Amnesty International and Democrats Abroad choose CiviCRM ...

CiviCRM seems to be growing at a fairly nice pace with a good adoption rate in the community. In the run up to the presidential elections, quite a few of the democratic grassroots political campaigns have used Drupal / CiviCRM as their organizing and fund-raising platform.

CiviCRM Affinity Group at the NTEN Conference

Judy Hallman sent in this write-up from the NTEN CiviCRM affinity group, which took place on April 4, in Washington, DC.
I think there were about 40 of us. Roughly half wanted to know more about what CiviCRM is and how it works. Other topics of interest included: customizable, householding, vs. DIA and Convio and others, events, profiles (how people are using), security, maintenance, cost (implement, customize, maintain), migrating data. David Geilhufe did a good job of leading the session, describing CiviCRM, and answering questions.

If you need to understand the CiviCRM schema...

Developers who are working on integrating CiviCRM with other modules and/or developing contributions for CiviCRM need to have a good understanding of the database structure.
  • What data is stored in what tables?
  • What type and size of data is valid for a given field?
  • How are the various tables connected to each other?
This information can also be helpful when tracking down and potential bug or installation problem. Entity Relationship Diagrams or ERD's provide a graphical representation of database structure. AND...Ben Vautier (SQL Recipes) has graciously contributed (and is maintaining) a pretty comprehensive ERD for CiviCRM and it's componenents (including CiviEvent).

Expanding CiviCRM search ...

We made a few major changes to the v1.7 search interface for a big improvement in performance. The first change was to ot use a wildcard for the prefix. Thus when a user searches on NAME, we only search for 'NAME%', in older version we would search for '%NAME%'. This allows mysql to use the index on sort_name and is significantly faster than a full table scan. The second change involved not searching the 'email' table when doing a search on 'name'. This allows us to avoid two very expensive 'LEFT JOIN' sql statement and speeds up search significantly.

Planning for 1.8 and Future Platform Requirements

With version 1.7 "almost" out the door, the CiviCRM planning team spent most of this week's team meeting evaluating potential "big ticket" items for 1.8 and discussing future platform requirements for CiviCRM. The platform issues are:
  • When do we drop support for PHP 4.x?
  • When do we drop support for MySQL 4.1
There are compelling technical and management arguments for requiring PHP 5.x and MySQL 5. On the management side, we estimate that it costs the project approximately 4-6 person-weeks of extra time to code, test and debug the PHP 4 version. As the codebase grows - this cost of supporting two very different programming models grows. These are resources that we'd prefer to use improving the overall functionality, usability and quality of the software.

CiviCRM summer internships at USPIRG ...

USPIRG has decided to work on CiviCRM as the Code for Change project this summer!. Should be a great value add to the CiviCRM community. Thanx to Wes Morgan and USPIRG for choosing CiviCRM. From their website:

Code for Change is an exciting new program which brings together computer science students and recent graduates in the summer to lead an open source software development project. The projects will vary from year to year, but they'll tend to focus on furthering the online organizing work of U.S. PIRG and, being open source, lots of other organizations as well.

This summer, we'll be working on the CivicSpace project to make it a world class online organizing platform. By the end of the summer, organizations working on issues ranging from preserving our last remaining wild forests to preventing human rights abuses will be able to take advantage of our work to get more and more people involved in their issues online.

Open Source Content Management Systems (OSCMS) Conference 2007

I spent last Thursday and Friday at the Open Source CMS Conference (OSCMS 2007) - hosted by Yahoo! in Sunnyvale. It was a high-energy gathering of smart folks who are passionate about software and open source - with an especially large concentration of Drupal developers and integrators.

CiviCRM Session

Gregory Heller from CivicActions joined me in presenting a session on CiviCRM on Friday morning. Despite the fact that we were scheduled opposite Dries Butaert (Drupal founder) - we had a good showing. I gave folks an overview of CiviCRM - with an emphasis on CMS integration approaches (profiles, user registration, APIs and hooks). Then Greg showed off live examples of each of these techniques on some of the cool sites that CivicActions has developed using CiviCRM.

Announcing CiviCRM v1.7 Beta

We are excited to announce that our 1.7 Beta release is now available for download. This release features the new CiviEvent component, which provides integrated event registration and management, along with a new "Contact Dashboard" which gives constituents a consolidated view of their subscriptions, contributions,event registrations and more.

Other release highlights include:

  • Create and save re-usable email templates (with mail-merge tokens)
  • CiviContribute plugins for and Google Checkout
  • Use customized versions of templates for any screen
  • One-click copying for existing Profiles, Contribution Pages and Events

Developer perspective of Google Checkout vs Paypal Pro/Standards

We've integrated support for Google Checkout in CiviCRM v1.7. This was primarily on the initiative and lead of Deepak, part of our awesome India developement team. This also allowed us to compare the ease of use and integration between the two transaction providers. Here are some things we found:
  • PayPal has a much richer and more well thought out SDK. They do quite a few things right from a developers perspective, primarily allowing the code to set various defaults (like the return url)
  • Have the Google Checkout folks tried to use the sandbox with the awful "sandbox" background that they use. Makes it fairly hard to read and navigate the site

CiviVoter and Canvasser released ...

Rob Thorne from Torenware networks just announced the release of CiviVoter and Canvasser on the CiviCRM Mailing list (link to e-mail ). The Green Party of Canada sponsored this work and has released it under the Academic Free License v3.0. This is a pretty important component for political parties and we'd like to get a fair amount of feedback and review from the community. A future version of this component will be included in CiviCRM.