CiviCRM Training Camps in London: A report back

2009-06-29 20:56
Written by
Last week Kurund, Michael, Mari, Xavier and I spent 2 days in the UK training camp and 1 day at the user camp. We had a great turnout at both camps with a 18 participants in the training camp and 8 participants in the user camp.

Training Camp

The training camp was held over two days. Similar to our other camps this was also in an unconference format. The topics were decided by the participants and we split the day up into 5 sessions on both the days. Some takeaways from the user meetup:
  • The UK NGO's rely more on government funding than on donations.
  • Reporting and managing gift aid is important. We sketched out an implementation and a custom report for this on the wiki. More code on this coming soon
  • Folks were quite excited about CiviReport and the reporting framework.
  • Quite a few discussions on effectively supporting multi-org installations (n drupal installs, 1 shared civicrm db)
  • A good discussion on how to make CiviCRM get around the "not built for UK (insert your favorite country here)" discussion. At some point in the future we should set better defaults given the installation country rather than only one set of defaults worldwide.
  • How to extend and modify CiviCRM via hooks was a popular topic. We definitely need to post more examples and add even more support for this in future versions.
  • The architecture and packages behind CiviCRM gave users a better appreciation of how things are constructed and why. Also helps folks with debugging and extending the code
  • Xavier gave a great presentation on MEP Watch and how to use jQuery to improve user experience. A blog on this by him (or me) coming soon. He also demoed how that site integrated with Open Calais. Xavier refers to his modifications as "template hooks" and has proposed a couple of new functions to make it even easier to include / embed other urls within a template
  • Had a good set of user demonstrations and sites. Adam Hill demoed their work on building a CiviMail newsletter from Drupal Nodes. Rich demoed their work on Time to Change and Chris Ivens gave a detailed presentation on his work with Birmingham forward.

User Camp

This was our first time running the user camp. We were a bit nervous about the structure and format for this camp. We had a great mixture of participants. 2 folks had an existing CiviCRM install (WWOOF), 2 folks wanted to learn more about CiviCRM to make a decision on using CiviCRM and 4 folks had decided on CiviCRM and wanted to learn more details about CiviCRM components. We split up into 3 groups for most of the day and interspersed it with presentations on various topics: Introduction to CiviCRM, CiviReport and CiviCase. At the end of the day we gave a report back on the work and suggestions we did for WWOOF including filing an issue: CRM-4677: Required field in custom data is not marked with an asterick in create/edit relationship. We also modeled a complain system using a new relationship type (complainer <-> complainee) and some custom fields. A custom search to list all complaints would roundup the feature set for that system quite nicely. A few other takeaways from the user meetup:
  • A phased rollout is preferred over a complete switchover
  • Ensure that there are sufficient hours in the budget for training and hand holding over the first few weeks after going live
  • Having a better understanding of what Drupal does vs what CiviCRM does helps put a few things in context.
  • Having a better understanding of the pros/cons of open source and pros/cons of hacking core puts more things in context.
  • There is always a tradeoff between time, budget, features and modifications/enhancements. You need to choose and prioritize.

Acknowledgements and other details

Both these events were paid events (GBP 400 for training camp, GBP 200 for user camp) to cover the costs of the event. Event income was GBP 6000. and expenses were GBP 5500. We bartered GBP 1400 for training space and GBP 1250 in work hours for contributions back to the CiviCRM community. All figures are approximate :) Tip of the hat to Michael L and Chris Ivens for helping out during user camp. Thanx to Miller Tech for arranging the camp meeting places. A heartfelt thanx to Michael McAndrew who organized and managed the event (it is a lot of work!). Meeting and interacting with developers and users of the software was the highlight for all of us. The UK definitely has a vibrant and growing CiviCRM community. Having regular meetups and camps helps foster and strengthen the community. You can also read blog posts on the camp by Stella and Alex Our next training and user camp will be in New York in the second week of September. Also thinking of a camp in Australia/New Zealand sometime before the end of the year. If you are interested in organizing a camp in your area please get in touch with us via email (lobo at yahoo dot com). We typically need 10-20 paid participants to break even.