Producing Participatory Media
Class 6 - July 18
Topics:The Official BitTorrent Home Page
Wired 13.01: The BitTorrent Effect
Azureus: Java BitTorrent Client
Peer to Peer Distribution
Mobile Phone Image and Video Capture
Peer to Peer Distribution (BitTorrent)
Distributing large files across the internet has always been a challenge. While the internet itself is decentralized most content on the internet is served from a single location to many clients. In a sense, using the internet in this manner is akin to broadcasting. Unfortunately, as is not the case with broadcasting the more people that "consume" any particular piece of content drive up the cost of hosting that content. Bandwidth costs money.
Peer to Peer file sharing networks were created in part to alleviate this problem. Unfortunately most of the peer to peer file sharing networks still contained remnants of the broadcast scenario. For instance, Napster ran a service that didn't host the content but had a central service to track where content is available on the network. Several of the Napster clones while getting better at true distributed content distribution still had some remnants of the original Napster model.
Enter BitTorrent. Bram Cohen, developed BitTorrent as a way around these problems. He released it open source and it has quickly become the de-facto means for peer to peer delivery of media content on the internet.
Some BitTorrent Services/Trackers:
Authorized use of BitTorrent: Wikipedia
Some (perhaps less legal) torrents:
Recently many of the BitTorrent/TV trackers have been shutdown by the MPAA (Supernova, et al..). This doesn't spell the end of BitTorrent by any means (see Hollywood Wants BitTorrent Dead). Because BitTorrent is not centralized and anyone can run a tracker and the fact that it is open source means that it will continue being used for both legitimate and illegitimate ways for a long time to come. I believe that the MPAA cracking down means more opportunity for independent producers and tracker operators for greater exposure, especially as the technology becomes easier to use and integrated with more and more applications.
Recent Legal Actions:
Torrentfreak >> Torrent sites under attack
MPAA Press Release
Hollywood Wants BitTorrent Dead
Spain outlaws P2P filesharing
Interesting quote: Spain's telco giant Telefonica reports 90% of usage on its broadband lines is Internet traffic, up from 15% five years ago. Of that 90%, a massive 71% is P2P traffic.
BitTorrent + RSS = Broadcatching
Enter RSS.. Of course, using RSS with torrent enclosures you can distribute your media ala podcasting and videoblogging. This reduces the strain on your bandwidth and creates a more equal playing field for all.
Using the same means for including audio and video enclosures in RSS feeds for Movable Type/WordPress we can add BitTorrent enclosures.
See: MT-Enclosures (for MT users).
and: for WordPress the easiest option it is to include the custom enclosure field yourself:
<enclosure url="http://dv.open4all.info/bblog/torrent_files/flea.mov.torrent" length="2422" type="application/x-bittorrent"/>
Applications that read RSS feeds and automatically download torrent enclosures.
RSS Feed Scanner for Azureus
WritTorrent Various BitTorrent utlities
Buttress - Bittorrent RSS application
Video Blogging Aggregators that support torrents
Broadcatching with BitTorrent
engadget - How-To: BroadCatching using RSS + BitTorrent to automatically download TV shows
Mobile Phone Image and Video Capture
Mobile phones and camera phones have achieved ubiquity. Although the quality has a little ways to go, we can take advantage of the built-in network connectivity to utilize them as either a production tool or an audience interaction tool. SMS is a given, already being used in mass-media to allow small amounts of interactivity in shows like American Idol (voting). Picture mail or MMS is starting to hit the big time as well, at least on the internet. Following in its footsteps is video.
Most video capabile phones capture video in a highly compressed offshoot of MPEG-4 called 3GP. Fortunately, most of the players that support MPEG-4 (QuickTime, Real and many others) also support 3GP so it is easy for us to integrate into what we are doing.
Unfortunately, MMS messages are a step behind SMS. The connections between carriers are not completely established so phone to phone MMS messages are still difficult as is sending MMS messages from a computer or something that is not on the mobile phone network. The one portion of this, the part that is most useful to us in utlizing video from phones, delivery of MMS messages via email is pretty standard and easy to take advantage of.
I built a application in Perl that reads email from a specific email account and automatically saves any attached image or video file such as those sent to my email box from my phone. Furthermore, this application automatically posts these video files to my blog in the style of video blog postings. Of course there is much more that can be done with these video files so think of the blog posting as an example.
An Open Mobile Video Blog
Local Report - Art Project Using Video from mobile phones
The Script (includes instructions)
Apple - MPEG-4 - 3GPP
3GPP - Standards Organization