requesting content

In some situations, nodes only want particular files, and not everything. (Or don't have the bandwidth to get everything.) A way to handle this, that should work in a fully ad-hoc, offline distributed network, suggested by Vincenzo Tozzi:

  • Nodes generate a request for a specific file they want, committed to git somewhere.
  • This request has a TTL (of eg 3 or 4).
  • When syncing, copy the requests that a node has, and decrease their TTL by 1. Requests with a TTL of 0 have timed out and are not copied. (So, requests are stored in git, but on eg, per-node branches.)
  • Only copy content to nodes that have a request for it (either one originating with them, or one they copied from another node).
  • Each request indicates the requesting node, so once no nodes have an active request for a particular file, it's ok to drop it from the transfer nodes (honoring numcopies etc of course).


A simulation of a network using this method is in simroutes.hs.

Question: How efficient is this method? Does the network fill with many copies that are not needed, before the request is fulfilled?

storing requests

Requests could be stored in the location tracking file.


time 0|1 uuid1
time 0|1 uuid2
  • Use negative numbers for the TTL of a request:

    time -3! uuid1 time -2 uuid2

    The ! indicates that the request originated on that node.

  • To propigate a request, set -1 * (TTL+1) in the line for the uuid of the repository that is propigating it.
    This should be done as part of the git-annex branch merge, so if a location tracking file is merged, any open requests get propigated to the current repository automatically.
  • When a requested file reaches a node that requested it, the location is set to 1; this automatically clears the request.
  • When a file has no more originating requests, clear all the copied requests:

    time 1 uuid1 time -2 uuid2


    time 1 uuid1 time' 0 uuid2

generating requests

git annex request [file...]

Indicates that the file is wanted in the current repository.

(git annex get could also do this on failure, or suggest doing this)

acting on requests

Add a preferred content expression that looks at request data:


Matches files that have been requested by at least N nodes.


Matches files that the current node has requested.

Example preferred content expressions

For an immobile node that accumulates files it requests, and also temporarily stores files requested by other such nodes:

present or requestedby=1

For a node that only transfers files between the immobile nodes:


For an immobile node that only accumulates files it requests, but never stores files requested by other nodes:

present or requested

TODO: Would be nice to be able to prioritize files that more nodes are requesting, or that have some urgent flag set. But currently there is no way to do that; content is either preferred or not preferred.