Do you know Josh McAdams ?? Surely you do, he’s the talented brain behind the Perl Podcasts (http://www.perlcast.com/) and one of a kind, who clearly has a special tactile sense about people communications, behavior and the community itself.
And remember, he’s the one that said :
… Perl is definitely not the next big thing. It already is a big thing.
How do you describe yourself to the Perl world?
I’m someone who was lucky enough to be the first to the Perl podcasting game and who now gets to hang out with a lot of people who are smarter and better coders than I, and tell people about it. Lucky for me, they are all really nice about it and all love to talk about what they are doing.
How do you reach the Perl community? Other Perl facets?
The Perl community, as in the people who attend YAPC and go to Hack-a-Thons, are really easy to reach. They have their normal haunts with The Perl Review, irc.perl.org, perlmonks.org, and use.perl.org.
The other Perl facets? That is the million dollar question that everyone in the Perl community is trying to figure out. We know that the people in the epicenter of Perl are only a small fraction of the real population of Perl users and that there are a lot of great things being done outside of our little circle. We want to bring these people in; have them talking at conferences; have them contributing to CPAN. I feel that Perlcast is one of the avenues that Perl users have to find their way to the community. Just as the Perl community is always looking for ways to reach people outside of the circle, I am in constant search of ways to reach new people and am open to suggestions.
How did you decide to take on Podcasting? Any funny situation?
Unfortunately, I don’t have a funny story here. I started listening to podcasts during my jogs and just couldn’t find enough at the time that was deep tech. There were tons of people repeating the news, but not many shows that really got past the headlines. Podcasting is the perfect medium for that. I liked Perl. Nobody was covering Perl
in-depth. I had a thesis that I was, and still am, procrastinating. What the heck, go for it.
How are the “Podcasts” made? Why? Major improvements in the future?
It’s no secret now that a podcasts are just audio files served over the web. Pretty much the process is: prep for the show, record, edit, post on the web. I’m always trying to get the record and edit parts
better because those are the ones that really effect people. As far as major improvements, I doubt there will be any. Most likely each show will just be a little better and you won’t notice it… that is until one day you go back to listen to a show from a few months before and wonder how you ever got through it.
What do you absolutely hate about Podcasting? Contrarily, what do you really like? What did you learn?
Hate: Post production. Editing the shows is one of the most painful parts of the process. Still, I think that it’s necessary to edit the interviews a little. If you’ve ever been interviewed by me, then you know why… I tend to lose my train of thought in the middle of trying to listen, queue the next question, and manage the audio levels. Likewise, interviewees seem to like not having the pressure of having to get the answers to questions out perfectly the first time. They can always say it again and I can edit out the first try.
Really Like: I like quite a few things about doing the show, but two stand out more than the rest. First of all, I love getting to talk to all of the people who are getting things done with Perl. It’s not that everyone else can’t talk to all of the movers and shakers in the community, I just have a free pass on conversation starters and get a little more leeway before RTFM is thrown at me. The second thing that I like is that the podcast forces me to keep up with the rapid pace of advances in Perl. It’s amazing how much work gets done in the community. I’ve had my fair share of burnouts trying to keep up with all of the cool things that are happening, but it’s very encouraging to see how fast things change.
What Did I Learn: It’s more like what am I learning. Of course, I get to learn new things about Perl every day. I really feel that the podcast has forced me to become a better programmer. Also, I’ve had to take a crash-course in audio recording and editing. This is an area that I am constantly trying to improve on.
What does your editing/Podcasting environment look like? Linux? Unix tools? Mac OS X?
I saw that just about everyone in the Perl community that I knew had a Mac, so I made the switch and am working on a little PowerBook running OS X nowadays. At first it was a little awkward, but I’m in love. As far as the rest of the setup:
- Three MXL Mobile Audio Recording Kits (MARK)
- Altec Lansing Headset
- Inspire 1394
- Behringer Eurorack UB1202FX
- Cubase LE for recording off the Inspire
- Skype (with Call Recorder plugin) for recording remote interviews
- Audacity for editing and recording off the Behringer
If three people reading this interview suddenly said “Hey, I have a couple of spare hours to help out! What can I do?”, what would you suggest?
Tell somebody about the show. That’s the easiest and best thing that anybody can do. Write a blog entry about it. Comment on it in a forum. Dig it. Rate it on iTunes and post a comment. Publicity is the most difficult part of the job and it is also where the community can be the most effective.
Next on the list is feedback. If you listening to the show and want to help, I assume that you must like the show a little. Still, there have to be some things that just drive you crazy about it. Let me know. I can’t make changes for every suggestion because what one person hates another might love, but if I notice a trend in comments, I try to adjust.
If time, money, and resources were no object, would you use your powers for good or awesome? What would you do?
I’d like to think that I’d use my powers for awesome, but, as I get older I find more and more that my awesome can lead to somebody else’s sucky day. So, instead of feeding the starving and giving everyone houses, I guess I’d use my powers to prevent people from intentionally making other peoples lives worse. That alone could turn quite a bit of the world around and hopefully would only make things worse for bad people :)
What’s the most valuable lesson you’ve learned? How painful was it to learn?
In life or in podcasting?
In podcasting, the most valuable lesson that I’ve learned is keep people aware of status. One of my biggest problems is not letting someone know where I am with their interview. Silence makes people think that they have been forgotten, ignored, or that they’ve upset you. Communication is key, even if what you’re communicating isn’t “I’m done”. Letting people know that you are working on something, or even that you’ve tabled something for a month, is better than leaving them hanging.
Obviously this lesson hasn’t been painful enough yet, as I still find myself putting off an email one more day until I finish the job. Of course, that one more day becomes one more week becomes one more month, and then I end up just looking like a loser. I even did an interview with Tom Limoncelli who listed this as one of the primary aspects of managing time and making people feel like you are working for them. The key is to let people know your status. This is important for any task you do for other people, not just podcasting.
In life, the most valuable lesson that I’ve learned is very similar in that it deals with communication. That lesson is, don’t assume that people will be rational… at least not your personal version of rational. Each of us has had different experiences and looks at the world in a different way. If you hear an idea being passed around that you dismiss as crazy, don’t underestimate the power of that idea to influence other people. If it could effect you, don’t ignore it, no matter how crazy it seems.
What other projects are you watching with wise and considered eyes? Why?
I’m really enjoying watching the battle for the best web framework in Perl. Many in the Perl community felt a little ripped-off when Ruby on Rails came on the scene and got so much hype. There was a lot of, “hey we can do that” talk. Now, there is at least a two-way battle, three-way in my opinion, between the heavy-weight frameworks Catalyst, Jifty, and WebGUI. Each framework approaches web development from a different angle and each provides different goodies for developers. In the end, I think we are going to end up with three great frameworks
that should suit just about any developer’s mentality. And, there are always the lighter frameworks like CGI::Application and CGI::Prototype for those that want something completely different.
Then there are the Perl 6 and Parrot efforts. These two projects are independent, but definitely have some overlap. What Perler can’t be interested in seeing where the language is going with Perl 6? And then Parrot, a virtual machine for dynamic languages… how cool is that? I mean, write Ruby code, write Python code, write Perl code and then run them all in harmony on a platform optimized for dynamic languages. Both of these are things that developers, even outside of Perl, need to be looking into.
What’s one question you wish I asked and what is your answer?
I guess that one thing that I would ask is do I regret locking myself into such a niche show as Perlcast? The answer is no, of course. I love the fact that I stumbled upon one of the most active, open, and friendly development communities in the world.
Perl has the fortune and misfortune that it’s been around for a while. It is unfortunate because Perl is definitely not the next big thing. It already is a big thing. The community misses out on a lot of the publicity and hype that surrounds languages that are relatively new to the scene. If I would have called my show Rubycast, I would have
probably had ten times the listeners just based on the name.
Then again, because Perl is a big thing, the community doesn’t have to constantly prove that Perl can get the job done. It is common to hear people in the Perl community talking about developing in PHP, Python, Ruby, or some other language. We know what Perl can do. Seeing other languages with neat tricks and new concepts not only gives us a new tool for our belt, but also might cause us to come up with some new Perl hack.
Even though the show is focused on Perl, I feel that my listeners are open to any interesting topic in the area of dynamic languages. In one of my past shows I interviewed Chris Pine about a book he wrote about teaching people to program using Ruby. I didn’t receive a single complaint about that interview and actually got some great comments and feedback from listeners. The Perl community seems to be interested in advances in the field more than just advances in Perl. It’s good to have that flexibility of topic, even in a seemingly niche show.