We thought it would be good to look back over 2014, highlight some of what we've achieved together, and the lessons we've learned, and use these as the basis of some priorities for 2015. A wise person once said "those who cannot remember the past are condemned to repeat it", and while I agree with the sentiment, it is kind of gloomy! and doesn’t leave space to consider all the positive things we might have done, and that we should continue to do. Hopefully this post strikes a good balance between celebrating, learning, and planning.
To prepare for this post, I sat down and looked through all the blog posts made on civicrm.org in 2014 and was quite blown away by the volume of activity. The total number of posts was up 40% from last year (more than one post each working day) and the number of different authors was also up from 77 to 104, both of which point to the increasing active involvement of many different people from around our community. To get more of a sense of this you can check out the community highlights and the success stories that we post each month in our community newsletter (and you should sign up for the newsletter if you don't already receive it).
Our three regular conferences (SF, DC and London) all increased their attendance by approximatley 10-30% this year. Our conference finances are organised separately from our main finances, and it turned out that this year, both the DC and London conferences made a small but significant profit, which is being plowed back into the community. London will use their profit to employ a conference organiser who can bolster the volunteer organising team in 2015; and DC put it towards the CiviMail A/B Testing and UI Improvements MIH. The SF conference broke even this year.
In 2015 CiviCon North America will be held in Denver for the first time; DC and London are staying put; and we'll be adding at least one other conference to the European Circuit this spring: Amsterdam.
This year we had five sprints (that we are aware of) - one following each of the conferences, and two independently organised sprints. The first being a documentation sprint coordinated by Joanne Chester, and the second being a donor journeys sprint co-ordinated by folks from CiviCoop. We’d love to see more independently organised sprints in 2015 where local CiviCRM people get together and move the things forward that matter to them (think TEDx events for CiviCRM).
If you’d like to organise a conference, sprint or other event nearby to you please get in touch and we can support you to do so.
Thanks to Kevin Reynen, Xavier Dutoit, and an amazing team of mentors and students, CiviCRM participated in Google’s Summer of Code scheme this year. Of the six funded projects, two (CiviMail improvements and AB testing) are now in core, (Civisualize) is available as an extension, and one (the Drupal 8 integration) will form the basis of the D8 integration once D8 is nearer release.
The GSOC projects bought good new blood and new ideas to CiviCRM and we’re keen to grow the program in 2015 - which we’ll only be able to do with help from the community. If you are able to help run GSOC this year, check out the GSOC wiki page for more information and let us know.
2014 was the year that LTS (Long Term Support) went official. LTS started out life towards the end of the 4.2 release cycle as an option for those organisations that prioritised stability over new features (and the associated bugs that can accompany them). In it's first incarnation, LTS was community supported and fairly separately maintained. This summer, following some kind prodding from the LTS team, we discussed and implemented changes to our development processes and procedures that make LTS much easier to produce. We also added LTS to our official download page. LTS is still completely maintained outside the core team. If LTS is important to you, please sign up and join this team, or think about offering them financial - or some other form support.
Back when 4.3.0 was released (April 2013), we decided to try a fixed six-month release cycle: one in the spring and in the autumn. We hit that target with 4.4, but didn't fare so well with 4.5. Eleven months elapsed between 4.4 and 4.5’s first stable releases, making 4.5 our longest ever release. 4.6 was consciously a much shorter release (given that we are in alpha 3 already, it should be 5 or 6 months max).
We’ll look again at release schedule length as part of 4.7 development - if you have thoughts on how we can improve our release cycle, please let us know.
Both the 4.5 and 4.6 releases have involved a lot of ‘behind the scenes’ improvements to the code and development infrastructure (search the blog for more details). Two major areas of improvement have been our move towards 'Angular JS' and 'continuous integration', the aim of both being to lay strong foundations for our community of developers - making it easier for them to improve CiviCRM for our community of users). We are already reaping the benefits of Angular JS with the new CiviCase configuration UI and improved CiviMail UI. Amongst other things, continuous integration provides tools to let developers know about bugs in their code as soon as that code is committed to the official repository. It also automatically creates nightly builds of our latest code which helps with testing, and also enabled more streamlined processes for LTS.
These improvements reflect our desire to create a cutting edge solid base for the next few years of development, which will continue to be a priority in 2015.
4.5 saw numerous usability improvements: popups, user-friendly forms, and the long awaited user interface for configuring CiviCase. 4.6 includes a revamped simplified and streamlined interface for creating and sending mailings. Both of these are part of a drive to simplify the user experience by providing intelligent defaults and making edge cases less prominent. There are many parts of CiviCRM that would benefit from a similar overhaul and we encourage you and your developers to get stuck in overhauling those parts of the system that are important to you.
This year saw our community take a moment or two to step back from the day to day use, implementation and development of CiviCRM to collaboratively write a vision and community guidelines. I think they nicely sum up what we do as a community. Here’s a quick extract:
“Our vision: That all organizations – regardless of their size, budget, or focus – have access to an amazing CRM to engage their contacts and achieve their missions; that they own their data and their code; and that they can modify and extend their CRM without restriction.
CiviCRM is co-created by thousands of people around the world, and made freely available to all. By collaborating, we avoid reinventing the wheel, reduce costs, and combine our skills, experiences, and innovations into an incredible tool for use by tens of thousands of organizations around the world.”
Both the vision and community guidelines are living documents - let us know how we can improve them, and your comments will find their way into the next version.
Our introductory webinars really took off in 2014 and are now a regular monthly feature. Run by our partners, they are aimed at people just starting out on their CiviCRM journey. They cover the basics that you need to know when starting off, and give potential users a chance to ask questions and chat to a real person. We get an average of 20-30 people booking onto each webinar. If you'd like to run one, sign up on the webinar wiki page.
The core team got a new recruit in 2014. Josh, our new fundraiser, has done fantastic work launching our new member program, taking care of the partner program, and exploring more ways in which we can make the project sustainable. Keep your eye on the blog for further posts with details and numbers on progress, but to summarise: fundraising continues to be a key part of our work, and a vital part of our long term sustainability. We're making steady progress but still have a long way to go before we can say that CiviCRM is self sustaining. We see partners as playing a key role in these efforts and will spend a substantial amount of time in 2015 making the partner program work better for them - since if partners are successful, the project as a whole is successful. Early in 2015, we will launch a technology partner program, aimed at companies that provide complementary services like payment processing, mail and SMS sending, etc. We’ll also improve the ways in which we recognise non financial contributions.
Related to improvements to our partner program, we'd like to focus on improving the way we recognise all contributions to CiviCRM - from partners and from the wider ecosystem. This work was slated for 2014 but got held up. We plan on taking it up again this year - watch this space and please get involved if this would be of benefit to you.
2014 saw us bring together various different marketing initiatives under the watchful eye of Alejandro Salgado from Ixiam. We set aside a modest budget of $20,000 from partner contributions and used it to drive forward a number of different marketing initiatives. It has provided funds for a number of people to represent CiviCRM at external conferences. We’ve also started three new projects 1) to create a physical booth kit to support people who attend conferences 2) a facelift for our website (you should see the results of that early this year), and 3) engaging a PR firm to help us better understand how we can leverage our community to spread the word about CiviCRM.
If you have a project in 2015 that falls under the broad heading of marketing, talk to Alejandro so he can connect you up with others in our community and support you to drive it forward. Having one person keeping an eye on a set of projects has worked really well and is a model we’d like to replicate in other areas in 2015.
72 new extensions make their way onto civicrm.org in 2014 - more than one a week! Though that is a fairly healthy healthy number, looking at our ping back stats, we can see it is the tip of the iceberg of actually written extensions. This provoked an interesting discussion on the partner list about what may be lurking in developer's 'drawers' and suggestions for ways to increase sharing of code and collaboration amongst extension developers. Guy from Greenleaf Advancement is leading a group looking at making more of these extensions reviewed and published. If you have time to move that forward in 2015, get in contact with Guy.
So there you have a quick recap of 2014 - sincere thanks to everyone who helped move CiviCRM forward last year (including the tonne of efforts that did not get a mention above) - amazing work! What were your highlights, and what did you learn? Did we miss anything important?
And a quick look ahead to 2015 - inevitably details will change as we progress through the year but this should give you a good idea about where we are headed and how you can get stuck in. How do our plans compare with yours? Are we headed in the same direction? We’d like to see as much overlap as possible between the core team and the wider community's work in 2015 so that we can maximise our output as we collaborate through the year.