A guided tour for the Clojure podcasting ecosystem

Pulished 2019-07-31. Written by Teodor Heggelund.

So you’re learning Clojure, and as is common, you find the learning journey rewarding but hard. How do we do things? When there are no classes, what do we do? Clojure is optimized for expert usage, and the beginner’s journey can be tough. In that journey, I’ve found the podcasting ecosystem to be of great value.

I’ve gotten a lot of value out of the Clojure podcasts that’s out there, so I’d like to share a selections of the episodes that have struck a chord with me. I’m going to highlight just a single episode per show, then you be the judge.

Let’s get to it!

Cognicast #106: Michael Nygard

Cognicast is Cognitect’s own podcast. I’ve chosen episode 106, where Craig Andera interviews Michael Nygard, both at the time working at Cognitect. The talk is mostly about large-scale software design, which Nygard has covered extensively through his blog series The New Normal. I find Craig Andera to be a terrific interviewer. He’s asking the right questions, and is genuinely interested in the answers.

If you’re using Clojure, you’ll run into the Cognicast sooner or later. The guests are generally experts in their fields, and it’s interesting to hear the perspective from the people “inside”, building Clojure itself.

Selling point: Tune in to the insider’s perspective: hear from the people that build Clojure!

Listening status: I’ve listened to about half the episodes. Latest per 2019-07-31 is #148, but there haven’t been any new episodes in 2019 so far.

The REPL #13: High performance numerics with Chris Nuernberger

The REPL is Daniel Compton’s one-man project. Chris Nuernberger has built several high-performance Clojure libraries for numerics. Before looking into Nuernberger work, I was under the impression that the traditional language rankings were indicative of performance; like “C is faster than Java because of this example”. That’s an approach that might not help you reach the right conclusion in Clojure. Why not use use Clojure like an interactive, flexible compiler?

Daniel Compton has a very relaxed interviewing style, asks good questions and is a good listener. Perhaps not surprising, since his guests are usually very interesting …

Selling point: A weekly newsletter is released under The REPL brand, providing information on videos released, conferences that are open to registration, and new libraries that are worth checking out.

Listening status: I’ve listened to every episode, and keep up with each new release! Since The REPL was started in 2018, 27 podcasts have been released, and they keep coming with a steady pace.

Thoughts on functional programming: The 3 Levels of Functional Thinking

Eric Normand’s Thoughts on functional programming is structured a bit differently than the others: instead of guests, there are bite-sized nuggets of knowledge to be had/found. Rather than a conversation, the topics are presented through a monologue. The 3 Levels of Functional Thinking is about a progression of skill for a functional programmer.

Eric Normand is a good teacher. He covers important concepts with simplicity. It was through his guide to concurrency in Clojure that exposed me to Clojure’s concurrency primitives other than atoms.

Selling point: Learn a bite-sized piece of functional programming prowess on a 15 minute transit.

Listening status: I just discovered the podcast, so I’ve only listened to the fifteen or so latest episodes. Looking forward to future commute opportunities!

defn #41: Timothy Baldridge aka @halgari

In the defn podcast, Vijay and Ray invite guests for a casual chat on Sundays. With Timothy Baldridge, I felt that the conversation flowed especially well. Timothy Baldridge made key contributions to core.async, and has a perspective on language design that on good days rivals Rich Hickey’s.

defn is by far the most casual, conversational of the Clojure podcasts featured here. Definitely not feeling, scripted, prepare to be surprised.

Selling point: Why so serious? Get a laugh!

Listening status: I’ve listened to about half of the now 51 episodes.

Functional design in Clojure #14: Fiddle with the REPL

In Functional Design in Clojure, hosts Nate Jones and Christoph Naumann discuss hands-on software problems with the Clojure approach. In episode 14, the focus is on the REPL workflow. The tone is conversational, yet the topic is focused, and we really get to follow the thoughts of the host. This might be particularly suited to new Clojurians who aren’t used to using the REPL actively in development.

As a newcomer to the “Clojure approach to solving problems”, there are lots of questions. Functional design in Cloure gives a nicely paced introduction to how to think and work in the Clojure way. In that regard, it’s similar to Eric Normand’s work, but Functional design’s approach is easier to get started with, and closer to the real problems.

Selling point: Get a hand-curated sequence of functional level-ups that build from the ground up.

Listening status: I’ve listened to episodes 1 through 24. They are released at a breakneck pace of one per week. I will definitely be catching up!

ClojureScript podcast S1E4: State with Russ Olsen, author of Getting Clojure

In the ClojureScript podcast, host Jacek Schae, creator of on-line courses for learning Reagent and Re-frame, discusses various aspects of ClojureScript programming with prominent community members. Russ Olsen had the honor of explaining Clojure through episodes 2, 3 and 4, focusing on data, code and state. In episode 4 on state, Olsen gives a ground-up explanation of how state should be handled with Clojure, and why we prefer to avoid global mutable state.

Getting started with Clojure can be a challenge, and as of yet, there isn’t much material available for learning to use ClojureScript. It’s not obvious what REPL-driven development means when the browser is involved. Why not hear what the experts have to say?

Selling point: Get introduced to key concepts from the ClojureScript ecosystem, explained by key players.

Listening status: I’ve listened to all the episodes of season 1 (9 in total), and I eagerly await season 2.


That’s all the podcasts I’ve got for now! I hope you find this useful. If you have any favorites, please follow up in the ClojureVerse discussion thread. (You can use Hypothesis too, if you’d like, but I figure that a forum thread would be more inviting).

Thanks to Lisa for reviewing this article!


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