Tech-news podcasts

At a recent gathering of friends, the subject of podcasts came up. I promised to write something about the podcasts I listen to, particularly the ones covering news and information about technology.
If I’m going to talk about tech-news podcasts, I probably should start with the best-known one: This Week in Tech. TWiT is Leo Laporte‘s attempt to revive his former TechTV show The Screen Savers in podcast form, and he did a pretty good job of it. The best thing about TSS was always the rapid-fire discussion of tech topics by the ubergeek cast of the show, and that’s what TWit consists of.
Unfortunately, the show has been getting out of control lately. It was originally recorded in a pseudo-studio format, with the various commentators talking to each other via Skype or some other VoIP connection. This format made it comparatively easy for Leo to edit the show to keep it tight and focused. But recently, TWiT has shifted to a recorded-live-with-an-audience format. The number of people participating also has increased, and the result is too chaotic for me. The participants get excited and all try to talk at the same time, or interrupt each other constantly, and the discussion is frequently sidetracked by irrelevant digressions or inane blather. And Leo doesn’t seem to be trying to edit the show at all anymore. As a result, TWiT has been losing its appeal for me. I still listen to it, but it’s not at the top of my list anymore. When the show was new, I would have given it a grade of A, but nowadays it only rates a C.
So what other tech-news podcasts do I like? Well, first of all, I highly recommend a TWiT spinoff called Security Now! This show came into existence because TWiT‘s new format requires all the participants to meet physically in San Francisco. Steve Gibson had been participating via Skype, but he can’t attend in person. So Leo created a separate podcast that consists of just him and Steve discussing computer security. SN gets everything right that TWiT is doing wrong. It involves just two people (one of whom is a technical expert who does most of the talking), so the discussion is orderly and focused. There’s no live audience to introduce ambient noise that might make editing difficult. The show has a clearly defined topic, so Steve and Leo aren’t tempted to digress or waste time on trivial banter. And the show is short: typically, 20 to 30 minutes devoted to one security issue. Security Now! gets an A+ grade from me.
For broader coverage of tech news, I’ve become quite fond of the Power User Podcast (PUP for short). This show uses a round-table format, so it’s theoretically like TWiT — but only three or four people are involved, so the discussion stays on track most of the time. Host Kristin Hatcher is smooth and professional, and does a good job of keeping the other participants in line (although Brad Wardell seems to slip into standup-comedy mode occasionally). And the shows tend to be a bit shorter than TWiT: about 30 to 45 minutes, which strikes me as just about right. PUP is informative, entertaining, and doesn’t overstay its welcome. I give it a B.
My exploration of podcasts began with technology-oriented ones like these, but since then it has expanded into other subject areas. I’ll write about those in another post.

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