It's been very exciting and rewarding to see the growth of the CiviCRM user and developer base over the past year. Some recent indicators of the growth and vibrancy of the community include:
Downloads - There have been over 40,000 downloads of CiviCRM from SourceForge since January of this year (averaging around 4,500 per month).
Forum - The community forum was launched in April and already was 800+ members (5,330 posts as of today)
Issue and Bug Reports - Karl Fogel’s excellent book “Producing Open Source Software” highlights the importance of community-reported bugs and issues as an indicator of the health of a project. The issue-tracker has over 400 registered users - and considerably more than half of the 250+ issues posted and resolved for 1.8 came from the community.
Beta Testing - Folks downloading and testing beta releases make a major contribution to the quality and success of the release. For 1.8 - we had a nice increase in the number of people downloading and reporting issues for the beta releases.
Code Contributions - The upcoming 1.9 release features significant code contributions for CiviMail optimization from Shane Hill of Urban Alliance for Sustainability, as well as a new payment processor plugin for PayJunction from Michael Morris of Phase2Technology.
Documentation Contributions - The number of people who are fixing and adding to the online documentation has been increasing. Judy Hallman has been incredibly generous with her time and effort reviewing and tweaking large portions of the new documentation (including implementation of the entire FAQ section).
... and yet I think we're still quite a ways from where we need to be in terms of community participation and engagement...
The number of folks outside the core team who are responding / helping others on the forum is still quite small. This is an area where folks can really pay it back to the project. Many posts could be answered by people with a basic familiarity of CiviCRM and don't require advanced technical expertise.
Relative to the number of developers and integrators who we "think" are deploying CiviCRM-based solutions - the number of folks contributing back patches and improvements is pretty small. My sense is that developers wind up hacking-in client-specific solutions when they hit shortcomings in the platform, rather than taking a bit more time to come up with approaches that are re-usable and can be shared/built upon.
Current users and development shops are not picking up on requests to share success stories, best practices etc. New sites using CiviCRM are generally not announced back to the community. (For example, following up on a post on NetSquared's newsletter today, I saw an announcement about a cool new site launched by Genocide Intervention Network. I would love to have seen a quick post on the CiviCRM forum about the launch.)
I wonder if these are things that will simply improve over time as the community grows and matures - or whether there are changes needed to help move things forward? I believe that the long-term success of the project will depend on a community that has evolved a culture of contributing. It could be 5 minutes a week answering a few forum posts, or shepherding the specifications for a new feature, or taking the time to generalize a client feature so that it can be incorporated back to the codebase and re-used (or even responding to this post with your perceptions and recommendations)... It's your software!