This week, I decided to shut down WeCode NI. For those unaware, WeCode NI was a job board for developers in Northern Ireland. I created it almost 5 years ago following a frustrating job search. Most job adverts were managed by recruitment agencies, so it was difficult to know who you're applying for before sharing your details. To this day I still get calls from those agencies! WeCode NI was my attempt at making things better. It was a job board that only allowed the direct employers to post adverts and including the salary was mandatory.
There are a number of factors that led to me deciding it was time to call it quits. The main one was that it was no longer as popular or profitable as it once was. It wasn't serving me or the community I built it for. There are a couple of reasons I think this happened.
Firstly, Twitter was purchased my a maniac and for whatever reason, they made API access extremely expensive. As a result, WeCode NI job postings were no longer shared automatically on Twitter.
In addition to Twitter, the other main source of both applicants and employers I had was a Slack channel for NI tech workers. A few years ago, the admins asked me to stop sharing links to new job posts. They did this out of fairness to other job boards, I think, as WeCode NI was technically a private company. I understand the decision, but ultimately it cut down on the number of eyeballs on the site.
Finally, there has been a general down turn in the number of tech jobs in Northern Ireland. I can't say for certain why this is, but I suspect it has to do with Brexit, Covid and the general lack of political stability here.
WeCode NI had been slowly declining for the past few years and I no longer felt comfortable accepting payments for job adverts, so I decided it was time.
It's not all doom and gloom, though. WeCode NI was a success by any measure. In the ~5 years or so that it's been online it has brought in around £15k and the running costs were less than £500. That isn't a huge amount of money for 5 years, but it's not nothing. In that same, time I had a little under 500 jobs posted and dozens of people have reached out to tell me that they found their job on WeCode NI.
Aside from business success, it was also a great platform for me to experiment with and learn new technologies. Over the years, the tools used to build the site changed a few times. The first version was built with a Firebase backend. Eventually I got spooked by Google killing product after product and so moved to a more self-hosted platform and database. In all, I've used three different databases, multiple front end frameworks, and I used TypeScript for the first time on the project. Even if the WeCode NI had made no money, I'd have considered it a success.
There are plenty of things that I did correctly, but if I could start again, I would find a partner to work with. Ideally I'd work with someone with more marketing skills than I have. I never minded reaching out to folks and pitching WeCode NI, but it's not where I'm most useful.
fFrom a tech point of view, the other thing I would focus on more if I got to start over is integrations. For smaller companies this wasn't an issue, but for larger companies, they usually had more than one recruiter and used some form of applicant tracking system. I think if I'd made it easier for larger companies to post to WeCode NI through tools they were already using, I'd have got more of their business.
I'm currently in the process of moving the US to spend more time with my wife's family. Over the next few months I'll be using the time and energy I spent on WeCode NI with my family and friends instead. I'm also starting to do more contracting work, which will help ensure I have some income continuity during the move. I have no plans for a new side project just yet.
I worked on WeCode NI in my spare time. After the initial build, I spend less than a few hours each month doing updates and upgrades. I'm really happy with how it all worked out.
I've enjoyed building and sharing WeCode NI with my corner of the internet. Thank you to everyone who posted or applied for a job on the site. I would love to see someone build a successor, either with the code I shared or something completely original.
The code from the original site can be found on GitHub. I also have a full dump of the database available that I could share if anyone has any fun ideas for it. I'll have to scrub the user data first, of course.