Confessions of a Podcastaholic

I’ve been an iPod user for about a year and a half now.  I’m an obsessive music lover and collector, but I waited quite a while before I bought my first MP3 player.  My rationale was that I didn’t just want something that would let me carry around an album or two.  If that was the case, I’d be constantly moving music onto the player and off again.  Instead, I wanted to wait until I could buy something that could store my entire music collection–or at least enough of it that I’d be able to carry around a good percentage of my collection with me.

I’d been digitizing my CDs for years and enjoying listening to them on my PC, working my way through various player software.  Pre-iPod, I’d eventually settled on the RealPlayer application for managing all my music.  But it never crossed the line to become a truly great application for me.  I liked the idea of being able to organize everything into multiple playlists and then play through a playlist on shuffle mode.  But the biggest pain point was still that my music was stuck in one physical location–on one physical PC.

Like a lot of software developers, I like to occasionally wear headphones while at work.  Working in cubeland, this is often necessary, given the noise and distractions.  I hauled an old laptop into work at one point, after copying much of my music collection to it.  So I now had my music in two different places–on my home PC and at work.  I could also now make the statement that I had an MP3 player of sorts, albeit a 6 pound one that took a few minutes to boot up.

At some point it dawned on me that I should just ditch my old laptop and upgrade to one of the latest and greatest iPods.  At the time, the 80GB video model was the largest one available.  I plunked down my money and after a short wait got my first ever Apple product.

It was incredible.  As expected, it just worked.  It took some time, but I gradually started moving my music collection onto the iPod.  I had plenty of room with 80GB, and I was pleased that I’d finally found what I wanted–a single device where I could store my entire music collection.  It also truly amazed me when I realized one day that my “little music player” had a hard drive twice as large as my Windows development laptop at work.  Ok, granted, my company tends to cheap out on PCs.  But still–here I am a well-paid software developer and I have 2x the space on a deck-of-cards device as I do on my development machine.  Wow.

This is the point where my life really began to change.  Having my entire CD collection, going back 25 years, in my pocket was truly astounding.  But I quickly discovered the true killer app of the iPod–podcasts.  Before I bought the iPod, I had some vague notion that there were podcasts out there and I understood the basic concept.  But I’d not planned on listening to podcasts at all–I’d bought the iPod solely as a music device.

The podcast habit started when, out of curiosity, I began to listen to some of the more popular tech/software podcasts–This Week in Tech and .NET Rocks.  I quickly added daily news, more technical stuff, and a bunch of family history related podcasts.  I just couldn’t get enough–I became a complete podcastaholic.  Just one month into my iPod experience, I was listening to podcasts during my commute, while at work, and late into the evening.  I was hooked.  At some point, I realized that it had become rare for me to listen to music anymore.  I was using the iPod exclusively to listen to podcasts.

Podcasts became a huge hit for me for two reasons.  For starters, it was just so darn easy to get the music onto the device.  I left iTunes running constantly on my PC at home and plugged the iPod in every night, which meant that I’d automatically get all the latest episodes of everything the next morning.  Better yet, Mr. Jobs was clever enough to remove the podcasts that I’d already listened to.  Nothing could be easier.

The second biggie for me was just the excellent content that was available.  It was reminiscent of hunting for good programming on public radio, except that I had about a thousand times the number of programs to choose from.  So instead of getting Science Friday (fairly interesting, mildly relevant), I was now listening to .NET Rocks with Carl and Richard twice a week (very energizing and hugely relevant).  I was in absolute techie heaven!

The great thing is how dynamic the podcast universe is.  Podcasts are born and die all the time, with new content showing up almost daily.  I try to go back to iTunes every few weeks and just do some browsing.  And it seems like I always stumble on something new, interesting, and worth listening to.

Eighteen months into my podcast experience, I haven’t slowed down and I’m as much a podcastaholic as ever–even more so.  With plenty of house projects to work on and a huge lawn to mow, Carl and Richard now accompany me on the riding mower–along with Leo, Paul Thurrott, Robert Heron and even those wacky Digg guys from time to time.

Here’s my current podcast lineup.  These are the podcasts that I listen to fairly regularly and I can highly recommend everything on these lists.

Audio Podcasts

– A Prairie Home Companion’s News from Lake Wobegon – weekly, 15 mins – I’ve been listening to PHC since the early 80s and now I no longer miss the core Keillor experience (NFLW).
– Garrison Keillor’s The Writer’s Almanac – daily, 5 mins – Nice little bit of daily history (whose birthday is it today), along with a poem
– The ASP.NET Podcast by Wally McClure and Paul Glavich – every few days, variable – Wally is easy to listen to and you’ll get plenty of ASP.NET goodness
– Dear Myrtle’s Family History Hour – weekly, 1 hr – a bit too quaint for my tastes, but often some nice family history gems
– Entrepreneurial Thought Leaders – weekly (seasonal), 1 hr  – Excellent lecture series out of Stanford, wonderful speakers
– Front Page – daily, 5 mins – NY Times front page overview, good quick news hit
– Genealogy Gems – biweekly(?), 45 mins – Lisa Cooke’s excellent genealogy podcasts
– The Genealogy Guys Podcast – weekly, 1 hr – very solid genealogy stuff, weekly news & more
– Hanselminutes – weekly, 40 mins – One of my favorites, Scott Hanselman helps you grok the coolest new technologies
– History According to Bob – daily, 10-15 mins – Bob is a history professor and relentless podcaster.  Excellent stuff.
– .NET Rocks – 2/wk, 1 hr – Absolute must-listen for anyone doing .NET.  Great, great material.
– net@night – weekly, 1 hr – Leo Laporte and Amber MacArthur, with weekly web gossip.
– News.com daily podcast from CNET – daily, 10 mins – Good daily tech news overview
– NPR 7PM ET News Summary – daily, 5 mins – Another little daily news blurb.
– Polymorphic Podcast – sporadic, 45 mins – Craig Shoemaker, sometimes good stuff on patterns, bit spotty lately
– Roz Rows the Pacific – every 2 days, 25 mins – Roz Savage is podcasting 3 times/wk as she rows across the Pacific.
– Security Now – weekly, 1+ hrs – Steve Gibson on all things security.  Deeply technical and not to be missed.
– stackoverflow – Weekly, 1 hr – New podcast, with Joel Spolsky and Jeff Atwood.  Both very insightful on software dev topics
– This week in Tech – weekly, 1.5 hrs – Leo Laporte’s flagship podcast.  Can be more fluff than content, but a fun listen
– Windows Weekly – weekly, 1+ hrs – One of the highest quality podcasts available, Paul Thurrott w/excellent stuff on Windows

Video Podcasts

– Democracy Now! – daily, 1 hr – I don’t always have time for it, but Amy Goodman is true journalism, pure gold.
– Diggnation – weekly, 1 hr – absolute fluff, but sometimes fun to watch Kevin and Alex gossip
– dl.tv – weekly, 1/2 hr – Tied for 1st place w/Tekzilla as best techie show, great content
– Gametrailers.com – XBox 360 spotlight – daily (multiple), 2-3 mins – some great game trailers
– Geekbrief.TV – daily, 3-4 mins – Cali Lewis, quick recap of latest cool gadgets
– Mahalo Daily – daily, 5 mins – more entertainment than tech content, but sometimes some interesting stuff
– Tekzilla – daily, 1-2 mins (weekly, 40 mins) – Excellent techie show, with Patrick Norton & Veronica Belmont
– X-Plays daily video podcast – daily, 2-3 mins – Video game reviews

Looking back, I realize that I did go through an evolution in how I listen to music when I bought the iPod.  Although I started out thinking that I just wanted a convenient way to listen to my CDs, I was of course moving from CDs to a world where all my music is digital, and stored as MP3s.  This is truly an evolutionary step, in the same way that moving from vinyl to CDs was, back in the 1980s.  I do still buy lots of CDs, but only because I object so strongly to DRM.  The moment I pull a new CD out of its shrink wrap, it gets ripped, stored and sprinkled into various playlists.  I now have dozens of CDs that I’ve purchased, but never actually listened to on a CD player.

But as life-changing as it’s been to evolve my music listening habits, the amazing thing is that CDs to MP3s was a subtle life shift, compared to how podcasts have changed things for me.  I have access to so much wonderful content and in such a convenient form factor.  And my kludgy setup–iTunes on the PC and nightly synchs–will likely soon be replaced by something much more convenient and seamless.

The great thing is that the podcast revolution is just getting started.  Or maybe we should call it the user-generated content revolution.  Media is beginning to change in ways that most people just can’t imagine.  We are just beginning to be able to watch and listen to exactly what we want, when we want and where we want.  Technology is bringing our media to us.  Not only do we no longer have to physically plop down in front of a television, the content that we can choose from goes far beyond the selection that we’ve gotten from satellite TV.  Even more amazing, the boundaries between media producer and media consumer are dissolving.  It’s nearly as easy for me to produce my own podcast as it is to subscribe to one.  That’s just incredible.  And it’s far, far easier for people who generate high-value content, like Leo Laporte, to get their content delivered to me.

It’s a wonderful world–and I plan on continuing to wear my podcastaholic badge proudly.

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2 thoughts on “Confessions of a Podcastaholic

  1. @seans: I am glad to see that you are a Democracy Now! fan. True journalism, for sure. And I must declare you the biggest geek I know. (That’s a good thing, of course.)

  2. Yeah, after listening to Amy, you realize everything else is just entertainment! And thanks for the geek comment–I take it as the highest possible praise, coming from a fellow geek.

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