Monday, November 10, 2008

Introducing the New Forum

As previously mentioned, we've been working on creating a forum to replace the blog and hopefully provide a similar source for useful information and discussion. Well, the TorrentFries forum is now online. We encourage you to head over there, sign up, and check it out. This blog will remain online for reference purposes but will no longer be updated. Any further entries we feel like adding will be made over at the forum.

I hope you have enjoyed the blog, and I hope you will find the forum useful and perhaps entertaining. I'd like to extend extra-special thanks to Chris for registering the domain for us before some filthy squatter could get to it. and will continue to redirect to the blog to prevent broken links, and will take you to the forum.

Tuesday, November 4, 2008

A Public Service Announcement

No serious post today. I just wanted to remind any Americans in the crowd to get out and vote. Vote Obama, vote McCain, vote motherfucking Communist, just vote.

Trust me. It'll be good for you.

That'll be all. This has been a public service announcement paid for by nobody, unfortunately.

Monday, November 3, 2008

Irregular Posting Schedule

Since the beginning of September, we've been posting religiously, 5 days a week. Our steady stream of subjects of discussion having slowed to a trickle, we're moving to a less regular schedule. We will continue posting at least once a week for the time being. I'm not one to leave you hanging, so when the blog reaches its end, you'll know it.

We will be launching a TorrentFries community, so stay tuned for announcements on that. In the meantime, if you have any questions that you'd like to have addressed, please do leave a comment and we'll do our best to answer. I've got a few to respond to at the moment, and will be doing so in the coming days.

Friday, October 31, 2008

Guest Post: Forum Integration With SMFTracker

A friend of mine is working on a BitTorrent tracker mod for the Simple Machines Forum system. He was kind enough to provide us with a peek at his development process. He is basing his mod's announce on the basic framework I developed and published on Monday.

I've had to edit his post a bit, since he strayed into matters regarding our true identity pretty frequently, but the gist of the tracker mod development is there. Hey, what's life without a little mystery?

This is ChiliDog, co-collaborator of our ever-elusive stand-alone tracker script.  I was asked to make a guest post for the TorrentFries blog by CurlyFries.  Unfortunately, being the uninteresting person that I am, I’ve been racking my brain, trying to figure out what to write about.  I eventually came to the idea of writing about my current project: a SMF mod, with complete tracker integration.
Our main goal with the collaborative project was to successfully bridge any forum system’s [be it SMF, vBulletin, phpBB, etc.] database, however, that turned out to be a far-fetched dream [for now], due to its resource intensive code [blame CurlyFries ¬_¬].  But to tell you the truth, I couldn’t care less for any forum system other than SMF.  It’s powerful, feature-rich, and masterfully safe [not to mention completely free].  
I’ve been keeping an eye out for any tracker mods for SMF for the past 5 years or so, but not one has ever appeared.  There have been a few makeshift attempts at bridging a tracker system and SMF’s user table, but nothing worth using.  So after waiting so long, I finally set out to make one.
But, ‘Why a mod?  Why not just a bridge?’ you ask?  We’ll, I’ll tell you… It’s always been my philosophy to take advantage of what’s there, rather than to create something that does the same thing.  A bridge will still require all the things that SMF already does, in your tracker’s source.  CurlyFries is apparently the opposite of me.  He likes to create, rather than use what’s available [but more importantly, give people more options for the forum system].  That in itself is fine, and I’ll follow along for the main project, but I’ll be doing the SMFT mod in my spare time.
Other the announce.php, everything takes full advantage of SMF’s functions, including its permission system, themes, security, and even the language and modifications/upgrade system.  With three possible modes, open [ratio tracking is disabled], semi-private [non-members can still connect, just no ratio tracking and they might be restricted in site permissions], and private tracking [only members can connect], you will have a choice of what type of tracker you want to create.
There’s really nothing ground breaking about my project, but it should be the first SMF bittorrent tracker available; hence my project’s name: SMFTracker® [genius naming sense, eh?].  A lot of the front end source code, is the code CurlyFries and I created for our project, albeit most of it [if not all], was rewritten to work with SMF.
Our original announce [which I really liked] was ‘accidentally’ deleted by CurlyFries, but the [barebones] announce posted here is just as efficient [although, I prefer the switch system code he posted first].  I’m not ashamed to say I used that as a base to work with [credit was given where credit was due].
Although, I’m almost complete in coding SMFT [the remainder is just fluff and whatnot], it probably won’t be released for distribution this year.  I intend to beta test it for a while on my site and work out the kinks.  Once testing is completed, I’ll probably ask permission to add it to the SMF modification repository.  I say ‘ask permission’ because I’m not sure of SMF’s stance on a tracker mod.  They’re a legitimate corporation, and might decline my request, due to bittorrent being synonymous with copyright infringement [who’d have thought?].
On a side note, neither I, nor CurlyFries have abandoned our own project, and we do intend to [eventually] complete it.  However, SMFT is just something to keep me occupied until CurlyFries has extra free time on his hands for a time intensive project.

I definitely agree that SMF's mod system is ridiculously versatile, but with it comes unnecessary bloat and overhead. I personally prefer to build from scratch for maximum efficiency, and to me it makes more sense to build a forum around a tracker rather than a tracker around a forum.

I've subtly hinted that he may want to think about load testing the announces of various popular PHP/MySQL trackers, perhaps including his own and the one I wrote. It'd be interesting to see how they stack up.

Thursday, October 30, 2008

Building a Community

The heart of a good BitTorrent site is a good community. This is a hard subject to address, which is one reason I've hitherto avoided it. However, it's also a very important one, so I'll do my best.

Easier than describing how to make a good community is perhaps how not to do so. I know of a group of people that are trying to create a community out of whole cloth, which strikes me as ridiculously naïve. That said, they're more knowledgeable than I am, and if they succeed, the more power to them.

However, in my experience, good communities are things that are not made but simply come about of their own accord. The best you can do as administrator is to focus on creating an environment that fosters a strong community. I've already outlined factors that can poison a community: strong emphasis on ratio, paranoid pre-emptive action against potential undesirables, heavy-handed and arbitrary moderation, and so forth.

People like to be free, to be able to speak their minds without fear of repercussions. They will naturally gravitate to a place where they feel that they can do this. Make no mistake, the world doesn't need another 4chan. In fact, the world doesn't need the 4chan it already has. As always, it is necessary to find a balance between the extremes of staff control and utter chaos – to moderate in moderation, as it were. Trying to entice people become active in the community is doomed to failure. Rewards for high post counts are ridiculous; people are too hung up over post counts anyway, and it's harder to break in to a community where post count equals status equals worth as a person. It may not seem that way to you, but it will to the newcomers.

This is where things get difficult. It's up to you to find your own balance. All I can do is lay out the questions and leave you to answer.

If you've got any more points you'd like us to cover before shutting this bad boy down, now's the time. Don't be shy!

Wednesday, October 29, 2008


In light of yesterday's post, I'm going to spend the next few days addressing questions as they come up. Today's question is regarding encouraging donations.

In my experience, people are generally pretty decent sorts and will do what they can to support their favorite site, and I'm assuming that's you. I'm not into pushy salesmanship, and I don't think it's necessary. It is annoying and compromises the tone of your site, but more importantly, it crosses a rather important legal line between facilitating the sharing of copyrighted material and outright selling it. Where you want to stand on that question is entirely your own choice, but I like to stay on the light side.

However, I'm not opposed to the idea of buying ratio, as long as your site doesn't make it necessary for users to do so. Ratio represents a contribution to the site, and there are all kinds of ways to contribute. Some sites also provide ratio bonuses for long-term seeders, and I think there is very much the same thing going on here. If you've contributed, I have no problem with recognizing you for it.

I have a slightly less sunny image of donor/ratio perks, though. Any features that you provide to VIPs are features that you are denying to other users, which in turn prevents your site from being as usable as possible to as many people as possible - kinda the point in my view. Providing recognition is fantastic, but adding concrete features is a little more questionable. VIP-only forum boards will fracture your community, since the VIPs will tend to hang out with their kin and other users will never really be pulled into the fold.

In terms of recognition, I suggest simply giving users more control over their own profiles and the way they are presented to others. I know some sites allow avatars only to power users. However, since I only ever notice peoples' avatars rather than their usernames, I want to encourage as many people to have avatars as possible. You could allow people to customize the way their username is displayed, add more info to their profiles, maybe add custom stylesheets. None of these things have any practical use, but they provide a degree of social status as a reward, and that is enough. Of course, the ubiquitous donor star is a must.

I suggest placing a clear donate button on every page, but nowhere obtrusive. In keeping with my previous point regarding selling copyrighted material, I would keep it away from torrent description pages. Make it clear to your users that donations are always appreciated but never expected. A simple button in the header or footer ought to be plenty. I like Demonoid's approach of using an animated GIF that flashes briefly and subtly every couple of seconds. It draws attention without being too distracting.

Demonoid also has a neat donation system. I'm not sure I should be detailing it here, but you should be able to get some idea by making a donation yourself, or going through the process up to the point where you're asked to key in your PayPal account. Basically, donated money is received not through Demonoid but through a third party site, so PayPal can have no complaint. Very clever.

Tuesday, October 28, 2008

The Future of TorrentFries' Blog

You may have noticed that we've been running a little short on subjects for discussion of late. This was intended to be an account of the day-to-day operation of a tracker, but with the site's untimely demise, that fell by the wayside and we ended up relying on a series of exposés instead. That's all well and good, and I really hope you've found them useful, interesting and/or insightful up to this point. However, there is only so much that one can discuss without the constant influx of new material resulting from running a live tracker.

Therefore, I'm interested to get your take on where we should go from here. We have been discussing creating a forum for those interested in the subjects we've discussed here, so that remains an option. We may also move to a less intense publication schedule, although that's only prolonging the inevitable. One way or another, the blog's days are numbered, so if you have any questions that we've left unaddressed, by all means, leave us a comment and we'll see what we can do for you.
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