I’m not big on New Year’s resolutions, but I’ll take pretty much any opportunity for reflection and the end of the Gregorian calendar seems like a great, society-wide chance to look back and celebrate what went well last year. Just this week, I had a truly epic meeting with the Open Source Commons Data Generation Toolkit crew where we collaboratively built a “scrapbook” in Google Slides to commemorate each person’s contributions and project milestones over all.
As this year has progressed, it’s been an absolute DELIGHT to partner with orgs from diverse social movement causes as labor unions, abortion funds, human rights, queer liberation, land stewardship, environmental justice, im/migrant rights, and Black self determination. OMG – are you all even real?! Of course you are! I’m just such a lucky duck to get to do this work with you!!!
Whatever ways you pushed yourself and your tech to solve problems this year, I am here to celebrate it! Below are some recent triumphs from my neck of the woods. Too much to write one blog post on each, so we’re going to do a greatest hits!
Converting solutions from Conga Mail Merge to Conga Composer Global Merge
This week, I decided to face the music that Conga Mail Merge was going bye bye. We’ve relied on it for years as an amazing workhorse for producing personalized batches of letters in an easy-to-use, one-step-at-a-time wizard. It also handled address labels exceptionally well. All good things must come to an end… (do they though???)…
So, I converted each of our merge solutions into the newer format for Conga Composer Global Merge. It took a while and I hit some tricky obstacles. I had to really lean on my hard-earned skills in writing SOQL queries, mail merge templates, and “debugging” when the results don’t come out as I expected them to. But eventually, I got it working!
I’m looking forward to whipping up this documentation into a video, but for now, you can see the progress in my Github Repo (and you can even contribute ideas back there if you are so inclined).
Setting up Google Analytics and Google Search Console
You know that I love to empower community members to use data for their wildest dreams! Well, I decided to take a dose of my own medicine. WordPress (the back end of my website) keeps track of metrics (like post views), but I was wondering what search terms in Google result in people finding Ye Olde Blog. I knew that it was possible to do so, but actually setting it up sent me on a wild goose chase!
One source I consulted suggested that I download a new plugin for my website, but in order to do that, I needed to upgrade my plan. I decided my goal was worth $300 to me, so I forked over the credit card number. However, I’m not even sure if the plugin is doing anything! I also created accounts with Google Analytics (which is still a bowl of spaghetti code to me) and then realized that what I really needed was Google Search Console (???). So I set up those two accounts, only to find out that they need 48 hours of data before they can really tell me anything. Well, that grace period has ended and now I have more information about how people find my blog on Google! What will I do with this information? I don’t know yet, but I think it has a lot of potential AND I am also satisfied that I feel like I solved a tricky mystery!
Deep dive on merging contacts in SF
Recently, I began partnering with an organization to clean up some of their fundraising data, which will inevitably require cleaning up thousands of duplicate contacts that were created over the years. Speaking of wild goose chase, I went on another one to figure out what happens when Salesforce merges two contacts that represent the same person. Usually, you can choose which data “stays” on the “winning” record (for example, you might have to contacts for the same person, but with different addresses on each one… yikes!). However, there are some special things that happen in the background which were perplexing me to no end. I just couldn’t rest until I got to the bottom of it, which led me to read code in its original format, read documentation targeted for developers, interview two friends, and then write my own recap. I’m hoping to contribute these notes back into the official NPSP documentation.
What do you do when you want to learn about something technical and the appropriate resources just don’t seem to exist? I think the best option is to reach out to community. If you aren’t sure who to ask, you can always reach out here and I’ll either help or try to find someone else who can!
Growing Github acuity
During a bout of unexpected insomnia until 4 am, I decided to get up off of the various soft surfaces where I tried to sleep, and admit defeat. So what do I do? I open my computer and create some new open source files for sharing what I’m learning about mail merge!
For one of the first times that I can remember, I felt like I was *in a groove* with creating files, naming and storing them properly on my computer, then “pushing” them into Github (online storage), approving them, and replacing the original with updated versions. It’s taken literally years to get to this place (where I am still basically a novice). But it felt SO good to be able to share my solution without the *infrastructure platform* getting in the way.
Going through this learning journey really reminds me to stay humble and stay curious when I am supporting other people on their spreadsheet adventures. There’s no destination, just more interesting problems to tackle and more justice to make! We gotta claim our victories as they come, while looking out for the next learning opportunity.
Growing Salesforce Flow acuity
I had a similar experience as above with creating a new Flow for a complicated problem at work! This time last year, building a Flow with a Loop was causing me to lose massive amounts of sleep AND confidence. This year, I could map out the basics and build something effective in just a few hours. It’s taken a LOT of work to get there, but the work itself has been meaningful because I am doing it with other people and I am solving problems that are interesting.
New computer !!
I think this is my first blog post since my fancy, new computer arrived. I took a risk and decided to reorganize my Google Drive and map it to my Desktop so that I can access Google Docs easily from my computer, intermingled with docs stored locally in other drives. I also mapped other cloud-based drives, including my Microsoft accounts. It’s already feeling SO great and intuitive for me to be able to access everything in the same place (rather than logging into separate silos in my browser). All of my communication is also centralized here (since most of my text messages are integrated with my computer through iMessage).
Additionally, it is quite a lot easier to do the open source coding activities on my Macbook than it was on my Dell or Thinkpad (Windows computers). I’m really excited about this change, even though change itself can be quite hard!
Nonprofit cloud certification
On a whim a few weeks ago, I decided to take a chance and sit for the Salesforce Nonprofit Cloud certification. Over the past year, I’ve had a chance to get up close and personal with Salesforce tools for nonprofits, and I figured I might as well review what I haven’t encountered and see how my knowledge stacks up. I’m excited to share that I passed! Certifications aren’t everything, but putting I’m putting it out there that I was able get this last one under my belt in the hopes that it will encourage other people to advance their learning, too. Whether you choose to take the exams or not, I think it’s great to spend time with the study materials and broaden our horizons of what is possible with the platform! At least, that has been useful in my experience.