CiviCRM - The Book!

Almost every week folks ask whether there is a CiviCRM Book they can read to help them learn about all the cool things that CiviCRM can do. Thanks to a grant from the Information Program initiative of the Open Society Institute - we will soon have just that (a big tip of the hat to the Information Program Project Manager for making this happen!).

We will be writing the book using tools and techniques developed and hosted by Floss Manuals - whose mission is to provide quality manuals about how to use free software. Adam Hyde, the founder of the Floss Manuals project will be guiding a team of CiviCRM users, integrators and core team members through the process of creating the book during a 5-day Book Sprint to be held during the week of May 4. The team will also have editorial support from Andy Oram who is an editor for technical publisher and information provider O'Reilly Media, specializing currently in open source technologies and software engineering.

The finished book will be available as a free PDF download from the Floss Manuals site. Those who want a printed hard-copy book can purchase it for a nominal fee from the Floss Manuals store. Check out the How to Bypass Internet Censorship manual for an example of a finished product.

The Sprint Team

The Book Sprint writing team members are :

  • Yashodha Chaku
  • Peter Davis
  • David Greenberg
  • Tony Guzman
  • Michal Mach
  • Michael McAndrew
  • Eileen McNaughton
  • Brian Shaughnessy
  • Cynthia Tarascio
  • Mari Tilos

Many of these folks are traveling long distances, and contributing their valuable time to this effort - so a second big "tip of the hat" to our brave and dedicated "sprinters".

Getting Ready for the Sprint

For the past week the book team has been sharing our thoughts about the book's target audience(s), thinking about the relationship between the book and the existing online (wiki) documentation, and developing a draft table of contents. Some highlights:

From Eileen and Xavier:
"...Documentation is about finding the answer to a problem. Books are about learning about the software and it's capabilities. ... I think the best technical books develop and work through real life scenarios."

From Andy:
"... don't think about this book as offering information, but as making recalcitrant people interested in trying things... The motivations you offer people, and the assurances that they can master the material, are more important than the facts."

From Michal:
We might consider understanding "end users" as not only those who already know about CiviCRM and need to know how to effectively perform different tasks within the software, but also those "potential" end users, who don't know what it can be used for, but still perform all the tasks that CiviCRM can be helpful with (usually using Excel, sometimes having Access databases or similar solutions).

From Brian:
My case for centering on the administrator role is that its the functional area that would benefit the most from a book and would be most likely to reference a book. Because I work primarily with small organizations, I'm also concerned that ... users have the opportunity to go deeper into the software, and eventually grow to a point where they become capable of handling more and more administrative level tasks.

... and my 2 cents:
I would define the key audience segments as end-user and administrator / implementor... However, I think the labels are a bit tricky because administrators and implementors are often the same person based on my interactions with folks on the forums. Also, many current and potential CiviCRM installations are at small organizations where end user = administrator = implementor.

We plan on posting a few more blogs here with highlights from these conversations between now and the Sprint (and of course we'll blog "live" during the event).