The Java Podcasters, Part 2by Chris Adamson
The first part of this series introduced two of the most popular Java podcasts, The Java Posse, hosted by Dick Wall, Tor Norbye, and Carl Quinn, and the Swampcast from Michael Levin. These podcasts are like night and day, in that the Posse's format generally features the trio discussing a series of news items, while Swampcast is often focused on interviews with prominent Java developers, authors, and other luminaries.
This segment delves deeper into Java podcasting, talking with the voices behind some Java podcasts you might not have heard of, but that you will probably enjoy. Each interview features a link to the podcast's home page, as well as a feed link that you can drop into your podcast client to subscribe to the podcast.
ZDot - Tim Shadel
Tim Shadel's ZDot podcast is an outgrowth of his blog, which allows him to mix up podcast entries with followup blog entries as comments come in from the show. Like a lot of developers, the first thing on his mind is the last thing he used: recent shows have featured JSF, Maven, Eclipse, Hibernate, and Subversion.
1. How long has the ZDot podcast been going? How has it changed over time?
I published my first podcast at the beginning of February 2005. I had recently done a good portion of some in-house training for programmers. I stumbled onto podcasting, and wanted to try it out. My initial focus was on Java frameworks and other development tools. Lately some Ruby has snuck in, and I'm pretty sure it'll be seen more often as time goes on, but Java will always have a prominent place. The posts have fluctuated a bit depending on my personal time and availability. My wife and I became parents last year, and it's been a joy. As you'd expect, there is less time for podcasting.
2. Your last show, about JSF as a "7-layer burrito I won't eat again", seemed a little "blog-like", combining your recent experiences with opinions you've developed. What do you think are the advantages of a podcast over a blog?
I read a lot, but occasionally I find some things easier to listen to than to read -- particularly someone's account of their experiences. When I search the web, I'm typically looking for answers and information; I'm focused on the task at hand. I find blogs provide an excellent "distributed knowledge base" for stuff like this. When I'm walking the dog or driving, I like to think about future development ideas. This is a great time to listen to other people's experiences and opinions as a seedbed for ideas I want to research. My approach to the show is that I don't provide documentation; other people do that very well right now anyway. I want to share my own experiences, stories, and opinions with others in hopes that it gives them a new angle to consider or generates ideas.
3. What's your format like? Do you see yourself as more of a reporter or a commentator?
My format currently is just about the "simplest thing that could possibly work" for what I want. I have a canned intro, I dive right into what I want to talk about, and I leave my contact info at the end. I keep the shows to about 10-20 minutes so that it's a reasonable amount to listen to on a commute. Larger topics will often be spread over 2-3 shows, but I try to switch subjects after that.
I don't report news, nor do I comment on it really. I tend to focus more on what I've actually done and then comment with my opinions on how it went, what worked and what didn't. So from that perspective, I'm definitely more a commentator rather than reporter, but even that's a bit of a stretch.
I've recently considered altering my format to include interviewing other programmers, weaving in MP3 comments from listeners, interviewing people about software history, or reviewing and commenting on current events of interest to programmers. I'm not sure what I think about that yet, but it may come.
4. What do you like in programmer-oriented podcasts? Are there others you listen to?
I like hearing what other people are working on. You can go to conferences and hear prepared presentations. But I like a more informal feel. I like hearing what people have succeeded in doing, what they've tried and abandoned, and problems they think they'll face in the future and their untested ideas on how they may approach them.
I've listened to all sorts of podcasts, from news to programming to general technology to college lectures.
SlashdotReview has (of course) a news feel to it. Andy McCaskey has a voice well suited to podcasting. I occasionally carpool with other Java programmers and sometimes a .NET guy. This one's interesting for all of us.
Michael Mahemoff's Software As She's Developed has covered topics like Agile development, AJAX, and other web development related topics. His voice from London adds a nice variety to the mix. His recent podcasts tend to be close to an hour long.
Ajaxian not only covers a compelling topic for upcoming development work, but it's also a well done blog, and I like their podcast interview format.
I really like reading Jon Udell's blog. He has an occasional podcast, but it was his soundbites experiment that intrigued me. He selected portions of existing MP3 content, wrote a short text intro to each, and then had that text spoken by a computer as an intro to the clip. While the soundbites themselves were interesting, it's the combination of text, audio, and technology that sparks ideas for me. See his Improving the audio circulatory system for more.
While not an actual podcast, Terrence Mann--creator of ANTLR--has a number of college lectures on MP3. I found them after looking for info about Domain Specific Languages. These lectures talk about language design and often focus on using the ANTLR tool. To see these, visit USF CS652: Programming Languages and scroll down to "Prior Lecture Notes".