Prepare Files for Bittorrent - Avoid My Newbie Mistakes

I just made my first torrents, and made a few mistakes. The torrents were split up archives of all the video files from LA Indymedia, which we host. The files are legal for sharing, per the terms of copyright for LA Indymedia - you can share things on a no-profit noncommercial basis.

The torrents are attached, so you can start downloading them.

If you need to learn how to create and send torrents, see the FAQ at

The first mistake was to write a terse description. It turns out that longer descriptions of the contents are favored, with a complete listing of files.

The second mistake was not to re-encode some videos into a more compressed format. It turned out that several videos were uploaded without compression. It's not a deal-killer, because all the files are relatively small, but it means the difference between a 5 minute upload and a 30 minute upload. It matters.

The third mistake was to make the files too big. The smallest was around 600MB, which was a pretty reasonable size. The largest was over 4 Gigs, which is too large. People don't stick around long enough to become seeders of large torrents. With the small ones, you get seeders.

The fourth mistake was not curating the collection. For example, I could have created a collection of "South Central Farm" videos, or "Proposition 8" videos. I don't have proof of this, but I think a curated collection would find leechers a lot quicker, and the leechers would turn into seeders.

I did something correct, and posted the torrent files to LA Indymedia as well as OneBigTorrent, the tracker. These reach the right audience. Bittorrent relies on people becoming sharers, and these sites find sharers willing to seed. Chances are, combining the correct promotion with curated collections will really find the correct seeders and leechers.

Fifth, I didn't realize the importance of a fast seed. There are companies that host bittorrent seeds for around $35 a month, unlimited bandwidth. It would have been smart to upload to one of these services and seed from there. That way people would get the complete collection quickly.

As it was, I seeded the smallest torrent to the web server with transmissioncli, and it picked up the torrent and became a seed quickly. Then, one other leecher quickly became a seed. This torrent got the best distribution.


I will have to rebuild these torrents (one one of the other seeders can do this). The collections must be curated for quality and theme, and individual videos re-encoded to reduce size. Then, the descriptions will have to be written to match the collections. Perhaps photos will be included, too. The torrents will have to be sized to be small - under 600MB.

Then, seeders will have to be found. The torrents will be burned to CDs and can be distributed by sneakernet to seeding locations, like work or to allies. Find allies at events, and ask to set up a table. Bittorrent clients at work must be set up to seed only at night and weekends, and use limited bandwidth. Web host seeding will be set up, and maybe purchased from a seed hosting company - again, if you know there are bandwidth costs, limit the bandwidth use.

Then, promote the hell out of it online. (You need a list of sites and email addresses to make this happen. Unfortunately, I didn't have many of either, but did have some lists.) The promotion has to be structured less for "flash" more for "struggle", because seeding a torrent requires you to leave you computer on for days, and will slow down your internet connection.

Also, it's important to seed only one new torrent at a time. With ADSL (Asymmetric DSL), people have more download capacity than upload - a 1.5M/384k DSL has four times more download than upload capacity - so you want to build up the team of seeders quickly, and allow leechers to become seeders as quickly as possible.

Also, new uncurated collection should be published, so other curators can develop their own torrents.

IMC-Los-Angeles-Videos-2000-2003.torrent43.85 KB
IMC-Los-Angeles-Videos-2004-2005.torrent35.78 KB
IMC-Los-Angeles-Videos-2006-2007.torrent61.69 KB
IMC-Los-Angeles-Videos-2008-2009.torrent29.45 KB