It’s been fun MovableType, but perhaps it wasn’t meant to be.

I think I’ve finally come to a decision regarding whether or not I’ll be sticking with MovableType going forward and that decision is a sound “no.” I’ve spent most of the past weekend obsessing over this question as should be obvious from the long and probably boring entries I’ve written on it and I apologize to anyone who’s come around lately only to think “oh crap, he’s still whining about his blogging software” as I realize this is probably about as interesting to most of you as watching paint dry. I blog about things that are important to me and this is one of those things so allow me to indulge in one more entry about it while I explain my decision to the three people who do care. grin

Like I said, I’m pretty certain at this point that I will be switching away from MovableType for one simple reason that I can’t rationalize my way around: The low limits put on blogs and authors under the personal license. I have no intentions of becoming a blog hosting service anytime soon, but I can not ignore that if for some reason I want to launch another blog or ask someone to guest author on SEB or any of the other blogs I maintain that I’d have to fork out another $10 on top of an already expensive license to do so. Well, I wouldn’t have to as it’s all on the honor system, but I’d feel obligated to and guilty if I didn’t. When there are so many other options out there that don’t impose limits on the number of blogs and authors I can have the prices being asked for MT are just not worth it. Sure, the new plugin API is probably going to result in some of the coolest plugins ever to come down the pike. It’s entirely possible that I could be leaving at the dawn of MT’s greatest period of functionality and development pace, but the way I look at it is simple. If such a golden age does dawn I can always plunk down my cash later and switch back. It would have to be a helluva golden age, though, so I’m not too worried about it.

The only remaining question is: What do I switch to? My first concern is not for SEB, but for the other blogs I host which are maintained by less-technically inclined family members. I need to make the choice for something that won’t be too difficult for them to master in comparison to what they’re used to in MT. I’ve pretty much narrowed it down to the free license of ExpressionEngine I picked up or WordPress. Both are able to import data from MovableType and both do a pretty good job at it so that’s not an issue and I do most of the work in terms of templates and maintenance of the various blogs so the main thing everyone else will be worried about is being able to understand how to enter and edit content. Both interfaces are pretty flexible and easy to understand in this regard though I think WordPress looks a little more friendly. The one problem I have with both of them is with how they handle uploading images for use in an entry. Neither one works quite the same way as MT and that may be a source of confusion. My sister never uses pictures in her entries, but my mother does so I need to take this into consideration.

For SEB I’m still not decided on what I’m going to use. I could certainly use WordPress without issue, but I’d definitely have to add some hacks and plugins to do some of the stuff I’m doing now. If I go with EE or Drupal I’ll add a lot of functionality into the site with a minimal of effort. ExpressionEngine, for example, comes with the feature to subscribe to comments that I had enabled as a plugin here for awhile already installed and ready to use. Drupal takes it a step further by tracking new content since your last visit and offering RSS feeds for every entry it makes. ExpressionEngine’s templating system is closer to MT’s in terms of using tags whereas Drupal’s system would require some serious learnin’ on my part to make use of. So I’m still kicking around which way I’ll go with SEB.

One more thing I have to take into consideration is the fact that ExpressionEngine is also a commercial product. I got my free license as part of their make-the-switch special offer so it’s not costing me anything to use it right now, but it will in the future when they come up with a major upgrade. That in itself isn’t a problem, but it occurs to me that there’s nothing stopping the pMachine folks from changing their license in the same way that Six Apart did. So I have to ask myself if I want to go from one proprietary system to another one and run the risk of having this same scenario play out again? Not to say that it would, but it could and I have to consider that. This is a strong argument in favor of going with Drupal and WordPress and then donating to the cause. Though I suppose if I can make the switch away from MT without too much trouble I could always make the switch away from EE just as well.

So that’s where I stand at the moment. My time with MovableType is at an end for now. The only questions remaining is what do I move to next? I’ve got EE installed and already moved Jenkins Online over to it to see what it’s like when working with multiple blogs. Tonight I’m going to show Anne what the differences in the interface between WordPress and EE are and get her opinion on which way would be the best way to go. Not sure how long coming to a decision on platforms and then actual migrations will take, but I expect to be devoting a fair amount of time on it during the next couple of weeks so expect some dust around here as we set about remodeling.

20 thoughts on “It’s been fun MovableType, but perhaps it wasn’t meant to be.

  1. Expression Engine is so sweet, my only issue besides the work I have to put into switching to it is that every entry gets imported into the same category, when making the switch. Have you figured out a way around this?

  2. I’ve read w/ interest your posts on MT and the exodus that is seeming to occur.  I was able to snag a free EE liscense as well.  But I’m only running a single author blog on MT as of right now, so I’m not facing all the issues that many are.

    But I talked to an executive at SixApart yesterday.  He admitted some mistakes in their communication.  But he said that after the new feature set is released to the public for the upcoming non-developer version, then people should be a little happier.  We’ll see. I told him he better get the word out soon.

  3. In reading I see you are worried about images on my board . If that is a problem then I can dispense with pictures to enable you to pick what you feel is the best system.  Don’t worry about my understanding, I’ll just make you write an instruction and I’ll learn that too.  If it is money talk to me and we’ll stay put if you feel MT is worth riding it out.  Speak up Evil One!

  4. Etan, you can have the import process make categories as it goes by simply not selecting a default category for it to import them into. It’s not clear on the import screen, but you don’t have to select a default category and if you don’t then it will attempt to create new categories based on what is in the import file.

    Blake, if it were only an issue of new features then I’d probably be sticking with MT if for no other reason than to see what the plugin authors whip up, but the lack of new features became a secondary concern to the limits placed on number of blogs and authors. Six Apart describes the limits as generous, but I disagree. It may work for 85% of their user base, but for the rest of us it’s not a good value.

    Mom, not to worry. I’ll have some instructions written up on whatever we switch to before too long. I appreciate the offer to help out with the costs, but that won’t be necessary at this time.

  5. How easy is EE in terms of templates and modifying them compared to MT? That’s my biggest headache right now and just don’t feel like trying to learn something new. Would rather just concentrate about actual content instead.

  6. I’ve only looked at the templates so far without trying to modify them, but from what I’ve seen and read in the documentation it’s a lot like what you’re used to in MT. Here’s an example from the index template which generates the front page for a site:

    <div id=“blog”>

    {exp:weblog:category_heading}
    <h1>{category_name}</h1>
    {/exp:weblog:category_heading}

    {exp:weblog:entries weblog=“weblog1” orderby=“date” sort=“desc” limit=“15”}

    {date_heading}
    <h3 class=“date”>{entry_date format=’ %l, %F %d, %Y ‘}</h3>
    {/date_heading}

    <h2 class=“title”>{title}</h2>
    {summary}

    {body}

    <div class=“posted”>Posted by <a href=”{profile_path=member/index}”>{author}</a> on {entry_date format=’%m/%d’} at {entry_date format=’%h:%i %A’}

    <br />

    {categories}
    <a href=”{path=SITE_INDEX}”>{category_name}</a> •
    {/categories}

    {if allow_comments}
    ({comment_total}) <a href=”{comment_path=“weblog/comments”}”>Comments</a> •
    {/if}

    {if allow_trackbacks}
    ({trackback_total}) <a href=”{trackback_path=“weblog/trackbacks”}”>Trackbacks</a> •
    {/if}
    <a href=”{title_permalink=weblog/index}”>Permalink</a>

    </div>

    {paginate}

    <div class=“paginate”>

    <span class=“pagecount”>Page {current_page} of {total_pages} pages</span>  {pagination_links}

    </div>

    {/paginate}

    {/exp:weblog:entries}

    </div>

    You’ll note that it looks a lot like MT’s tags, though a little more verbose. This is in part due to the fact that you can actually specifiy template groups and subgroups for and then apply them to one or all of your blogs as you wish. I believe you can even pull data from other blogs you’ve got set up for inclusion here.

    This opens up possibilities such as setting up Jenkins Online (which is the “root” blog of my sites) so it would pull the last three (or five or what have you) entries from each of the other blogs I have here for display on its page. Sort of a “Welcome to Jenkins Online. Here’s what Les said recently, here’s what Anne said recently, etc.” kinda deal.

  7. doh! I didn’t realize that there was a Free EE “switcher” campaign going on. Not that they current price of $99 is unaffordable though.

    I’m still planning on taking a peek at their 15day demo to see what it is like. If it does everything that I’ve read, it will fit my needs perfectly.

  8. I just spent the weekend converting everything from MT to EE, and although it started out slow and painful, I feel almost as comfortable now with EE as I do with MT.

    My take on the exodus from MT:

    MT is a good product, and I was happy with it.  The new pricing just made me look around (something I never did before).  Once I saw the other options, I realized that if I’m going to pay, I might as well be a little more picky.  When I compared the options of MT and EE, it was no contest.  Plus the free license was icing on the cake (I was ready to switch before that was even an option).

  9. You do what you feel is best Captain and the crew will follow your lead.  So things might get a little more difficult, I say bring it on!  I could use an excuse to use the lump matter in my head.

  10. Les, if what you said is true then my night tonight will be spent converting TooMuchSexy to EE. I hope it goes well.

  11. The docs that came with EE should provide you with all the info you need. Also as a registered license holder you’ll have access to the support forums at the pMachine site to ask questions and look up how others are doing things.

    Word has it that since 1.0 was just released they’re working on their first add-in module for EE which will be a Photo Gallery with the possibility of a Forum module to follow that.

  12. Your entries on Movable Type have actually been quite interesting to me.  I don’t use the blogging software on my journal site, save for sites like Haloscan and SiteMeter, but I can see the benefits of MT and WordPress, and would certainly use them if coding wasn’t a “hobby” of mine.

    I also hate the thought of spending money when I don’t have to, lol.  Usually, if I can’t get something to work, I can guilt trip my husband into doing it, especially if it would require money for my solution.

    These entries are interesting because I like finding out what bloggers are using and the features they’re getting.  Unfortunately, the more popular software gets, the more expensive it gets in most cases.

    I’ve seen a lot of people moving over to cheaper software since this was announced by Six Apart.  I wonder how much, if any, impact this will have on them.

  13. I started tonight, ran into a few problems so I am going to give it a while before I make the full move.

  14. WP offers comment feeds for every entry, as well as feeds for each author, category, sub-category, and searches. Each feed is available as RSS .92, 1.0, 2.0, or Atom. Alex King has a neat “since last visited” hack. Just FYI for the blogs you end up using WP on.

  15. I’ve been playing with EE a bit more to see how easy it would be to convert one of my templates over to it. Turns out that templating and the concept of multiple blogs works a little differently than it does under MovableType so that took some getting used to. Still, you can see a preliminary version of Momma’s Corner in EE here. The left navigation bar looks a little odd because I just cut and pasted the bar from the default template over. It also shows that I was right about being able to pull data from several different blogs as the navigation bar is pulling it’s data from Jenkins Online and not Momma’s Corner because I didn’t change the code to tell it to do otherwise.

    I also figured out that I needed to add a new “member group” to limit what my mom would have access to when she logs in. Still, it imported everything and is working. Still not positive that I’ll use EE, but at least I’ve established what I can do with the templating engine and it has some amazing possibilities.

    Etan, drop me an email if you want any help or have any questions.

    Matt, thanks for the heads up on the hacks. The “since last visited” one would definitely be of interest to me. I still need to look at if “hacks” are the same as “plugins” or will I need to re-hack WP everytime I upgrade? I’d like to avoid altering the source code as much as I can for simplicity’s sake.

  16. Les: I only found out that I’d gotten approved for the free EE license after I’d already done most of the migration over to WordPress. I guess they got so much response from their “switch” campaign that there was a bit of a delay in getting them all processed.

    So far, I can say that I’m favorably impressed with WP. The templating system leaves something to be desired, in that there really isn’t a templating system just a bunch of PHP function calls. Still, this isn’t quite the drawback some people make it out to be. For one thing, PHP is an incredibly useful tool and worth learning on its own merits. For another,
    <?php wp_list_cats('sort_column=name'); ?>

    is actually easier to remember and use than the MT alternative:

    <MTArchiveList archive_type="Category" smarty_pants="1"><li><a href="<$MTArchiveLink$>"><$MTArchiveTitle$></a> (<$MTArchiveCount$>)</li></MTArchiveList>

    Handling static pages in WP can be a chore, but if you’re familiar with FTP it shouldn’t be a problem. Personally, I’m looking forward to the day that WP includes a file manager for uploaded files and media—like TypePad and Pivot.

    As for the hacks vs. plugins issue, the difference is mainly one of editing a special text file versus uploading something into a special directory. “Hacks” are user-created PHP functions that you can add to a special
    my-hacks.php

    file in your root directory. Plugins, by contrast, are each discrete files that do a single thing and are uploaded into a plugins directory (and then appear in a Plugin management interface where they can be activated and deactivated).

    Hope that helps.

    As for EE, I may still make use of it for a more complex multi-author site I’m thinking of launching. I’ll have to move to a new host that offers me more than 2 databases first, however, since I’m sticking with MT for my photoblog.

    My, but we bloggers sure do come up with some arcane ways to burn our spare time.

  17. Whoa, my attempt to use BBCode and named entities in that last comment didn’t work at all. Hopefully the general point came across, though.

  18. After showing both interfaces to my mom last night she thought that WordPress might be easier for her to work with so I took EE down and installed WP to play with. It definitely takes a bit more effort to work with. Just importing MT entries turned out to be a juggling act and it’s definitely light on out-of-the-box goodies compared to EE.

    I will say that the need to edit only one or two templates to handle the entire site is pretty cool and it does appear that there are an ample amount of hacks and plugins to work with, though the user registration system seems pointless unless you want to allow outsiders to post on your blog.

    At this point I’d say that EE definitely has a power-user feel to it whereas WP seems a little more focused and unpolished. That shouldn’t surprising, though, considering the difference in price between the two.

  19. Les, you may be interested in this two-part tutorial comparing WP tags to their MT equivalents. Kind of helps wrap one’s head around the transition.

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