Tuesday 6 July 2004

of wordpress, movable type and a book

Charles asks:

“I thought you were restricted from using anything but mt for a period of time due to your MT book.”

It’s a good question, so I figured I’d take time to answer it clearly. First off, my reluctance to move to WordPress right before Porter Glendinning and I published Teach Yourself Movable Type in 24 Hours had largely to do with the fact that I felt it unfair to publish a book proclaiming a passion for Movable Type and then having a WordPress web site.

But the decision to use or not use a given software product on my site is wholly mine to make. It just seemed bad form to switch to WordPress before the book came out. However, several factors came together at once to persuade me to make the switch despite the nearness to the book’s publication:

  1. I met and began to talk a lot with Matt Mullenweg about a variety of important industry topics including CMS/blog management software that is standards-compliant; PHP; XFN; and ultimately WordPress.
  2. Six Apart released MT 3.0 to completely new licensing policies the very week our book came out. I was really rather disappointed that despite a good relationship with Anil Dash and what I’d hoped would be a positive thing for MT itself, no one at Six Apart communicated these changes to us, which severely compromised our ability to make sure the book was as up to date as possible. We wanted to do a lot with Six Apart, including promoting the product via the book’s CD or web site. None of that happened, probably more due to the legal issues surrounding the structural changes at Six Apart and general distraction and overwhelming confusion as a company begins to suddenly grow beyond its more humble origins. I was extremely upset about MT’s new licensing policies and was part of the vocal outcry against them – which to their credit, they responded to quickly. What’s more, I’d given several hundred dollars to Six Apart over the period of time we were working on the book and I was using the product, and to find myself totally left out of the loop both as an advocate and user of the product kinda felt sucky, to put it simply :).
  3. I was being innundated with comment spam beyond manageability, despite the best efforts of the wonderful Jay Allen, author of mt-blacklist and spam fighter extraordinaire. But short of shutting my comments down, the management of comment spam became a daily chore that sucked up more time than realistic. Now, it’s important to mention that I’m at a very high risk for spam for numerous reasons, so this is not about any flaw in MT – if anything the features in MT 3.0 will significantly help its users who will have more fighting power and less vulnerability than I do.
  4. I recently moved web and mail servers and because of my own personal challenges at the time it was happening, I didn’t organize the move well at all. As a result, I had no chance to properly export my MT entries for import on another site. At the same time, I lost my MT password and could not restore it no matter what I did, including installing the really impressive MT-medic extension.
  5. Completely frustrated, I wandered into the #wordpress IRC chat room, where I’d made good friends with a number of folks who were savvy at both MT and WordPress. And guess what? They helped me. Not only did they help me, but Matt himself took time out of his busy life to restore my damaged data and figure out a way to export it.

In a nutshell: I became friends with one of WordPress’s lead developers, I felt somewhat slighted by Six Apart during my efforts to assist in advocating their product, I had an unusual vulnerability spam-wise that made using Movable Type problematic, and I found better support for WordPress at my fingertips, instantly.

Yes, I want to sell books. Of course I do – it’s a major part of how I make my living! And I also have a co-author to consider – Porter deserves to see the book be as successful as it can as well. molly and porter signing the movable type book But I also have to make reasonable decisions in running, which, while obviously often a personal site, is also my public and professional face that I alone manage. It’s not a small site anymore, and proper management and support are necessary in order for me to enjoy my web site rather than see it as yet another chore.

My move is definitely a personal and public endorsement of WordPress. No question. However, it should not be construed as a negative hit against Movable Type because it is absolutely not that. In fact, there are already situations in which I prefer to recommend MT. And I have little doubt that there will be times when I use MT for a given project for certain reasons.

Now as for the book, having explored MT 3.0 more, I’m confident the book is going to be a huge help for those folks wanting to use MT. There are only two feature changes and an interface modification that is not so different than what’s in the book as to cause troubles for the book’s intended audience: Beginning users to Movable Type. So the book is not only viable, I’m confident that I can recommend it. And in recent weeks, I’ve met up in person with Anil and he not only brought along a book for me n’ Porter to sign at an event, but he reassured me the book was worthy and would be helpful to MT adopters for the foreseeable future. That did a lot to bridge any former frustrations, so thank you for that, Anil. You are a true diplomat and Six Apart is lucky to have you.

The way I explain it to myself is this: I write and teach numerous software products, such as Dreamweaver, all the time. But when it comes to my own sites, I don’t use Dreamweaver – not because I don’t love the program for certain sites – but because we all want the right tool for the job. You know, that hammer with the worn spot on the handle that fits your hand just right, a great carving knife that you know will slice your Sunday roast like butter.

WordPress suits me. It’s free. It’s supported in true open source style. It’s being built and extended by people who care about blogging and the web. It uses PHP rather than Perl/CGI, which is compatible with my personal needs, not to mention that I want to learn PHP, which is something that anyone using WordPress to any extent finds themselves doing.

That Movable Type is transitioning from a publishing tool for the people to a publishing tool for larger-scale enterprise is good news for Six Apart. I’m truly happy for their success and I wish them very well, with a strong encouragement to keep moving their product forward with an awareness of web standards, and with an open mind to their audiences.

So given all of this, what would you have done?

Filed under:   general
Posted by:   Molly | 06:42 | Comments (25)

Comments (25)

  1. Pingback: C A R T H I K . N E T » Molly switches

  2. Pingback: » More Making the Switch to WordPress

  3. I think you’ve convinced me. i was planning on rolling my own but i’ve been meaning to brush up on my PHP and much as I have lovely ideas for doing stuff at home I just dont have the time/energy to do it write now.
    Wordpress here I come…
    And I just looked at the source… Yum. (Is that a really worrying comment to make?)

  4. Heh. Well, I don’t know about anyone else, but it sound reasonable enough to me. 🙂

  5. I think your decision to move is perfectly fine. The biggest endorsement of Movable Type is the fact that you took the effort to write a whole book about it! You have more than paid your dues to the Movable Type community by authoring the book, and thus making it easier for new users to adapt to the tool.
    Given the same situation, I would have switched much earlier, without thinking twice. Why? – because for me, life is all about learning new things and being on the move. In the end, that which remains, remains (with apologies to DNA for ruining a good tautology). Movable Type was left behind when moved servers, and wordpress has remained, so far.

  6. I would’ve done the same thing. Wait a sec, I did do the same thing. However you have slightly different reasons than I did, but the whole “right tool for the job” is my #1 reason. For that, WordPress is an ace tool.

  7. What would I have done? Installed Textpattern, of course! 😉

  8. I probably would have done the same thing in your shoes, but I remain with MT at the moment because of two fairly minor issues, but issues nonetheless. The first is that I use Opera and the WordPress Admin page stacks all the fields on top of each other instead of laying them out horizontally.

    The second reason is that there isn’t a mailing list (that I know of) to send out notifications when I post a new blog entry.

    I guess right now the benefits I would get by switching don’t make the hassle of moving worth it, yet.

    I’m hoping that in a few more releases WordPress will mature, fix the Opera issue, and become even better. When that time comes, I’ll be switching too.

    Thanks for sharing your experience in switching.

  9. It’s your site, you do what you feel is best. I personally prefer to use Movable Type for my personal site because it suits me best, but in some situations I like the customisability of WordPress since I’m a (novice) PHP programmer.

  10. Nicely written Molly. I have somewhat surprised with the number of MT ‘heavyweights’ that have made the switch, but reading your post gives some background to the decision making process.

    Dan, I have just added a plugin for mailing notifications to subscibers on a managed list (subscribe/unsubscribe) and I am sure that there are other Opera users out there who would kindly assist with the hack to fix any display issues.

  11. I moved from WordPress to MT the day before MT introduced its new licensing scheme. I have no regrets though, because MT turned out to be exactly the tool that I needed for the job. I still use WordPress for several other projects but my personal site is just easiest to manage using MT.

    There is no need for a blogging software war. As you have clearly demonstrated, MT and WordPress can live together in their respective niches quite nicely.

  12. Thanks for the explanation Molly, and I’m glad to hear you’d still recommend MT for people for whom it’s the right tool. As I told you and Porter the evening you signed my book (and thanks!) the appendices alone are worth it as a reference, and the rest of the explanation and theory will be of great use to any MT user. We appreciate the support.

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  14. Dan, unfortunately the posting form problem in Opera is due to a CSS bug in that browser, which we’ve made the developers aware of. I’ll take another whack at a workaround tonight though, maybe I’ll come across something I haven’t before.

    Molly, we are honored to have you as part of the family.

  15. Nice, clear explanation, Molly. Makes sense to me.

    One thing others will want to bear in mind in choosing their blogging software, however, is their own level of coding strength (and, as Molly points out, eagerness to keep improving it) and their willingness to be involved in the community. Direct personal support from the developers of software becomes less possible as the software becomes more popular. Obviously, open source software gives you more developers with which you can cultivate that strong relationship. If, like me, you aren’t coding every day anymore (or if you never did) and as much as you fantasize about getting under the hood & modifying your tools you never actually budget the significant amounts of time to do it, you’ll probably want to consider the less DIY approaches like TypePad. Yes, it cuts into my potential flexibility, but if I think back on how often I really got around to updating MT or adding in nifty plugins, I realize I’m better off with a little bit less which someone else will implement for me.

    There is no one right answer, either between the different available blogging software solutions or within the product offerings of Six Apart. As Molly says, fit the tool to your hand.

  16. Molly, your interest in WordPress excites me. I am still a newbie to mainstream blogging software. I have used some off the beaten path blog programs in the past, and was just recently turned on to MT. I had to create a website for a local band, and one of the requests was a blog they could all individually log into and blog all they wanted. After reading your site countless times, through osmosis you convinced me to go with MT. I was very happy to be finally getting a chance to work with it, and just happened to have downloaded it before the dreaded 3.0.

    After some tweaking and brute force I finally got MT to cooperate with my design. I am happy with it finally – actually had to use some PHP tricks to get the spacing and style sheets all to work together – but I figured MT would play nicer with the novice. (I got some cuts and bruises – besides hitting the rebuild button so many times)

    So now its WordPress. I have to admit, I am PHP nut – sitting right next to my PHP Bible. I have so many little PHP progs that I am thinking about incorporating into it even though I haven’t seen the guts of it.

    Very excited and now putting WordPress on my “To Do” list.

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  19. I’m taking the plunge and giving WordPress a whirl. I’ve got it on a test site at and I’m publishing content to both my main blog and there. I must say so far so good, everything has gone without a hitch, and I’m finding WordPress very, very fast.

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  22. Molly is my wife’s name.

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