Friday, October 3, 2008

BitTorrent Communities

I didn't want to bore you with too much Linux, so today I'll write about the elements of a BitTorrent community from the eyes of a member of a handful and an admin of one. I would encourage anyone that still reads our posts to comment with any questions you might have, and we will try to address everything we can.

When analyzing BitTorrent communities from an admin perspective, I often consider the following goals.
  1. Maximize uploaded material quantity
  2. Maximize upload quality
  3. Maximize user involvement
This three-legged stool seems to have a visible balance. In the case of large tracker sites, often there is more quantity paired with less quality and user involvement. Smaller private sites sometimes have higher levels of quality and user involvement, but sometimes less quantity. These three legs on my stool help each other. For instance, more user involvement helps upload quality and quantity. Good upload qualities and quantities attract user involvement. When creating a community, it's critical to have a clear idea of your goals for these three items and let that define the 'feel' of your site.

Maintaining higher standards on torrent descriptions coupled with user comments improves at least perceived quality. When users have a way to gauge the details of the torrent data without downloading, they'll be more comfortable engaging. Have an explicit example of how torrent descriptions should look on the user upload page. Instead of simply titling your comments section "Comments" on the torrent page, consider something like "Comment on this torrent's quality".

When users aren't downloading or uploading material, what are they doing? Many sites consume users' excess time through interactive forums and shoutboxes. A lively forum can be the mainstay of a community. Conversely, a dead or hostile forum can turn away would-be outstanding members away. Be friendly and don't let users or moderators become short with users even if they are n00bs, the whole community will align on the staff and prominent posters' viewable culture.

User interface is key. Make it easy for users to drill down the material they're looking for using categories and subgroups. Search is the most important thing for a torrent site, so make sure it is prominently positioned, works well, and is predictable and consistent. Otherwise, negative results are a reflection on the material tracked. Also, I can't stress the importance of a good site design. Mediocrity won't get you very far when attempting to gain users and material early on.

As mentioned before, ratio tracking helps to mentally encourage users to give back to the community. Distinguish uploaders and otherwise exceptional members in the community or figure out a way to give them a warm fuzzy feeling. Make this visible wherever users interact.

The overlying theme is culture. Define a culture you find appealing and align your entire site around it. Culture exudes itself in every aspect of your site from the site rules to each forum post, so take some time to think about what you want to display. A little psychology and management will go a long way.


CurlyFries said...

Psychology, huh? It is possible to put a bit too much thought into a site too, you know. ;)

nowhere said...

I'd be interested in your thoughts about maintaining a good seeder to peer ratio, including things like free leech, point systems, golden torrents/torrents that are always free leech and other such things that torrent sites employ to ensure that their torrents remain seeded.

Also, recently when applying to a private torrent site I was asked about why free leech is percieved as good/bad by some users for the tracker economy. So if you could specifically go into your thoughts on that I'd appreciate it.

OnionRings said...

Curly, you could make a post out of that. ;)

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