Happy Monday, folks! Today, we have a special treat — an interview with Byrne Reese, an independent consultant that’s done a lot of exciting work with Movable Type. Byrne will be talking with us about some of his recent projects, including his recent upgrades to the Photo Gallery plugin. But first, let’s catch up on what’s been going on in the MT community.
This week, Six Apart released the third release candidate of Motion, the social application built on top of MT 4.25. This release primarily addresses the same issues as MT 4.24 — it includes the security fix and the new password recovery system. Word is we’re getting very close to a final release.
Blip.TV Action Streams Plugin — Brendan O’Connor has created an Action Streams plugin that allows you to add your Blip.TV shows to your Action Stream.
SortableCategories — This plugin, created by Hirotaka Ogawa, provides a drag and drop interface for reorganizing categories and folders. Once you have the order you want you can use the new “sort_method” attribute to output your categories.
Apture — Apture is a service that allows you to add a wide variety of pop-up links to your sites. With it, you can link words to Wikipedia entries, videos, maps, and more, all appearing on your own site. This plugin makes it easier to add Apture links to your blog posts.
Comment Challenge — Comment Challenge helps prevent comment spam in two ways: First with a “comment beacon” that is required in the comment. Second, an optional, challenge question that stops spam that gets past the beacon. This is not a new plugin from Jay Allen, but it has been recently updated for current versions of MT.
Interview with Byrne Reese
Byrne Reese is one of the most prolific developers in the MT community. He has created a few themes and developed more than a dozen plugins. This week, I had the chance to talk to Byrne about his work with MT.
Billy Mabray: Byrne, thanks so much for taking the time to talk with me. How long have you worked with MT?
Byrne Reese: First, thank you so much for the opportunity to speak with you. I am a big fan of the MT Monday series and think it is such a vital news and community resource for Movable Type users. Thank you!
I have been using Movable Type according to my archives since April 2003, so about 6 years. I did not start developing plugins for Movable Type however until I first became interested in working for Six Apart. My first plugin was taking the “BookQueue” plugin which was GPL and had fallen into disrepair and neglect, and adding some features I needed for my own work. That gave rise to “Book Queue Too” and ultimately Media Manager – a plugin that allows people to add books from Amazon, videos from YouTube and photos from Flickr into posts on their blog.
MT has certainly had its ups and downs over the years. What do you think needs to happen for MT to reach a broader audience?
I am glad you asked. Movable Type has long been a product favored by some of the largest and most progressive publishers on the Internet, partially because it differentiates itself as a “Professional” and “Enterprise” product and content management system. That is due in part to its feature set, security track record and it being backed by a great company like Six Apart. But it is also due to a conscious decision to cultivate that market over a broader, more casual consumer/user/market base.
Some of the challenges Movable Type faces in reaching a broader market has to do with its roots in Perl and CGI, a difficult pill for many Perl enthusiasts to swallow I think. Perl, and CGI specifically, often present one too many challenges during the Movable Type installation process, which slows and hinders adoption. While I was at Six Apart we made great strides in improving that process for a large number of people, but never has Movable Type been able to rival the ease of which users can install PHP-based systems.
But truthfully, I think features, technology and yes, even installation is a distant second to something far more important: community. For Movable Type to reach a broader audience there needs to be more than just Six Apart actively marketing, selling, and advocating for it. Thus, there needs to be a major re-investment into building an even bigger, more loyal and more giving community around Movable Type.
The MT development community has seemed quiet lately, would you agree? What needs to be done to jump-start community activity?
Quiet and inactive are two totally different things. Yes, I think things have been quiet. But I also know that things have been incredibly busy.
For one, the downturn in the economy has reduced the luxury many of us once enjoyed in being able to play around with developing plugins, chatting on mailing lists, and the like in favor of focusing on client work. Plus Six Apart has been busy creating Motion, a product I am very excited to see released soon (knock on wood). In the end, I think to some extent things appear slow because everyone is busy working.
To answer your second question, I think if we want to jump start community activity, we need to start crowing a little bit more about the great work being done by ourselves and the community every day. Six Apart can and should help a lot more with that, but it is also incumbent upon the community to take some ownership of that responsibility as well. This is why I think what you are doing to so immensely important and why I appreciate your doing it so much.
Thanks, Byrne, I’ve really enjoyed doing it. And it seems like just about every week I’m writing about something you’ve done for MT Monday. What are some of your current projects?
I have tons of projects, but what excites me most is building a business with open source as one of its core values. Over the years I have worked with a lot of Movable Type professionals, and it always dismayed me how much AMAZING technology and how many GREAT products have been withheld from the community because their client didn’t see the value in giving what they paid for back to the community.
Granted, such an attitude is easy to understand; after all, “I paid for that feature, it’s mine.” But the status quo is always easy to understand.
What I have been helping clients see is that when you buy into a product in this day and age, you are also buying into a community and an entire eco-system. And just like the green movement is teaching us that a pervasive “me me me” attitude is unsustainable environmentally, I have been helping clients see that a “me me me” attitude in the realm of professional services is equally unsustainable to their business — that the best thing they can do is start to give back to the community supporting the product they have chosen.
Tell us a little bit about the Photo Gallery plugin — its history and what it does.
The Photo Gallery plugin started as a large set of templates and a complicated set of installation instructions furnished by Doug Bowman. I loved the templates and wanted to make installation easier, so I packed it up and automated the installation process. Over time however, the Photo Gallery plugin has evolved alongside Movable Type to utilize more and more of MT’s native features like asset management and template sets. So now the Photo Gallery plugin offers not only a great set of templates for a photo blog, but an enhanced user interface for managing photos.
You recently updated the Photo Gallery plugin with a new theme. What made you decide to do a complete overhaul of this plugin’s look?
It was simply the realization that it would take me far less time to start over with a new design, then it would be to try and continue to adapt Doug Bowman’s original template set. Combine that with the fact that selfishly I wanted a photo gallery for my personal web site that was a seamless extension of its current look and feel.
Presto, Photo Gallery 2.1 was born.
And I understand you’re working on a mobile version of the templates. How’s that going?
I am. And similar to my motivations behind the Photo Gallery plugin, I wanted a mobile version of my web site that was harmonious with its look and feel. And so, today I am releasing Mid-Century Mobile – a template set for creating a web site optimized for handheld and mobile devices.
Any other upcoming projects you’d like to tell us about?
You have no idea, but I am afraid you are just going to have to wait like everyone else until such time as I am ready to release them! ;-)
Thanks again for this opportunity to speak with you!
Thank you, Byrne! It’s great to hear from someone so active in the MT community. I imagine Byrne will be watching this discussion, so if anyone has their own questions for him, please post them in the comments.