Movable Type Monday Exclusive: Interview with Anil Dash on Six Apart Services and Media divisions

Filed as Interviews on April 21, 2008 2:22 am

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This weekend saw a tremendous amount of activity from the Movable Type Open Source (MTOS) community with a new beta release, new plugins and community updates to the documentation. The biggest news of all, however, was the rumours that Six Apart had made a “game-changing” acquisition. Shortly after TechCrunch posted this rumour, I got in touch with Anil Dash, Vice President and Chief Evangelist at Six Apart, to get more details. Keep reading for exclusive information on this deal and what it means for the company, and most importantly, Movable Type.

Welcome to a special Movable Type Monday!

Six Apart Services

Later today, Six Apart will announce that they have acquired Apperceptive, one of the leading Movable Type consultancy agencies who have been responsible for sites like Serious Eats as well as the recently launched MLB Blogs which will now become part of Six Apart under the brand of Six Apart Services. This new division will be based in NYC and will become the consultancy arm of Six Apart, offering services such as design, development, implementation and deployment of blogs and the corresponding technology.

An excerpt from the Q&A session I had with Anil:

Why did Six Apart create the Services division?

One of the most important goals is that work Services performs will get folded into the MTOS platform itself. For example, when Apperceptive found that they needed to add some additional capabilities in order to launch Major League Baseball’s blogs, they had to create a series of plugins/addons in order to do so. As Services, it’s much easier to just incorporate that into the next version of MTOS. Six Apart Services will bring us closer to our customers!

In addition to this, Services allows us to bolster enterprise support with more dedicated account representatives for high-end users.

Does this not threaten the large number of existing consulting companies that specialize in providing these services? Why would a client choose an independent consulting agency over Six Apart Services?

We’re not aiming to compete with the amazing community of consultants we have today — we want to grow the entire market for consulting around our platforms. One way that can work is, for example, our team might join a third-party consultant on a pitch or proposal to a key client that they want to work with.

Six Apart Media

Along with Services, Six Apart will also announce the creation of another new division, Media. Six Apart Media will be creating a suite of services for bloggers and publishes to help them succeed, everything from increasing traffic to making money and running ads.

Some more excerpts from my interview with Anil:

Can you give us more information on this new Six Apart Ad Network?

Six Apart represents all the ads on Vox and LiveJournal today, which is already an enormous community. We have clients like HP and Microsoft as advertisers and we’re opening that up to any blogger on any platform (or at least any platform that allows you to run ads!).

It will be a staged launch, so we’ll be letting people in gradually and it will roll out over the rest of the year and be back with a bunch of other services, real VIP services.

Can you give us examples of these services?

Helping people get traffic, improve SEO and even design services. Basically, returning to our roots. Six Apart made its first money by having people get on the Recently Updated list which connected MT users to each other, and drove traffic to their sites. This is saying that idea was exactly right, and it’s time to reinvent that for the current era, in a world of Action Streams and Blog It and everything else, just like Six Apart Services and Blog It, Six Apart Media is for all bloggers.

The bottom line is, Six Apart’s mission is to get people blogging.

What differentiates Six Apart Media’s ad network from others?

We think there’s a lot of people that want high-quality ads. In terms of quality, the ads we serve are much closer to The Deck rather than “Punch the Monkey.” Publishers will have total control with the ability to approve any ads that run. This means that they will actually see the ad and say “yep, that’s ok” rather than blocking the domain after an ad has already been displayed.

What is the timeline for all these services?

Some will launch in the next week or two, things like a jump-start service for TypePad users. So, if you’re a small company that uses TypePad but wants to make sure you’ve got everything exactly right to do the best marketing, we’ll take care of a checklist of things for you. And then things will expand.

Is there any concern that this will result in the “Peanut Butter” effect – i.e. focus taken away from Six Apart’s products?

Of course, which is why we started executing this plan months ago by making LiveJournal independent and consolidating the key parts of that effort into Six Apart Media with appropriate resources. We did the same with Apperceptive, making sure it was a solid, standalone, successul team that would handle services.

Six Apart NYC will be Services and Media sales. That’s actually one of the things I’m most excited about, our set of offices feels complete now, with SF, NYC, Paris and Tokyo and I think proof of focus is that we’re able to help execute, in the span of a week or so, the launch of Major League Baseball’s blogs, BlogIt and this announcement.

MTOS Developments

More information on Six Apart’s new Services and Media divisions will be up later today but for now, I wanted to change gears and look at the host of activity in the MTOS community this week!

BBC Blogs: BBC’s network of blogs was upgraded to Movable Type 4.1 thanks to the folks at Headshift. The announcement post. Anu Gupta gives us more details:

The existing MT3.2 installation had grown organically over a couple of years, and consisted of around 50 blogs, 18,000 posts and nearly 1,000,000 comments. The BBC engaged Headshift to help with the migration, initially doing a review of usage, and then proceeding to the actual migration, at which point Headshift engaged me to act as technical lead on the migration to MT4 (the standard commercial version – not Community).

Other platforms were considered, but in the end the decision was taken to use MT4.

One of the major issues that the BBC was facing was the relentless assault by spammers on the commenting platform, which was making commenting almost unusable – many many complaints from readers and commenters about 502 errors. To alleviate this, and future problems, the BBC decided to use their own commenting system, already in use on the BBC site.

So, the work that we had to do was to migrate templates across to MT4 and integrate MT4 with the BBC’s commenting platform – all of which proceeded relatively seamlessly. After testing, the actual migration was performed over night, and the reaction both internally and exertally has been very positive.

Work is continuing on the next phase of the project, where more exciting things are planned.

XommentReed Cartwright introduced his Xomment plugin to the MTOS-dev community. In Reed’s words

I’ve been working on ajaxifying the comments on my blogs to reduce bandwidth, rebuild times, and improve user experiences. I’m working on releasing what I’ve come up with as a plugin.

A demo is available and is most impressive indeed!

OpenSearch Enabled Documentation: Su, an active member of the community, has added an OpenSearch definition for the MTOS Documentation. Supported browsers include Firefox and IE7.

Beta 3: While a changelog is not yet available, beta 3 of MT 4.15 was released late last week with a ton of bugs fixed as well as improvements made to the template listing, taken from discussion on the MTOS-dev list. In particular, filtering of the template listing is done on-the-fly, no longer requiring a page reload! Beta 3 also feels faster than previous betas and significantly faster than MTOS 4.1.

As you can see, this is an incredibly exciting time for everyone in the MTOS community!

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  1. By Jay Allen posted on April 20, 2008 at 10:41 pm
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    I’m going to be posting my take on this later on, but regarding your question about the threat of competition some MT-focused consulting firms and developers might feel, I want to say very clearly that it’s simply not the case and I for one am ecstatic over the move.

    In fact, external developers, designers and consulting firms who make up the MT Professional community will be part of the engine that powers 6A services. In essence, Six Apart is using its natural position at the crossroads of the software, the customers and the consultants to erase the friction that **currently** exists. Six Apart services does as much to make *us* successful as it does to make MT and MT customers successful. This is in fact a win-win-win situation.

    Game changing indeed and we’re on the winning side. My congratulations Six Apart! This is fantastic news across the board!

    Reply

  2. By Mihai Bocsaru posted on April 21, 2008 at 12:15 am
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    Wonderful news Anil!

    Congratulations for acquiring Apperceptive! I am pretty sure that this will bring it an excellent set of skills and features for upcoming MT(OS) versions

    As a company proving ‘Movable Type Consultancy Services’ we’re not afraid of competition, but rather delighted to hear that one of us has been acquired by Six Apart. This could only motivate us to move forward and do an even better job

    Congratulations for the other projects you’re working on ;)

    Reply

  3. By Byrne Reese posted on April 21, 2008 at 1:09 am
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    FYI – Beta 3 Change Log has been posted. :)

    Reply

  4. By Su posted on April 21, 2008 at 3:38 am
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    Regarding OpenSearch support, it looks like Camino 1.6, which was just announced a few days ago, should also support.

    Reply

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