LabourTech 2008: A Great Beginning



November 09, 2008

Lunchtime table of labour youth under 30's even!Well, I just got back from a whirlwind tour of Toronto.  I had agreed to present at the LabourTech 2008 conference back in March, when Chris Lawson, CUPE's Webmaster, asked me to participate.  I was very impressed to see the turnout this weekend.  There was quite a large turnout from Canada's Trade Union community.  It is the first event of it's kind I know about and it was great to see this many people get out and discuss.

I was part of a 3hr panel, the Open Source CMS Smackdown, which was a very friendly review of open source content management systems and a more in-depth comparison between Word Press & Drupal. HiMY SYeD & Ian Clysdale, from CUPE, were with me and it we had some great participation from the audience as well. The participants were using everything from collections of HTML pages to Plone, Mambo, Joomla & of course Drupal. We did talk a lot about what are things to consider when choosing a CMS for your organization.

After that presentation I had time to go to half of the web campaign presentation on online campaigns. I though it was an interesting talk, focusing on the content and ensuring that the campaign is built around needs and identifying targets.  I also liked the emphasis for online newsletters where the presenters said that each action newsletter needs to contain both a crisis and opportunity.  Unfortunately, I had to leave after the first half of the session to present on Client Relationship Management databases.

It was unfortunate that my second presentation "What is a CRM" wasn't better described (there were some communications problems before the printing of the schedule) as I think that a lot of people didn't know what a CRM was or if this would be too technical for them to get value from.  Unions are membership organizations by default. The process of managing, organizing and communicating with an organization's membership has become a lot easier in the last two years. Web based applications like CiviCRM, SugarCRM and Salesforce have opened up a whole range of member, event and activity management that was previously very difficult to organize. Using a centralized web database, membership information can be updated by the members in many cases, be decentralized so that shop stewards and regional reps can get access to and be able to update their lists. Building lists and sending targeted, relevant communications to members builds stronger, more responsive unions.

We got a list of people who already knew what CRM's were, but were interested both in being able to see CiviCRM and learn about how to apply it within a union setting.  This was a shorter session, but I was able to go through a short presentation as well as a walk-through of CiviCRM.  I installed CiviCRM on my Mac with MAMP before the conference as I wasn't sure if I would be able to establesh connection through their wireless. Demonstrating CiviCRM through an LCD projector was a bit of a challenge, but generally it scaled pretty well for the coarser resolution. 

Both of these sessions were taped by Ian Clysdale and we hope to be able to edit these into something we can post in the future. 

On Sunday morning I was presenting a workshop on "Indepth Drupal" in which I tried to demonstrate the installation and configuration of Drupal.  We had a couple people who had played with Drupal in the class, and lots of interest about learning more about the community. We ran through why unions should be using Drupal, the advantages of adopting a flexible tool, and also discussed the software release structure within Drupal.  We had time in this workshop to run through the initial install, add on and configure a few modules, install a new theme and learn how to do some minor modifications to the page.tpl.php file.  Unfortunately I ran into a problem when attempting to capture the audio from this session so it will not be available online. 

About The Author

Mike Gifford is the founder of OpenConcept Consulting Inc, which he started in 1999. Since then, he has been particularly active in developing and extending open source content management systems to allow people to get closer to their content. Before starting OpenConcept, Mike had worked for a number of national NGOs including Oxfam Canada and Friends of the Earth.