Rick Carlino

Lead software developer and a co-founding member at FarmBot

Co-founder and Maker of Things at Fox.Build Makerspace in St. Charles, IL.

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Listening to Developer News While Driving

Staying up to date on developer news is time-consuming. Especially for fast changing areas, such as frontend development. Below is my daily workflow to utilize idle time and stay current with news and educational topics. I hope sharing this helps others do the same.

What You Will Need

How It Works

  1. Forage sites like Hacker News, Reddit and Lobste.rs during downtime and breaks.
  2. Save the articles with the Instapaper bookmarklet or Chrome extension.
  3. Before exercising or commuting, open the Instapaper EPub download link on your phone.
  4. Put on a pair of headphones and open the *.epub file in Moon Reader.
  5. Hit the “text to speech” button.
  6. Feel invigorated by the deep wisdom of the interwebs.
  7. When finished, click the “archive all” link at the top of the EPub file. This will clear all the articles out of your reading queue.
  8. Hitting the EPub download link again will result in a fresh set of articles.

Quirks and Issues

  • The Instapaper App: Instapaper does offer an Android app with text-to-speech capabilities. It’s an OK app. The lack of a “play all” button is a deal breaker for me, though. When driving and exercising, pressing “next” after every single article becomes tedious. Instapaper has suggested a workaround on Twitter, but I find it less convenient than the method outlined above.
  • Article ordering: Instapaper stores articles on a first-in-first-out (stack) ordering. This means that the last article added is the first one to show up in your reading list. On a busy news week, this can lead to articles getting “burried” at the bottom of the reading stack for weeks at a time.
  • Articles with too much code: I skip articles that have too many code samples in them. As it turns out, reading 200 lines of Typescript via text to speech is not productive at all.

Alternatives

  • Podcasts: The most obvious alternative. I am of the opinion that blog articles go deeper into technical subjects than most podcasts.
  • Epub Press: A Chrome extension like instapaper. It has better support for large documents, such as developer documentation. I love using it to read library documentation cover-to-cover on long plane rides. If you find it useful, consider donating. It has one a single (generous) maintainer.

This has been my daily commute ritual for over 4 years. Foraging the web for articles exposes me to new people, trends, and ideas that I would not have otherwise not known. It utilizes time that would have otherwise been wasted and turns it into something productive.

I hope that you try it out the practices outlined. If you have a more streamlined approach, please shoot me a direct message or comment on Reddit or Lobste.rs.