2007-03-04

Independent vs Vendor Podcasts

After listening to podcasts for a while, I have noticed that independent podcasts tend to be more fun and less irritating than vendor-run ones.

Vendor-run Podcasts: Irritating Aspects

Vendor podcasts are marketing and propaganda machines, with a charter to promote the vendor's products and services. This is the value that investing in podcasting provides to vendors. However, it is also the same thing that makes it less enjoyable and more irritating than the independent ones.

For example, many of the podcasts from IBM developerworks and Microsoft ARCast sound like infomercials. What makes it even more irritating is that they try to pretend that they are not doing infomercials. Particularly annoying is all the prattle about “innovation” in the IBM developerworks podcasts.

The worst example is RedHat's podcast. This particular one disgusted me so much that I gave up listening to their podcasts. In one of the podcasts, the host closed by making a comment to the effect of how happy she was to know that the name RedHat is associated with the forefront of Linux technology and the like. The disgusting part is that the person being interviewed actually said something along the lines of how he was not happy with RedHat and Fedora, and how Ubuntu (it was in its early days then) looked a lot more promising. The poor host was only doing her job, but this shows a very annoying aspect of vendor-run podcasts. [Note: This is not a comment on RedHat, but their podcast policies; they should be more creative, like Microsoft.]

This is not to imply that vendor-run podcasts are devoid of any matter. Microsoft's ARCast covers architectural issues (although, it must be noted that the independent SE-Radio, with much less resources, seems to do the same job, if not better). IBM developerworks podcast has some good iterviews (both Java Posse and SE-Radio, with much less resources has had much better interviews). ARCast's interviews stand out because they bring in a lot of business end project architects to talk about their projects, while all the other vendor and independent podcasts interview technology project members (i.e., Joe's pet store developer vs. improved store application framework developer).


Independent Podcasts: The Fun Stuff

The indpendent podcasts tend to be more balanced. I am not saying that they are absolutely unbiased. In fact, most do not even claim to be unbiased. The important thing to being balanced is that they acknowledge their biases openly (Java Posse and Bruce Eckel) or try somewhat earnestly (SE-Radio team) to minimize them, or both. Vendor run podcasts will not, and cannot, for obvious reasons, acknowledge biases, and they have no incentive to minimize them.

Independent podcasters also do not shy away from looking out of their ranch, or even engage in some self-criticism (self as in themselves or their pet products, tools, ideas). Again, the very charter of vendor-run podcasts prohibits this.

There is also more personality to independent podcasts, something that vendor-run podcasts may not be able to have. For example, D. Wall of Java Posse and Markus of SE-Radio, with their distinctive accents, are memorable characters among their listeners.

The fun podcast, podictionary is an audio word-a-day podcast by a Canadian engineer-turned-linguist. He started this podcast to publicize his etymology book, but you won't hear gratuitous plugs for his book in every episode. I am pretty sure a typical vendor-run podcast would have really irritating self-glorification littered throughout the material.

The independent podcasts I listen to include the following: