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The Java Podcasters, Part 1

by Chris Adamson

Listen and you'll hear the voices of Java: talking about success stories and embarrassing failures, great innovations and over-engineered monstrosities. This could easily describe the realm of Java blogging, but now it applies to the audio space as well. In the last year, a number of Java-related podcasts have sprung up across the Web. The Java podcasters employ a variety of formats--one guy's opinions, group conversations, interviews with prominent developers and authors--to say nothing of sub-topics, rants, reactions, and audible musings.

All you need to listen to a podcast is an MP3 player--iPods are nice, but your PC will do just fine--and the RSS feeds to get the new shows to you. In this article, we're highlighting five interesting Java-related podcasts with brief interviews of the podcasters. As you'll see, the field has already diversified, so tune in to discover something that might just catch your ear.

This week, we talk with the voices of two of the best-known Java podcasts: The Java Posse and Swampcast. Next week, we'll continue with three more Java podcasts you might not know about, but should.

JavaPosse: Dick Wall

Java Posse home page
Java Posse podcast feed

Possibly the best known of the Java podcasts so far, The Java Posse offers a three-sided discussion of current events in the Java world. Just looking at the show notes for each episode reveals a huge number of topics, frequently flitting from server to desktop and back again. To cover this, it helps to have three hosts (or four--see below), each bringing a different perspective to the discussion. Dick Wall answered our questions about the Posse:

1. Can you tell us where the Java Posse came from and how you guys got started?

The JavaCast was the first Java podcast I was involved with. I had been thinking about putting a Java-related podcast together because there wasn't one just devoted to Java, but at the time didn't really know how to deal with the bandwidth requirements of a runaway success. I then came across Brandon Werner, who was putting his own Java podcast together, and I emailed him to see if he wanted a co-host. He said yes, and we put out four episodes. Unfortunately, Brandon had some bad luck with work and he also generously got heavily involved with the Red Cross after Hurricane Katrina. In the end, he decided that the podcast was not what he wanted to spend his time on, so I started looking around for other options.

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By that time, liberated syndication was pretty well-established, and more importantly, I knew about them (they have excellent podcast offerings, by the way, and you pay for the data uploaded, not for the downloads). Anyway, that gave us a way of delivering the content, but I knew I had to find a co-host.

I asked Tor Norbye--who I knew from my work on the Java Studio Creator EA program--to see if he would be interested, and suggested that we add a third, Carl Quinn, an engineer and friend at Google. I thought that was a great idea and so the posse was formed.

As for the name, I will admit I was somewhat inspired by the Gillmor Gang, so I wanted a group name that didn't specify a particular number (so that we could add people, or if someone was missing for a week). I went through a list and basically it came down to the highest preference that had a domain name that wasn't taken. As it turns out, the name has grown on us and it gives us a kind of fun alter-ego.

In the last couple of episodes, we have now added a fourth regular posse member: Joe Nuxoll, who is a Java developer at Apple. He fits in well with the group--everyone knows him and likes him, and he offers a little more controversy.

2. Where are you located, and how do you do your group conversations and interviews?

Carl, Tor, and Joe all live near San Francisco, while I live in Atlanta. We actually recorded episode 25 all together in a room for the first time when I was out in SF on business, but usually the whole process takes place over Skype.

For interviews, we all get together on Skype with the interviewee either on Skype or called via SkypeOut to a normal telephone. I then record the Skype conversation directly. These tend to be of variable quality, because when you get four or five people on a Skype call, it starts breaking down and Skype can start giving you trouble. A lot of time there are drop-outs or long delays, but it is the best we have to work with right now and the price is right (we don't make any money from the podcast, so price is always a concern).

For newscasts, we still use Skype, but this time we capture our own mic feeds and record just those, so we always have high-quality audio. The guys then upload their mic-feed MP3s to my home server, and I mix them together using Audacity. Having the separate feeds means I can mix and balance the volumes, and enhance the audio for each of us depending on the needs. Then I add some stereo separation (so Tor sounds like he is on the right, Carl in the middle, Joe on the left, etc.) and downmix to a single stereo track.

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