external service.

by Malatesta | Apr 12, 2006 3:54:00 AM


Good to hear! Seems like you guys did think of everything. I'll be sure to pass on this service to others...

And Andrew, just gotta say this is a great site, this is a great place for learning about new stuff like this. Keep up the good work.

by Fred | Apr 12, 2006 4:14:58 AM

A comment and a question:

This is a GREAT idea. Especially here in Europe where SMS'ing is extremely popular. When will you make it available here???

The question: I thought it was free. Then why the statement that
"3jam agreed and it has offered to provide the first 250 Treonauts to sign up to their service with a full free preview." ?? What are those lucky first 250 Treonauts (in the US) getting for free?

Thanks for a great idea and for a great review.


by s.elements | Apr 12, 2006 6:14:52 AM

It won't let me post anything of substance:(

by Andrew | Apr 12, 2006 8:37:59 AM

Fred - when I used the term 'full free preview' it was just to reiterate 3jam's offer. It is my understanding that the company plans to keep the service entirely free in the future as well. I also hope that international service will be available soon.

s.elements - I have implemented a more 'robust' comment spam filter which may be the reason why you're experiencing this.

Cheers, A.

by s.elements | Apr 12, 2006 9:14:55 AM

Wow. This is a fantastic idea. SMS-conferencing. Wow. I would sign up myself, but SMS can be flakey sometimes. I'll stay with push email. Great job working this deal out though, Andrew

by Andy Jagoe | Apr 12, 2006 3:46:03 PM


Thanks for the comment. We're looking at options to expand to Europe and other places. Stay posted!



by alex_mayorga | Apr 12, 2006 4:22:44 PM

For what is worth, I know is not for international users, but I just tried to register and got this in response on my Treo 600:

+1-415-489-8140 (10:30 am):

I'm in Mexico and my carrier is Movistar.

by alex_mayorga | Apr 12, 2006 4:25:37 PM

+1-415-489-8140 (10:30 am): Empty reply from service provider

The message was enclosed in "greater-minor than" signs, that we're eaten by the comment engine here.

by Andy Jagoe | Apr 12, 2006 6:59:47 PM


Thanks for your note. In fact, I was just going to post about this. We will support international numbers in the future, but currently only support US numbers. Canadian and Mexican text messages are billed at much higher rates when sent from the US and we will service them through local gateways.


by Andy Jagoe | Apr 12, 2006 7:05:50 PM

Thanks again to everyone who has given feedback on 3jam. A couple of additional commands you can send in a text message that will help you use the service are:

'help' - for help on commands and syntax
'commands' - for a complete list of commands
'.end' - to end a group discussion (only works if you were the one who started it)
'.bye' - to leave a group discussion and not get any more text messages on the thread

Feel free to ask if you have additional questions, comments or ideas.



by M.A. | Apr 13, 2006 6:44:13 AM

This is a great idea and I like the way it works. Hope you guys can continue with this as no one has thought of it before. Keep those enhancements coming! Good job.

by alex_mayorga | Apr 18, 2006 2:25:57 PM


That's strange, I can send an SMS from Mexico to every country at the same price.

Hope to see you servece here soon.

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