Toronto Meetup October: general howto, data import demo, and future topic brainstorming

2010-10-20 15:23
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This past Monday, the 18th of October 2010, a group of about 10 people gathered for Toronto's fifth ever CiviCRM Users' Group Meetup. The turnout was up significantly from last month, and we look forward to growing the local community even more. In future, we'll make sure to post clear and detailed directions to the location to ensure everyone who wants to come can find us!


Unfortunately our scheduled presenter was unable to attend at the last minute, which meant we had to modify the agenda for the evening slightly, but it ended up working out quite well. Introducing ourselves and our interests or experiences with CiviCRM, roughly half of us were developers or technical people of some description, while the rest were more end-user type people who were interested in what CiviCRM could do for them or their organization. This led to some great general discussion about what CiviCRM is (and isn't) and some examples were shown (eg. Hill Street Garden donation page) to illustrate.


From there we turned to the topic of data import, which was the subject of our scheduled presentation. Fortunately, we had enough expertise in the room to talk coherently about this, and we even had a short ad-hoc demo to show the import wizard itself. The key point everyone agreed on is that preparing your data for import is absolutely critical. A clear understanding of exactly what you want to do with your data once it's in CiviCRM should be the main driver for how you structure your CiviCRM implementation. From there, doing small test imports using a sample of your data helps to ensure the full import works properly. We also talked about doing multiple imports to pull in different kinds of data, and using contact IDs and External IDs to perform updates to existing records. Our quick demo used the CSV method for importing, but we also discussed the SQL Query method, and tried to elaborate the relative merits of each.


Finally we moved on to a bit of brainstorming with the group to draw out some ideas for possible topics we can include on the agenda for future meetups. Given that we are still a relatively small group, we are trying to understand what Toronto CiviCRM users would find valuable in a meetup format gathering. The group had some excellent ideas, and we'll be using these as a base for an upcoming survey to be sent out broadly to existing and potential CiviCRM users in and around Toronto to gauge interest and priorities. Some of the ideas mentioned were:


  • State of CiviCRM (high level, global overview and roadmap)
  • Detailed Import demo
  • Performance tweaking and troubleshooting (for the techies)
  • Theming CiviCRM in Drupal
  • How to Learn CiviCRM
  • Technical Architecture and Data Structures
  • Developing for CiviCRM (using APIs etc)
  • Case Studies


Those present (and everyone I've talked to since) agreed that Case Studies was the most interesting idea, and we talked about some different kinds of cases that would be valuable. For example, having a presentation from someone who is still at the "beginner" level of using CiviCRM; perhaps they've just deployed an instance and are fresh from the process of planning and implementing, and could share that experience with the group. Alternately, it would be great to hear from someone who's been using CiviCRM for a longer period, and can describe and evaluate their experience of how it's working for them. And of course there's everything in the middle- probably every implementation will vary, and we can try to find examples that will cover the wide range of components and uses for this versatile CRM.


In any case, I am excited about the possibilities for this group, and have a number of possible Case Study presenters lined up for the coming months!


To close, here are a handful of links which came up through the night, for future reference:

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