Videora, like TiVo for Torrents

A few days ago, I wrote about Videora, a BitTorrent+RSS client which makes it easy for folks to find and download torrent files from the web. The post, picked up by others generated mostly positive responses to the software. Think of Videora as TiVo-for-torrent, using RSS feeds. In an effort to shed more light to the product, I did an e-interview (via email) with Sajeeth Cherian, a Canadian student, who has hacked together this wonderful product. Here are excerpts from an e-interview.

OM: Tell me a little bit about yourself?
SC: I am a student attending Carleton University, which is located Ottawa, Canada’s Capital. I am in my final year, perusing a degree in Communication Engineering and let me tell you, engineering is as hard as everyone says it is. Lately I’ve been interning at a couple high tech firms around the Ottawa region to get some real world experience and finish up the work experience requirement for my degree.

OM: What prompted you to write Videora?
SC: My roommate likes to watch anime and constantly scours the web looking for his favorite anime to download. (Anime is the Japanese term for Japanese animation, cartoons that are broadcast in Japan and which are then subtitled into English by groups of volunteers or commercial companies). About once a week he would complain to me how he was wasting all this time searching for these shows. I think he was wishing that these shows would just somehow download themselves. Well after a few weeks I got sick of hearing his complaints so I decide to look for a solution to his problem.

OM: Now aren’t you a good roommate? mine just finished my cup-a-noodles and never replenished the pantry. Still, RSS?
SC: After searching some of his favorite anime BitTorrent sites, I came across one site which offered an RSS feed. RSS (Really Simple Syndication) is a simple format that is used by web sites to send article headlines, summaries and links back to full-text articles on the web. Anyways, this RSS feed was special, instead of linking to articles on the internet, it linked directly to the very BitTorrent files that these sites linked to on their web pages. By simply scanning the RSS feed and downloading the desired BitTorrent files it linked to, I concluded that he could download his anime automatically without ever having to surf to an anime BitTorrent website again.

After discovering this RSS feed I began to envision a product. Some thing simple, which allows users to find shows easily and a couple clicks later (after the shows are added to their ‘season tickets’) would automatically download these shows to their hard drives in the background. With this, users wouldn’t have to look for certain video to download, because the video they want would already be on their hard drive. Thus giving them free time to do more interesting things, rather than scour the same old websites. This seemed like a killer idea with more potential than just quieting my roommate so I began to develop this idea into computer software. Along the way, I added a few other features including the ability to aggregate video files into ‘want lists’ which allows users to easily manually download videos of interest. Needless to say, my roommate doesn’t complain to me anymore. -)

OM: I have seen that most of the cutting edge work on peer-to-peer and torrent type programs is happening outside of the US? Does being in Canada make it easier to work on such P2P products?
SC: I don’t think being in Canada makes it any easier than being in the United States to work on peer to peer products. Anyone, from any country can work on a peer to peer program without any trouble, all you need is a little computer programming know how. I read recently about a professor at Princeton who wrote a P2P product in 15 lines of code. I don’t think he had any trouble producing it.

OM: What do you think is the impact of BitTorrent, RSS and other such technologies is going to be on the media – both digital and traditional?
SC: You asked a pretty broad question there. BitTorrent and RSS are very different technologies which share a common thread, their use for content distribution. So I’m going to assume your question was about the impact of new content distribution technologies on digital media. I think any content distribution technology, which has a low cost and that allows content to be sent at a rapid pace, will have an impact on digital media. These technologies will reduce the barriers associated with global content distribution, which have been forged over the years by various traditional media sources, to almost nothing, allowing a flurry of new and wide ranging content to flourish both freely and commercially.

OM: What about traditional media?
SC: Huge doesn’t even begin to describe it. These technologies will allow any individual to become their own movie distributor or their own television station, with only minuscule amounts of capital. By effectively cutting out the middle man not only will they now have the opportunity to get their content seen but they will have access to a vast global market without having to pay the millions that traditional media sources did for their infrastructure. In the future, I think we will see more video content than ever before on the internet, both good and bad, and Videora will be there to filter this massive library and find the video which only interests you.

OM: Why the name Videora?
SC: After coming up with the idea for the product, I knew it needed a catchy name. Since the program primarily dealt with retrieving video from the internet, I wanted to incorporate the word video into the name. While brainstorming for a name, I happened to be listening to some Linkin Park and remembered that I liked the name of one of their albums, Meteora. After replacing ‘Meteo’ with ‘Video’, I knew I had found the name I was looking for, Videora.