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The Java Podcasters, Part 1
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2. What do you think makes for a good programming-oriented podcast?



People do better in pairs, and I believe in the community thing. So, first and foremost, don't be an island. Invite people who can add interesting things to the mix. I thrive on hanging with positive, motivating people who have fun and make little distinction between work and pleasure. Programming is a mix of the tools and the concepts. Ever meet an analyst that didn't code? Well, they're all over the place, and they are half the pie. Programming isn't just bits and bytes and complicated algorithms. It's a way to address processes that we can call user stories. That's what use cases are about. Remember the parable about stone soup? About the wanderer that came to a strange town hungry and alone? He went to a stranger's door and said "I have a soup recipe that starts with this magic stone. It's called stone soup. If you add something, we can share it." Well, little by little the people in the town added ingredients to his stone soup and it turned out great! A good podcast can appeal to a broad range of folks, and with a little help from your friends, you can put ingredients into the podcast stone soup that make it appetizing to a lot of people, including yourself.

I try to mix in bits about not just Java, but the business end of things, like with the interview with Serge Beauregard, a person I consider a mentor. Serge did so much in his software career and helped so many people. And he retired at 55! He's just old enough to be my dad, but he's more like the big brother I never had. Someone once told me that the Beauregard Swampcast was his favorite.

I also like talking with deeply technical people like author and teacher Bruce Eckel. Bruce wrote Thinking in C++ and Thinking in Java. I learned about Bruce while struggling to get my head around C++ and object-oriented programming as a poverty-stricken programmer. I found his Thinking in C++ on the Web and it was free! Skeeborski! I couldn't believe a $50 book would be available in a pristine little HTML format and it helped me so much. Most of all, it helped me because Bruce treats his books like projects and he compiles them as he writes them. Like, in other words, every bit of code in them compiles and runs! So many times I've thought it was me when an example I tried to compile wouldn't work, only to later find out the book was buggy. I was lucky to be involved with the "Collections" chapter and a few other bits of Thinking in Java, 3rd Edition as Bruce wrote it, and we've become great pals. He's got a new conference scheduled in March called "Programming the New Web" and I plan to be there. It might even turn into a special Swampcast! A few podcasts will appeal to the very technical crowd.

I have a "Dissecting the Frog" code walkthrough series. E.B. White once said, "Explaining humor is like dissecting a frog. You can do it, but the frog tends to die in the process." The point, of course, is to not be dull like many code walkthroughs, and instead be interesting and help the listener understand the software architecture of the piece of code.

And, I think there's more to life than just seriousness, so there's some humor. Check out the "One Funny Guy" Swampcast featuring Jay Hewlett (MP3) and "So Many Things in my Mind" (MP3). My good friend Mike Shea wrote the guitar piece on "Jobless Still" (MP3) while on the bench, as many of us wind up from time to time. I met Mike at one of Bruce's fabulous conferences in dreamy Crested Butte, Colorado. We coded some pretty cool stuff up there at 9,000 feet, like a traffic simulation program that one of the attendees wrote that demonstrated some design patterns. He'd code a little and then run it on his laptop in his backpack as he rode his bike down the main street past the chrome bumper art benches to meet us at the historic bed and breakfast called the Elk Mountain Lodge on the river, which is fed by ice-cold water melted from snow on Mount Crested Butte.

A good podcast has an intro, an outline, and accompanying notes.

I believe the metadata in RSS is very important. Metadata allows the aggregator or podcatcher to show the reader notes about the show. It also works well with podcasting directories like PodCast Alley to annotate the podcast archives.

I add hyperlinks to the RSS like this:

<description>Today's Podcast from the Swamp features &lt;a href="http://www.onefunnyguy.com/"&gt;one funny guy&lt;/a&gt;, Redondo Beach comedian Jay Hewlett... </description>

You have to substitute &lt; for the < and &gt; for the >.

3. It seems like interviews are a big part of your format. Is that critical to what Swampcast is?

Yes, because Swampcast is for both you and for me. I get a lot out of interviews and the people I talk with keep me hopping. Technology like Voice over Internet Protocol (VoIP) makes overseas stuff a breeze, like the Swampcast interview with Garth Kidd in Australia (MP3), one of the minds behind iPodder. I used Skype and CDex to record that chat. I learn from the Swampcasts as much as the audience does. And, that's what it's all about, isn't it?

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