Going Live: "This Week in Django" at DjangoCon

It all starts with a tweet.

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For more than 36 episodes over the past 10 months, Trier and Rosner, the co-hosts of TWiD, have been weekly voices of the Django community – discussing big news, tracking trunk releases, covering community notes, and inviting the occasional guest to join the discussion. And this weekend, at the first ever DjangoCon, the TWiD crew gets its chance to broadcast live and uncut in front of all their peers – the community that powers the content driving TWiD each and every week.

Every Sunday afternoon Michael Trier sits down in his home office, turns off all electronics except for his Mac Book Pro, and prepares for some fun – burning the midnight oil over the next two days producing the "most popular Django-related podcast on the planet."

Two time zones away in Denver, Colorado, USA, Brian Rosner does the same, firing off the initial "we're recording" twitter message, popping open UStream.TV to broadcast video live, and hugging his Samson C01U as he sips a cold beer awaiting a Skype call from Trier – it's This Week in Django (TWiD) time.

With the recent release of Django 1.0 and the fresh redesign of This Week in Django, the TWiD team hopes to grow the site into more of an edited community portal for all things Django. Still, it's the podcast that the community hovers around.

"The fact that the hosts are practitioners at the forefront of Django – they know their stuff and that gives them instant credibility – it's actually the only podcast I listen to regularly," says James Tauber, lead developer of Pinax, the open source social networking platform powered by Django.

Tauber also used Pinax to power the new Cloud27 site, which was built by a handful of reusable applications built by Django community developers, including an open source project contributed by Rosner and Trier. Tauber and the Cloud27/Pinax project are examples of why the Django community is so exciting to follow – it's the people behind the projects, the community supporting them, and the code. We can't forget the code. All this together is what keeps Trier and Rosner so motivated every week.

Trier, who lives in Louisville, Kentucky, is the President of Eminent Consulting Group and has been doing web development since 1996. He started the TWiD podcast on December 14th, 2007. After following the exciting Django December 1st sprint, he recognized a need for a de-facto community resource covering all the Django community news. Then he started noticing the decrease in community-related updates on the Django project blog (although there is still the must-subscribe-to Django project community aggregator), so he took the opportunity to put his background in music and music recording to good use.

After flying solo for three episodes, Trier wanted to add more of a conversation feel to the podcast, so he invited Rosner to join as a weekly co-host.

"Brian has a level of knowledge about Django that I don't have," Trier acknowledged. "I don't dig into it as much as he has. He's more interested in knowing the internals and has a different perspective on things and makes for a nice balance, plus the conversational style of having someone else on the program."

Rosner is a 23-year-old web developer at ChurchPartner who's been actively developing webs applications for 7 years. Rosner and Trier are both active in the open source community, participating in several open source projects that are available on GitHub and/or Google Project hosting. Most notably, Trier is a core contributor to the Python SQLAlchemy project, and Rosner is a Django core contributor and the main developer behind the Django newforms-admin branch.

Chris Moffit, core developer of Satchmo, the Django open source e-commerce store solution, recently joined TWiD to talk about his project. "I was very pleased and somewhat surprised to be asked (as a guest)," he said. "I really enjoyed the chance to speak with the TWID team. The informal back and forth discussion allowed us to go in the areas that hopefully would be most interesting to the listeners, but did not sound like a scripted and tightly controlled production. One of the things I really like about TWID is that it strikes a nice balance between in-depth discussions about technology as well as higher-level issues that would be interesting to a wide audience."

Speaking of audience: Trier estimates that between 1,500 and 2,000 listeners subscribe to their RSS feed and tune into their iTunes feeds, and the number is growing. This past week's episode of TWiD was big for two reasons. First, James Bennett, blogger, author of the recent Practical Django Project book, and the Django release manager, joined the guys as a guest on the show. The Django 1.0 release was other big news.

But making the podcast happen isn't all just fun and games – there are about 10-14 hours of pre and post production, in addition to the actual recording.

"I just enjoy it – it's a lot of fun," Trier says. "It's a lot of work, though. Every week, when I finally publish it, I feel glad it's behind me. I feel glad that I'm doing it, but when I'm in the middle of it – like Sunday, taking time away from my family, or Monday, staying up really late – it kills me. Those are the times when I'm like 'why am I doing it'? I wish I could be paid to just do this stuff. It's fun and it's what I love."

Podcast Production

To produce TWiD, Trier, who does all the post-production, uses Audio Highjack to record the initial feeds into raw format. Then he brings them into Soundtrack Pro and does all the post production work – mixing it down into AAC format, adding the bumper music, tweaking, and generating the MP3 and OGG downloads. Then comes updating the feeds, time spent marking the segments in the show notes, uploading files to AmazonS3, blogging the post, posting a twitter message, and then finally re-downloading the feeds and re-listening to make sure the quality is as best he can produce given the elements.

In addition to the actual episode production, the team needs to keep track of all things Django, and that means organization. To help solve these issues, TWiD uses Basecamp to manage show notes, links, suggestions, and so forth. The team also leverage Google Apps for email and documents. There is currently no advertising on TWiD, so these solutions help to keep costs low, while still providing excellent tools to get the job done.

And they're always looking for more avenues to get the community involved. Beyond the new site redesign, which allows users to submit content (articles, screencasts, tutorials, links, etc.) or pitch content ideas, TWiD also started leveraging Twitter to announce links and news the community might find helpful. It also allows for direct messaging with other Django community members, and sometimes kick starts a dialogue amongst their followers. Most often, Twitter leads to items you'll find covered in the podcast, so following them on Twitter means you're getting the news as they get it.

DjangoCon

Trier and Rosner also will be involved in DjangoCon this weekend. Rosner is one of the featured speakers at the conference and will be presenting "What's New in NewForms," and Trier is moderating two panels. And, of course, there's the TWiD live broadcast.

Robert Lofthouse, DjangoCon Chairman, jumped on the chance to invite TWiD onto the DjangoCon program – taking the podcast with a community of listeners from around the world and bringing it to the community itself... live.

"It's something I follow myself every week, and I know that I always look forward to seeing the next TWiD show announcement in the www.djangoproject.com community aggregator. Everyone behind it has done a brilliant job of identifying what the Django community wants to hear and who they want on the show. Pretty much anyone who is serious about Django should listen to it. I jumped at the chance to get it on the program and bring it directly to the community," Lofthouse said.

"I'm really nervous about TWiD live," Trier says. "I'm excited about the opportunity, but I want to make sure what I do fits the avenue of TWiD 'live', of the live environment. So I don't want it to be a regular program, but that said, I don't want it to be so different that it doesn't feel like TWiD."

At DjangoCon this weekend, the TWiD team plans to relax from all the activity over the past few weeks, with the Django 1.0 release and the launch of the new TWiD website. They're just looking to have a good time and meet people from the community.

"I plan on having a lot of fun hanging out, "Trier says. "It's always encouraging to hear people say 'you're those guys who do twid'. It's just a good feeling to hear that people enjoy it each week."

TWiD is growing up quickly, as is the Django community itself. It's a very exciting time in the Django world, and the TWiD crew is enjoying every bit of it.

About the Author
Kevin Fricovsky is the Founder of Monty Lounge Industries, a web development, design, and strategy company. Kevin is also the Community Evangelist for This Week in Django and blogs over at How I Work Daily .

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Comments

  • Agree

    Great article! It's my favorite podcast as well. While enjoying listening to it it's easy to forget how much work it takes to produce it. Big thanks to Michael, Brian and Kevin!
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