TL;DR - aforementioned bug repaired, and I agree... more development work needs to be done on the site to make it more reliable, I have a lot of ideas but my time is extremely limited due to work obligations. Suggestions? Volunteers? Donations?
The torrent client had crashed on the server again. Thanks for the email Krak, I fixed it pretty much straight after you emailed me yesterday evening. As previously suggested, I am going put some kind of system in place to restart the clients automatically when this happens in the future.
Note to shareholders: dividends will be paid out tomorrow August 15th. Also, does anyone think that the 0.05btc/gb base rate should still be maintained given the fact bitcoin is now worth $12? This puts the price of the service at approximately 60c per GB before discount.
Thoughts from the CEO on costs of development work to make this a much more reliable service please.
I guess the biggest problem of the whole endeavor is the lack of reliability. There are two "foreign" components, namely the bitcoin client and the BitTorrent client, both with their own reliability problems, and limited time of the one person running the project. So it is no surprise that the entire system is not perfectly reliable.
Perhaps some good ideas about this are needed. How about a little bit of monitoring and automatically restarting components that fail? Ideally all open tasks should survive such a partial reboot and pick up where they were interrupted.
The second best task survival idea may be to have the tasks and the recently paid bitcoins on the book (in the database) and restart tasks from the beginning that were interrupted by some partial failure. Or perhaps pay back the already paid bitcoins and ask the user to start again from scratch. Payback may just mean to set the task to unfulfilled and ready to be restarted in the bookkeeping. Or it might mean to actually send the bitcoins back.
Of course it would be much better if each and every piece of software involved were perfectly reliable, but I have my doubts. So the intermediate aim may just be to provide a reasonably good user experience in the face of occasional failures without the need for round-the-clock monitoring by the operator.
My other worry would be the seeding or the lack of it.
hgmichna, you are totally spot on with your appraisal of the situation. I think you articulated the main issues succinctly and I agree with all of your criticisms. It frustrates me to no end that I am providing a service that I would personally consider unreliable, and I would rather not provide any service at all than to provide one of uncertain reliability. But I have a responsibility to my shareholders that I take very seriously, so shutting up shop is patently not an option.
It's been a bumpy road, but the site has came a long way from where it was at the beginning. I started this project at the end of last year while I was unemployed with very little money and lots of spare time on my hands. I started a new job in the field of biomedical science in January, and now I spend pretty much all day on my feet. I don't have a desk so only have intermittent access to the internet on my iphone or at shared workstations. I have been doing my best to keep up given the pretty horrendous work demands, but it's been somewhat of a struggle. Believe me, it's not just bitcointorrentz that is suffering because of this. Most of my other projects have been put on hold too and I have damaged some close personal relationships, maybe irreparably. I have sacrificed many things important to me and neglected aspects of my life that were incompatible with my new lifestyle, all for the sake of employment. It's almost not worth it.... almost.
Anyway, back on topic. Service reliability and providing a smooth user experience are probably two of my biggest concerns and I do realise that there is a lot of room for improvement in both of these areas. I am convinced that the service is genuinely useful though and think it has a lot of potential. People are using it every single day despite the fact they know it can be a bit wobbly at times.
There is clearly a pressing need for some time to be spent on development work in order to address the issues gathered from feedback collected over the past 9 months. My 'to-do' list is literally chocked full of unresolved minor bugs and new features that are still waiting to be implemented. But I am presently the only person involved in the ongoing maintenance, development and promotion of the site. I'm an amateur coder at best, and have had no professional training of any kind in IT or web development. I do this in my spare time, of which I have very little.
@ Ben Walsh: You asked me about my thoughts on the cost of the development work needed to make the service more reliable. As far as I see it, the most important issues that need to be addressed a.s.a.p are the following:
1) Polling & autorestarting the software clients when they crash
2) Fix the bug that causes torrents to hang at 100%
3) Ability to cancel and refund unused bandwidth for torrents that never start, partially download or are still in progress.
4) Redesign of the members control panel to show download history, download links, time left to download the file etc.
There are a lot more minor modifications and bugfixes that need to be made also.
In addition to the above, I think a site-wide redesign is probably worth considering at this point too, preferably before any significant development work is done. Otherwise all of this will have to be redone again anyway at some point in the future. The existing design and user experience in general is just a tad messy and disorganised. Also, my code is kinda haphazard and could do with some restructuring and simplification to make subsequent development faster and easier. This sounds problematic and time consuming, and it is, but the most annoying part is design and a lot of that can be simplified using a professional design framework like twitter bootstrap - which I have absolutely fallen in love with!! It was the same framework used by the Bitcoinica trading platform before it went belly up. Does anyone have any thoughts on this? Good idea?
To answer your question about the cost of doing all this, the biggest expense is most definitely my time. Before January, my time was essentially free because I wasn't working. Now, it has become significantly more precious. I would have to take at the very least a week of unpaid leave (quite possibly two) to complete the modifications necessary to transform the site into a reliable, innovative and fully-automated service. Thats a significant loss for me and the site is still not generating enough revenues to cover the cost.
I'm willing to listen to any ideas or suggestions shareholders may have on the matter.