Nerds need a “third place,” too.

I’ve been cruising around the ol’ blogosphere, and I’ve seen a few negative reactions to my .NET Rocks show (I’ve seen many more good ones, and I thank you generous bastards for that :).

Different people objected to different things. Roy Osherove was the most vocal, but he also managed to say what he was thinking without offending. I totally understood what he was saying (this doesn’t mean that I agreed with it).

However, some of the other people, most notably those who post comments under the moniker “Anonymous Coward,” raised other objections.

I thought I’d take a moment to try and figure this out this morning, but I’m stumped. I don’t think my show was stellar by any means, but I don’t think it sucked, either.

Here’s why.

When I started listening to .NET Rocks, what I liked most about it was that it was one of these cool community things that people do for fun. Very much like blogging, it’s something you start doing for the love of the thing. If you’re faking it, and if all you want is traffic, then people will see right through the sham and drop you like a semi-solid piece of roadkill that they’ve suddenly realized they’re holding.

I’ve been listening to .NET Rocks since the first show, and although there is always technical content, I’ve personally never judged a given show based on how much someone talked about Technology X or Tool Y. When I listened to the Chris Sells shows, I was listening more for the person behind the code/books/talks/whatever. I wanted the anecdotes, trivia, and maybe just a bit of the feel of his life.

If I want to learn how to be an effective Windows Forms coder, then I’ll pick up his book. I don’t plan on tuning in to a one hour show (that’s really just an informal conversation between three people) with an expectation of learning something. I don’t think that’s what .NET Rocks is for, and I don’t think the format is appropriate for use as a place to disseminate strong technical content. If you want to learn how to use Technology X, then read a book, the spec, or whatever other docs are lying around. If you want to learn about Indigo in depth, then don’t listen to Don Box’s show, because he is notgoing to make you an Indigo coder in the fraction of the show during which he talks about it.

I don’t know if you’ve ever heard of the concept of a “Third Place,” but it’s the idea of having a gathering place outside of work, and outside of the home where you can meet with like-minded people in an informal setting and help produce the goo that binds a community.

Think “Cheers.” It’s where you go after work to meet up with your friends, throw back a few liver-rotting beverages, and talk. It doesn’t even matter that much what you talk about, either. The idea is to relate. I know it sounds crazy, but even nerds have friends and want to talk about things that might only be distantly related to code, routers, and how many megagigajigapixels a digital camera should have.

In my opinion, and I could be way off base here, .NET Rocks is a “Third Place” for MS type nerds. It’s an informal thing that is to be enjoyed, but not necessarily ruminated over for eons to come. I’ve never walked away from listening to a .NET Rocks show with the impression that I’ve learned enough about something to be able to get started with it right away. I’ll leave with plenty of good leads – book titles, URLs, and names to get me started – but I couldn’t turn around and put the information to immediate and practical use.

.NET Rocks is the chance so sit back, take a load off, and engage in some easygoing right-brained interaction with the world around you. Trying to learn a lot about a particular technical concept from the show would be like trying to learn .NET from a pamphlet on the bus ride home. It’s the wrong time, wrong place, and wrong format. The pamphlet can get you started, but it isn’t going to replace the books, videos, and trainers who exist for the purpose of fire-hosing this stuff into your brain.

So, the reason I think my .NET Rocks show didn’t suck is that it fit in with the concept of a “Third Place.” I love to code, and it’s what I do for a living. However, and I know this is tough to swallow, I have other interests, too, as do Carl and Mark. Talking about those other interests, or simply talking about what a fine thing it is to be a coder, is all right. If you chuckled at all from listening to my show, then I think it was effective.

If .NET Rocks became a purely technical show that kept content on the technical straight and narrow, then it would be work. It wouldn’t be pleasure, and it wouldn’t be fulfilling its purpose. It certainly could become a 100% technical show, but what’s the point? It couldn’t compete in a world where there are many more much more efficient forms of communicating tough technical concepts efficiently.

Who in the bloody-hell wants that? Lighten up, people – it’s OK to stop coding for an hour every once in a while to laugh a little with friends.