First ever WordCamp Belfast

It was a really busy week for me. After talking at WordCamp Kyiv and then visiting Chernobyl, the very next day I traveled to Belfast to attend and talk at another “first ever WordCamp”. Northern Ireland welcomed me very well, and WordCamp Belfast was a blast.

How WordPress changed the face of Croatian politics

When I applied to talk at WordCamp Belfast, I applied with the same talk as in Kyiv and with another one, rather old, but inspirational. This was the talk about our project that we’re working with the city of Rijeka. Although working on it for quite some time now, and the constant feeling that we’re not moving fast enough, I believe I showed people the progress we’re making.

On previous WordCamps, I talked about this topic too, but this time I had much more interesting talks and observations/comments after the talk was actually over. Living in countries like the United Kingdom or Ireland gives you a different perspective on things you consider to be normal, but are not normal in developing countries like Croatia. Starting with budgets (which are much lower in Croatia), and ending with less educated clients that are demanding the same quality as their UK’s counterparts.

It was interesting to hear people talk about our job on the project and the way we’re trying to change things in Croatia. A year has passed since we started to work on it, and it felt it will be long over by now. Nevertheless, we’re trying to work around setbacks that we’re facing along the way to deliver what we believe to be the best possible experience for the citizens of Rijeka.

WordCamp Belfast takeaways

WordCamp Belfast sold 150 tickets which is quite good for the first time WordCamp. Topics were varying, but there was a strong focus on practical topics like SEO, security, social media or copywriting. I liked that because the audience was clearly looking for that kind of topics.

Mark Smallman giving opening remarks at WordCamp Belfast (Photo by: Ian Stratton)
Mark Smallman giving opening remarks at WordCamp Belfast (Photo by: Ian Stratton)

I have to mention Mark Smallman who did a great job to pull everything together. Mark was leading the organization effort with a couple of more hands, and WordCamp was organized very well. Everything went smoothly, I didn’t see any major issues, and as a speaker I had the opportunity to talk with people and maybe – encourage them to help Mark next year :).

There were 2 tracks which makes it impossible to listen to all the talks you want to. I had to miss a couple of talks that I wanted to listen, like Rodolfo Melogli’s talk “Content Marketing: How to Turn your WordPress Website into a Traffic Generation Tool” and Juan Felipe Rincón’s talk about “Managing your online presence on Google Search”. A good thing is that I had a long and interesting talk at the afterparty with Juan Felipe, which was great.

Bigger of two tracks could hold 150 people (Photo by: Ian Stratton)
Bigger of two tracks could hold 150 people (Photo by: Ian Stratton)

Claire Savage talked about how to write for the web, in her talk “Knowing your words’ worth”. Didn’t stay on the talk until the end because I needed to prepare myself for my own talk, but Claire was rocking the stage with good pieces of advice.

Another one who rocked the stage was Danny Dagan. In his talk “Privacy by Design” he talked about the new law on data protection. Danny gave us a lot to think about and some good advice about what we need to take care of along the way.

Alexandra Draghici had a talk about user interfaces (Photo by: Ian Stratton)
Alexandra Draghici had a talk about user interfaces (Photo by: Ian Stratton)

Alexandra Draghici talked about user interfaces and how they affect user retention. It was a good talk that explained how to use various system messages (like error and success messages), tooltips, and new feature announcements that will improve user journeys.

Youngest WordCamp attendee

It might be a curiosity, but it’s definitely worth mentioning. WordCamp Belfast had the youngest WordCamp attendee I ever got to meet. It was  14 years old Jack Delaney, a regular on every WordPress Meetup in Belfast. That’s really amazing and could be inspirational to others, seeing that there are kids that want to learn from a young age.

Someone to protect us at WordCamp Belfast – Game of Thrones tour guide. (Photo by: Ian Stratton)
Someone to protect us at WordCamp Belfast – Game of Thrones tour guide. (Photo by: Ian Stratton)

Northern Ireland

Like in Kyiv, it was a good decision to stay in Northern Ireland for a week. It gave me enough time to get a closer view of the city. At the end, it almost felt like being local. It also gave me a perfect opportunity to meet new and interesting people. If you happen to be in Belfast for a couple of days and need to work, I recommend Farset Labs – it’s a great (and really affordable) place to work. And – I met interesting people there that eventually came to WordCamp where we talked some more.

There were two things I wanted to see while in Belfast – Titanic Belfast and Giant’s Causeway, and I got to see both of them.

Titanic Belfast is the biggest Titanic exhibition in the world. In its architecturally perfect building you can see a story of how Titanic was built (it was built in the nearby Harland and Wolff shipyard in Belfast, something people in Belfast are really proud of). But it isn’t a story about Titanic, it is a story of Belfast and how it got transformed from a small city to a giant of linen production in the 19th century, and then to a city with a shipyard that built the biggest ships in the world.

SS Nomadic with Titanic Belfast building in the back
SS Nomadic with Titanic Belfast building in the back

I recommend taking the time to go on a Discovery tour, then visit the museum itself (although you will need at least 2 hours to take a proper look as it is enormous) and at the end go to the nearby SS Nomadic – tender to the Titanic and the last remaining White Star Line ship in the world. (you’ll need at least 4-6 hours to visit everything properly)

Giant's-Causeway
Giant’s-Causeway

Giant’s Causeway is something you should definitely see while visiting Northern Ireland. Sometimes known as the 8th wonder of the world, and for a good reason – the place is really astonishing. I decided to go on a day tour from Belfast which took around 8 hours. During our tour, we went to see the Carrick-a-Rede Rope Bridge too, which has also some amazing scenery.

Carrick-a-Rede Rope Bridge
Carrick-a-Rede Rope Bridge

After this visit, the opportunity to familiarize with Northern Ireland’s WordPress community, seeing the beauties of Giant’s Causeway and Carrick-a-Rede Rope Bridge, as well as Titanic Belfast, I can only say – there’s just a matter of time when I’ll go for another visit.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *