Hello my wonderful people!
How are you doing today? I hope that you are as excited as I am!
Have you ever heard about Talk Python To Me? It's an amazing podcast about one of the most popular programming language and so much more! So sit tight and prepare yourself to read the most amazing interview we had in a long time. Take a dive into Python and learn how Michael Kennedy the creator of podcast started his career, read about his new project and why he choose Python!
[Hakin9]: Hello, Michael, how are you? Can you tell our readers something about yourself?
[Michael Kennedy]: Hi, thanks for having me.
I'm a highly passionate software developer and entrepreneur from Portland, OR. For the past 10 years, I've been teaching other developers the ins-and-outs of several software stacks. For the past three years or so, I've been all in on Python. I really enjoy the programming language, ecosystem, and especially the community. Python developers love Python and are a very open and welcoming group. That makes for a great place to hang out professionally.
[H9]: You are the creator of the Talk Python to Me podcast, can you tell us something about this project?
[MK]: Talk Python To Me is a podcast I launched in April 2015. Right now we are just about to pass the one year mark. It's been an incredibly rewarding endeavor. When I launched it, I was happy with the first few episodes but there were two things I was really nervous about as I pushed 'publish' the first time. One, that nobody would care. I would do all this work and nobody would subscribe. Second, that people would be highly critical and more than happy to let me know how I was ignorant about this or that. Neither of these happened. I received an outpouring of support and encouragement. It was really gratifying and gave me the dedication needed to keep releasing an episode every week since then. Today, I've recorded over 50 episodes. I've interviewed some amazing guests (more on that later). The episodes have been downloaded over 1,000,000 times. Readers can listen to all the episodes at https://talkpython.fm.
A month ago or so, I decided to make a career change and focus entirely on this project. I left my full time position to make sure I have the time and energy needed to continue to grow the podcast. Next, I launched an online training company called Talk Python Training (https://training.talkpython.fm/ ) to focus on providing technical training resources for developers like my listeners. That's been going really well so far, too. One thing your readers might be interested in is how I did that. When you think about starting a business there's the usual considerations: Will people want it? Is there a market? Can I attract enough people who will pay for it? Of course, I had the same concerns and challenges here. But rather than spend months creating the company, writing and recording courses, and then hoping people like it, I launched it via a Kickstarter campaign (http://wp.me/p2eT73-tT). The response was awesome. The Kickstarter was funded in 12 hours and currently is at 900% and growing. It let me discover that I was really on to something and it only took a few days to verify that. That's worked really well for me and the potential students who get a discount for backing the project early. I encourage readers to consider it for what they're dreaming about.
You can see more about the Kickstarter at https://www.kickstarter.com/projects/mikeckennedy/python-jumpstart-by-building-10-apps-video-course
[H9]: Tell us more about your Kickstarter campaign? What is the project about?
[MK]: There is what the project is about for the students who find it via Kickstarter and other organic means, what it is for my podcast listeners, and what it is for me and my goal to launch this online training company. The project itself is about creating an uncommon type of training course for Python developers. It’s focused on people who are pretty new to Python and programming. The lessons or chapters try to teach programming the way real programmers learn (by building apps) but without skimping on the comprehensive nature of covering the language details. The course is called Python Jumpstart by Building 10 Apps. That’s what the Kickstarter rewards are promising, for the most part, and what the students get. But to many of the podcast listeners, they are using this as a chance to say thanks for the podcast in addition to taking a course. I’ve gotten many messages from backers saying things like:
“I’m so happy you started the podcast. I enjoy my day to day programming much more since I started listening. So I decided to back your course.”
They may not really need the course, but it’s a tangible way to pay it forward for them. I really appreciate these guys and girls. For me personally, I saw the Kickstarter from the beginning as a way to launch something much bigger than just one course. I laid out the plan in my blog post and on the podcast but basically, I’ve dedicated myself to spending the next two years building approximately 20 Python related courses on topics from Web Development, Entrepreneurship (Launch your business with Python), Data Science, NoSQL, and more. This first course in the Kickstarter is really the foundational one for all the courses that follow. The beginning seemed like a good place to start in terms of course authoring. I’d say on all three levels, it’s a success. I should deliver the course no later than 2 weeks after the Kickstarter closes (when it funds at 900% it inspires you to start early!). Then I’m thinking, why not another Kickstarter for the next course? The students benefit because they get early access and 50% off the list price. I benefit because it lets me collect feedback right away rather than when it’s fully recorded and super hard to change. If this resonates with you, I encourage you to check out the documentary on Kickstarter (which itself was funded on Kickstarter of course) called Capital C: http://www.capitalc-movie.com/
[H9]: Why did you decide to start this project? And most importantly, why Python?
[MK]: I had wanted to started a podcast for years, but the areas I felt qualified in were really crowded. If I was going to create a podcast and attract listeners, I felt I needed to have a thing that is special about my show. As I got into Python more and more, I went in search of several podcasts I could listen to and help broaden my knowledge. To my disbelief, there were literally zero active podcasts for the Python community at large. There were some more narrowly focused ones, such as Django (a web framework in Python), but nothing for Python in general. There had been approximately six general Python podcasts, but none of them had released an episode for over a year. To be honest, I was dumbfounded. Python developers are such a large and diverse group, how could they not have a podcast? Could I just not find it? If you look at the TIOBE index, which tracks programming language usage ( http://www.tiobe.com/tiobe_index ), Python had been #8 on the list in 2015 and jumped to #5 in 2016. That's more popular than PHP or Ruby. Yet, there were literally no podcasts for this group. I remember one Friday afternoon in March 2015, I just decided "Right, I'm doing it". That evening when my kids and wife went to bed, I grabbed my laptop and just started working on it. Over that weekend, I fleshed out the idea, list of show topics, built a custom-designed website with all the CMS / RSS requirements I would need to be successful, bought the domain name, setup hosting, everything. Then, I started scheduling guests and crossed my fingers. It was really a great example of the concept that inspiration is both a superpower and yet perishable. I love this quote from Jason Fried (cofounder of 37Signals):
Inspiration is like picking up one of those blinky things in a video game that makes you invincible for awhile. You can do anything, go anywhere, and you don’t have to worry about it. - Jason Fried ( https://signalvnoise.com/posts/72-inspiration-is-magical )
That was me on that weekend in March 2015.
[H9]: How long did that last? And what happened next?
[MK]: That really was something like three days (Friday, Saturday, and Sunday). I went from idea to what you see at https://talkpython.fm in a mad flurry of creation. I have polished the website and whatnot continuously, but it’s surprisingly similar to the original. What I didn’t have were guests or recordings. I did one “intro to the show, episode 0” recording but that was only three minutes or so. I started inviting guests and doing recordings. I wasn’t great at the beginning but every time I get a little better. I think it was about 10 days until I released my first episode. That was a nervous day, but the response has been great.
[H9]: Do you find it hard sometimes to talk about strictly technical stuff and keep it from disrupting the flow of the podcast?
[MK]: Not really. I think it's important to humanize technology, to tell the story of technology. When I interview people, I try to weave the technical bits into the story as well as draw out specific stories around the technical decisions. If you just present something as polished and sterile facts such as:
"Here's the api, first you call x, then y, then you get z"
That's pretty dull and over an audio format it's deadly (to attention). On the other hand, if you can humanize code, it can be great. The same info could be discussed something like:
"First you call x, then y. We tried this other way but during the cyber monday crunch we found it didn't scale. The website crashed. We lost $2 mill in revenue and had to stay up for 36 hours rewriting it. So now we call y, and it works great. I'll never make that mistake again."
That's worth listening to and sharing with your friends.
[H9]: Can you tell us something about your guests? How do you choose them?
[MK]: The guests have been amazing. I've really enjoyed speaking to each and every one of them and I've learned a ton from those conversations. There are a few guests who I invited to the show because they are making a dent in the (Python) universe. But I'm always on the lookout for a good story. I think that is way more important than name recognition. If you can get both, even better. But story trumps popularity in my book.
[H9]: Can you tell us about the most interesting conversation you had?
[MK]: It's really hard to pick just one. Let me give you three, they are each special for their own reason.
Justin Seitz and I spoke about Python Cybersecurity and Penetration Testing. I think this conversation is really relevant to your readers and it gave me a chance to peer into a world that is very different than most software developers get to see. Justin and I had a lot of fun and I learned a bunch from it. Although I'm a little concerned about connecting to the Internet after this chat!
I spoke with Kyle Cranmer from the Large Hadron Collider at CERN about how they are using Python and its role in discovering the Higgs Boson (a discovery which won the PIs on there the Nobel Prize). The chance to geek out with someone like Kyle was really an honor and I thoroughly enjoyed it.
Leah Culver and I discussed Investing and building startups with Python. She has founded at least three companies and had amazing stories to share with the listeners.
[H9]: Do you have a favorite episode? The one that you are particularly proud of?
[MK]: Every time I think I do have a favorite, I'm surprised by another one. However, the three listed above are definitely candidates.
[H9]: Any unusual or embarrassing experience you had during the podcast?
[MK]: Surprisingly, not really. I've definitely asked some stupid questions or missed a chance to follow a really interesting thread because I'm thinking too much about where the conversation might go rather than just listening. I'd say the stuff that is embarrassing really is more low-grade fumbling over words and such. But I edit that stuff out.
[H9]: You’ve committed one of your episodes entirely to Python in penetration testing. Is security a topic that comes up more often?
[MK]: It has come up a few times. I'm glad I did the show. It wasn't my idea but rather was suggested (on twitter) by a few listeners. I think it opened a lot of people's eyes to the reality of it. One of the more memorable pieces of user feedback was this tweet:
[H9]: What about the audience? Does their feedback influence your podcast?
[MK]: The audience is hugely important. First of all, the effort to produce the show is non-trivial. I'd say it's about 5-7 hours per episode of work. Usually I'm excited to do it. But some weeks, I'm busy, tired, have deadlines, etc. Knowing listeners really appreciate the show helps me power through the lulls (not that there are many). I would say about half the topics and guests on the show are direct listener recommendations, including two of the three "favorites" I listed above.
[H9]: Were you surprised about some aspects of the community that formed around the podcast?
[MK]: Oh yes. I still am surprised weekly. My background has been in Mathematics and pure computer programming fields. Python is used in all kinds of areas to help people do other jobs. Everytime I do a show with someone from that other area, I gain listeners that I would otherwise be uninteresting to. After the LHC / CERN episode, I had a ton of professions, astrophysicists, and biologists subscribe and still listen today. After the data science shows #31 (scikit-learn) and #40 (top 10 data science stories of 2015), many data scientists started tuning in. And, of course, after Justin Seitz’s episode a bunch of folks from the computer security space started listening. The exposure to all these groups has been really awesome for the show and for me.
[H9]: Do you have any advice for people who want to start their own podcasts? What should they do?
[MK]: Definitely. I would say do a few days of research and find a topic area. Then just go for it. You don't have to have it all planned out. Don't worry about your 100th episode. Do 10 and the listeners will let you know where to go. Don't worry about sponsorships or monetization. One of two things will happen. Either it'll be popular and there are many obvious options or it won't be popular and it won't matter what you had in mind anyway. That said, podcasts are increasingly viable as businesses in their own right. As for topics, I would strongly recommend you start focused and go broader over time. For example (guessing at your readers' interests but not perfect examples):
Pen testing is better than security in general
Security in Python is better than computer security in general
Had I decided that a "software developer podcast" had a much larger audience than Python-only developer podcast (which is true), I would have been drowned out in a sea of 100's of dev podcasts. But because I was the only Python dev podcast (at the time), I quickly found a passionate listenership. This "niching down" concept is a little counterintuitive, but we live in an overabundance of information and a scarcity of attention. You win that attention by being just what people are looking for. Get a good microphone - it makes a big difference. I use a Yeti Pro but have also heard good things about the Rode Podcaster. Finally, if you start a podcast, it will change your career. You will make connections and have conversations you never dreamed of. It's really rewarding.
[H9]: Do you have any thoughts or experiences you would like to share with our audience? Any good advice?
[MK]: Get inspired and harness that inspiration for all it's worth. If you are really inspired and act upon it, you can create something amazing in a really short time. If you put it off, it'll expire. Start small and focused. You don't have to change the world all at once. I've heard the story over and over from my guests. They started some small thing that was cool. It grew and opened new doors. They kept leveling up. Now they are doing amazing things like particle physics, startups, hugely successful open source companies and more.
[H9]: Thank you!
It's been my pleasure.
Talk Python to Me is a weekly podcast hosted by Michael Kennedy. The show covers a wide array of Python topics as well as many related topics (e.g. MongoDB, AngularJS, DevOps). The format is a casual 30 minute conversation with industry experts.
Listen to Talk Python To Me Podcast
Talk Python Training: https://training.talkpython.
Michael on twitter: @mkennedy
Michael's blog post laying out the business launch via Kickstarter
Don't forget to visit the course Kickstater:
projects/mikeckennedy/python- jumpstart-by-building-10-apps- video-course
Capital C Documentary:
- Hakin9 is a monthly magazine dedicated to hacking and cybersecurity. In every edition, we try to focus on different approaches to show various techniques - defensive and offensive. This knowledge will help you understand how most popular attacks are performed and how to protect your data from them. Our tutorials, case studies and online courses will prepare you for the upcoming, potential threats in the cyber security world. We collaborate with many individuals and universities and public institutions, but also with companies such as Xento Systems, CATO Networks, EY, CIPHER Intelligence LAB, redBorder, TSG, and others.
- Blog2022.12.13What are the Common Security Weaknesses of Cloud Based Networks?
- Blog2022.10.12Vulnerability management with Wazuh open source XDR
- Blog2022.08.29Deception Technologies: Improving Incident Detection and Response by Alex Vakulov
- Blog2022.08.25Exploring the Heightened Importance of Cybersecurity in Mobile App Development by Jeff Kalwerisky
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