The blog of David Wickes, software developer

A Pair of Podcasts

Trying to bootstrap myself into software development is a struggle. A struggle with some successes - I mean, let’s not forget that I’m writing this in markdown using vim using jekyll to create a static site that’s being hosted with GitHub Pages; a few months ago I wouldn’t have known what that meant. But a struggle none the less.

I’ve always found immersion to be key to being able to get my head around a subject - just hammering away until it starts to make sense. A great help in all of this has been a pair of fantastic podcasts from Envylabs, Five Minutes of JavaScript and Ruby 5 (it was only when I came to Google “JavaScript 5” that it became clear why they went with the convoluted title…).

Both podcasts are short - seven minutes max - and just list down anything that’s going on with the two languages at the moment. They’re broadcast twice weekly, keeping the information fresh and pertinent. At first I had very little idea what was going on - technologies I’d never heard of doing things I couldn’t understand, updates, new ‘gems’… all a bit of a mystery.

But the short format, and regular broadcasts, encouraged listening. I can catch up in five minutes when waiting for a train, walking the dog, popping to the shops. And it’s started to pay off; I now understand about 70% of what’s going on in each episode, and I’m using the technologies they talk about (like jekyll).

I’ve tried other podcasts and audios - chiefly lecture series from some of America’s great institutions such as Harvard’s CS50 course available from EdX, and Stanford’s Programming Methodology course (which I enjoy a lot). While these broad academic courses are both informative and entertaining, and helpful, I’m still not at the point where the subjects under discussion are anything more than reinforcement to my study of Ruby and JavaScript. I’m sure it will also click into place eventually, much like the Envylabs podcasts.

It’s worth mentioning the player I’m using too - Player FM is maybe the best thing I’ve ever used to play a podcast. Does everything you want, does nothing you don’t and sits on the phone occasionally telling you when there’s a new episode.