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The Java Podcasters, Part 1
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3. You guys often discuss a lot of different things in one show--how do you collect items and decide what to talk about?

Primarily the hero of this story is Bloglines. I have set up a section of about 20 RSS feeds from different Java news sites in Bloglines, and I scan it daily for a few minutes to pick out stories to cover, and just mark those stories as "keep." Then, at the end of the week, I run through the stories, do a bit more background on them, and put them up in a wiki along with some discussion points and the link.

Anything that the guys want included they email me with a link, and these get put in the same place.

As for deciding what to talk about, there are the big stories every week--these get covered all over the place in the media and are easy to pick out. Apart from that, we go by feel--stories that have had a good response before, and we always try and include some stuff that may have slipped below the radar. Free resources, particularly for beginners, always go over really well.

One thing we don't have a shortage of is news. Before I started doing this, I had no idea how much happens every week related to Java. It's just amazing how active this community is.

4. Since you've been going for a while in this format, are there trends or themes you find yourselves coming back to?

Since we started doing the podcast, one of the recurring themes is the demise of Java--in particular, the rise of Ruby on Rails. There are lots of prophets of doom out there saying that Java has had its day, but one thing about doing this podcast is, as I mentioned, that you get to see the incredible energy and vibrancy in the Java world every week. This does not have the feel of a dying community; quite the opposite. There are so many new things being tried, new devices that Java can run on, and new projects coming to fruition all the time.

Apart from that, every time we do segments for beginners we get a tremendous response (another sign that Java has a good healthy future). We get lots of email thanking us for pointing out some beginners' resource, a lot of interest in beginner and learning tools like the BlueJ IDE.

Of course, there are also the IDEs. It's tempting not to talk about IDEs too much because they are such a passionate subject and we always seem to get complaints when we mention one IDE over another. I actually use multiple IDEs regularly and while I don't know any of them inside out, I believe I have a pretty good feel for the strengths and weaknesses of each. Anyway, IDEs are a subject that generates a lot of feedback.

One thing about podcasting to developers is that, for the most part, developers are fairly strongly opinionated. This means that we do get a lot of quite energetic feedback at times. When we make a mistake, we are careful to correct it in the next podcast.

5. What has your listener reaction been like? Do you have an idea of how many listeners you have?

Listener reaction is, on the whole, very good indeed. To start with, we were getting a fair number of complaints or negative comments (and not helpful negative either), and we mentioned this in one of the podcasts. It turns out that the people who were happy with what we were doing were just keeping quiet. Now we get a lot more feedback and it is overwhelmingly positive. We do still get complaints or corrections but for the most part they are constructive and something we can use. I think also people realize that we are just four ordinary engineers doing this stuff, not some kind of slick spin machine. We make mistakes and our knowledge and research time are not infinite. If we make a mistake we fall on our swords, that kind of thing.

For numbers of listeners--Libsyn shows that we are averaging a little over 2500 downloads for each episode right now, and it continues to grow. One of the big problems we have is letting people know we are out there. So many people, after reconnecting, express surprise that we were out there and wondered what happened to the JavaCast. Recently we have been trying much harder to get the word out any way we can, and we have seen a rise in the number of listeners.

6. Do you use any Java-based tools to create or distribute your podcasts?

The main Java-based tool that is essential to the creation of the podcast is Gmail :-). I draw on a lot of web-based tools (I hate the term "Web 2.0," but if I say that you will catch my drift), like Gmail, Bloglines, Netvibes, and others like that.

I did at one point start creating a Java-based podcast producer, but dropped the project for a couple of reasons. One is that I am predominantly a Linux user, and the Java multi-media story on Linux is still a bit patchy at the moment (I think this is a critical market to pay attention to, if Java is going to try and make another assault on the desktop space). Also, I discovered that Audacity did everything I needed and a lot more, and decided that time was better spent working on the podcast than working on a podcast-creation tool. Maybe I will go back to it at some point, but I think I will wait and see what the new JMF initiatives turn up first.

I also lean on one tool very heavily that is Java-based, for both the podcast and my article writing. Freemind is an excellent pure Java mind mapper/outliner tool which really helps me get my thoughts organized and produce something that actually flows rather than a random stream of consciousness.

I am still hoping/waiting for a Google calendar/PIM tool to help close some of the organizational functionality I am missing. I know there are other web-based schedulers out there, but the problem with those is one of critical mass. Like Gmail, I hope that a Google PIM would become somewhat ubiquitous, and hence be much more useful when trying to schedule newscasts and interviews than the other offerings out there right now. With Google's focus on Java web apps, I would imagine any such thing would be based on Java.

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