Feature image courtesy of www.programmingthrowdown.com
All of this means that it can be difficult to keep up with current affairs in our chosen line of work. That’s where chunks of bite size information can come in handy.
I’ve written before about how easy it is to fall behind in programming [LINK to source]:
Anyone who works in software development (regardless of the languages, frameworks or target platforms) will tell you just how easy it is to fall behind. If you are out of the development world for as little as six months, you can fall behind and be left in the dust – it is imperative to remain up to date with what’s going on.
It turns out that more and more people are commuting every day. A 2011 study by the office of national statistics reports that roughly 876,000 people commute into London everyday [LINK]. Most of which where coming into London from neighbouring areas, but some as far as Milton Keynes and Yorkshire.
I like to think that the folks coming in from Yorkshire where infrequent commutes. I can’t imagine it being much fun having to get up early enough to commute to London form Yorkshire (although, I do know someone who does the opposite journey often enough).
As an average (and this is my own guess, based on my experience), I’d say that most commutes are between half an hour to two hours in length. What can you do for that amount of time? Well, one thing is that you could catch up with programming news.
… If you wanted to.
Where to start?
Well, there are all sorts of places: Blogs, Books, Magazines, Reddit (careful that you don’t get too distracted by gifs of kittens, though). However, my favourite is podcasts.
I’m going to assume that you know what a podcast is, but for those who don’t:
A podcast is a series of short (typically between half an hour and an hour in length) audio programmes about a given subject. They are subscribed to, and the latest episodes can be delivered to the subscriber as soon as they are available for download. More often than not they are free to obtain, but some podcasters offer paid-for episodes in an effort to support their work.
In a nutshell: it’s a bit like talk radio, but more specialised as you can get a podcast on just about anything.
I’ve alluded to podcasts before, on a completely different blog, when I wrote:
whilst programming is a visual medium, discussion on programming can take any format. 40-60 minute discussions on programming can be quite helpful for folks who are looking to fill their daily commute with something entertaining and related to their job (or field of study).
I’ve found that my walk to work (and sometimes into and around town) can be made a little more interesting by throwing on a podcast (or AudioBook, but that’s for another post) and listening while you take your journey. A lot of folks listen to music (either the radio, or their personal collection), so it’s only a small change but one that I’m convinced can be very worth while.
Because there are natural pauses in human speech (and the lack of the loudness war), it can often be safer to listen to podcasts while commuting (either walking, taking the bus or train, or driving), as you can still hear most of the environmental sounds around you. They also make for a quieter environment for those around you, which is useful for if you take the train or subway to work.
A Reason To Do It
According to the 2012 Learning Survey by Niace, the adult learning organisation, there’s a strong correlation between learning and sustained employment. Staff who undertake learning activities are more able to adapt to the changing requirements of an organisation and gain a competitive edge in the job market.
The amount of times that reading comes up on career guidance and advice forums is staggering. It’s one of the most important things that you can do, apparently.
That, and actually turning up to work and doing the job you’re paid to do, obviously.
All of this is ever more important in the development/software engineering/programming/whatever-you-want-to-call-it market. Without continually developing our skill sets, we’ll be left in the dust to fend for ourselves, whilst those with the drive to learn things in their own time will be living the high life.
In fact, there’s an episode of HanselMinutes (see below) all about how and when someone is ready for the title of “senior developer” (and it’s not about how old you are, either).
Confucius once said:
No matter how busy you may think you are, you must find time for reading, or surrender yourself to self-chosen ignorance.
And that’s pretty heady, if I say so myself.
Yeah, ok so we don’t always have time to read, but why not use “active listening” on a podcast or two. It’s worth it, I promise you.
Since I’m a programmer, I’m going to lean this towards programming. There are searchable podcast directories, two of the best being iTunes (which acts as a great podcatcher, too) and gPodder [LINK] (which helps to keep all of your subscriptions in one place). So, if you want to find a podcast about your profession, hobby or whatever, then I’d try those first… or Google.
Anyway, on to some recommendations. Where possible I’ll link to the podcast’s homepage rather than the RSS feed as that’s more useful to most folks.
Patrick Wheeler and Jason Gauci talk listeners through a different programming language, framework or technique every two weeks. They go into detail about the history and where the language/framework of choice is used the most, they also talk about their daily lives and some of the work that they’re doing recently. Each episode is 40 minutes to 1 hour long (just long enough for most commutes), and is really informative.
Chris Fisher and Mike Dominick host a weekly show which looks at the art and business of software engineering. They have very detailed discussions about each technology, framework or issue that they face and always supply places to go to learn more about the topic of each show in the show notes. It also has a supporting subreddit with even more information and in-depth discussion [LINK].
To be honest, I’d recommend any of the podcasts on Jupiter Broadcasting, they have a wide range of shows covering all sorts of topics.
Hanselminutes is a weekly podcast by Scott Hanselman. Scott works on the Web Platform Team at Microsoft, so he definitely knows what he’s talking about. His podcast covers a very wide range of topics in software engineering, from subjects are far and wide as theoretical computer science and web development, to 3D printers and rockets.
Debug is hosted by Guy English and Rene Ritchie and is described as “the great talk you get at the bar after the conference”. The hosts focus on development for iPad, iPhone, Mac and Gaming but there are gems here for folks who don’t work in those arenas (especially web devs).
Hosted by Joel Spolsky (one of the creators of Stack Exchange) with Jay Hanlon and David Fullerton, the Stack Exchange podcast lets you listen in on discussions and decisions about the Stack Exchange Network. The Stack Exchange podcast gives you an unparalleled view into how a startup is created and built as well as some real gems on how to maintain a massive web development project, long term.
Adam Wathan brings, along with a special guest each week, knowledge and experience about all the steps of developing software from user interfaces all the way up to system administration the Full Stack, as it were. Worth a listen for anyone who wants to know about all of the steps involved in developing some new software, from the ground up.
Another one with Scott Hanselman, this time co-hosted by Rob Conorey. This Developer’s Life is modelled on This American Life [LINK], and covers the things that a lot of things that most books and other media don’t cover, namely: the real life aspects of being a software developer (the late nights during crunch time, the stress, the tiredness, the amazing feeling when a project completes).
Carl Franklin and Richard Campbell have been doing a weekly podcast since 2002 and have covered such a wide range of topics that they offer personalised RSS feeds based on what you, the listener, are interested in [LINK to the feed page]. I cannot recommend this podcast enough.
So there you have it, a selection of programming related podcasts to keep you entertained and up to date. The selection may seem haphazard, but then I’m like that with my tastes sometimes.
Take a listen to a handful of the episodes for each show, and I guarantee that you’ll learn something new about your chosen field of programming. Also get in touch with a podcast recommendation of your own via the comments, I really like checking out new shows and will give any a listen.