Contemplating a move away from MT.

Yeah, I’m kicking the idea around again. I’ve been sitting here waiting patiently to see what MovableType 3.0 would be like, but despite promises to the contrary it doesn’t look like it’s going to arrive on the scene any time soon.

So I’ve been looking into the alternatives and there’s plenty of them out there to choose from (and many of you have sent me recommendations via email), but none of them really come close to what I really want in the way of a blogging package. I’ve even debated trying to write my own, but the truth is I want something that provides a commenting system that is as robust as some of the message forums scripts that are out there like phpBB or Invision Board (which I run the SEB forums on) and I don’t think I’m anywhere near talented enough to come up with something like that. I’ve also toyed with some of the full-blown portal scripts like e107.org or GeekLog which offer a lot more in the way of polls, articles, links and such, but it seems like an awful lot for just one site out of the seven I manage with MT. Plus those systems don’t ping weblogs.com or blo.gs and other similar services which removes notification of when I’ve updated. The only package that seems like it might come close to what I’m after is the new Expression Engine, but I’m not willing to spend $199 for a blogging package.

So I’m back to square one. One thing I definitely want in a new package is dynamic page generation. Static pages are wonderful in many respects, but with close to 10,000 comments in SEB alone the time it takes to rebuild all the pages that have to be updated when someone submits a comment is very aggravating. None of the other blogs we maintain here are anywhere near as slow and I’m not doing anything all that much more complicated with my layout than I am any of the others. I can only assume it’s the amount of content that slows SEB down. Disk space is another consideration and SEB is a major hog in that respect. The folder that holds SEB’s pages and the associated archives accounts for 102.71 Megs out of the 191.71 Megs currently used at my hosting service. Exporting just the text of all the entries and comments from SEB results in a 9.96 MB file, which I find pretty amazing.

The other aspect that I really want my next package to have is user registration, which MT 3.0 is supposed to have. It would also be nice if it were fairly easy to develop layouts for it, but I realize that any switch right now would probably mean giving up some things I’ve grown to enjoy having (like pinging of weblogs.com).

I’ve managed to narrow my options down to two possibilities I’m giving serious consideration. One is the aforementioned e107.org which I’ve set up a test installation to play with for awhile. Update: I’ve taken the test install of e107.org down and replaced it with a test install of Drupal. So far I’m impressed with Drupal overall. I need to become more familiar with it anyway as I’ll be helping Monkeyboy Chris to set it up for his use on a website for disseminating info on the LAN parties he holds every so often. This package offers a lot of different options and has a plug-in system for expansion and the templating system is not all that different from MT’s.

The other thing I’m contemplating is making use of the mini-CMS built into Invision Board called IP Dynamic Lite which I am also testing out using the current forums I’ve got setup. This certainly offers all the advantages of message forum’s robustness while presenting a front page that’s still very blog-like. I could just set up a single forum area as the “blog” in which only I can start new topics and everyone else can reply to those topics. I could even simulate categories by making use of the sub-forum option in IPB. Then I’d leave the extra forums for folks to start their own discussions in. The disadvantage to this approach is that IP Dynamic Lite is very limited in what you can do with it (though there are some mods available for it) and it’s a bit more tricky to develop custom layouts for it. My current layout wouldn’t work at all with it as near as I can tell.

Both packages would require giving up trackbacks and pinging weblogs.com. Both would only be good for handling SEB alone requiring me to leave MT installed to support the other blogs anyway (but at least it’s faster with those). Neither has any scripts available for importing SEB’s content from MT so I’d have to decide what to do with all the content that’s already here. I suppose I could just let them sit on the server and link to them.

And then again I could just decide to be patient and wait to see if MT 3.0 comes out before I die. Can you tell my “need-to-tinker” itch has kicked in again recently?

9 thoughts on “Contemplating a move away from MT.

  1. I’m not so eager to get some of those advanced features that I’m willing to go through the pain of migration.

    Damn, though, I’d like dynamic page generation.  I’m in the same boat as you, disk-space-usage-wise.

  2. With IVB, there is a way to ‘export’ your forum entries to say, a custom index page and provide a link to the forum entry.
    So you would make all your entries in the forum, the index page would pull them in and display them,along with a link to read the full entry, comment, etc.
    I did that a while back on one of my old sites, before I caved and called myself a blogger.

  3. I use phpBB with phpBB_Fetch_All. It’s possible to work with phpBB_Fetch_All so that it looks like MT without having to go into the forum screens at all. I have elected not to go that far yet, but it is tempting.

    I just got sick and tired of the comment spam. So far I have only got one weird thing which was a user who signed up with my name and set his profile web address to some porn site that didn’t exist.

    I need to prohibit the use of my name, but that won’t stop people from doing the web address link to someplace. However, I don’t think bots have the ability to create users in phpBB. If so, I think there is a mod out there that will allow you to make the user type in text from a readable but scrambled image. phpBB uses such a thing when users register there.

    I really liked MT, but I just got sick of the spam.

  4. This is a Drupal site, as is this.

    And mine is Drupal too.

    - pings whoever you want to ping
    - allows logins from other Drupal sites, as well as full member registration
    - has comments, as well as separate forum module, and it does trackbacks
    - pages are dynamic, but you can turn on caching for anonymous users
    - ton of contributed modules that do everything from events to post-by-email

  5. Ya know, I’ve looked at Drupal a couple of times (even got a separate entry about it around here somewhere) and it’s very tempting as it does seem to pretty close to what I’m after and I might even be able to replace MT outright. My only concern is it looks particularly complex and if I make things any hard to work with than MT then my mother won’t be able to figure out how to update her blog.

    Still, I may play with that a little more.

  6. I saw your other entry about Drupal. There is a certain learning curve.

    It does fully support the Blogger/MT/MetaWeblog API, so your Momma can use a desktop tool to update her blog—i.e. w.bloggar, etc. etc.

    I finally finished my parents’ bed & breakfast site. My mom posts pictures and blog items, and updates everything. I actually find the posting/editing interface of Drupal *easier* than MT (since it’s right there in the site, as opposed to some crazy backend).

    The only difficult part is in the initial configuration, because there are so many different options. Install is dead easy, and once it’s up and running it’s rock solid.

    Good luck, whatever you decide. The Drupal community is pretty good about answering questions, so head over to the site and post.

  7. Thanks for the tips. I’ll definitely have to play with it some more. Perhaps tear out the test installation of e107 I’ve set up and slap Drupal in to see what kind of a mess I can make of it.

  8. Plone is a spin-off of the Zope project that looks like it might fulfill your needs. I’m looking into using it myself for an e-zine project I’ve got planned. It’s a Python-based CMS—the only one I know of.

  9. I switched my sites from Geeklog to good old Postnuke. The fundamental problem at the time was that most of the interesting Geeklog add-ons required poorly documented and intrusive source code patches. I ended up switching to a different CMS rather than suffer the pain of rolling forward all my customizations.

    Postnuke is overkill for my needs, but other than the theme customizations all the third-party extensions that I care about are self-contained modules. In particular, there is a module that provides administrative approval and a three-way handshake for user registrations. There are modules to wrap Gallery, phpBB, or XForum into Postnuke, as well.

    Anyway, none of the CMS/Portal systems I know of are a good match for the way I’d like to set up my sites.

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