My Podcast Habit

October 1st, 2006

Podcasting totally, I mean totally works for me. It’s gotten to where I almost never use my iPod for music. I play music through my home stereo speakers, but when I’m on the train, at the gym, or walking somewhere, I listen to podcasts.

I’ve noticed that people either totally get or totally don’t get podcasts and their allure. Let me summarize for those on the verge of joining the revolution: if you spend any part of your day in a boring place, podcasts will make that time more interesting. I look forward to running on a freaking treadmill, partly because it makes me feel good, but mostly because I know that I’ll get time to catch up on my ‘casts! No matter what your interests, there is some podcast of value out there that will speak to you.

The hardest part about being a podcast listener is building a trustable arsenal of content. The ratings services of iTunes or Odeo can be helpful, but unfortunately a lot of people also like crappy podcasts.

So I’m doing my part by sharing the ones that make me happy. I’ve updated the “Some Podcasts I Like” sidebar section to accurately reflect what I’m listening to do these days. Some of the stuff that was in there before had gone stale, and I’ve added some new items to my subscription list. I decided I’d give a little more information on each of them here.

  • Buzz Out Loud is a great daily news roundup for technophiles. Molly, Veronica and Tom discuss the day’s news in a slightly irreverent manner. What makes this podcast great is the high production quality and consistent pace. A good lightweight show to stay on top of technogossip.
  • Cocoa Radio features one-on-one interviews with Mac developers. It’s been pretty slow to release new episodes this year, but when they do come out, they’re usually worth hearing. The content is not very technical, so if you’re just a curious Mac-ophile, it’s worth checking out.
  • Entrepreneurial Thought Leaders is a series of speeches and interviews from the Stanford Technology Ventures Program. I really like “speeches by smart people,” and they manage to hook quite a few of them into participating in this series.
  • FLOSS Weekly is a two-on-one (kinky!) interview format focusing on Free, Libre and Open Source Software. Chris DiBona and Leo Laporte interview leading members of the open source community about their software, legal issues, and occasional tales of drunken debauchery.
  • Inside the Net is the second of my TWiT addictions, this time featuring Amber MacArthur and Leo interviewing notorious or merely interesting personalities “from the web.”
  • MacBreak Weekly. I just discovered this, even though I’m a total TWiT junky. MacBreak is a video podcast and well, I don’t do video. So I must have glossed over the existence of this Mac-focused audio news roundtable. Merlin Mann of 43 Folders is a regular, along with Leo, Alex Lindsay, and Scott Bourne. This is basically like TWiT (see description below), but all Mac focused. Good stuff!
  • Nerd TV has been dormant for a while, but is apparently on the verge of a “new season” rechristened as Supernerds. I said I don’t do video, but Robert X. Cringely’s excellent interview series is thankfully also available as a plain mp3 podcast.
  • TED Talks. I have to admit I was skeptical about the TED conference. Hearing the way people talked about it, I assumed it was just a big, elite, members-only mutual-back-patting society. And maybe it is, but they have some killer speeches. This podcast contains absolutely mind-altering stimuli in the form of capsule (20 minutes or so) lectures by leaders from the academic and technical worlds.
  • This Week in Tech. The granddaddy of all tech podcasts. I used to listen to Leo Laporte on the radio when I was a kid, growing up in the bay area. I never could have imagined I would be listening to him 15 years later on several of my favorite podcasts. TWiT is the canonical tech news roundup, featuring a rotating cast of regulars and special guests. Leo really knows his stuff, and has a pro-Mac bias. My only complaint is his current dumb fixation on calling the shows “Netcasts.” Speak our language, Leo! Don’t go changing waterfalls.
  • Venture Voice is also fairly slow to update, but features great interviews with an entrepreneurial angle. Host Greg Galant does a good job of playing the passive instigator, calmly asking questions that bring out the interesting stories his guests have to tell.

Well! If you’re new to podcasting, that ought to be enough to get you started. And from that list, you can probably gauge pretty well what my tastes are. Given that, is there something you just know I’m missing? Please comment if you have other quality shows to share.

17 Responses to “My Podcast Habit”

  1. Scott Stevenson Says:

    I don’t listen to many podcasts for the same reason I don’t listen to many voicemails: they’re linear.

  2. Jon Says:

    I curse you for causing me to spend two hours looking at the podcast directory in the iTS… that is all.

  3. Matt Schinckel Says:

    I subscribe to about podcasts: most of them are radio programs from the Australian Public Broadcaster: ABC. Radio National, one of the stations, podcasts most of it’s programs, and since they are on at times I can’t listen to them, then podcatching works as a great timeshift mechanism.

    I also listen to the NewScientist podcast.

    I hate to say it, but one of the reasons I prefer to listen to Australian content is that most US and Canadian podcasters seem to have too strong an accent. Which is funny, as most of the television we get here in Australia is American, so it’s not like I’m not used to the voices, but as podcasts, I prefer local accents. Although, there are lots of foreign voices, including some of the hosts.

    I basically only listen to them when commuting, which has lately been when I ride my bicycle. I find I get too distracted if I’m doing something that requires me to think in words, like reading email, or commenting on blogs.

    I did subscribe to more, but I don’t have time to listen to all of them, so there was a culling. I also keep every episode of every podcast I download, in case I want to listen to any of them again. Which I have, twice.

    Finally, my list:

    New Scientist Podcast – New Scientist
    Ockham”™s Razor – ABC Radio National
    Dr Karl”™s Great Moments in Science – ABC Science Online – the Lab
    The Science Show – ABC Radio National
    All in the Mind – ABC Radio National
    Perspective – ABC Radio National
    By Design – ABC Radio National
    Philosopher”™s Zone – ABC Radio National
    In Conversation – ABC Radio National

  4. Webomatica Says:

    Since you have TWiT and Inside the Net, what about Diggnation?

  5. Daniel Jalkut Says:

    Webomatica: I tried Diggnation once but it didn’t really resonate for me. Maybe they were too drunk on that show :) I should give them another chance.

  6. Bill L. Says:

    Thanks for the links.

  7. Bret Says:


  8. Geoff Schmit Says:

    I completely agree that a podcast makes the tedious tolerable or even enjoyable. I don’t even mind washing the dishes if I’m listening to a podcast. While I listed to CocoaRadio, I mostly listen to public radio shows. While there’s a freely available podcast for “Wait Wait… Don’t Tell Me!,” there aren’t for many other shows. So, I use Audio Hijack Pro (think Tivo for any audio you get get to your Mac) to record “Car Talk,” “This American Life,” and “A Prairie Home Companion.” Just remember to still support your local public radio station.

  9. Daniel Jalkut Says:

    Bret: thanks for the link, I hadn’t heard of that one but it looks good.

    Geoff: I suppose I should try to put this Radio Shark to work… since I switched coasts I have gotten out of the public radio habit, but some of those shows would definitely make good “pseudo-podcasts.”

  10. Ryan Ballantyne Says:

    I’m not gonna lie: I’ve never listened to a single podcast. For one, I don’t have room on my 4G 20 gigger. But I also don’t sit in boring places much.

    However, now you have me thinking I ought to check it out, if only because I find listening to the spoken word enhances my doing of Math, which takes up a large portion of my time…

  11. Stripes Says:

    I’m rather fond of Escape Pod, it is basically a new SciFi short story each week, and while it repeats narraters from time to time, I’ve heard over 20 different narrators, so not so frequently.

    Oh, and by “new” I really mean “different from any of the other stories”, they buy them from SciFi authors, but almost all have been previously published.

    If you like SciFi shorts, and audiobooks you’ll love it. If you don’t like either of those things, you might wanna give it a miss.

  12. Bret Says:

    Yeah… I stumbled across them last month while playing with the new iTunes… and then my iPod broke. Shoulda’ bought the extended warranty, but I figured “I always have it pluged in to something – wall or car – so my battery isn’t gonna wear out”, totally not thinking about the hard drive giving out… guess I gotta go buy a new one (well, at least I’ll get to play games on it, eh?).

    Anyway, um… they’re quite listenable… actually, they’re good enough to be on pro-radio. In fact, I’m listining to them right now…

  13. Bob Says:

    I gave up trying to listen to spoken word tracks at the gym. I can’t concentrate on them. But I do have a 50 minute commute, so I listen to audio books (Harry Potter being the best performed), old time radio (, and only one non-pro podcast has ever interested me. I also find their unscripted banter boring. Inside The Magic, a Disney news podcast, is the least bad I’ve found, so it is the one I listen to on occasion. I’ll have to try Escape Pod.

  14. pedro mg Says:

    I have a small post pointing some interesting episodes from Chris Dibona (Google) and Leo’s FLOSS netcasts. Interviews with Randal ‘PERL’ Schwartz, Guido ‘PYTHON’ van Rossum, etc… I find them a good companion too.

    As for coding, i can’t listen to them while programming… i guess i’m not multi-taskin’aholic…

  15. Stephan Cleaves Says:

    It is fairly rare for me not to be in front of my computer. If I am then podcasts are too much of a distraction. I do find I can listen to them while driving but I don’t find myself in the car that often. I tried to listen while grocery shopping but I found that every time I was scanning shelves that I lost focus on the audio. However I did want to share the one podcast I catch from time to time. That is Ira Flatow’s Science Friday from NPR. The nice thing is that each story is its own podcast, so you only have to listen to those you are interested in.

  16. john Says:

    That’s a great list of podcasts – the TED talks in particular look pretty interesting.

    I second Matt’s vote for the ABC podcasts – superb quality in both production and intelligent content. I’d add their Background Briefing podcast to the list, and for this audience the recent episodes

    Regaining confidence in western culture
    Loot: Real money in virtual worlds
    The rise of the carbon traders

    may be of interest, and to Daniel’s taste.

    New Scientist
    Science Talk: The podcast of Scientific American

    I’ve gone off the New Scientist podcast – its OK, but I find it a bit lightweight and breathless, like the magazine. I’ve come to prefer Science Talk, which seems to be turning more to a long interview format. There’s also the Nature broadcast, if that sort of thing floats your boat. But I still haven’t found a science podcast that really does it for me. I think its a problem broadcasting science to a general audience – even an audience of scientists of mixed disciplines. I think there’s a lot of opportunity for more narrowcast science based podcasts – researchers talking about their research without having to assume a lowest common denominator audience.

    And as an Aussie, I have to say the (british) accents on the New Scientist podcast drive me batty.

    The other podcast that should make it onto Daniel’s list is the

    Startup School Podcast

    from Paul Graham’s Y-Combinator startup school. Good stuff, and thanks Daniel for your recommendations.

  17. Kevin Says:

    I only listen to two podcasts as I find it difficult to find time that allows me to concentrate on the audio. I don’t like to listen to something when it’s effectively just background music.

    This 1st one, Cocoa Radio, you’re already aware of. The 2nd is The Garrett Murray Podcast. That was the first podcast I’d ever bothered to try and for some odd reason it stuck. The two guys are Mac users, coders and into making short films and the topics are pretty much completely random but almost always amusing. Anyway, check it out if you’re interested in a short comedy interlude with all that news, science and technology.

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