This posting starts a new series I’ve been considering for a while which I’m calling a few of my favorite, where I’m going to give a quick shout out on various topics to things that I use and depend on in my world.
To start, I’m going to look at podcasts. For the uninitiated, these are audio recordings that are packaged up and available for downloading and listening to over the net — if you’re of a certain age you might consider these the internet version of talk radio.
You subscribe to and listen to podcasts through an app; on the Mac the most popular is Apple’s own Podcast app; my preference is Overcast by Marco Arment because he’s added a few features I want to have, most especially his audio processing and the app’s ability to skip past short silences in the feed to compress speed the podcast along.
These apps let you subscribe to a podcast via a URL, but they depend on Apple’s podcast directory in iTunes as the place to search for podcasts; fortunately, pretty much every podcast is listed in that directory.
So, for pretty literally no money: the Apple Podcast App is free, access to the iTunes directory is free, and almost all podcasts are free to listen to (although some request donations or have membership options if you choose), you can get started and explore to look for the kind of entertainment and information you want.
My podcast listening (and this likely won’t surprise you much) leans heavily on tech talk, especially around the Apple tech ecosystem, and around entertainment, especially around books and media. There are podcasts on literally everything you might be interested in, and so I encourage you to wander into the iTunes directory and start searching for things you like and see what you find. I’ve recently been starting to explore Mac/IOS developer podcasts, especially around swift, as a way to better plug into the developer world again.
One topic that’s not in my podcast listings that may surprise you: there are no photography podcasts. Why? I simply haven’t found any that kept my interest over time. There are some interesting ones out there; they just aren’t what I’m looking for today. I’d love suggestions to explore to see if I’ve missed anything.
What am I looking for in a podcast? First and foremost, good audio quality; if you can’t get good clean audio on a regular basis, I’ll give up on you. It’s not that hard these days and poor audio quality indicates to me you don’t really care enough about the content or the show to put in a bit if time to do it well. Now, glitches happen, and remote recording can be a problem — and that’s fine, but on a regular, podcast to podcast basis, if you can’t get the basics of good, professional-caliber audio down, I won’t waste my time on it.
And content? This often turns into I know it when I hear it but I’m always looking for interesting topics discussed by people who know the topic and can speak about it in interesting ways. One thing that can quickly turn me off of podcasts is when I hear people dig into a topic they clearly haven’t done even minimal research on, and when I know the topic better than they do without haven’t done my own research on it, that’s a killer (and that’s a big reason I’ve dropped off a number of photography podcasts, folks…)
So here are some of my favorite podcasts. Hopefully this will encourage you to explore these — and other — podcasts and if you haven’t already discovered podcasting as an entertainment and information resource, will get you started down this path.
- Accidental Tech Podcast: One of the premier tech podcast, featuring Marco Arment, John Siracusa and Casey Liss. It’s a very opinionated podcast about tech, cars, and whatever else catches their attention, and sometimes it turns into watching Marco and John try to out-pedant each other while Casey Liss madly tries to play referee. I find it sometimes annoying, sometimes frustrating, but mostly interesting and the chemistry between the three makes it a fun listen.
- Apple Talk: From the iMore website, this podcast brings in Rene Ritchie, Michael Gartenberg and Serenity Caldwell in to dig into tech topics on a weekly basis, mostly involving the Apple ecosystem. If you’re looking for a group of people intelligently discussing what the news around Apple means, as opposed to what the headlines are shouting, this is the podcast for you.
- Clockwise: a short, weekly 30 minute podcast hosted by Jason Snell and Dan Moren that tries to do a quick look at four topics of interest. It’s a nice, interesting quick hit on a variety of tech topics
- Rocket: three girl geeks (Christina Warren, Brianna Wu and Simone de Rochefort) discuss geek stuff and other things. The chemistry on this show is great, and it’s nice hearing a different take on tech topics than the usual collection of grumpy old white guys (like me) talking about grumpy old tech topics.
- The Talk Show with John Gruber: This is an almost-weekly podcast where Gruber sits down 1-1 with guests for discussion of various topics. It is really the classic talk show format, and Gruber is a master of that form, digging into topics and guiding their guests into a deep exploration of the topics of the day.
- Under the Radar: Marco Arment and David Smith talk about developer topics and the challenges of being independent developers in today’s market.
- The Incomparable: Flagship of the Incomparable network, hosted by Jason Snell, this is a weekly panel discussion of topics of interest primarily in the SF/Fantasy media spaces: books, movies, comics, music and things of interest to people interested in those things. He has a fascinating collection of people joining him and I find these shows one of the best ways to explore and find new things — it’s been really improving my reading lists over the last few months.
- The Incomparable Game Show: This is a podcast series where a group of people get together to play games and make fools of themselves for your enjoyment. There are a number of different game formats that show up on this stream, and it’s the kind of podcast that will leave you laughing out loud without realizing it. Lots of fun, not at all serious.
- The Incomparable Radio Theater: This is an intermittent series where the Incomparable team writes and produces shows in the classic radio theater style. Exceptionally well written and well produced, and while you’re waiting for the next season to be released, this is one of those podcasts I strongly suggest you go and explore the backlist.
- Sophomore Lit: John McCoy sits down with different people to do an in-depth discussion of books we all read (and maybe dreaded) in high school. I’ve found some of these have brought new appreciation, or at least perspective, on some of the books I only vaguely remembered.
- Total Party Kill: A podcast in which a group of people get together on the internet and play Dungeons and Dragons for your amusement: and the result is simply a lot of fun to listen to.
- America’s Test Kitchen Radio: I’m fascinated by the science of food, and ever since **Good Eats** ended, I’ve gotten my fix through America’s Test Kitchen. Chris Kimball hosts this weekly podcast, which includes recipes, Q&A with listeners and a weekly interview with someone in the field. I’ve found Kimball to be one of the better interviewers out there and this is always an interesting listen, at least for now: Kimball has left the show but hasn’t yet left the podcast, so I expect changes here at some point, and Kimball is in process of booting his new operation as Milk Street Kitchen, and I believe he’ll at some point spawn a podcast there, so it’ll be interesting to see how this all sorts out.
- Exponent: A mostly weekly podcast with Ben Thompson of Stratechery and James Allworth, who discussion business and strategy across both tech and non-tech industries.
- Still Untitled: The Adam Savage Project: Adam Savage sits down once a week with people from his Tested.com site to discuss things of interest to Adam. Topics wander widely around movies, entertainment, making and science, and Savage is one of those people who finds a lot of things interesting and makes them interesting to the test of us.
- TV Talk Machine: Tim Goodman (TV reviewer for Hollywood Reporter) and Jason Snell (founder of Incomparable) sit down every week to talk about the state of television and the shows on the different channels. I have to admit: I watch very little TV beyond live sports, and I look forward to this show every week because the chemistry between these two makes listening to it so much fun — and they do occasionally convince me to try out a new show.
One final note: you’ll likely note that many of these podcasts are clustered on two podcast networks: Relay.FM and Incomparable. That probably shouldn’t be a surprise, when you find organizations that do things you like, you tend to bring in other things they do. I’m a paid member in both groups, happily, and I’ll generally sample any new podcast either network comes out. Finding the networks that feed your interests is a great way to find the type of podcasts you want to listen to that you didn’t know to search for, so I encourage you as you explore podcasts to see which podcast networks are feeding you consistently interesting content, and then go explore their catalog for hidden gems. Two other podcast networks you might want to check into would be 5×5 and the Nerdist.
If you have suggestions for future topics of A Few of my Favorite, please drop me a note via twitter, facebook or email and let me know — I’ll consider it and maybe put it on the list for a future posting.