It’s quite surprising that I haven’t really brought up the topic of podcasts on my blog considering that I’ve been consuming them for almost 10 years! My methods and taste have changed a lot over the years. I want a place to point people when asked about what podcasts I listen to, and with a little more context than just a pure list.
Software / Tools
A podcast is such a simple concept (from the technical side) that it allows for a lot of tools and applications to be created around the idea. Nowadays I pretty much use a single application on my phone. I’m generally only concerned with the mobile experience since I try to listen to podcasts when I’m on the move and when I’m not focusing on work. Ask me to listen to a podcast while programming and you’ll discover that I won’t be able to recall anything from the podcast (or that I don’t do any programming). The application I use is PocketCasts. The homepage is full of hyperbole and non-truthes (eg: … deliver the updates instantly…), but it’s an alright application and fits my needs for now. Most importantly, it allows me to export my subscribed shows as an OPML file which I’ve made available to you.
Podcasts are a great way to tap into interests of all different types. You’ll notice that only a few are related to my professional life. Listening to podcasts is a wonderful activity and I do get a lot out of them, there becomes a point where you’ve found too much good content and there isn’t enough time to listen to them all.
I begun listening to this show at the beginning of my career break. The host, Russ Roberts, does a great job of letting the guests speak without pushing his views too often. It’s honestly changed how I think about problems in the world and how to best approach them. Economics is becoming a tool that I use to help me understand how things are, and how to possibly alter them. The talks are well balanced and help me see the other side of issues that I normally don’t think of. When a new episode appears I look forward to listening to it regardless of the topic!
- Charles Marohn on Strong Towns, Urban Development, and the Future of American Cities – Conversations around city design always fascinates me. There’s a spectrum of that’s a lot harder to accomplish than most people realize. Living in an overly-designed city can be soul crushing, and a zero designed city can be too stressful.
- Yuval Levin on Burke, Paine, and the Great Debate – The difference between the right and left had been something I hadn’t thought deeply about. This conversation made me realize I’m more right thinking than I thought. It also made me understand that neither are “bad”.
- Martha Nussbaum on Creating Capabilities and GDP – There are other conversations around GDP, but this one really stood out to me. I think Martha does an exceptional job of explaining how GDP is not a sufficient metric and that we still have a long way to go to get people to the top of Maslow’s Hierarchy.
Sometimes hit or miss. Strives to be entertaining more than educational sometimes, but overall the content is quite good. I identify a bit with Steve Levitt as he’s more of an intrespective quiet person.
- Regulate This! – As a user of services like Uber and Airbnb, it’s interesting to hear the issues that these services raise. I find myself leaning towards the side of less regulation, but I still can’t figure out where the balance is. The term “sharing economy” also drives me nuts, because sharing implies no charge to me. These are just peer-to-peer market places enabled by technology.
- Fitness Apartheid – An excellent example of how too little thought around a problem can lead to bad consequences. It brings the concerns of both sides together and makes the listener understand that nothing is ever as simple as you think it ought to be.
- The Upside of Quitting – Very fitting for my career break.
- Failure is your Friend – A follow up to the previous episode.
Short and to the point episodes that focus on very specific topics or issues. I like this show because the pieces are bite-sized and frequently released. I find myself listening to this show when I have to wait 15 minutes before something.
- Why Raising Money for Ebola is Hard – Excellent insights around why we give, and the pychology of charity.
- A Mall Divided – A peak into how economic policy can distrupt small businesses.
- Blockbusters, Bombs, and the Price of a Ticket – I had never put much thought into the cost of a movie ticket, this episode explains all the details of why tickets cost the same regardless if it’s sold-out or empty.
A new one that I just got into. It’s a bit more candid than EconTalk and more accessible. The guests are of the same caliber and sometimes the Q&A at the end can add interesting tidbits that may not neccessarily come up during an interview.
- Jeffrey Sachs – I’ve only listened to a few and they are all excellent but this one stands out because I found Jeffrey Sachs inspires me a little bit. Instead of shrugging his shoulders and pointing out how all the terrible things in the world can be explained by value functions and rational behaviour, he uses that knowledge to learn how to tweak these systems. He’s an interesting balance of idealist and a realist and I find that refreshing compared to other economic speakers I’ve listened to.
This show takes a deeper look around statistics. It does the deeper critical view so you don’t have to. Listening to this makes me trust reports even less. Spin is such a problem and how information is presented requires a lot of effort to reveal a non-biased presentation.
- When £10,000 Isn’t a Good Incentive – As a snooker fan I thought this was an interesting story of a straightforward incentive behaviour.
- Fact Checking The Big Short – I really enjoyed the movie The Big Short and the timing of this episode was really good as I had just watched it.
Provides a focus on what makes a business successful. It’s a domain that I don’t really have a clue. I find myself wanting to be closer to the business in the work I do day to day so this has been good at introducing me to what executives think about.
- Data Privacy – As someone on the sidelines watching the privacy debates from a technologist, it’s important to learn how these topics are perceived from a business owner level.
- Life After a Blockbuster – The story about Angry Birds was fascinating. It reveals how often the success we put on a pedestal comes from consistent tenanicity.
Currently just trying this one out. Don’t really have much to say about it at this point. It’s more conversational than some of the other business/economic podcasts.
Yet another podcast that talks about world events and how they affect the economy. Each episode covers 2-4 topics. This is starting become one of my required listening podcasts to stay informed about current events. The hosts discuss the economics in a way that’s targetted for people who don’t know all the lingo.
- The Worse than Marxism Edition – As someone interested (and doing) passive investing, I wanted to hear what they had to say about it.
- The Product Edition – Anything with Paul Ford is great to listen to. He has a nice down-to-earth style of describing what Product Development is all about.
- The I’d Like to Add You to my Professional Network Edition – Another Paul Ford episode and it was interesting to hear the conversation about the reasoning as to why such a massive purchase could happen.
I learned about Linette Lopez from the Slate Money podcast and really liked her style. She’s punchy and tells it like it is. Hard Pass is a good low-dose entertaining podcast about the business and econmics news of the day. The episodes are so short that it’s easy to digest any time.
Politics and World News
For once it’s nice to listen to something that isn’t about US politics. I started listening to economic podcasts to understand more of the world around me. Now it’s pointing me in the direction of politics. This show is interesting to hear about how ideas and policies gets introduced to society. They tackle some difficult issues as well which makes it a bit heavier than some of the other lighter podcasts I have listed here.
- The End of Free – I’ve been incorporating ad blocking daily for over a decade. It was fascinating to hear how it’s hit a point where this practice is getting attention. Brands just want to engage with you! Why are we being so mean to them!
- Free Speech – This is the first for a 4 part series. It asks the questions around the trade offs of free speech. I find myself conflicted and tripping over my own thoughts on what should be allowed. Learning the types of nullifiers to free speech I found interesting too.
Another good source for global news how it influences the world markets. Can’t really say I have any favourites, but I do like how it’s not just US news.
Culture and Curiosities
Now one of my favourites. You never know what to expect with this show because the enigmatic host, Roman Mars, always finds something interesting that you likely have no idea about. Roman started a group called Radiotopia which is a collective of like minded artists to create exceptional podcasts.
Favourites (all of them):
- Thomassons – I dare you to listen to this episode and not look for Thomassons wherever you go!
- The Straight Line is a Godless Line – Given that I was in Vienna and saw the Hundertwasserhaus, it was very interesting to hear more about the architect. I love the fact that people like him exist, though I may not want to completely follow his lead.
- Clean Trains – There are so many applications to the lesson of this episode. Frequent and consistent feedback is necessary to promote any change.
One of the pioneers in story-telling podcasts. I’ve been away from it for a while and have re-subscribed as I’ve been missing the excellent stories.
- Emergence – This episode is from 2007 and it still comes up as one of the more influencial podcast episodes I’ve listened to. I’m a control freak and find the concept of emergence hard to understand. A top-down controller is easier for me to understand. This episode reminds me to rethink how things ought to be and be more flexible.
A member of the Radiotopia collective. Just started getting into this podcast recently. I’m already becoming a huge fan!
- Paying For It – This is part of a series called “Dislike Club” which is focusing on the Internet. This episode calls to attention the problems happening with todays monetization of the web through advertising. It sums up so many of the thoughts I’ve had about technology recently.
An exceptional podcast hosted by two charismatic people. Normally I find tangents in podcasts to be distracting, but for some reason these two often make it worthwhile. They cover a myriad of topics and they make the most mundane seem fascinating. There are many excellent episodes but the following ones really stood out for me.
- The two part series (episode 1 episode 2) is a wonderful explanation of the origins of fairy tales and how dark the originally were. The Juniper Tree one is quite horrifying.
- Another two part series one male puberty and female puberty discusses the awkward phase of life that we all had with great clarity.
A topic that I’ve been loving lately is learning how our brains work. Not at the micro level, but at the macro level. What makes us make all the silly decisions that we make. How do we subtly use this knowledge to manipulate people for good and bad. Whenever you find yourself asking the question “why would anyone behave this way?”, listen to this show and it’ll shed some light on us crazy humans.
- Grit – I found myself nodding at many of the points in this episode. It highlights how expertise requires spending a large portion of your time performing deliberate practice. It also looks at why people love people that show mastery in something but disregard the massive dedication these people spent on becoming a master.
- AirBnB While Black – As a western white male, the easiness of my life is often not very obvious, that is until you hear the stories of others. I have a feeling that the Internet is exposing our unconscious biases more frequently while at the same time providing people with techniques to overcome these hurdles.
Over time I have really started enjoying the topic of human behaviour and what makes us who we are.
An excellent history of the world in small bite sized chunks. The format gives you a really good perspective of how long civilization takes to change. I can only imagine how much time it took to determine which objects to use from the last century. While listening to this I realized how much bias I have around change being technical.
It’s likely that I’m a bit biased, but this is where I discover new music. I worked there from 2005-2009 during the rise of the podcast. I can attest to the quality of the curation of the content coming from the folks at Radio 3. The superfeed subscribes you to all the different podcasts published by Radio 3, though I don’t think there are as many shows as there used to be.
This show satifies my curiosity about how a song gets made. It also makes me appreciate songs that I wouldn’t have given a second listen. By listening to this show, you can disover new artists, and you’ll learn how to listen to music and grow appreciation for the more subtle elements of song composition.
A podcast I tend to listen to when I going to sleep. I don’t quite keep up with music as much as I should, but I find listening to this keeps me somewhat informed of what’s going on.
Tech / Programming
As you can see, I don’t really listen to any tech/programming podcasts anymore.
I could list to Helen Zaltzman speak all day. Her style and sense of humour is wonderful and I find that I learn a lot about the origins of the words in my native language.
- Please – Listen to this episode and think again if someone from another culture is being rude. Also, think about how other cultures may have perceived you as being rude by trying to be overly polite!
- WLTM – The language surrounding dating from three hundred years ago.
Each episode starts with a clue as to what the topic is going to be, and the hosts try to figure it out. They often have great dialogues about the words and are well researched in trying to pinpoint the origin of term. They have a good sense of humour too.
- Language Positivity Bias – This episode made me laugh out loud while grocery shopping. They dive into the lyrics of Slayer and it’s really a priceless moment.
- A Cat, a Coward, and Female Genitalia – Where did the word pussy come from?
There are a lot of podcasts here and I’m constantly re-evaluating which ones should remain. Finding the balance of time and value is hard to figure out. Currently I’m unemployed making it a lot easier to consume this much content. I also listen to tech specific podcasts when I’m spending some time in that technology. A good example of that would be the ruby rogues podcast. Or, I may take a look at HanselMinutes to see if something interesting has come up.
To subscribe to all the same podcasts that I do, import this OPML file into your favourite podcast listening software.
After a while I find myself changing my podcast listening tastes. Rather than delete them from this post, I’ll list them here and provide some context as to why I don’t listen to them anymore.
Getting into the startup world is not something I’m terribly interested in, but I am critical about the tech community, especially startups. This show helps me better understand the world of startups so I can better understand the mechanics of startups. Over time this podcast has become to irritate me. The Valley speak gets to you after a while (count how many questions are answered with an excited “Absolutely!”). I stopped listen to this because I realized that I simply did not care about the startup world. Listening to this podcast started to depress me.
- Everything You Need to Know About Amazon – Explanation of how Amazon re-invests all of its profits to avoid opportunity costs is a novel concept. Not sure why investors are ok with it. Makes me more curious about what Amazon will be doing 20-30 years from now.
- Creating New Silicon Valleys – When something becomes trendy, people always want to figure out how to replicate it. This episode explains how cultures are emergent, not created. Common sense it would seem, but that doesn’t seem to really stop people. I feel the same around the topic of DevOps.
A podcast about a podcast startup. It mixes so many of my favourite things into one show. Fantastic storytelling about a medium I’m passionate about and a domain that I want to learn more of. What connects me to the show is that Alex Blumberg just wants to work on something he’s passionate about, but has to wade through all sorts of concerns completely separate from what he really wants to do, because that’s business. Though this podcast didn’t depress me like the a16z podcast did, I found the material getting pretty old. It was starting to repeat many of the lessons from the StackOverflow Podcast (from 2008). Also, more North American podcast content isn’t something I really want more of.
- Startups are Risky Business – This gave me insight around the different VC models. I used to think that they are all looking for the 100x payoff. I need to learn more about the more modest investments out there. Sometimes you can invest in something simply because you want it to exist.
Not quite a technical podcast, but it shares stories from the software development world. I became a fan of Ben Orenstein when I saw him do a play-by-play screencast. He strikes me as someone I would enjoy working with. I’m weaning myself off of tech podcasts so this had to be removed.
Co-started by an old on-line friend of mine, Youssuf Elkalay. I like the conversational style of this show as a way to keep me in the loop in the world of DevOps. Removed because I’m trying to stay away from technical podcasts.
This one is fairly new and I’ve already become a fan. Chris Hunt delivers his show in a charming style. He discusses being healthy, and what’s interesting in the software world. All to the tune of a catchy theme song. Now I just need to get into the habit of doing the workout of the week. Removed for now because of its technical base.
- Pineapple in Your Pocket – I try and use this memorization technique as frequently as possible!
- Codecation – The story of Chris and Ben meeting up for a codecation was inspiring. I would like to do something similar at some point.
Episodes are themed around TED talks of similar topics. It blends interviews with the speakers along with their talks. I find this more rich than the talk on its own.
- The Violence Within Us – Sort of a scary episode, but it helps me understand that life is always in a delicate balance. We’ll never live in a world where everyone is good. I tend to be utopian in my thinking and this provides a good dose of reality.
- What is Original – The thought of being unique and interesting is something everyone craves, but in the end most of things are derivitive. This episode is good to pair with the 99% Invisible episode: Duplitecture.
- Identities – The next few generations of humans are going to have a much different concept about their identity. We are more global and cross-cultural than ever before.
Getting into the spiritual side a bit. This show talks about culture and religion with an open mind. The show reminds me to appreciate the differences between all of us on this rock. I used to listen to this show all the time when I lived in Canada. I just recently subscribed to the podcast.
- Being Alone – The 2nd portion with Nikki Giovanni is so delightful. It’s a candid conversation that has so many quotable verses. I was walking the streets of Bangalore while listening to it and I had a huge smile on my face the whole time.
The health care system is usually a bit of a black box and this show provides some visibility into how things work. Like tapestry, this was a show I used to listen to all the time when I lived in Canada. Recently subscribed to feel that connection back to where I came from.
- Slow Code – A conversation about health care professionals minimaly applying “Code Blue” protocols when they know the patient won’t survive or will survive at a considerable cost. This episode made me remember that my job is pretty much pointless and to think about the people that do real honest work out there.
A Canadian look into the technical world. Always nice to hear a Canadian perspective of what’s going on. Hopefully because it’s created by the CBC, there isn’t any product/partner agenda.
A show that does a good job of covering both sides around global trends or analysing specific environments. I find this show a bit deeper than something like Freakanomics or Planet Money.
- Tax Transparency – Norway’s Model – Personally, I’ve become fascinated with transparent systems. I like the idea of everyone knowing what each other makes because it provides the knowledge required to make better decisions. This episode provides a look into why this was imposed in Norway’s past and some of the complexities that have resulted in a more modern era.
A show about curious events. They did a neat thing where they perform a lateral thinking puzzle with each episode. It reminds me that sometimes truth is stranger than fiction and to always be curious about what is laid out in front of you. I’ve only listened to a few episodes so I don’t have any favourites to list at the moment in time.
Most of the time I dislike drawn out conversational style podcasts but this one I enjoy listening to while doing tasks (and I don’t mind not absorbing the contents of the episode). The hosts are: CGP Grey, who entertains me with his affinity for comfort and observing the world from a far. Often I find myself aligned with his views and enjoy his Youtube Channel immensely. The other host is Brady Haran who is energetic and curious. I enjoy is enthusiasm around travel. I would love to have beer with these two which I know Grey would despise the idea and Brady would love it. Their contrasting personalities and mutual respect for each other is why I’ll stick with this podcast even though the episodes are too long by my listening standards.