Meet Our Team: Bram Cohen
Bram Cohen

Bram really enjoys dark chocolate almond bark.

Sure, you love using BitTorrent (or the tiny-yet-mighty client, µTorrent) but how much do you know about the people behind the product? In today’s installment of Meet Our Team, we bring you Bram Cohen – an everyday guy who loves almond bark (and shaved just for this occasion) and spends his time inventing things: like the BitTorrent protocol, for one, which moves 20 – 40% of Internet traffic. When he’s not working on that, he also creates puzzles and works on perfecting his juggling act. Find out more, after the jump…

So, Bram, we know you invented the BitTorrent protocol but what is your current role at the company?

I’m not the CEO. My job primarily involves coding – that’s the value I bring to BitTorrent.

What’s your favorite Editor?

Sublime Text on OS X is what I’m currently using. Before that, I was running Scintilla on Windows but I haven’t been on that for a long time.

How did you end up in San Francisco?

I wanted to move really far away from New York City. So, I talked to as many people as I could and asked them which cities they recommended, where I could program and wouldn’t need a car to get around. The advice I got was to move to San Francisco, so I did and found some hostels to stay in before I found my first job.

What was your first job out here?

I don’t really want to talk about that but, like Adam and Teresa, I found it on craigslist. After talking to some people out here about the best approach, I subscribed to a mailing list that was really small back then.

Gear Cube Bram Cohen

The Gear Cube, invented by Bram Cohen.

What are some things we may not know about you?

I have a family with three children. I also invent and publish puzzles. I’m a puzzle inventor. You can purchase some of my products including the Gear Cube, Gear Shift, the Hanayama Cast Marble, and the Cast Rattle.

These are designs of mine currently on the market. Not many people know this but it’s incredibly difficult to get published as a puzzle maker.

What do you wish people knew about BitTorrent?

My perspective is very strange, probably because it comes from a technical standpoint.

In terms of the design of the BitTorrent protocol, really what it’s all about isn’t very well understood. It’s really about reliability and a different way of thinking about protocols where you’re not trying to ever get control.

You have to give up on the idea that you’ll ever have things under control and just embrace the fact that it’s this constant process of things being slightly broken and you slightly fix things where things might be slightly breaking at the same time. It’s correcting for failure. Everything about it, from computing to how this thing works, is about embracing that fact and accepting it for what it is.

Bram really likes to juggle.

I’ve noticed you like to juggle and occasionally practice in the office? How did this hobby come about?

I was bored in college (editor’s note: Bram attended SUNY, Buffalo for two years) so I started juggling, spent a lot of time on it there, and got really good. I haven’t spent nearly as much time on it since.

My thought is when you are going from juggling a certain number of balls to one more, the big problem is, it’s too much of a leap in difficulty between them. You need intermediary patterns, which are stepping-stones between them, that are similar to the thing you’re trying to learn but easier.

(Editor’s note: Please refer to this Wikipedia article on Siteswaps for more information on juggling patterns work.)

So, for learning 5, I worked on 51 in either direction and 5551 in either direction and also 55514, which is fairly tricky. And, after I mastered those, it wasn’t too hard for me to learn 5. I’ve been working on 6 for a long time and my approach to working on 6 is to work on the patterns 66611 and 66161. Then 66661 followed by 60, obviously which I’m getting okay at and, then, finally 6.

Okay, wow. Thanks for your time, Bram.

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