Howto: Send Daily Text Reflections

For the past few years I have been sending out a Lenten Journey reflection. In fact, this usually continues long after Lent, but this year it fell away slightly due to technical issues and the pressures of parishLife, but things are sorted out on that front now, and we are back up to speed for Lent 2013.

If you want to subscribe, go to http://www.blessed.org.uk/daily-texts/ to see how to do it.

I have had a few requests to explain how to do this, and at the risk of flooding the world with prayers and reflections (what a shame!) here is how I do it. There are plenty of other processes out there, but this works well for me. Note that this explanation uses Android, other solutions are available (indeed I used to have an iPhone many moons ago, and I found a solution then, so follow the process for your other-fruit-based products, which is the most important thing.)

1. Text Bundles

In the past I have had generous donations from the people who receive these texts. They are free to receive, but if anyone is willing to donate to support this work, then a fiver to my PayPal account: fr.simon@rundell.org.uk would be most helpful.

If, as the sender, you have unlimited texts, then this would be the best solution, but although my Three tariff has a lot of texts, it gets used up when you send 150 a day out and I am forced to purchase an add-on. Note that even though I am sending each text individually, some carriers regard this as spamming. I was kicked off GiffGaff for this, despite my protestations that sending prayers out was not selling anything, they still canned me. Boo!

2. Collating the Distribution List

Google is my backend for almost everything. When people let me know they have subscribed, I add them to my Google contacts and add them to a specific group. In my case, I put them in a group marked “Texts”. To do this: enter their details, at the top there is a button which looks like a group of people, it provides a list of the groups you have created. Add them to that.

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This is why the subscription process is manual: I have control over it, and if anyone wishes to unsubscribe, then I can simply delete the entry in the contact list or remove them from the “Texts” group and it is instantly updated on my phone.

3. Planning

I don’t just make this stuff up on the fly. In fact, I have a document containing the whole of Lent in a table. (note: now on Office365 legally, are you impressed?) which contains Scriptures, Rituals, Reflections and Links for each day (and on some days more than one). I usually put the links through the bit.ly URL shortner which saves space.

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I save this document in my Dropbox so that I have access to it on my phone.

2. Dropbox on a smartphone

You can access your dropbox on your smartphone, only downloading the files you want to access (so it doesn’t clog up your phone memory!). Many smartphones comes with an app already installed to read Word documents, and some are certainly better than others. For this purpose you need an app which allows you to copy and paste from the document you are viewing. I find that the free OliveOffice does this job very effectively.

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Of course, you could cut out this part of the process and just type the text in the SMS app below, but as my texts often include shortcoded links, I want to get these right.

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3. Sending Group Texts

From my chosen document reader, I selected the appropriate day, and selected “Share” (third button from left) and selected to share that text with my text app Pansi SMS.

Pansi is an excellent SMS program, and the best feature is that you can send not only to individuals, but to a Google group. Select the “people” icon at the right of the “To” and select the “Group list”

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Now you can see why I collated the names in my Google address book and gave them a specific group, in this case called “Texts”. I select that group…

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and select “Send”.

The whole send process takes about 10 to 15 minutes to send 150 messages. You can also schedule the sending, so (for example) on Good Friday, I schedule them to coincide with the three hour-long meditations on the Cross, when I am particularly busy. I suppose one could schedule the whole of Lent, but I suspect it would clog up the memory of my phone.

One of the addresses I text to is my Twitter account so that people who don’t have a UK mobile can also get them. Texts to non-UK mobiles cost a fortune and you don’t want to go there…

Of course, you don’t have to use this technique for just Lent reflections, there is no limit, but this process can enable us to use SMS creatively.

I hope this helps you.

 

 

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