Random Thoughts on PeerTube

PeerTube is growing rapidly with many more instances and a lot more videos than when I discovered it a short while ago. In using it and in trying to write a Roku channel/app for PeerTube I have observed a few things.

First, there are a lot more “cat videos”, that is general interest non-controversial home made videos. I think this is a good thing. I can while a way time watching kittens, puppies quite nicely. If you can find them. Which brings up the first observation.

Searching

From the point of view of an English speaker, finding a video is not easy. This comes from several characteristics that are not really under the control of the PeerTube developers but rather from how it is being used.

  • Many videos have a short description. And most videos have no tags set. The result is that unless some vision AI is built into each instance to determine what the content is there is little to search on.
  • Compound this by the description and titles being in the native language of the poster, the search engine has a harder task.
  • A huge number of videos are now being moved from other hosting services to PeerTube. I have done this myself for my own videos. In my case I uploaded from my original versions to my PeerTube instance. Once that was done I logged in, for I hope the last time, to my Google/YouTube account and deleted the videos I’d uploaded in the past. But I think that many are doing a direct import from other hosting services. I think that because there is usually only the video, the short title and the category is set to miscellaneous. Not much for a search engine to work with.

Getting account holders to add appropriate tags and some real descriptive text would go a long way to allowing search algorithms to find your content.

Performance

But for tags with a large content like ‘music’ searches are very slow. Maybe it is just my instance where I went with the default database for the backend, but some of the searches are so slow they are guaranteed to time out on a device running Roku OS.

Videos are sourced from the hosting instance and many instances are not provisioned with sufficient bandwidth. Some of this is mitigated by the use of webtorrent technology. But that does not help if the site has only one viewer per video but hundreds of different videos being requested at the same time.

It is possible to have another instance mirror your content. And I think the default browser client might make use of this information. When looking into this while working on a Roku client I found that this option has issues in the general case.

Moderation

There are two parts to moderation:

  1. What other instances your instance follows
  2. Determining what videos, accounts or instances you will list videos for.

Originally you had to manually setup peering requests which was a pain. Recent versions of PeerTube allow you to automatically follow another instance that follows you and/or all known instances.

To get as wide a library of things to watch you want a pretty big set of followed instances. So setting either of the two automatic following options is appealing. But there are some instances you really don’t want to follow. There is no method at present to black list one or more instances from the auto-follow logic. So you are periodically forced to delete the same porn site instances from your list of follows.

When a new instance shows up in my administrator’s notifications I load it in a separate web browser window and look to see what its policies are and then look at the local content. The local policies are often in the local language which is not too big a deal (I can get them translated). But often it is just the generic default text which does not help me make a decision on following it or not.

Some of the big general video PeerTube instances have specific accounts that post content you may find objectionable. Fortunately there are options to mute specific videos or specific accounts. If you can find them. Since PeerTube’s search capabilities are less than adequate it is hard to proactively find and block unsuitable content.

I am not sure how moderation can be improved. Other than allowing a black list on the automatically followed instances. But as things go forward I think there has to be better tools for moderation. I am just not smart enough to figure out what they should be.