The End of Bittorrents for My Podcast?

In the first month or two of this podcast (way back in fall of 2004) I did an experiment of publishing episodes of my show as bittorrent files and putting them in a special feed for that. At the time, most or all of the podcatchers anyone was using supported bittorrent. The experiment was so successful that a month later I made my default feed the bittorrent feed, which is the way it has been ever since.

When iTunes was released without bittorrent downloading support, that took a big portion of the wind out of the sails of this whole project. Prior to the release of that version of iTunes, I was moving thousands of copies of each show via bittorrent. Today, I’m moving dozens. When iTunes basically crushed the standalone podcatcher market, that killed bitorrent. I kept fighting the good fight though, mainly for political reasons. I wanted to prove there were legitimate uses for torrent technology and by keeping my default distribution that way, I thought I could serve as a counter-example to the meme that torrent traffic == content theft.

It cost me in some ways, large and small. I’ve wanted to use the PodPress plugin to ease my management woes but never could get it to work properly with my torrents, so I’ve never used it. The iTunes directory has always had my direct bittorrent feed in their database, so I had to write a customer .htaccess rule to make my web server swap out the MP3 feed when iTunes was the user agent. To this day, they’ve never fixed that and I had to hack to make my show work with iTunes. My management and workflow is always more difficult, directories sometimes have a hard time dealing with my torrents, etc.

This morning, I found an MP3 trading site that was using my tracker to trade their files. That was the second to last straw. I shut the tracker down and set about looking for ways to restrict the tracker to only use my files. I wanted to clamp down on publishing but let anyone freely download, which isn’t exactly what the private trackers are about. As I dug around, I went to the main Bittorrent site. The scruffy ugly site Bram Cohen put up is no longer there. I was looking for documentation on configuring my tracker, and what I found was a corporate site about getting big media content more easily. Is this what I’m fighting my fight for? It’s pretty much the opposite of what I care about.

My tracker is down right now. I’m strongly considering never turning it back on, installing Podpress and just going forth on my merry way. If someone can come up with a good technical solution for me to secure the tracker the way I want and a good political reason why I should care anymore about this site whose agenda is how to let you buy shit from big media, I’d love to hear it. Drop me a comment. If I haven’t changed my mind by the time I publish my next show, I’ll begin the process of de-torrenting this site completely. My mind is open to being changed and I welcome that possibility but at this moment it isn’t how the smart money bets.

Update: I wrote this in a hurry on the way out of town, or I would have paused for a minute to thank all of you who used the bittorrent feed despite it being less convenient to you in general. In particular, I think Neil Forker is a hall of famer for continuing to use the torrent feed with Juice even though he used iTunes for everything else he subscribed to. That’s wonderful and humbling that someone would run that client solely for me to help me out. It’s truly touching. That’s the ultimate sad part about shutting down the torrents, choosing to use a torrent is by its nature a generous choice that ties us together more than just downloading a file from a website. Thanks to all of you who have been seeding for years and going out of your way to share your bandwidth via the torrents. I love you all.

5 Replies to “The End of Bittorrents for My Podcast?”

  1. Dave,

    Synchronicity! I was finally forced to retire iPodderX, which I’ve been using since the beginning of podcasting as both an RSS reader and podcatcher. I had to switch off as it was getting too unstable.

    I lament the loss of being able to receive podcasts through RSS and it sucks that someone was leeching off your tracker. Yours was the last podcast I got through bittorrent, and as of this morning I switched to the direct feed.

    I never tried distributing my podcasts via bittorrent. I always worried about the exact problem you’re having now.

    I was never familiar with any podcatcher other than iPodderX which had the capability. Personally, I think it’s a loss to the world as a whole. One less choice for the masses.

    If you do switch to Podpress, I think you’ll enjoy it. Dan Kuykendall is very responsive to the needs of his users.

    Have a great day.
    -Paul

  2. Dave,

    I too have been downloading your show via the torrent feed using Juice. I did this because you asked us to do so. Every other podcast I receive is via iTunes. I will now switch to the standard feed.

    Thanks,
    Neil

  3. I have to say that this story is very sad. I have always held high hopes for the legitimate use of bittorrent but it seems that every time someone tries to make legitimate use, the pirate crowd spoils the fun.

    I don’t know enough about setting up a tracker to tell you what to do, but you might want to ask the people at publicdomaintorrents.com. They seem to have found a way to achieve what you are talking about. They host trackers for public domain movies and videos and I don’t believe that they have any hijackers. Not that I’ve seen at least.

    Might not be looking hard enough though.

    Just a thought that might help you out…

  4. I’ve been sticking with the torrent feed, even though it was a pain (although not too hard anymore thanks to iTorrent). I even make sure I leave it running long enough to upload as much as I could – in recent months I’ve noticed that many days later I still haven’t uploaded even as much as I downloaded, another testament to the lack of use it’s getting.

    I don’t mind switching, but it is a bit sad.

  5. I’m Bram’s wife so I’ll ask him if he has any suggestions. Speaking only for myself,
    (I don’t work for Bit Torrent) =) I think the self publishing aspect is by far the most interesting side of BT and I’d love to see more tools get developed for it.

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