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Introducing the ALT.NET Podcast

by Robert Bazinet on May 29, 2008 |

InfoQ learned about a new podcast recently called the ALT.NET Podcast.  This podcast focusing on the community of developers brought together who represent what is ALT.NET.  Folks should remember the ALT.NET term coined by David Laribee.

The new podcast was created by Mike Moore to help spread the word about ALT.NET and the philosophy behind this movement.  InfoQ had the opportunity to discuss the podcast with Mike.   When asked who Mike Moore is:

Well, there isn't much special about me. I'm a developer, husband, father, and overall nice guy.  I run a really small dev shop called HumaneCode. () You can learn more about me on my blog or follow me on Twitter.

The ALT.NET Podcast is not my first podcast. I also run the Rubiverse podcast where I get to chat with notable Rubyists. But I'm very excited by the prospects and potential for the ALT.NET Podcast.

One question usually asked by curious developers is "What is ALT.NET anyway?", Mike sums it up this way:

Defining ALT.NET is somewhat difficult, and the community has spent a lot of energy reaching for a definition. When David Laribee first coined the term ALT.NET a year ago, he said this:

What does it mean to be to be ALT.NET? In short it signifies:

  1. You're the type of developer who uses what works while keeping an eye out for a better way.
  2. You reach outside the mainstream to adopt the best of any community: Open Source, Agile, Java, Ruby, etc.
  3. You're not content with the status quo. Things can always be better expressed, more elegant and simple, more mutable, higher quality, etc.
  4. You know tools are great, but they only take you so far. It's the principles and knowledge that really matter. The best tools are those that embed the knowledge and encourage the principles (e.g. ReSharper.)

When tools, practices, or methods become mainstream it's time to get contrarian; time to look for new ways of doing things; time to shake it up. ... It's up to us to stay aware, educated, and to give our input. It's not a game of wait-evaluate-wait-evaluate, it's a matter of contribution.

And the official ALT.NET site says the following:

We are a self-organizing, ad-hoc community of developers bound by a desire to improve ourselves, challenge assumptions, and help each other pursue excellence in the practice of software development.

I know that can seem like a lot of words and little substance. Some of the ideas espoused in ALT.NET are somewhat foreign to a lot of developers. But to me the essence of ALT.NET is about improving yourself as a developer, the team you work on, and the quality of code you write. The approach ALT.NET advocates to do this can be counterintuitive, depending on your background; hence the "ALT" for "alternative" in ALT.NET. In this way the movement is not that dissimilar to Agile, although it is specific to .NET.

When talking about a new podcast it is natural to wonder how many podcasts have already been produced and what listeners can expect in the future.  Mike has hit the ground running and has some great goals:

We just launched the podcast in May, 2008 so we have only released a few episodes so far, but we have some big plans for future episodes. My goal is to release a new 30 to 45 minute episode every week or two. We definitely want to have a regular release schedule, which is something I haven't been very concerned about with my Rubiverse podcast.

My goal for the podcast is pretty simple; to put forward a strong case for ALT.NET. I believe ALT.NET is a good thing and that folks should enjoy participating in the community, so I hope to capture some of that excitement on the podcast. I hope folks will enjoy listening to the conversations with folks within the ALT.NET community, and hopefully they will be inspired like I am.

Since this is a new podcast, interested listeners often want to hear people they know in the community and look forward to planning for know what they have to say.  The guests have been well-known so far and Mike plans for many others:

The first two episodes have been a discussion between myself, David Laribee, Jeremy D. Miller, and Chad Myers. We hope to have a rotating set of guests on the podcast, sort of like a fishbowl session at an open space conference. Again, we really want to promote conversation and avoid an echo chamber, so we will try to have many different opinions on the podcast.

Up next we have a couple very interesting discussion with Owen Rogers about the adoption of Agile. I expect future episodes will discuss topics such as software development methodologies, practices such as test driven development, tools like StructureMap and Windsor, and languages such as C# and Ruby. If you have suggestions for topics or guests that you would like to hear from let me know. I am easy to get a hold of. (mike@altnetpodcast.com)

InfoQ has a strong following of enterprise developers and Mike indicates this podcast is meant for all types of developers, including the enterprise.  Mike sums up who should be listening to this podcast:

Definitely developers. We really want to use the podcast to help open a dialog with other developers. ALT.NET is really just a loose confederation of developers communicating about how they develop software. It is our attempt to lower the barriers of entry to, and raise the expectations within ALT.NET. It has been easy for some to have a negative view of ALT.NET, and we hope the podcast will help dispel those negative views. And because ALT.NET values collaboration and alternate views, we hope the podcast will also help give a voice to new and innovative ideas.

That said, there is no secret decoder ring keeping managers out, and I'm sure much of what will be discussed on the podcast will be directly applicable and beneficial to managers. The podcast, and ALT.NET in general, is a big tent. All are welcome to learn from others and express their opinions.

The podcast world has grown immensely in the past few years and creating a new podcast which will stand out above the rest is not always an easy task.  Mike's plans for this podcast are clear:

I think a lot of the .NET podcasts out there are overly product focused. My goal is for the ALT.NET Podcast to be more developer focused. So expect a lot of discussions about practices and design and methodology over specific software packages. Instead of discussing SharePoint we will discuss the Single Responsibility Principle. Instead of discussing LINQ-to-SQL we will discuss Continuous Integration. Instead of discussing specific tools, we'll be discussing why we use those tools and how to use them well.

Another way the ALT.NET Podcast will be different than other .NET podcasts is that we won't be afraid to have an episode on a topic not directly related to .NET. For example, I can see having an episode discussing the virtues of distributed source control like Git. Or, we might have an episode on what we can learn about MVC from Ruby on Rails and the Java frameworks. Those topics will likely make us better .NET developers, even if they aren't specifically .NET focused.

Thank you Mike for the great information on this new podcast and giving us your time.

More information about the ALT.NET Podcast, see what shows are available or subscribe to the iTunes feed can be found on the podcast's web site.

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