A Newsletter for Podcasts Listeners

“Write about what you know” the saying goes.

I know something about podcasts. I regularly listen to over 70. When discussing favorite shows at cocktail parties, I tend to find myself accidentally holdingcourt. I love the medium. Not only listening to shows: I’be even invested significant (for me) coin in contributing.

So, I’d like to write about podcasts.

I’ve toyed for a while now with the idea of publishing a newsletter about podcasts.

There are already several excellent resources like this for the professional side (Hot Pod, for example), but I’ve yet to come across anything for fellow connoisseurs, to help spread the word about new things to listen to.

The problem this would solve for me if someone else were writing it is that I’ve pretty much exhausted my friends’ recommendations for great new shows to try.

In a perfect world I could grow readership beyond just friends, as people appreciate my insight and advice and share the newsletter with their friends. Maybe I could even end up compensated for it somehow, to offset all the time this hobby consumes.

But I’m getting ahead of myself.

Baby steps: I’ll begin devoting posts on this blog to sharing about shows and specific episodes I recommend, and things I’ve learned from them. I’m already devoting time to writing (backed by a Beeminder commitment) and I’m done with the Replacing Guilt series, which frees me up for this, so this is a hittable goal.

What will I write about? For starters, these three ideas should keep me interested for a while:

  • Current/recent episodes reviews, especially to showcase episodes that strike me as particularly worthwhile
  • Best-of listicles — best of genres I care about, or best episodes within a series, etc.
  • Critical reviews of shows

What do you think? Would you be interested in subscribing? Have you come across something like this that I haven’t? What would make you interested to read this series?

This post is part of the thread: Podcast Reviews – an ongoing story on this site. View the thread timeline for more context on this post.

I’m Writing a WordPress Book

I am writing a book about WordPress development. I hope it will inform beginner, intermediate, and advanced developers to all take more joy in their craft.

WordPress Patterns

Here’s the concept: It will be a book of patterns for WordPress development, with how-tos and essays organized in a non-linear, linked, self-reinforcing system — a coherent pattern language.

The book will describe masterful practices on a spectrum from philosophy, to information architecture, down to sound coding approaches for specific technical problems. It will guide developers to anchor their work in “the WordPress way”, identify the right tools for a given job, build in forward-thinking ways, and connect their work to related situations and patterns.

Something Different

To my knowledge, this is unique in the WordPress world. Code references serve a different purpose entirely: They’re more like a dictionary, useful to expand fluency but not a way to learn the language. One-off tutorials found through searches are how most of us learn the basics, but they are often of low quality and aren’t often helpful or available for advanced skills.

The brilliant Plugin Handbook comes closest to what I have in mind: it provides a comprehensive jumping-off point for how-to information, presented with context. In fact, I expect my book to often point back to the Plugin Handbook. But the pattern language format is distinct from the handbook format, and lends itself to different reading behaviors and learning styles.

The difference is all about how you approach the material as a reader. Handbooks are great for “get me up-and-running quickly”. Collections of pattern are  good for “given my need, give me a solid approach”, and for “given my problem, help me to understand the tradeoffs, the history, and and the why of the recommended solution.” Handbooks equip you with breadth; pattern languages go deeper, which is why they are potentially of use even to people with intermediate and advanced skill.

For Most Everyone

I think this concept could be useful for developers with intermediate and perhaps even advanced skill, as well as for beginners.

I wish I’d had patterns available to read when I started 3 years ago. I wish I had them to guide me still today, so I’m cautiously optimistic that others will find it useful, too.

To be sure that it is, I will ask a handful of other developers to review early drafts of my first few chapters. Their input will help me to course-correct and, I hope, confirm the value.

Open Source, Baby

In the spirit of open source, I am committed to making the book’s content freely available to everyone on the web. As I write, I will publish drafts (when I’m no longer embarrassed by them), and incorporate feedback while I edit. Eventually, when there is a coherent body of work, I expect to publish commercial e-books. Perhaps they’ll be GPL licensed (if that’s appropriate for the medium — I’ve yet to look into this at all).

I am writing at a slow pace, mostly due to spending a lot of time just researching and editing as I learn more. I have identified over a hundred potential chapters and expect that to double or triple. After four months I have a couple dozen chapters outlined and about half a dozen solid drafts — none of which are quite ready for review yet. I expect to accelerate a bit, but it will still be a good long while before anything is considered final.

All the more reason to publish drafts in the open: This way, I won’t have to wait for people to get some value out of the work.

Feedback is Love

Researching open source licenses for book content is on my todo list. I’d appreciate any pointers.

More generally, I would love to hear your reaction to this. Does the pattern language approach make sense as I’ve described it? Given your skills, do  you imagine this would be useful for you? Are there specific topics or patterns you hope this will cover? Are you interested in reviewing early chapters? Perhaps interested in contributing?