A Podcast Mashup for Agile Development Practices (hosted on SpokenWord.org)

Agile Development Practices Podcast

Delivered as a Podcast Mashup

Executive Summary

I’ve created a Podcast Mashup on SpokenWord.org. This is a hand-picked collection of episodes selected from assorted Podcasts (from other, currently-available sources, nothing originated by me!) which provided particularly insightful coverage of topics important in Agile Development Practices.

The RSS feed is here: http://feeds.feedburner.com/AgileDevPractices (wrapped by Feedburner so I have some idea of how many folks are using it).

Be aware that subscribing to a feed containing more than one episode will often only download for you the latest episode, unless you specifically ask for others.

A longer, more detailed discussion follows.

Motivation for Providing a Curated Feed

Okay, I admit it: I have been a heavy user of Podcasts for a very long time. I’ve been using audio downloaded from the web since before iPods existed and RSS feeds were pervasive – and surely long before the term Podcast became part of our vocabulary.

3,753 podcast episodes.. that'll keep me busy

This screen clipping from iTunes is showing there are a whopping 3,754 podcast episodes sitting on my hard disk; good thing I have a spacious 160GB iPod Video Classic!

Yes, I have several thousand episodes from a wide-range of Podcasts – from 120 Podcast feeds – all sitting in iTunes on my hard disk, and being sync’d to my trusty iPod Video Classic, consuming around 75% of its 160 gigabytes. I suppose this makes me clinically addicted. But I’m okay with that.

Many (okay, most) of my podcasts are technical in nature – I take my profession (software development) very seriously and remain permanently paranoid about ever falling behind or getting stale. I listen to a lot of excellent material (while commuting, at gym, out walking, though not while sleeping).

It is rather easy for me to recognize a worthwhile episode on a topic of interest and mark it on my iPod for future reference. (I do this by setting the episode’s “rating” – 0-5 stars – taking advantage of one of the few updates one can make on an iPod that gets sync’d back to iTunes.)

Now I want to offer something back by spreading the word. So I figure, if I am identifying these for my own benefit anyway, why not share these back with the community. I don’t know of anyone else doing this sort of curation.

By the way, I think this matters because of the astounding number of podcasts available out in the wild. I could not find a definitive number, but Steve Jobs announced back in 2007 – nearly exactly two years before this writing – that 125,000 podcasts were being published through iTunes. I believe there is value in helping each other navigate the resources available on a variety of topics – from software development to knitting. We all have limited time and we want to spend it well.

The SpokenWord.org Platform for Podcast Mashups

The cool guys like Doug Kaye who bring us the Conversations Network – with channels for IT Conversations, Social Innovation, and the recently added Computer Human Interaction (CHI) channel CHI Conversations – have gone Web 2.0 on us and are working hard on a platform – SpokenWord.org – which essentially lets individuals curate our own mini-channels, which SpokenWord calls Collections. We can share out our Collections via RSS feeds (plus other consumption options for those who create an account), which of course is the interesting part.

SpokenWord is not actually hosting any audio – SpokenWord only references existing audio (individual files or whole feeds) visible already on the web. So… This makes a SpokenWord Collection close to the moral equivalent of a bunch of Twitter Retweets – other people’s content re-disseminated. Or you could think about this as cross-cutting concern where the system is the podosphere and this related set of podcast episodes from across many podcasts is included in one convenient place (like an XML config file in an application, though this config file is an RSS feed). Or it is just like a list of recommended books; a useful list of recommended books is not just all the books from certain publishers; it is always more nuanced and far more focused than that or it just ain’t useful!

I like to think about this approach to curating & republishing as a Podcast Mashup, which I am defining as follows..

A Podcast Mashup is a curated Podcast with a theme. A Podcast Mashup is built by selectively including episodes from various sources – usually podcasts, but could even include an MP3 hanging out on the web – and combines these into a thematic whole.

This is in contrast to a feed that just aggregates other feeds; a Podcast Mashup is curated – it is selective – you want to tune in because it is “the best of” – not just “all of” – the topic. If there are two excellent episodes on the same topic, the curator may choose to just include one since there was not enough difference between the two.

Using SpokenWord’s Collection feature, I created my first Podcast Mashup this weekend on a topic of great interest to me and presumably many others: my theme is Agile Development Practices.

The process was fairly straightforward.

  1. Identify the podcast episodes of interest – the best ones that match your theme. I did this by marking them on my iPod using the zero-to-five star rating system supported on my iPod. I collected these ratings over many months of listening.
  2. The ratings are sync’d back to iTunes – so I created a Smart Playlist (filterted to only show 5-star-rated podcast episodes) to show them all at once.
  3. Make sure the episodes are known to the SpokenWord system (only 4 of the initial 16 episodes in my collection were already in SpokenWord; I needed to add 12, which surprised me); see the SpokenWord Collections FAQ for instructions for doing this. Note that I added individual episodes – which SpokenWord refers to as a program.  I did not add the entire feeds so that I could curate at the episode (program) level; this is important!
  4. Create a Collection to hold your Podcast Mashup episodes (I called mine “Agile Development Practices”)
  5. Add each episode of interest to my “Agile Development Practices” Collection
  6. Write a blog post about it🙂 and share the feed: http://feeds.feedburner.com/AgileDevPractices

[I encourage you to check out SpokenWord.org more generally to see what else is there – I am using it more and more – and may even play with the SpokenWord API.]

What are “Agile Development Practices” anyway?

I’m glad you asked. This is the theme of my first Podcast Mashup.

Agile Developer Practices - a Podcast Mashup

Agile Developer Practices - a Podcast Mashup

Basically I am thinking about modern tactics used on the ground by today’s agile developers and development teams that just make them better. Unit Testing. Test-Driven-Development (TDD). Behavior-Driven-Development (BDD). Inversion of Control (IoC) containers. Continuous Integration. Philosophies around how to structure code (e.g., SOLID principles, Law of Demeter). Agile. Lean. Metrics (e.g., Cyclomatic Complexity – did you know it can help you know whether you have sufficient unit test coverage?). The unifying theme is those practices that some of the most successful developers are adopting. Stuff you may want to be processing so you can start to use, increase your use, improve your use, or help decide whether to use.

The content of each episode deals with one or more aspect. Usually the episodes are technology-agnostic, applicable to a Java, C#, Ruby, or Python developer, for example. (Some patterns may be deemed less applicable to some languages, especially Ruby and Python, but I won’t get into that here.)

Getting this to work in iTunes

Making this work in iTunes – or your favorite Podcatcher – ought to be straight-forward. In iTunes, simply add the podcast using the Agile Development Practices RSS feed (http://feeds.feedburner.com/AgileDevPractices). In iTunes, this is accessed under the “Advanced” menu, via the “Subscribe to Podcast…” option and will look something like this:

Under "Options" menu, choose "Subscribe to Podcast..." option to get this dialog

Under "Options" menu, choose "Subscribe to Podcast..." then provide an RSS feeed URL in this dialog

iTunes Only Includes First Episode

When you first add a Podcast feed to iTunes (or other Podcatchers), if there is more than one episode, only the latest episode will be included. This may or may not be what you want generally, but in the case of a Podcast Mashup, you probably will want to manually add more episodes to your download list.

A feed with many existing episodes treated passively by iTunes

A feed with many existing episodes is treated passively by iTunes; you need to click "Get All" or click specific "Get" buttons to include others (Click on the image to zoom in)

If you want to include all of the episodes in the Podcast the first time you load it up, you can click on the “GET ALL” button.

Alternatively, you can expand the Podcast feed in iTunes (by clicking the triangle to the left of the Podcast title) and then clicking individual “GET” buttons.

What other Podcast Mashups ought to exist?

Do you find this idea useful? Is this the right granularity? Or would, say, separate Podcast Mashups for TDD, BDD, DI, and Unit Testing make sense? Or some other cut at it…

What other Podcast Mashup topics would you find useful? Which ones might you offer?

Your feedback is welcome.

One thought on “A Podcast Mashup for Agile Development Practices (hosted on SpokenWord.org)

  1. Pingback: Ideal Desktop Computer For Productive Software Development | Click & Find Answer !

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