Interview with DIME moderators, conducted over email in January 2011

DIME's history, and goals

1. We saw that DIME just had it's 7th birthday - congrats! Can you tell us a little bit about the history over the years? Were there any major policy changes that took place?

a) General History

DIME went online as (EZT) on January 11, 2004. In the beginning, the site was meant mainly (but not exclusively for the so-called Vanatics (Van Morrison fans), who were looking for a simple and fast way to share bootleg recordings among them. At the same time the site was meant to be an alternate approach to the then top dog among the BitTorrent bootleg sharing sites, (STG). STG had a nice forum, but their actual sharing functionality was way over the hill.

In the course of trying to keep up with EZT's sharing functionality and to migrate the tracker functionality to the forum STG ate more than it could chew and went offline because of severe technical problems in late summer 2004. Many (all?) active STG members changed to EZT. Since then EZT became a tracker for all kinds of bootlegs and the Van-Morrison portion became smaller.

In the first week of April 2005 EZT was shut down by its former provider because of a copyright infringement claim and returned as (DIME) in the second week of April 2005. In May 2005 another shut down occurred which resulted in a complete rework of DIME's ToS. Since then DIME was left alone in this regard.

b) Policy Changes

- Officially released material In the beginning there were almost no according rules, except for: no officially released material. As long as the percentage of officially released material did not exceed 20for a live recording, a torrent was ok for EZT. This was meant to keep the flow of a live performance intact. Officially released studio material was (and still is) off-limits.

After the April 2005 shut down the ToS were adapted for the first time: officially released material, even if out-of-print (OOP) was not allowed to be included in a torrent any more.

After the May 2005 shut down another root-and-branch change of the ToS was introduced, which is, in principle, still valid today: anything iffy (smelling like officially released material) is not allowed to be included in torrent. Additionally, the NAB- and NAV-Lists were created. They allow for artists and venues to ``opt-out'' from DIME.

In the course of the years there was some fine-tuning here and there, but the basics are valid without major changes since 2005.

- Share Ratio Requirement and Enforcement

Mid of 2004 a method became available how a BitTorrent tracker can identify its users/peers independent from their IP addresses. (Quite some time before the ``key''-announce-parameter was introduced to BitTorrent specifications). At this time I had the idea that EZT could stop the hit-and-run leechers by using this method. The user identification and the share ratio enforcement with an enforcement cycle of 5 GB was developed and implemented within one month. The functions went online end of September 2004. Before a poll among the Yahoo-Mailing-List members had ascertained a reasonable share ratio. The majority decided for 0.25. This share ratio requirement is valid until today and turned out to be ideal. Hence, there are no plans to change it. The enforcement cycle of 5 GB was then randomly decided by myself, however it should be sufficient for a DVD5, that's all I worried about.

- Peers Limit

Mid of 2006 we found that the trackers were overloaded mostly because of ``pointless announcements''. We at DIME consider as ``pointless announcements'' announcements of one seeder for a torrent without leechers, or the announcement of a leecher to a torrent, where the leecher is the only peer in the swarm. Of course, the peer does not know in advance that its annoucement is pointless, but we had to do something about it nonetheless in the interest of all users, in order to prevent the trackers to be overloaded by suchlike announcements. Therefore the ``peers limit'' was introduced. In the beginning it was a static limit and restricted the users' number of peers. In 2007 the peers limit became dynamic and tries to ``predict'', if the known bandwidth of a new peer is of advantage to a torrent's distribution speed or not. If it is of advantage, then an user is allowed to overdraw its peers limit, if not, then not.

2. The community seems very active on the mailing list, and there are a number of polls on questions regarding site policies. Were there any particular things implemented based on the community's suggestions that you think are particularly interesting/useful in retrospect?

Until today, two major changes were done where the community was involved.

The minimum share ratio was determined by the community. There were several tries (especially after introduction of the share ratio) by community members to change the minimum share ratio. However, those weren't successful because of the communities' resistance.

The torrent ratings (1 to 5 stars) were disabled upon request of the community, as certain users were abusing the function (bad ratings for torrents of other users they disliked).

Of course there are always enhancements, which date more or less from the community. Currently we are at the implementation of a sophisticated search functionality, which was originally encouraged by the community.

3. In running the DIME community, what are the moderators' goals? Is there a sense in which the goal is to get the files to everyone as long as they contribute back a little bit, or is the motivation to get people to contribute more?

The moderators help with technical advice and try to educate users about BitTorrent and BitTorrent etiquette in general.

The moderators serve mainly as user-help-desk (UHD) and keep the tracker clean from unwanted material. They also calm down so-called ``flame-wars'' which pop up in torrents' threads from time to time.

In general, the moderators are to be contacted when whatever problems occur (forgotten passwords, problems with seeding/leeching torrents...)

The moderators' goals are to keep the site running as smoothly as possible. When an user has run their account into share ratio violation and is blocked from further downloading the moderators offer advice and help the user to get back on track. Users who abuse the system (``serial leeches'') by only taking without giving back and opening account after account are banned from the site.

Questions about ratio enforcement

4. While the site recommends users to maintain a ratio of 1, the minimum ratio required is only 0.25. How did you decide on 0.25 as the ``right'' ratio requirement for DIME?

Nowhere on DIME or in the Wiki we recommend to maintain a share ratio of 1. We know that the request of a share ratio of 1 is a widely spread bad habit of BitTorrent trackers. We also know that it is mathematically impossible that each member of a swarm reaches a share ratio of 1. That was the reason that in the aforementioned poll a share ratio of 1 was not among the available choices. A share ratio of 1 was always out of the question for EZT/DIME.

5. What do you view as some of the possible effects of changing the ratio requirement, whether up or down? What are some of the pros and cons? Tough question. Please remind me in four weeks to answer the question - then I may have an answer for you. Until now, I didn't give this a thought and therefore, can not answer it at the moment.

Some thoughts by jupiter2101:

Torrent sizes increased considerably in the course of the years. In the beginning, there were hardly any video torrents and if, they were in VCD quality. Nowadays there are not only single-layer but also double-layer DVDs and even HD videos. Therefore, an increase of the minimum share ratio is out of the question. If at all, the enforcement cycle of 5 GB would have to be increased as well. The downside would be that the hit-and-run leechers would be able to take even more without giving.

The same goes for lowering the minimum share ratio. It would only be of advantage for abusers.

One also has to take into consideration that the moderators can reset an user's enforcement cycle when the user has not yet exceeded 10 GB downloaded. That means an user in share ratio violation can be released temporarily from share ratio violation and is allowed to download again - and can use this chance to improve their share ratio until they're tested for their ratio again.

6. How did the site decide on the length of the enforcement cycle? One thing we were intrigued by was that donating doesn't actually improve one's ratio -- it just extends the enforcement cycle. Why is it designed this way?

a) See answer ``1. b) Share Ratio Enforcment''. b) I always wanted to stay away from ``selling downloads''. Crediting donations as direct SR improvements would be nothing else than ``selling downloads''. That was the reason for introducing the ``enforcement cycle'' and extending the cycle by donations: you can't buy yourself out of your sharing obligations by donating - you only can buy yourself a little bit more time to fullfil your sharing obligations, that's all.

Questions about how users earn credit on the site

Some of the things we found in the data that really seem to affect one's ability to earn credit on DIME are (a) how early a user joins a torrent, (b) the seeder/leecher ratio on a torrent, (c) how often a user visits the site, and (d) the kind of Internet connection a user has. These observations have also often been made by moderators and users, as things that affect one's ability to earn credit on the site. Here are some graphs on each of these observations. Please let us know if you are interested in seeing more graphs, or details on how we performed the measurements:

(a) graph on upload rate vs lifetime <link removed>

(b) graph on upload rate vs seeder/leecher ratio <link removed>

(c) graph of ratio vs. days between visits <link removed> [note: having 0 days between visits means a user was there every day]

(d) graph of pairwise upload ratio vs pairwise bandwidth ratio <link removed> [we compare the ratios in the upload rates of a pair of users over durations in which they are connected to the same torrent. A user's bandwidth is termed based on their max bandwidth as reported by the system]

The following questions are related to these observations.

7. Do any of these results surprise you?

No surprises in these graphs, except for one: the increased upload rate at seeder/leecher ratios gt 105 in graph (b) <link removed>

8. Joining a torrent early seems to be quite an effective way of earning credit. Do you see any potential issues with this strategy that may be harmful to the system, or do you welcome it?

Well, that's the nature of Bittorrent: the early bird wins the most. No, I don't see anything harmful to the site in this strategy/system. If it would be the other way round (the late bird wins the most), no data would ever be distributed/shared!

Some thoughts by jupiter2101:

Not necessarily. One can also maintain a healthy share ratio by checking the torrents one has downloaded frequently and open their window (respectively resuming to seed) whenever help is needed. IMO, the trick is to keep one's downloads in the mix.

9. Visiting the site often seems to help with one's potential to earn credit, possibly because it allows a user to join on torrents he is interested in while they are still young. But this also means that users who do not visit the site as often are less likely to earn a lot of credit, which may be causing some people to visit the site more frequently. Do you see any problems with this, or do you see it as a good thing?

No, we want DIME to be a vital community. The more often members visit the site, the better for the community!

10. Sometimes, users download and seed torrents they are not interested in to earn credit. Do you have a sense of how often this happens? This seems `wasteful' from an economic perspective in that the user may not get a lot of value out of the file, and if there were some other way to reward him for effort on files he is interested in, it would improve the system's efficiency. What are your thoughts on this?

a) No, sorry, no idea. b) Downloading shows an user doesn't want just for increasing his ratio rewards him with an increased SR value which allows him (earlier or later) to download shows he/she wants. Why should we need other ways for rewarding him for something he didn't do by heart?!

11. Are there other known tips / strategies for raising one's ratio (other than the obvious of spending more time online)? For instance, are there times of day during which it is more valuable to be active? Are there certain categories that are more beneficial to seed?

a) See jupiter's remark on question 8, it pretty much sums it up.

b) One may have better chances during the European daylight hours when the North Americans are asleep. Certainly the vast majority of members lives in America (North and South). But that's pure speculation, there is no hard proof.

c) Again maths. When you join an obscure torrent early your chances to share may be better compared to a torrent attracting many users where there is heavy competition between the peers. In the long run a torrent from a more popular category/artist may be more rewarding. See notes to question 8 respectively 11. a).

IMO, each user has to develop their own strategy, depending on their musical taste, their habits (not everyone can be online 24/7), and internet connection (speed, bandwidth limitations).

12. Have policies ever been considered that would give additional rewards for seeding certain classes of torrents, for example old or orphaned torrents?

Nice idea, have to think about it. But no, never considered before.

13. Have any policies been considered for rewarding users for being connected as a seeder, even if they are not actively seeding?

No, not considered yet, and will never happen.

Questions about free leech

14. There was recently a ``free leech day.'' Why do you have them? How do you decide when to have them?

``Freeloader days'' are meant for those who struggle hard but slipped a bit down minimum SR requirement and only need a slight push to be back in ``healthy state'' again. It was first introduced in 2008 - IIRC. Freeloader days are usually on special occasions (holidays...).

Questions about measurements

15. When users are downloading a torrent, their overall up/dl speeds are reported, based on which a 'max ever' is also reported. How are these rates computed?

a) Ul/dl speed of peers: The ul/dl speed of a peer is computed at times of an announcements of this peer: (<actually reported total ul resp. dl for this peer - <previously reported total ul resp. dl for this peer>) / <time between the two announcements>. This is always a historical value, valid only for the period between the last two announcements.

b) Max ul/dl speeds of users: The max ul resp. dl speeds of an user is always computed at times of an annoucements of any of his peers. All available ul resp. dl speeds of all current peers of this user are summed up and the results are compared with the stored figures in the user profile. If the new computed value is gt the stored one, the new value gets stored to the user profile. The 'max speed' figures say nothing about the real bandwidth of an user, they say only what value the tracker saw as a max for this user, yet. So, the intrinsic value of the 'max speed' figures depend on the time frame an user is a DIME member and the amount of his participations in swarms. If this time frame is large and the user is a very active user, the intrinsic value is high. If the time frame is very small, there's no intrinsic value in these figures.

Additional comments

16. Thanks for answering our questions! Do you have any additional comments, or questions for us?

Well, some questions I've expected have not been asked. Feel free to ask them as soon as they come to your mind...'s fun. ;-)