The personal side of technology

Hi everyone and thanks for coming back after the Wait Til I Tell You extended summer break! 🙂

After several weeks of sun and (occasional) relaxation, I’m happy to report that all four children are safely back in school / preschool / childminder and Mom and Dad are back to work with loads of new ideas and plans.

I have been busy on the writing front since we last met. First up early in the summer: I applied for the Ted and Mary O’Regan Bursary. This bursary is awarded every year in my home city, Waterford. It commemorates a former drama teacher of mine, Ted O’Regan, and his wife Mary, who were great patrons and practitioners of the arts in Waterford. Sadly my application was not successful. Onwards and upwards!

While on holiday in August, I managed to escape the family fold for a few precious hours (thanks, dear husband) to make the deadline for the Irish Times short story competition. In keeping with this year’s centenary of the beginning of World War I, the theme of the competition was “This means war”. I interpreted the theme very widely, with a story about a young family struggling to cope with economic reality and how that echoes back to previous generations of their family. I haven’t heard anything from the good folk at the Irish Times, so I’m guessing my entry has gone to the great filing cabinet in the sky. Still, it was great to get a story out and makes me feel like the summer was a productive one.

ticket_graphicNow for the substance of today’s post. Starting today, Waterford is host to one of Europe’s biggest new technology conferences, Around 200 of the world’s biggest tech brains are gathered on an island just a stone’s throw from my house. Awesome!

One of the main people behind the organisation and inception of the conference is Cian Ó Maidín. In his latest blog post, which I’m re-blogging below, Cian gives an insight into the personal and family aspects of running a cutting-edge start-up in a small city on the edge of Europe. He dedicates his post to his son, Liam, who died in 2012. We all carry our private griefs and dreams, and Cian writes about his with eloquence and dignity.

What and Waterford mean to me

Author: Cian Ó Maidín

Node.js is the fastest growing web technology in history, and major technology companies like WalMart, PayPal, Groupon and Netflix utilizing Node.js to be more competitive. Waterford is one of centers of Node.js in Europe, and Waterford is now home to Node Conf Europe, the world’s headline conference on Node.js.

nearForm was founded by two Waterford natives, Cian Ó Maidín and Richard Rodger in 2011, they founded nearForm because they were excited about a new technology called Node.js and wanted to commercialse it. “Having started-up the company we were asked a number of times, how we were going to play a part in the growth of Node.js if we were based in Waterford? All the activity around Node.js was happening in San Francisco and Waterford wasn’t exactly the center of the technology world.  We both considered moving out of Waterford to start nearForm, but we decided not to, we have families, wives and good lives here. We were going to stay and make this work” – Cian Ó Maidín baloonman1

In June of 2012, shortly after we started Ireland’s first meet-up group on Node.js, ironically called NodeJSDublin ( (as it’s run in Dublin). Cian Ó Maidín was booking a ticket to go to NodeConf USA which at the time was in Portland Oregon. This was the main conference in the world at the time on Node.js. In a conversation with a colleague one morning: “It’s a bloody long flight to Portland, about 17 hours, it takes major dedication to travel that far for a 2 day conference, Isn’t there a conference in Europe?”

There wasn’t one. I looked at my colleague, his eyes widened.

“We’ve got to do this!!!” I called up Mikeal Rogers, the guy that curates NodeConf USA and asked him if I could do NodeConf in Europe. Mikeal hadn’t met me in person before and said he’d rather I do a localized event, so we settled on NodeDublin(  which we ran in the Guinness Storehouse. We had 12 weeks from idea to conference and managed to get 180 people about from all-over the world to come to Dublin to the event. It was a huge success! We had big names from major technology companies all over the world in Dublin having a great time and enthusiastic to come back again. We didn’t ask for permission, grants or anything to make this happen, we just decided to do it and it was awesome.

During 2012 I had many discussions with my wife Amelia about moving out of Waterford to Dublin or further afield, which would have given me an easier career path. We had many many conversations about this. At the time we were expecting and we also had a one-and-a-half-year-old amazing girl Rita, a nice house and a good life. Tragedy struck about 7 weeks before NodeDublin ( . We were pregnant and found that our child (Liam) was very sick. Liam was born asleep on the 1st of October 2012 about 3 weeks before the conference.  We buried him in Ferrybank, Waterford in early October. We were devastated.

During our many conversations about leaving Waterford, Amelia had encouraged me to give Waterford a chance and not to move away, not to beat the place up, to be one of the people that stayed around and built something to stay for. I decided to bring Mikeal Rogers down to Waterford for a visit to Waterford castle a couple of days before the NodeDublin conference. “Let’s look at this place for next year’s conference.” Mikeal was blown away by the venue and massively excited about its’ potential.

In January 2013, Mikeal called me up and asked me if I would take NodeConf Europe and run it. He said that the standard of the conference in Dublin had been so high that he wanted me to take it on. He had asked me to look at various locations in Europe including Madrid, Berlin and London. I said I wasn’t interested; the only place I’d run this conference in was Waterford.

We ran the Europe’s first NodeConf in September 2013, it was amazing. We actually made it into a mystery conference, yes folks didn’t know the conference location, only that it was on an island and there was a castle. Attendees bought a ticket to NodeLand and had to meet us at a hotel in Dublin where we collected them and mystery bussed them to Waterford Castle.  A ticket included everything, food, transport, parties, accommodation, drinks, conference talks etc, we even sent them back on buses with packed lunches after the conference. We totally booked out Waterford castle and all the accommodation on the island to create a gated community for 4 days. In each house on the island we assigned attendees to rooms, then we left a selection of locally produced foods (like Blaa’s from M&D Bakery, local cheeses, meats, rashers and sausages, Down’s no.9 whiskey, and Flahavan’s Porridge). This is our chance to show these folks what good hosts we are and the great things Waterford has to offer.

We literally had big-names from the technology world as Island natives for a few days, the folks at PayPal and WalMart know what a Blaa is. The conference talks were amongst the most important in the Node.js world for 2013, and as it turned out NodeConf USA has now evolved into a workshop event so the keynote focus is on Waterford.

NodeConf Europe is now the world’s premier Node.js conference, this is where the major announcements and news in the Node.js world will be happening. For the 2014 conference, we’ve dispensed with the mystery location as the secret is out. Waterford is awesome and the home of Node.js in Europe. We intend to keep it that way. Our Ambition is to cement Waterford onto the technology map of the world.

NodeConf Europe 2014 is happening in Waterford Castle on the 7th – 11th September.

We have big names from PayPal, Netflix, Fidelity, Groupon, IBM, Citi Bank, Condé Nast and many others attending. They will all be going home able to paly hurling by the end of the conference.

nearForm is a growing technology company based in Waterford. nearForm was founded by Cian Ó Maidín and Richard Rodger. The company now has almost 30 staff working across Ireland, Europe and America. To date the company has grown organically and without funding, nearForm has been built through the graft and hard work of Cian and Richard and the special founding team at the company. nearForm are recognized internationally as one of a small number of Node.js experts in the world. nearForm provide training, professional services and products to enterprises using Node.js to build their products.

NodeConf Europe is dedicated to my son Liam, and an event that I hope brings some fortune and notoriety back to Waterford. This is the place I’ll be calling home for as long as I’m around.

– Cian Ó Maidín

For more information on nearForm go to

For more information on NodeConf Europe go to

Posted on September 8, 2014, in Technology, Waterford. Bookmark the permalink. 2 Comments.

  1. Great to see you back, Orla, and fair play to Cian and Richard for flying the flag for Waterford. Your initiative, determination and innovation will reap many rewards, for yourselves and for the city.


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