Announcing Our First Speaker: Takayuki Miyoshi from Japan

Takayuki MiyoshiIf you are a programmer and have been introduced into the world of WordPress, you may have wondered, “Should I develop plugins? And how? Is it going to be a tough ride ahead?”

Takayuki Miyoshi, the author of Contact Form 7, is going to answer just that, and much more. Contact Form 7 is one of the most popular WordPress plugins ever developed. Many WordPress sites cannot live without it!

At WordCamp Colombo 2017, you will hear Takayuki in his own words, and get to ask questions straight at him too. The subject of his talk is “Lessons Learned from Ten Years of Plugin Development”.

Takayuki’s career in WordPress plugin development started way back in 2006. It was the age of Web 2.0, mashups, and Ajax fever, and 2.0 was the latest version of WordPress. At that time, WordPress didn’t even natively support widgets, menus, or shortcode API. The WordPress Plugin Directory didn’t exist yet. Since then, Takayuki learned a lot of important things through the experience of plugin development.

Some of these lessons include:

  1. How to design a WordPress plugin.
  2. How to add a feature.
  3. What user feedback is like and how to react to it
  4. How to write an FAQ.

….and many other interesting and entertaining examples.

Takayuki did a short interview with us on his WordPress journey, productivity as a programmer and his words of advice for young professionals. Click here to read it: https://2017.colombo.wordcamp.org/2017/05/30/a-conversation-with-takayuki-miyoshi/

The Sri Lankan Technological Campus supports WordCamp Colombo 2017!

SLTCWith the vision of being a centre of excellence for the development of student potential for the benefit of Sri Lanka and the rest of the world, the Sri Lanka Technological Campus (Pvt) Ltd (SLTC) was started in 2015 as a fully owned subsidiary of Sri Lanka Telecom PLC.

It is the first corporate powered, research based, fully residential Engineering campus in the country. The SLT Campus is located at the SLT Satellite Earth Station in Padukka and is easily accessible from Colombo via common transport modes. The administrative office and the City Campus are based at TRACE Expert City in Maradana.

With a variety of undergraduate programmes, and graduate degrees, SLTC adopts the latest developments in teaching and research to create a truly, cutting edge institution. Their campus at Padukka is one of the campus’ greatest assets and exudes the best of both worlds – a busy urban vibe surrounded by great parkland and sporting facilities as well as high quality study environments that are central to their thinking.

If you’re interested in knowing more about SLTC, you can visit their website, or contact them.

Traveling to WordCamp Colombo 2017, and Exploring Beyond

Waterfall near Nuwara Eliya

Waterfall near Nuwara Eliya. Photo by author. Camera: OnePlus 3T

WordPress lovers, this is an important date: 23rd September, 2017. Sri Lanka’s inaugural WordCamp will take place on that day, and after the day is over, there’s much more to explore!

This post is a short travel guide to help travelers from outside Sri Lanka make the most of their visit.

Obtaining a Business Visit Visa

You will need a business visit visa to travel to WordCamp Colombo 2017, unless you are a citizen of the following countries:

  1. Maldives
  2. Singapore
  3. Seychelles

Source: http://www.eta.gov.lk/slvisa/visainfo/excem.jsp?locale=en_US

Visit the website of Sri Lanka’s Department of Immigration & Emigration, to start applying for a 30-day business visit visa, which is technically called “Electronic Travel Authorization (ETA)”. Click on the Apply tab and then check ‘I Agree’, which will then reveal visa forms. Please remember, you will need to have your return tickets and recent bank statements ready, in case the immigration officer would like to see these.

On the visa forms page, go to Business Purpose ETA > Apply for an Individual and fill out the relevant details. For the section “Contact Details of the Sri Lankan Company”, please add the following:

Company Name: Laccadive IO (Pvt) Ltd.

Address Line 1: 20, Fernando Road, Colombo 06

City: Colombo

Tel: +94 77 235 8935

(Laccadive IO is the web development agency run by yours truly, one of the organizers of this event.)

If all goes well, you should be emailed your ETA within 24 hours.

Make sure you have a ballpoint pen (perhaps a rarity these days) ready to fill out the immigration form at Colombo airport. Perhaps carry a few extra ones to lend to fellow travelers!

Near the immigration counter, don’t forget to collect your free Dialog SIM with a small amount of talk time already added.

Places to Stay

WordCamp Colombo 2017 will be at Bandaranaike Memorial International Conference Hall (BMICH), in the heart of Colombo. Thus, you can stay pretty much anywhere in Colombo and get to it in about 30 minutes of travel (at non office-rush times). However, to make things easier, here are a number of hotels that are close to the venue, with rough travel times and (tuk tuk rates).

Colombo Courtyard – 4 star hotel – 10 – 20 minutes from the venue (Rs. 200)

Clock Inn Colombo – 2 star hotel – 10 – 20 minutes from the venue (Rs. 200)

Lanka Hostels Colombo – 2 star hotel – 10 – 20 minutes from the venue (Rs. 200)

Cinnamon Red – 3 star hotel – 15 – 30 minutes from the venue (Rs. 300)

Hotel Janaki – 3 star hotel – 15 – 30 minutes from the venue (Rs. 300)

Fairway Colombo – 3 star hotel – 15 – 30 minutes from the venue (Rs. 300)

Please do not take these links as an endorsement of any of these hotels, by WordCamp Colombo 2017. We recommend you do your own research before booking them!

The Venue

Our venue is the iconic Bandaranaike Memorial International Conference Hall (BMICH). Many high-profile events have been held at this venue, including the 5th Non-Aligned Movement Summit in August 1976, the Commonwealth Heads of Government Meeting 2013 and the World Conference on Youth 2014.

Getting to BMICH is one of the easiest things you can do once you are in Colombo.  From the airport, you can simply call a Kangaroo Cab or hail an Uber. Within the city, you can choose between Uber, Kangaroo Cabs and three wheeler tuk-tuks. Tuk-tuks can be found at every street corner, but you must insist on using the meter. In rare cases of a non-functional meter, you are at the mercy of arbitrary surge pricing!

Done with the WordCamp. Can I Explore Sri Lanka?

Yes. You will be on an enchanting island, and your journey certainly isn’t going to start and end with the WordCamp.

Colombo

The venue of the WordCamp and Sri Lanka’s capital city, Colombo, is a modern metropolis. Yet, the city won’t fail to take you down the lanes of history with its museums, old and new, and medieval temples, churches and mosques.

To begin with, the BMICH itself is a great landmark, and you should already have been awestruck.

Sri Lanka Air Force Museum

If you love aviation, the Sri Lanka Air Force Museum in Ratmalana (a suburb of Colombo) needs to be on your checklist. The amazing vintage planes and helicopters of several decades ago will surely tax your camera’s batteries. You can even climb on to some of the old aircrafts’ cockpits and cabins for the 1960 experience.

The National Museum

The National Museum displays stunning artefacts dating back to the 17th century. This museum is among the top cultural institutions in the country, and elegantly chronicles Sri Lanka’s cultural heritage.

Galle Face Green

How about a breezy evening watching rough waves crash onto the shoreline? If you’d love this, the Galle Face Green is for you. This location has a wide expanse and promenade for evening walkers. If you love sea food, you might want to check out the mouth watering fried snacks served at little stalls across the Galle Face Green.

Laksala

I’m sure you will want to take back gifts and souvenirs as lasting memories of your visit. For that, Laksala is the best place I can recommend. A government run chain of stores, Laksala offers handicrafts, leather goods, dresses, jewelry, kitchenware, soft toys, exotic varieties of tea and much more. Visit their store locator/website to find out the store nearest to you: http://www.laksala.gov.lk/store-locator.php

Sri Jayewardenepura Kotte Bird Sanctuary

For nature lovers, there’s Sri Jayewardenepura Kotte Bird Sanctuary. This sanctuary is located close to Sri Lanka’s Parliament Complex, and is home to several species of birds, animals and insects native to Sri Lanka. The area also plays host to several migratory birds.

Mt. Lavinia Beach

Looking for a great beach to relax while in Colombo? Mt. Lavinia beach should be your destination. The seas may be rough, so swimming may not always be safe. If you do wish to swim, ensure that fellow tourists are around swimming close by. A great time to visit is near sunset for some breathtaking pictures.

NOTE: Be careful while crossing the railway tracks to get to the beach.

Beyond Colombo

Sri Lanka has delightful tourist destinations beyond Colombo as well, and every major town and city is well connected by rail and road. You should absolutely check out these places too, if you can:

Galle

Galle is located 119 km south of Colombo. The biggest attraction here is the Galle Fort, a UNESCO World Heritage Site. Originally built by the Portuguese in the 16th century, it was expanded and further fortified by the Dutch rulers in the 17th century. It is a walled enclave, ideal for trekking backpackers. The seafront at the fort is good for watching beautiful sunsets.

Kandy

Kandy is located in central Sri Lanka, about 150 km north-east of Colombo. Key attractions include the Ceylon Tea Museum, the World Buddhist Museum, numerous old temples and a palace. Nature lovers can visit the Kandy Lake, a fine location for a leisurely stroll.

Nuwara Eliya

Nuwara Eliya is a hill station in central Sri Lanka, about 165 km east of Colombo. This town is nestled within densely forested slopes and hillside tea plantations. It is a great destination for a pleasant getaway, but make sure you are prepared for the chilly winds with warm clothing.

Yala National Park

Yala National Park is 300 kilometers south east of Colombo. This national park is extremely popular among tourists wanting to catch a glimpse of the animals, birds and reptiles endemic to Sri Lanka.

UPDATE (11/08/2017): Yala National Park will be closed from September 1 to October 15 owing to the peak of the drought season, and the need for authorities to attend to development work. Instead, for a wildlife safari experience you could visit Willpattu National Park, about 170 km north of Colombo. Check out their website for more details and cool photos: http://www.wilpattunationalpark.com/

Don Your Explorer’s Hat!

This post is just a short account of the vast many sights and sounds you can experience in Colombo and the rest of the island country. If you need more information, look up these links to add even more destinations to your itinerary:

  1. https://www.lonelyplanet.com/sri-lanka
  2. https://www.tripadvisor.com/Tourism-g293961-Sri_Lanka-Vacations.html

If you need specific guidance with travel arrangements, please get in touch with us via our website, or Facebook page.

Watch out for more blog posts on their way!

 

 

A Conversation with Ahmad Awais, Full Stack Developer

Ahmad Awais is a seasoned full stack developer and regular WordPress core contributor. An intense WordPress lover hailing from Lahore, he has donned several hats — coder, author, speaker and WordPress evangelist.

Ahmad set aside time from his crammed schedule to answer a volley of questions we directed at him. Here goes!

Do you see a great future for WordPress with improved interoperability, thanks to the WordPress REST API?

Oh, yes I do! WordPress is quite late to the party but I am glad we are there. WordPress can now be used in a lot of different forms. Imagine having an enterprise software that’s written in .NET — but you’d like to use the biggest eCommerce product i.e. WooCommerce with it. Well, now you can. Build a WooCommerce store and connect your enterprise software with the WordPress API.

I think it’s only the beginning of what’s possible with WordPress now. In the coming years we are going to see amazing new products built on top of the WordPress REST API. I am building one, ssh, top secret — I only talk about it in my monthly newsletter.

Don’t you think WordPress is being stretched too far to be used as a reliable web application platform? Where do you think is the boundary that shouldn’t be crossed?

I don’t think so. Though, I agree I have seen some pretty weird use cases of WordPress but that’s just it. WordPress empowers nearly 30% of the web. If an app or a SaaS startup wants to connect with that, they have to use WordPress via REST API.

About boundaries, I think that’s completely subjective. It’s about the task at hand. What is WordPress really? A community of PHP programmers. PHP is not the language being used to build mobiles apps. So, when a regular PHP/WordPress programmer wants to build a mobile app, what do you think happens?

Most probably that programmer tries to use WordPress to build the apps for you. And that’s not a new thing. People have been trying to do that for ages. It’s just getting a lot better now.

With Gutenberg getting merged into the WordPress core, are you happy that resource-heavy page builder plugins will turn obsolete?

Oh, far from that. I don’t think that any of the page builders will go stale. Remember Gutenberg is not a page builder. It’s sort of a framework on top of which one could build a page builder, though, it isn’t one itself.

There are both Pros and Cons to the Gutenberg project. I have contributed to its code and documentation and have shared my concerns as well as a boilerplate for developers to build custom Gutenberg blocks.

It’s amazing to see your work with WordPress, the Advanced Gulp workflow and your contribution on GitHub as well as your labs projects. What is your advice for someone who wants to be a prolific open source contributor like you?

That’s very kind of you to say!

Well, I love building open source projects especially FOSS (free and open source software). I think it’s a lifestyle for software engineers. At the moment, I spend 50% of my time in building FOSS and contributing back to the WordPress Core, maintaining 70+ open source projects at GitHub. My advice would be → Just Do It™ — seriously, by building open source software, you get to know about collaboration, building together, you learn why someone is not using your software, and it’s brave to put your code out there.

Do NOT think that if something has already been created you can’t recreate it the way you want. That’s why I build so many projects — mostly to share my personal workflow — which I never thought thousands of developers would be using.

Some developers have concerns with using WordPress as a headless CMS, particularly those who are web publishers and need good SEO. Can you share your experience on how the REST API plays with SEO?

I have had been a blogger for about 13 years now. So, I can tell you that SEO is important. But hey, WP REST API has less do with SEO. SEO has two major parts — On-page SEO and Off-page SEO.

  • On-page SEO: It depends on how you code your site’s theme. A REST API based theme can be coded which takes care of all the important aspects of having a good on-page SEO. There are plugins like Yoast SEO for which you can easily find API extensions.
  • Off-page SEO: The site built with REST API is likely to load a lot faster, which will get you ranked higher in search engine rankings. Search engines and now even the social media sites improve the engagement around the sites that load faster and provide a better user experience.

Thank you, Ahmad, for your valuable thoughts! We hope this interview will inspire a lot of budding developers to put lots of energy into open source projects and WordPress.


You can read more of Ahmad’s views through his newsletter WPTakeaway. You can also keep the conversation going on Twitter, by following @MrAhmadAwais.

Our countdown to WordCamp Colombo 2017 is ticking — 23rd September is the day! Just like this interview, we are going to have great insights delivered in person by some of the world’s finest developers and businesspersons who have been confirmed as speakers already.

It’s a good time to book your tickets to attend the event!

It’s time to grab a ticket for WordCamp Colombo 2017!

Ticket sales are now open for Sri Lanka’s first ever WordCamp, a not-for-profit event that brings together WordPress lovers from local and global communities. We are already excited by the line-up of confirmed speakers, both from Sri Lanka, and those who will be flying in to Colombo from around the world — United States, South Africa, India and Japan.

Are you considering a career in website or web application development? Are you a business analyst and have thought of WordPress for some of your projects? Or, do you want to witness the secret behind one of the world’s biggest open source success stories?

If your answer to any of these questions was ‘Yes’, WordCamp Colombo is for you.

WordPress is an extremely popular choice for content driven web solutions or eCommerce websites. This event is a wonderful place to listen to memorable talks by some of the biggest influencers in the WordPress world, and then meet them in person. It’s not just WordPress in the event — we have tasty snacks, Sri Lankan food and great swag too.

And if you need to grow your professional network, WordCamp Colombo 2017 won’t disappoint you either. So, do keep your visiting cards ready!

Looks interesting? Visit this link to buy a regular ticket or a micro sponsorship.