Monthly Archives: November 2013

Thanksgiving Torrents

breadspheres-thumb

This Thanksgiving, I am thankful for peer-to-peer file sharing, and to celebrate, I’ve made another batch of my videos available as Torrents, including the Thanksgiving Dinner series I made last year (torrent|YouTube). If it’s not Thanksgiving where you are, maybe it is snowing and you’d like to revisit last year’s series on folding paper snowflakes, also space-time! You can find all the new torrents on my Torrents page.

This year I have been reminded repeatedly, in multiple ways, how important free peer-to-peer file sharing is. Yesterday my website went down without explanation because the hosting service I am paying for had technical difficulties, but the torrents of my videos still worked. YouTube changes the conditions surrounding their hosting service on a whim, for both those using it for free and those paying for it with ads, but torrents have no unique host or platform that can control how you see them. YouTube can decide to suddenly start showing advertisements before my videos, without notification (this happened earlier this year), but when you download one of my torrents I know you will get exactly my video and nothing else. No signing up for other services. No “featured video” thumbnails promising to teach you how to get girls’ numbers. No extra compression, degradation of quality, unexplained age restrictions, bogus copyright claims, “This video is not available right now,” etc. Just my video, on your computer, the way it was meant to be seen.

In a world where anyone reading this is probably already paying for internet access, paying for hardware, and probably also paying for other hardware that gets that internet access to your hardware, it concerns me how prevalent the idea is that it is good and right for people to accept an internet full of advertisements and alternate agendas in exchange for services as basic as hosting or transferring information.

I do not accept that.

I bought a computer and pay a monthly cable bill. I should not need to use an ad-covered site to communicate with my friends.

I bought a computer and pay a monthly cable bill. I should not need to use an ad-covered site to let people see content that I myself create and own.

And I don’t! So, thank you BitTorrent. Thank you for letting people who like my stuff download my stuff from each other using things they’ve already paid for. Also, thank you RSS for letting people get my posts without having to expose themselves to my frighteningly-yellow website and its faulty hosting.

breadspheres-thumb2

And now, a note on the Thanksgiving videos, since I get a lot of questions about them.

I did not, in fact, eat any of the math food I created for the videos. Filming the series took over a week, and items went in and out of the fridge, sat out for hours, etc. The potatoes mostly dried out, and so did the bread spheres, so they were easy to deal with. The gelatinous cranberry cylinder got moldy pretty quickly. Throughout the series I replaced blackberries, covered up mold spots with mint leaves, etc.

The turkduckenen-duckenen was the saddest part. I had little expectation that I would be able to pull off a seven-bird binary-stuffed extravaganza, but I managed to debone and assemble all the birds and after sitting in the oven for ten hours it came out perfectly cooked and smelling delicious. Unfortunately filming the creation of it involved many hours of setting up shots and deboning on the counter under warm lights, and leaving uncooked poultry sitting out for hours is a great way to get sick, so I had to trash the whole thing. Still, I think helping teach hundreds of thousands of people about binary tree traversal is a more worthy end to a bird’s life than being eaten.

How I Feel About Logarithms

I made a video, again. After that three-part not-logarithms series I thought it only fair to set the record straight as to my true inner feelings about logarithms, and decided I might as well explain all of elementary algebra while I was at it.

Download via torrent or vimeo:

Google+ YouTube Integration: Kind of Like Twilight, Except In This Version When +Cullen Drinks BellaTube’s Blood They Both Become Mortal, But +Cullen Is Still An Abusive Creep, Also It Is Still Bad

The choice between having to use Google+ and never commenting on YouTube again is laughably easy for me. I invested so much into my YouTube channel, and they’re taking that investment and threatening to throw it away if I don’t also start investing in Google+. No thank you Google, but you’ve already made me regret investing so much into you the first time. Do you really think I’m going to do it again?

Google was so good at being Google! Why did they decide they want to become FacebookTV? I don’t know, but here’s some problems with the G+/YouTube integration, assuming you know the basics already:

+ Google is trying to re-animate a failed platform by leeching off of a successful one, despite that the failed platform failed because it is bad, and more users are not going to make it less bad

+ Google’s publicized selling point was “comments just got better” while in actuality they managed to take what we all thought was the lowest of the low and actually make it worse (this is a significant accomplishment that leaves me in awe)

+ YouTube has long known their comment section is awful, and out of many possible improvements, the easiest solution is NOT integrating an entire social network. Using comments as an excuse for the integration is dishonest, and would still be dishonest even if the new system wasn’t a failure

+ The integration system is designed for the common casual new user, with integration causing horrible problems for people with multiple channels and preexisting personal G+ accounts/pages, who, being people who have already invested in these products, you’d think Google would at least pretend to care about

+ Making huge forced changes to a platform is problematic for people whose livelihood depends on certain things being a certain way. I would not recommend making YouTube or Google+ a large part of your business, and these changes should be scaring away anyone who was considering investing in the platform. Google’s recent untrustworthiness is certainly what got me getting this old website back up and running, and why I decided blogging is better than vlogging right now

+ This is part of an ongoing trend of Google exerting more control over what information their users see, so that they can optimize for having the user see things that make Google money.

Google’s products used to augment humanity with beautiful tools that helped us get the information we wanted to see. That was the superiority of Google search, Google reader, gmail with its excellent spam filter, and YouTube, which allowed you to subscribe to any individual who might want to post videos. Empowering humanity to efficiently search for and find information, and then to choose what information they consume, is not just a noble goal, but turned out to be a wildly successful thing that people want.

Making things people want is good business. Tricking people into using things they don’t want with a bait-and-switch is not good business.

Now a Google search shows me a full page of promoted, local, and social results–I have to scroll down to see actual search results. Google decided to drop Reader altogether. YouTube inflates subscriber numbers during signups while choosing which videos will actually show up, with a malicious algorithm that includes both total time a user spends on the site (promoting videos that suck you into watching things you don’t really like but are easily distracted by) and revenue gained (this means that by not having ads on your videos you miss out on both the ad money and on having your stuff displayed to many of your own subscribers). You can still “subscribe,” but YouTube changed the definition of the word in the same way Facebook changed the definition of “friend.”

YouTube used to be designed to help you find what you were looking for. Now, it’s designed to keep you looking.

Google used to be about being in control of what you see. Now, “you’re in control of how you’re seen

Now even discussion is curated by Google, rewarding those who talk often, and promoting hateful inflammatory comments because they provoke responses. Taking all the collected data and computational power of Google and using it to optimally encourage people to watch advertisements and argue with each other is, in this author’s opinion, brazenly unethical. We can only hope that everything that’s happened in the last year has been unintentional and that Larry Page will have some sort of epiphany, pull out before the transformation is complete, and start putting the company’s energy into doing good things again, as in a heartwarming vampire holiday tale.

As for me, I’ll continue posting on my own RSS-enabled site and making my videos available as torrents, and maybe I’ll follow in the footsteps of the many other prominent YouTubers who are moving discussion of their videos off YouTube.

There’s a lot more to say about how this is part of a bigger picture involving various related companies and industries, but I think I’ll stick to the comments integration thing this time.