BitTorrent + RSS = Decentralised Tivo?

Alias-fans assemble! Cracking idea from Scott Raymond. Quoting big chunks, but it’s worth it:

“With the addition of RSS, BitTorrent could really be taken to the next level, and I’d be able to forget about the plumbing of TV altogether. I want RSS feeds of BitTorrent files. A script would periodically check the feed for new items, and use them to start the download. Then, I could find a trusted publisher of an Alias RSS feed, and “subscribe” to all new episodes of the show, which would then start downloading automatically — like the “season pass” feature of the TiVo.”

He goes on to pitch it to the media owners:

“Illegitimate uses of this system would obviously abound. But the potential legitimate uses are huge as well. For one, traditional content providers (like the TV networks) could take advantage of the demand for their programming by scooping the copyright infringers. If ABC released Alias on BitTorrent with advertising built in, the file could be delivered to their audience very fast, and would cost them next to nothing in distribution costs. The economics of producing video programming would be upended — each viewer of the program would, in effect, foot the bill for a tiny slice of the distribution overhead, causing a massive component of traditional media company infrastructure to become obsolete.

It would be an audacious move for an advertising-supported channel. The arguments about skipping ads in Tivo is not necessarily avoided. You can imagine if they did do this, then they’d want you to download a handicapped, proprietary player, that was a player only- with no other button that “PLAY”, keyed to a proprietary file format that they’d use for the media itself.

Would I mind? I dunno… if I got to watch what I wanted. When I had my Tivo, I didn’t really care how the shows were encoded, but that was becuase the entire user-experience was so good. If I got stuck with a locked-up file format, and a bad player; then I’d be annoyed that there was no path for innovation or improvement around the experience.

Also, the argument might be made by the media owners, that if they didn’t lock the goods up, then some enterprising soul would edit the episode for ads and re-release it as a torrent.

Scott ends with a rousing paragraph:

“The result: the TV distribution networks are completely end-run by an ad-hoc, decentralized, loosely-coupled network. And in the process, significant opportunities are afforded to independent content producers of audio and video to reach a mass audience with insignificant distribution costs.”

Sounds very sensible to me… especially perhaps for a large public service broadcaster who doesn’t need to worry about those troublesome ad-revenues… The BBC will probably investigate all sorts of content-management and DRM gubbins in the course of it’s investigation of p2p-distribution (as mentioned by BBCi’s chef-du-digital Ashley Highfield previously) – whereas it has the information resources and the talent right now to quickly and (relatively) cheaply do what Scott has outlined.

Dear (Risk-Averse) Auntie: Here is the data. Turn it into RSS, make the links to torrents, let the community of early adopters who are screaming out to help you, help you.

Use these open standards to quickly and cheaply create the loam, and others [cf. Steam] will make great bleeding-edge clients and functionality to navigate your media-commons.

» scottraymondnet: 16 December, 2003 | Broadcatching with BitTorrent

My dumb brain

For various reasons, after an interval of several years, I decided to install and try using TheBrain.

I found it broadly-inuitive in use and it required a minimum effort on my part to start to create quite dense, useful mesh of topics that have been floating around in my head. It also felt like I was creating.

It made me think, in a way that I was thinking about the ideas, their content and context; without having to think about the tool itself.

I still find myself thinking too much about formatting and markup when I am using a wiki, which I guess is my nearest comparable experience.

So far so good.

However, After my first wonderful five minutes, I wanted to share the notes with a colleague.

I have been trying to do this on-and-off for an hour and still have no idea how to do this.

Both the application and online help don’t seem to have anything more useful than telling you how to save ‘individual thoughts’ in the jargon of TheBrain (and the help is full of servicemarked terms and jargon, pretty unhelpful to dive straight into without buying all of their marketing talk from the top) – not how you could share or save the aggregate of those thoughts, which is surely the real value that the program has helped create. Nope. It’s all frustratingly locked-up it seems.

To be clear, I want to save a specific ‘node’ and it’s related child nodes in a format that will represent this well (Outliner-type format I guess) and share it with someone else who does not own a copy of TheBrain.

If anybody knows how to do this I’d be very grateful if they’d let me know

An aside – this experience reminds me how using ‘office’ IT, computers and applications used to feel pre-web/Win3.1.

The work I did in each was silo’d and separated, for you to save or more likely print in order to share or compare with work done in another application; especially between things like AutoCAD, WordPerfect and Excel – which were perhaps at the time seen as programs for very different users.

The intimacy of sound

Found this comment on sound and interaction design by Hans Samuelson on the Ivrea Hub, which helped me understand in part why my Skype cold-calling experience made me have such a knee-jerk reaction:

“the public nature of sound – it projects and radiates, it is an active expression against which there is little defense. It’s essentially impossible to shut your ears; eyelids are a last line of defense against visual noise, but there is no equivalent for touch, or even sound. The always-on world…”

Markets are (too much like) conversations

I think I just got telemarketed over Skype.

Someone I don’t know from Sweden called me and said that he’d made a music track he wanted to play me. I declined as politely as I could and then altered my preferences so that only my buddylist can call me.

As I clicked to confirm I felt a pang of remorse. Maybe this was just a budding musician reaching out across a rich-media-enabled social network to someone he didn’t know to form a connection for a temporary shared enjoyment of some music. It would be ludicrous to think this was some kind of conscious telemarketing effort? What if there is some enterprising Scandinavian marketing services firm clicking down through the public Skype directories calling people up and giving them the sell?

The “media-bleed” from the legacy of phone and telephone marketers coupled with the immersion and intimacy I associated with the acoustic space (computers, desk, chair, speakers, screen) had created a knee-jerk reaction in me.

I felt uncomfortable that I’d felt uncomfortable.

But I didn’t change my preferences back.

“From amazing to plumbing”

Russell Beattie:

“This morning on #mobitopia we were talking about our WiFi day and I said, “I can’t think of anything to write about WiFi.” Then I started thinking and realized that it’s been a “just” a year using the technology and it’s gone from being Cool, New and Amazing, to just Plumbing I use without thinking about it. I’m actually writing this in the living room connected to the router in the bedroom via WiFi. I hadn’t noticed until I started writing this piece.

That in itself is probably the most amazing part of WiFi now. “

I like the title. “From amazing to plumbing” is probably the dream goal for a lot of conscientious experience designers, but a nightmare of commoditisation for any company.

Unless of course they can be confident in the value of great design to create positive lock-in; come up with amazing, delightful plumbing, cf. Apple.

» Russell Beattie: From Amazing to Plumbing: A year of WiFi

How old the future is


I was obsessed with AeroGel back in the summer. A succinct and surprising summary of it in The Guardian today [my emboldening]:

“One of the most beautiful of modern inventions is aerogel. This eerie stuff is a jelly made with air instead of water. A sheet of it can support 4,000 times its own weight. It is one of the great insulators, as well as a great soundproofer. It is uncannily light. It looks like frozen smoke. And pretty much its only use so far is aboard a spacecraft called Stardust, which is preparing to sail through the tail of a comet and catch its dust with a trap made of the stuff. Aerogel sounds like the last word in materials science, but in reality it has been around since 1933.

The article itself is focussed on LED technology, which is cool… but not as cool as AeroGel. For instance, here’s some AeroGel art by April Debra Tsui.