My Favorite New Podcasts in 2020

I have a lot to be thankful for this year, including my new job and my new book, as well as meeting many new friends and excellent opportunities this year. But for today’s post I wanted something light, so I figured I would just shout out the new podcasts I’ve discovered this year.

Technical Podcasts

The Stack Overflow Podcast has a LONG and weird history. It’s been around since 2008 when Jeff and Joel were still around, then it died, then Jay Hanlon took over, and then it died, and this year it was revived by Ben Popper, Sara Chipps and Paul Ford, all of whom are hilarious, intelligent voices. I would classify this as “lightly” technical - it touches on topics and has good guests, but given the typical short length of podcast they don’t really have the room to go too deep.

Software Sessions only started in Sept 2019, and I frankly only discovered it when I was invited as a guest. But the thoughtfulness and depths of Jeremy’s questions blew me away, and this was much better explained once I learned that Jeremy has hosted SE Radio for a while. This is a promising spinoff, much like my other favorite, SE Daily. Check out the episode list for the insane quality of guests he’s had on.

The next trio of podcasts reflect my growing interest in cloud tech (as distinct from my existing diet of JS/Frontend podcasts):

My final pick here was kind of borderline but is so unique I had to mention it - The Microsoft Research Podcast. As opposed to the more superficial Behind the Tech podcast with Kevin Scott (Microsoft’s CTO), this one is with the actual researchers at MSR, one of the dying breed of corporate research labs in the world. It is a borderline pick because the podcast hasn’t been active for a while, but the backlog is cool to dig through for a survey of what the deepest thinkers are working on.

Non-Technical Podcasts

In the Entrepreneurial Mastermind category (usually weekly checkins from two founder-friends) I’ve picked up two new podcasts:

  • Talk Therapy is Dan Shipper and Nathan Baschez building a Substack bundle business in public. I wanted to dislike them for how unfairly privileged they and their customers are (probably more out of envy and spite), but they have proven themselves through thoughtful conversation and objective business success.
  • Software Social is Michelle Hansen and Colleen Schnettler talking through their experiences building their own SaaS. I only discovered this through a podcast drop from the Indie Hackers podcast, so for that I am grateful. It’s rare to have a podcast with two extremely technical women building in public. Their rapport is great - listen for the War of 1812 story in Who’s the Villain

I became a writer this year with my new book, and Kent C Dodds turned me onto Writing Excuses, which is Brandon Sanderson and crew talking about various aspects of professional fiction writing for 15 years. Every episode is remarkably rich thanks to the vast experience of the panel and their guests. I particularly enjoyed their recent Audiobook Narration episode.

My research on the Operating System of You made me start taking Cal Newport’s writing on Deep Work a lot more seriously. I envisioned him a grumpy old Luddite yelling at newfangled social media. Instead he’s a Computer Science professor roughly my age! Deep Questions is his podcast basically doing Q&A from the absolutely massive audience his ideas have gained.

I shamefully admit I play it in the background while I work, which kind of goes against the whole Deep Work ethos. I’m working on it!

In the Fun category, I’ve added both the Conan O’Brien podcast and the Scrubs rewatch podcast to my regular rotation. I’ve fallen into the YouTube Consensus that Conan is one of the best late night talkshow hosts alive, equal parts silly and meaningful, but really I listen for Sona Movsesian, his (un)trusty assistant who doesn’t put up with any of his crap. As for Scrubs, it was one of my favorite shows growing up, and having the two main stars of the show relive their moments with participation of the guest stars, writers, and showrunner is just wonderful. Donald Faison in particular doesn’t get nearly enough credit for how talented he is.

My Existing List

These are just the podcasts I discovered this year - in other words, they aren’t necessarily STARTED in 2020, I’m just highlighting ones I personally discovered.

You can find my existing favorite podcasts list here.

One very imperfect measure of podcast love is how much actual playtime I give it. Here are my top 20:

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Shameless plug: My Podcasts!

Of course what would an online creator be in 2020 without a podcast of their own?

Your Turn

Your turn: What’s a great podcast you discovered this year?

Tagged in: #reflections

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