I've chosen to work with CiviCRM, an open-source constituent relationship management database application that I've deployed in two organizations I've worked with. In the course of that work I've become an "ambassador" for the project, someone who potential end users seeking information are encouraged to contact; and I spent five days at a code and documentation sprint working on a user and administrator guide. But even though I’m essentially already a contributor to the Civi documentation team, when it comes to getting involved again I feel lost--and not necessarily productively so.
It's been over a year since the sprint, and I haven't stayed particularly connected. My initial impulse was to email my contact, documentation team coordinator. But then I thought, duh, there’s info on the project site and the documentation wiki that I can look at and see what needs doing. But the documentation road map was last updated in January so I ended up emailing Michael anyway. It seems from the public pages (and from my memory of my past participation) that private emails aren't discouraged on this team. I feel guilty about potentially wasting his time--I feel like I should be able to dive right in. But even making sense of the nav for the 4.3 documentation feels challenging. It’s discouraging.
Then in class Robyn told me about the Documentation section of the civi issue tracker, and reminded me that not only is there a documentation email list, but I am on it. But the last traffic was in January so it's clearly not the place to get anything going (there have been at least two sprints since then). So I checked those out. Also realized there’s a section of the forums for documentation . It’s actually a little (more than a little?) crazy making, the way info is scattered all over.
So I sent the email (trying to show that I did my homework, a la "How to Ask Questions the Smart Way"), and it looks like I have an assignment involving improving the Civi's marketing, in the form of its public-facing website:
We are going to be working on marketing materials at the sprints. I take your point, Lisa about remote participation, and so am wondering what the best way to proceed is. Any thoughts? It could be that you guys do some preparatory work, we then do a big chunk of stuff at the sprint, and then you guys continue afterwards.
One aspect of marketing is the first impression that people get when they come to the site. Dave Melkman and Jen made a great start at a critique of that here: http://civicrm.org/blogs/dave-melkman/minor-improvements-civicrmorg-website and I think they were on the right track - what do you think? It would be good to put some of those ideas into practice.
Another aspect of marketing that we want to improve are the quality of printed materials that we can give out to people at conferences, etc. Owen and I were talking about how we could improve both at the same time. What we would like to do is improve the content on civicrm.org and use that as the source text for any printed materials that we produce.
I am thinking the first step is the improve the content, and there are two ways we can do that:
1) We can continue the broad overview of the primary navigation and how this could be improved that Mark and Jen have started - e.g. what bits are redundant / repetitive. What bits are missing. What bits are badly named / we could make clearer.
2) We can actually improve the content of some of those pages (or delete them since I think some of them are low quality / repetition). Some (but not all) pages to target include:
http://civicrm.org/what/contributors - should be replaced with much better 'contributor recognition infrastructure'
This all feels very informal and script-less because of my previous experience on the team. But even with the previous experience, it feels hard--mainly because of the proliferation of places to look for information (see the many many links at the beginning of this post)-—and the fact that the forums, the wiki, the mailing lists, and the issue tracker are all separate systems with their own login info. Part of me wants to volunteer to do some consolidation and refinement of the information architecture--but I'm going to let the more circumspect part of me prevail for now, because I think that would be asking for trouble.