How Much Should I Share?

Discuss the world of file sharing, from philosophy to help with applications.

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How Much Should I Share?

Postby ProgRocker » Sat Jan 29, 2005 3:26 pm

This is a question that is asked by many people, newbies and experienced users alike. It has been the topic of much discussion. With the legal assaults on file-sharing, it seems that more and more P2P users are choosing to "play it safe" and not share.

File-sharing is…well…sharing. It's a very simple concept: if no one shared, there would be nothing to get. The system only works if everybody ponies up a reasonable selection of files. It works even better when users keep their shared selection fresh and continue to add material. While there is no clear answer to the sharing question, perhaps I can provide some thought to help guide you to being a fair sharer.

There are Legal Risks to Certain File-Sharing Activities.

Let me make this absolutely clear: the sharing of copyrighted material, be it music, video, artwork, books, etc., may subject you to legal liability.

You can be sued in a civil action, and, under certain extreme circumstances, you can even be subjected to criminal action. Although the probability of being caught is very slim, make no mistake, the risk exists. Unless you've just awakened from a long coma, you should be keenly aware of the legal actions that have been taken against file-sharers. You and only you must make the decision as to sharing of copyrighted material. If this is not within your comfort zone, by all means do not do it. But keep in mind that others are taking legal risks to share. Do not expect to download from others and not be willing to take the same risks yourself. If you choose to not share, yet you enjoy the benefit of receiving free files from those who do share, you are a leech.

Getting Started.

How much should I share when starting out in P2P? I often hear people say, "I can't start sharing until I've downloaded some files." As if it is some chicken-and-egg conundrum. This is a poor argument for two reasons: (1) If everybody relied on getting files from others in order to share, there would be nothing new available on P2P systems; and (2) everybody has CDs, and music-ripping programs are readily available. Some, like MusicMatch, are bundled with certain PCs. Others are freeware programs that are easy to install and use. There is no reason why a new user shouldn't have, AT THE VERY LEAST, a couple CD's worth of .mp3 files waiting in the wings when the user first sets up a P2P program. This is just enough shared material to get you in the game. But don't stop there…

Building a Respectable Folder of Shared Files.

Having a minimum of shared files is just that - A MINIMUM. You will undoubtedly download files over time. Don't forget to keep them in your shared folder to provide more sources of those files to others. Start building a library of shared files. And add stuff of your own. Ripping files from CD is a tedious process, but make a point of adding new files periodically. Set a goal of say, 20 or 30 new tracks each week or a couple of CDs. Make a regular commitment to sit down, crack open a cold one, and rip some files. If new material isn't added to the shared pool, the system stagnates. If you buy a new CD (and some people still buy CDs), rip it and share it. Borrowing a disc from a friend to burn a copy? Don't forget to rip it and share.

The amount you share should be proportional to your appetite for downloading. If you only download a few tracks once in a while, sharing a few dozen files may be reasonable. If you are a videophile and download gigabyte after gigabyte of movies, you had better be sharing a lot more than a handful of .mp3s. Try to use some good judgment here and think of balance. Is your "giving" proportional to your "getting"?

How Much is Enough?

Everybody has different resources and needs. Some users offer a few files. Some offer hundreds of gigabytes. Others offer none at all. There is no one-size-fits-all answer. Ideally it would be "as much as you possibly can." Let me make a suggestion for a reasonable goal…

One gigabyte.

Unless you have an old PC with a small hard drive, I find it difficult to believe that you can't find room for 1GB of shared files. Most people can find room for this without cutting into swap-file space. It might require a "house-cleaning," getting rid of unused programs and files. Find files you don't often use and back them up on CD-R to help clear up some hard drive space. While sharing 1GB doesn't offer much room in the way of video, it does provide for 10-15 audio CDs at a respectable bit rate, or 100-200 typical .mp3 files. If you are serious about video, be prepared to offer up much more space. You may want to consider getting a second hard drive if you are a serious sharer. Current prices on internal hard drives are typically under a buck a gig.

If you are tight for hard drive space, think about what files you are sharing. You won't realistically be able to share movies. Even complete albums may be a bit too ambitious. Individual .mp3s might be the way to go. Perhaps you could concentrate on sharing unusual or hard-to-find files. There is plenty of Britney Spears and Madonna out there already. Be creative: share stuff that's more unique. Personally, I would rather see someone offering 50 gems, than 5,000 files of vapid crap.

Quality vs. Quantity.

For those with limited disk space, it might be tempting to rip files at a low bitrate in order to offer more files. Don't fall into this trap. You are far better off sharing a modest number of quality tracks than a bunch of crappy-sounding ones. What bitrate? Depends on whom you ask. For me, 128k/s is the bare minimum; 192 is much better. However, I cannot discern any increase in audio quality once the bite rate goes above 192k. Others with more acute hearing may be able to notice the difference. Keep in mind, .mp3 is lossy compression. It's a compromise. Pick a decent bitrate to rip your files that balances audio quality with available storage space.

During the ripping process, try to not do other activities on your PC. Ripping programs are notorious resource-hogs. By running other programs, you risk interfering with the ripping process and creating flawed audio files. Data underruns and other problems can add noise spikes to your ripped .mp3 tracks, rendering them unlistenable. P2P systems are rife with flawed .mp3 files. Don't add to that.

Good luck in your file-sharing ventures! I hope this article provides some pointers to help you become a better sharer.

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Postby battye » Sat Jan 29, 2005 3:49 pm

That's a fabulous article Prog, I'm going to Sticky that. Great job! home of bat's, rat's and other farmyard animals...
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Postby quicksilver » Sun Jan 30, 2005 12:30 am

Nice material Progman 8)
You capture the ethics of filesharing perfectly :)
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Postby me here » Sun Jan 30, 2005 2:27 pm

oooooooooooo la la..that is great!! Welcome to the Forum ProgRocker its great to have ya here!! :wink:
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