The CiviCRM Community
Like many open source projects, CiviCRM is shaped, guided, and driven by its community, a far-flung ecosystem of users, developers, and implementers who utilize CiviCRM in many different ways and bring to it a wide array of skills, experiences, and perspectives. These varied and diverse offerings are crucial to the continued success of CiviCRM, but they can move the project forward only if they find their way back into the public stream of discussion and collaboration. This chapter is a guide to finding and engaging in the community of people who are working together to make CiviCRM what it is and what it will become.
Finding the Community Online
As might be expected of a web-based software project, much of the CiviCRM community's activity occurs online. This means that if you have access to the Internet you also have access to and can participate in the CiviCRM community regardless of where you live or work. English is the predominant language for discussion and contributions.
The CiviCRM website itself (http://civicrm.org) is a good starting point for exploring and participating in the community. In addition to general information about getting and using CiviCRM, you'll find blog posts from community members, announcements about upcoming events, and a Participate section (http://civicrm.org/participate) that lists and links to many of the resources described below.
- Asking general questions
- Getting technical support for installing, upgrading, configuring, using, and customizing CiviCRM
- Discussing and providing feedback on documentation
- Feature requests and suggestions
- Projects in internationalisation and localisation
- Showcasing success stories and case studies
- Conversations around modifying and extending CiviCRM
- Coordination of testing
- Obtaining or providing professional services
Registration for the forums is completely free and most of the boards are very active with frequent new posts and responses.
Another great source of support and discussion is Internet Relay Chat (IRC). The #civicrm IRC channel is hosted by Freenode at irc.freenode.net. You can access the channel using an IRC client (a program that you run on your computer) or through the web interface at http://webchat.freenode.net. Enter #civicrm in the Channels field and a nickname of your choosing in the Nickname field. For more information on using IRC, check out the IRC section of the Drupal website (http://drupal.org/irc). Although the information is targeted to the Drupal community it can also be useful for CiviCRM users, especially because the Drupal IRC channels are also hosted on Freenode.
You'll hopefully find that both the forums and the IRC channel are great sources for help, support, and good ideas. That's all attributable to the good will and generous efforts of people like you! Everyone who visits the forums and the channel is encouraged to give back to the community by responding to questions and requests for help and contributing their own ideas and feedback to the conversations. And simply asking your own questions is also a significant contribution to the community. It's likely that someone else is having the same problems or wondering the same thing, and the responses you solicit help build the community's knowledge base.
The CiviCRM blog (http://civicrm.org/blog) is another good source of information and discussion. Blog posts are written by both the CiviCRM core team and other community members and cover a wide range of topics, including general news and announcements, upcoming events and accounts of events that have occurred, case studies, use cases and ways to get things done with CiviCRM, and new features and development. Comments are encouraged and can create lively discussions that can in turn direct future CiviCRM development. If you've got something that you'd like to post on the blog, we encourage you to write to email@example.com with your ideas and your request to post.
Much discussion of CiviCRM also occurs outside of these official channels. Using your favorite engine to search for CiviCRM will turn up many articles and posts from other folks' websites and blogs. The CiviCRM team is good at keeping an eye out for these posts and often publicize them through Twitter. To keep abreast of the stream of comments, follow @civicrm and find CiviCRM tweets and tag your own tweets with the #civicrm hashtag.
Finding the Community Offline
Though the online community is both accessible and active, participating in the CiviCRM community offline can be even more rewarding and can help you connect with others in your area who are developing, implementing, and using CiviCRM.
Many cities and regions hold CiviCRM meetups where people gather to learn about CiviCRM, share new ideas, developments, and use cases, and meet other folks involved with the community. You can find out more about meetups at http://civicrm.org. Some meetup and local user groups (or LUGs) also maintain discussion boards at http://civicrm.org/groups. Contact the CiviCRM crew if you'd like a discussion board for your own group on the site.
CiviCRM recently held the first CiviCon conference in April 2010 in San Francisco. More are being planned, including one in Chicago in 2011. CiviCRM core developers and community members also make appearances at other conferences, including DrupalCon, the NonProfit Technology Conference, Joomla! events, and Aspiration Tech events.
CiviCRM also conducts user and developer training in cities around the globe. Check out http://civicrm.org for info about upcoming trainings and contact CiviCRM if you'd like to host trainings in your own area.
Open Source = Community Sourced
Here are some additional ways that you can participate in and contribute to the CiviCRM community.
- Contribute to CiviCRM documentation. This book was written by community members; you can contribute to it by going to http://en.flossmanuals.net/civicrm, registering, and clicking "Edit this page" on the page you want to edit. You can also find and contribute to the CiviCRM documentation wiki at http://wiki.civicrm.org/confluence/display/CRMDOC/CiviCRM+Documentation.
- Share use cases and case studies that describe how your organization uses CiviCRM and the solutions and processes you've developed around the software. You can post your case studies to the CiviCRM Showcase on the Forums, post them on the Wiki at http://wiki.civicrm.org/confluence/display/CRMDOC/Case+Studies, or pitch them as posts for the CiviCRM blog.
- Share your training resources and materials with the rest of the community through the wiki, the forums, or blog posts on the CiviCRM blog or your own sites.
- Contribute code you've written to extend CiviCRM, because it's likely that someone else out there needs the same functionality. Check out the recommended steps for developing and contributing to the CiviCRM core codebase at http://wiki.civicrm.org/confluence/x/kADNAQ. If you've developed a Drupal module, you should contribute it to Drupal.org; see http://drupal.org/node/7765 for more information on contributing modules. Joomla! extensions can be posted on http://forge.joomla.org/.Finally, you can post your code on the CiviCRM Forums or wiki as attachments.
- Sponsor development of new features. If your organization needs certain features or functionality that doesn't yet exist for CiviCRM and can't develop those features in-house, you can sponsor their development by outside coders and developers. This can be a solo effort on the part of one organization or a coordinated effort sponsored by multiple organizations in need of the same set of functionality. Refer to the wiki at http://wiki.civicrm.org/confluence/display/CRM/Developing+with+the+CiviCRM+team or write to firstname.lastname@example.org for more information on sponsoring development.
- Report any bugs that you find in CiviCRM. See the Bug Reporting chapter of this book for more information.