Archived entries for Publishing

Good Advice from Russell

To-do lists and blogging don’t mesh. Just write it now.

His advice:

I tell people who are starting to blog to not make a list of things you want to write about, because the simple act of putting the topic down on a piece of paper negates that “blogging urge.” Better to write it out quickly – even a paragraph or two – than jot down a list, because you’ll *never* get back to writing about them.

Right now I have at least 15 posts in some stage of draft. So, I’m going to do my best to let his advice take hold. I hope the urge to blog is stronger than the urges to edit, ponder and rewrite.

Wikis, RSS and Wikipedia history visualization by the Media Lab

Jeremy Zawodny writes Why do Wiki RSS Feeds Suck?. I’m a big fan of Wikis. Jeremy writes that he’s not. His two reasons are 1) he “find[s] the markup annoying”; 2) Change notification, especially when offered by RSS, “all suck”.

The first is quickly disposed of: Wikis generally allow HTML or XHTML markup in addition to their own markup. If you don’t like Wiki markup, don’t use it. (The system is converting it to XHTML anyways, so you can view-source grab it.) Wiki markup is there for people who prefer it.

His second issue is that Wiki change notification (RSS or other) is often nearly useless. I generally agree: either it’s too technical, or it’s too vague. Too specific, or too broad. My work Wiki, for example, only allows you to subscribe to changes in general — the entire Wiki — not to a particular page.

While the notification could be better, perhaps the information is of a type not suited to per-instance notification. RSS is a natural medium for “change notifications”, but not necessarily for “change visualization”. The MIT Media Lab’s Fernanda B. ViĆ©gas, in collaboration with IMB’s Martin Wattenberg, have done some beautiful, insightful and important work visualizing dynamic, evolving documents and the interactions of multiple collaborating authors. That have mainly focused on the interactions on Wikipedia, which are massive, controversial at times, and exceedingly active. Check out their gallery, it’s pretty sweet. It’s amazing that in some cases, 20-word sentences have each word contributed by a different author. Also, that files that have been exited tens of thousands of times will still retain unchanged content from initial authors. (I saw them present this work at CHI2004 in Vienna.)

Blog Torrents, P2P and the Development of De-centralized Media

Broadband Daily posts an interview with Nicholas Reville of Downhill Battle, which just recently released Blog Torrent, a very exciting new initiative:

Blog Torrent is a key first step of our plan to make software that builds participatory culture. Video (specifically television) is a huge part of culture. But it’s still an extremely top-down medium– even as the tools to make high quality video and animation have become extremely cheap, very few people watch any significant amount of video other than what’s on networks and cable. We think homemade video can compete directly against professional television, especially as reality shows have brought down viewers expectations about the production values needed to make engaging TV.

More from the BlogTorrent site:

What is Blog Torrent?: Blog Torrent is software that makes it much easier to share and download files using the bittorrent protocol. Blog Torrent is easy to install on your website: we don’t use MySQL so installation is as easy as uploading a folder to your web host, and all administration happens in the web interface. Blog Torrent is easy for users: even if they don’t know what bittorrent is, they get an installer that downloads the file they want. But most of all, Blog Torrent makes publishing with bittorrent painless. Just click “upload”, pick a file, and you’re done. This is our preview release and it has a lot of bugs and rough edges… but we’re smoothing them out for the next version, so stay tuned.

Why does Blog Torrent matter?: Making it easy to blog large video files means that people can share their home movies the same way they share their photos or writings. It lets people create vast networks of truly peer-to-peer video content– video that was made by individuals and shared with individuals, no bandwidth budget or distribution deal needed.

We’ll definitely be seeing more torrent news lately, and this convergence with the blogging world / blogging technology can only help.

BitTorrent, and BitTorrent Clients

I’m been investing a little time lately trying to learn more about BitTorrent. BitTorrent, a P2P distribution tool, is unique and potentially superior because it allows many people to download the same file without slowing down everyone else’s download. (More: Wikipedia | Y!Search). This background and client review will be a precursor to an entry on BlogTorrent that I’m still working on.

Traditional P2P distribution (Napster, Gnutella, Kazaa) let you download an entire file from another person on the network. BitTorrent is different. With BT, you initially download only a small map of the file. This map describes the many tiny files that comprise the complete file. This map file is called a tracker.

Once you’ve downloaded the tracker, a BitTorrent client takes over. The client coordinates the separate but concurrent downloading of each small file. It always choosing the fastest source. This is a faster and more stable process, capable of handling feature-length movies and other multi-gigabyte files.

Another distinction between BT and more traditional P2P technologies is that with BT, things go faster when more people are on the network. This is the opposite of other technologies, that bogged down on popular files. By definition with BitTorrent, if you’re downloading you’re also potentially uploading. The more people that want a particular file, the more people that have the file. More requesters equals more providers. And more providers equals a faster experience for everybody.

If you’re looking for a BitTorrent Client, I’ve posted personal research from my hours spent looking for the best one. I’m just sharing, I don’t profess to be an expert.


  • Current Version: 3.4.2 (Windows, plus python source code)
  • Release Date: April 4, 2004
  • Download: bittorrent-3.4.2.exe
  • File size: 2.71 MB
  • Homepage: Bram Cohen

Description and notes: Bram Cohen is the creator of BitTorrent, and made this client himself. It’s open source python.

BitTornado (Windows, plus python source code)

Description and notes: According to Slyck’s BT Guide, this is “[c]urrently the most popular and recommended modification to the [pure BitTorrent, above] source code.” The noteworthy tweak is the “ability to control the upload bandwidth used”.

Azureus Java BitTorrent Client (Cross-Platform, including Mac)

Description and notes: Azureus is a powerful, full-featured, cross-platform java BitTorrent client. It “offers multiple torrent downloads, queuing/priority systems (on torrents and files), start/stop seeding options and instant access to numerous pieces of information about your torrents” and is available in many many languages.

BitComet – a powerful C++ BitTorrent Client (Window)

Description and notes: “BitComet is a powerful, clean, fast, and easy-to-use bittorrent client. It supports simultaneous downloads, download queue, selected downloads in torrent package, fast-resume, chatting, disk cache, speed limits, port mapping, proxy, ip-filter, etc”. I more or less accidentally downloaded this one after desiring more features and a more comfortable look-n-feel that the original BitTorrent Client (by Bram Cohen, above)

(Thanks again to Slyck for info on the first two reviews, as well as background and format of reviews.)


While a few others exist, and are reviewed elsewhere, I think the software above represents the big players, and a wide range of interfaces and features.

I currently use BitComet. I’ll update you as/when that changes. Let me know your experiences and findings, and if you recommend any others.

Parting Note:

In my reading, I found this BitTorrent summary that caught my eye for it’s succinctness:

Bittorrent in a nutshell: A) Get a client, and B) Click on a .torrent link.

How To: Subscribing to Blogs / Feeds

Note: I sent this email to my dad this morning. It’s republished here for two reasons: 1) Hopefully it will be of interest or assistance to somebody else. 2) This is, I guess, the first installment of “how to actually integrate feed reading into your daily online life” series. This one is rough, but I wanted to throw it up as-is to help me bust through my writers block on this subject.

Hey Dad,

I have a blog to recommend (many actually, but we’ll start with this one). John Battelle writes about the search industry, and is very well connected to its pulse. I try to read five or six others that cover the same topic, but when I have to pick just one, it’s his. As with many blogs, it serves as a proxy for it’s like-minded blogs. If something interesting pops up on one, it’s usually echoed or references on the others. Plus, he’s a professional writer and generates lots of unique, insightful content:

The process I use to subscribe to blogs follows:

  1. Have a account
  2. Browse to an interesting site (like or
  3. Click your “Easy Subscribe” bookmarklet from either your Bookmarks Folder or, more commonly, your browsers Links Toolbar.

    (“Bookmarklets” or “favelets” are special links that — generally containing a small bit of Javascript instead of a URL — perform little tasks. As with any bookmark, you simply drag a link to your Bookmarks Folder or Links Bar.) This page has the Easy Subscribe links to drag to your toolbar (depending on browser) and more of a description:

  4. Choose which of the available feeds to subscribe to.
    • Sometimes there will be a “full articles” feed, a “summary” feed and sometimes a “comments” feed. (I always go for the full feed.). Of all the options you’re presented with, this is the only one that really matters since it actually represents different blocks of content.
    • Other times, as seems to be the case with the first two options on, they’re just different technical formats (.xml, .rss, .atom, .rdf). If this is the case then it’s pretty trivial — they’re all basically the same — and you’re safe picking ANY of them.
    • Other times (this is the case with the 3rd and 4th battellemedia options) they are third-party-generated feeds. In this case, these are provided by Technorati and Feedburner. If given a choice, I try to get the official feed from the site itself. But it’s pretty trivial again, and any of the four options will get you the same content.
  5. Enter your preferences (like which folder to store the blog in, notification preferences, descriptions, etc)

That’s it. Pretty soon you’ll be reading scores of feeds like me. (view my blogroll — a blogroll is the term for the list of blogs somebody subscribes to.

Other Ways to Subscribe

If you’re using bloglines but not the Easy Subscribe Bookmarklet you can go directly go to and enter the URL of the site or feed. This is less efficient for me, because I have to leave the interesting site to subscribe to it… On the other hand, if you have the bookmarklet on your toolbar you just click-subscribe immediately from any cool site.

Part of the thing with reading blogs is that I’m always discovering interesting new feeds to subscribe to. The easier it is to subscribe the better! The downside is that I sometimes end up with tons and tons of blogs. To combat this, I keep a special folder that new feeds go into as a form of initial probation: “Blogs I’m Considering”. If I continue to be interested in that feed on the next weeks, it gets upgraded to it’s rightful place in my personal hierarchy of feeds.

OR, If you prefer to read your feeds on you can go to and enter the URL of the feed or site. After adding it, it’ll show up on your personal My Yahoo page.

Digital Web Magazine: a Fast Company’s 2005 Fast 50 Nominee

If you don’t read Digital Web Magazine, you should. If you do, you should leave a testimonial over at the Fast Company’s 2005 Fast 50 – their 4th annual – where Nick Finck, DWM’s publisher and driving force is nominated this year.

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