Tuesday, April 13, 2010 - 22:15
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Heading back from NTEN's national conference in Atlanta Saturday evening - both tired and stimulated. I was one of 1,500 non-profit "tech" folks (they come in all shapes and sizes btw). CiviCRM (and open source in generally) are clearly more on the radar at NTC each year - despite the bombardment of logos, banners and booths by the large commercial closed source vendors. My week started with a side-trip to NYC. Combining a family visit with work - I spent a fun and productive day with Kyle Jaster and the rayogram gang working out some of the transition issues for the upcoming layout and style changes for 3.2 (blog on this coming soon - but you can preview work in progress on the sandbox site).

User Training

Then off to Atlanta to conduct a pre-conference full-day CiviCRM User Training session. We had a fully booked session - with a pretty wide range of experience - so I was thrilled to have Gregory Heller from CivicActions there to co-teach, hand-hold and provide some super useful teaching points. Gregory added a rich perspective based on his extensive experience with online advocacy and client engagements. (During the conference I also got to enjoy Gregory's "big room" talents as he presented a passionate "Ignite" session on web strategy.) Interesting to see the mix of organizations for this training - which was dominated by faith-based non-profits. I did another revision cycle on the User Trainingagenda and slide-deck - adding more details and fleshing out the teaching points. Overall the curriculum worked well and folks were pleased - but there's really too much material to cover in 1 day when the participants want to cover all the main components. Folks were a bit cross-eyed by the end of the day. We probably need to break the user training up into 2 days.

CiviCRM Affinity Group

On Thursday, we held a CiviCRM "Affinity Group/ Meetup" which was part of the official conference schedule. I kicked things off with a brief 'state of the project' report (slide deck here). Then we had four case study presentations - designed to give folks new to Civ a taste of the wide range of organizations and use-cases: Feedback (live and in the 'tweet-o-sphere') on the meetup was good - although I would have liked to have seen a bit better turnout (especially given the high-quality of the presentations).

Conference days

I presented the 'software / platform' perspective for a panel / session on "Working with Open Source Software and Vendors" organized by Gregory Heller. My goal was to get folks thinking about the value proposition of contributing code and resources back to the tools they use, as well as plant some seeds on best practices for extending and customizing FLOSS software (complete session slide deck here). I also sat in a several sessions and got a bit more educated on web analytics and benchmarking for fundraising. This conference features an impressive number of smart, passionate and skilled folks - which makes it hard to choose among the many session offerings. One of the best parts of attending these conferences though is the opportunity to meet and exchange ideas with Civi users and consultants. I had a particularly stimulating lunch with TJ Cook - discussing the possibility of running some formal usability studies towards another usability focused release. Next year I'd like to see a few more Civ-related sessions on the agenda during the main conference days. I think there's a great opportunity to bring together consultants and users to share best practices and lessons learned (and for you consultants out there, this can be a great way to build your brand and reputation). NTC 2011 is in Washington DC - which has a growing Civi community - so start thinking about your session proposals!