How Movable Type Can Get Its Groove Back

Filed as Features on August 28, 2010 6:34 pm

A long, long time ago (near the beginning of blog time) Movable Type was born.

Unlike many previous rivals (i.e.  Blogger and LiveJournal), Movable Type allowed bloggers to host the software upon their own servers, eliminating the need to rely on corporate hosting without breaking the bank.

In order to feed their families, the Movable Type monks charged businesses a fee to use their software while allowing individuals to use Movable Type for free.

But that was before the dark times, before the rise of the WordPress empire. Fast forward to today and Movable Type has (more or less) fallen out of the lime light.

While Blogger and WordPress have become house hold names (at least among my less than tech savvy non-geek friends), Movable Type has diminished in popularity as evidenced by the rise of Tumblr.

But all is not lost my Movable Type lovin’ friends, as their is still hope for Six Apart’s favorite child to regain its former glory by adapting to times (aka make Movable Type relevant for the new millennium).

Go Thematic

If there is one thing that appeals to the masses its quality themes. Blogger has them, Tumblr sells them and WordPress offers them in both flavors (provided they adhere to the GPL gospel).

Although Movable Type also has many themes, its arsenal is anemic compared to its rivals, something Six Apart is attempting to remedy via a little competition.

While the competition is a good start, in order for Six Apart to attract the masses (plus receive overdue attention from the geekverse), they need to up the ante a little bit by offering white iPhone 4′s (32 GB and 16 GB) instead for 1st and 2nd place.

Although securing one (let alone two) white iPhone 4′s is easier said than done, doing this would attract the attention of not only theme designers, but media outlets as well.

Mobile Is The Future

When Steve Jobs unveiled the iPhone to the world, one of the very first blogging apps available was Typepad. While the app was incredible at its premier, overall it has stagnated over time.

Instead of relying upon BlogPress to fill a hole, Six Apart needs to redo their Typepad app and make it not only Movable Type compatible, but elegant as well.

If Six Apart gave iPhone lovers the ability to moderate comments, easily upload media (images, videos and audio files) as well as edit and create pages, its followers would sing Six Apart’s praises.

It also wouldn’t hurt to create a decent Android app as well.

It’s All About The Backups Baby!

The fact that Automattic is providing a premium backup service for WordPress fans may convince those new to the blogging faith to pick WP over MT.

In order to counter this, Movable Type needs to offer their own premium backup service as a service for their users (especially the commercial ones).

Movabletype could utilize Amazon’s S3 servers, as well as partner with third party companies (like Mozy or Carbonite) in order to quickly make this a reality.

While they will have to figure out the name for themselves (as “Vault Type” doesn’t have the same ring as VaultPress), launching a service could help add some extra revenue to Six Apart’s coffers.

Any Other Suggestions?

Do you use Movabletype? If so, what else can Six Apart do to make the site more appealing? (and if you have previously blogged about it, feel free to share your thoughts below)

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  1. By Joshua Lynch posted on August 28, 2010 at 9:25 pm
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    Movable Type may also want to address the security vulnerabilities that are present on so many sites powered by it. In addition to VaultPress, this is a factor that could sway serious users from choosing MT as a platform.

    But I can’t help but have the feeling that MT is doomed software. As WordPress gets quickly more powerful than MT while always having been more accessible (and free!), its community and use starts to grow. Major players and new media are recognizing it as a viable solution, while MT is looking like it’s chasing WP in capability (i.e. just adding post and page revision tracking, theme application and custom fields).

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  2. By Alejandro Becerra posted on August 28, 2010 at 10:12 pm
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    Wow. This is REALLY! Crazy I think those “HELPERS” should do a little bit more help ! I mean this is crazy ! I mean i love that I-Pod Touch but really? Major players and new media are recongnizing it as a viabale solution, While MT is looking liek it’s chasing WP in capabilty (i.e just adding post and page revision, tracking,theme application and custom frields).

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  3. By Ken Edwards posted on August 28, 2010 at 11:59 pm
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    A white iPhone 4? Really? There is nothing worse than generic cookie cutter themes, and WP has them in spades. I will make my own thanks.

    And have you ever heard of iMT? It works for me.

    You did point out that MT is a self hosted app, and then blast Six Apart for not providing a premium backup service? Really? Anyone who is hosting their own MT install *should* be smart enough to be backing up their entire server, not just MT, on a regular basis. I am already paying for the server, why on Earth would I pay someone else to backup my stuff?

    If there is one thing that Movable Type does not need is to become watered down and bloated, only to appeal to the masses with thousands of useless themes, and even more useless plugins.

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  4. By François Nonnenmacher posted on August 29, 2010 at 1:48 am
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    @Joshua Lynch: the article you link to is just spreading FUD against anything but WP in order to “debunk” the FUD about WP security. Not exactly a good source (and if you dig a little, it says it’s incapable of detecting if people have patched their systems to plug the security holes). Also, “Movable Type” isn’t an entity or a person, and Six Apart has always been serious about correcting security vulnerabilities. Don’t fault them because some users of their software do not upgrade their MT installations (MT isn’t hosted, the vast majority of WP are hosted on the WP service, à la TypePad, and they don’t have to lift a finger to get security updates).

    Now try to search for horror stories of REAL security attacks on MT blogs as compared to self-hosted WP ones, and you’ll see the difference. Not that it’s all because of WP code, WP has a shitload of plugins available compared to MT, and they are often the source of security holes. I agree with Ken about the big difference of quality in plugins between those two platforms, although the elitism of MT isn’t always playing to its advantage.

    I’d lose sleep if I were to sell a WP blog to a client without careful and constant maintenance (performance issues notwithstanding, which is another huge difference between those two software, WP perf is a joke compared to MT). I don’t with MT, even on the big ones.

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  5. By Duncan Riley posted on August 29, 2010 at 11:27 pm
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    It’s a hard ask. SixApart did the right thing in open sourcing MT a couple of years back, but by that stage WordPress was already too far ahead.

    If they really wanted to get back in the game, I’d look at investing in development around MT so it goes closer to being able to compete with WP. However, there’s probably not a great commercial imperative for SA to do so.

    Reply

  6. By Laura posted on September 4, 2010 at 4:17 am
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    One big step they need to take to make some progress is become user friendly again. I was in love with MT when it was free, before WordPress had gotten started. I remember when WordPress was the new thing and Movable Type was the one everyone used (other than Blogger). MT was far ahead of WordPress and then they took away the free version. A lot of protest at the time but they did it anyway. Fine for them but WordPress just vaulted right over them and quickly became a giant.

    Now MT is back with a free version for individuals. It lacks in support, in a huge way. Not just plugins and themes which are the tools a new user really looks for at the start. But, any kind of user guide – the outdated stuff from 2007 just isn’t cutting it now that the new version is from 2010.

    The user guides on the MT site leave a lot to be desired. I’ve had the same small problem with MT for months and the only thing I can do is uninstall or delete the whole thing and start fresh. Having done that a couple of times I would like another workable option. But, it isn’t there to be found. Using Movable Type is like trying to live in a ghost land.

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  7. By Ken Edwards posted on September 4, 2010 at 5:08 am
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    @thatgrrl A ghost land? While I would agree there is not the amount of people around to help with MT problems or talk to for advice, maybe you need to do a little research first.

    Join a mailing list or two, get involved in a community that by and large make their living using Movable Type. You would be amazed at what kind of advice you can find out there if you look.

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  8. By Mike T posted on September 4, 2010 at 5:09 pm
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    Speaking of security, all it would take to cripple the WordPress community would be for hackers to compromise wordpress.org and add the following lines to the downloadable templates:

    $wpdb->query(“delete from $wpdb->comments;”);
    $wpdb->query(“delete from $wpdb->posts;”);

    How many WordPress users actually realize that 2 lines of code, buried in their **templates** could wipe out their entire installation?

    That scenario isn’t possible with Movable Type because none of the template tags are capable of writing to the database.

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  9. By Joe D posted on September 16, 2010 at 4:18 pm
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    One of the less than publicized features of Movable Type 4 is its robust support for Enterprise blogging. Our organization has a blossoming MT blogosphere (+300 blogs) running internally behind the firewall. MT is responsible for a cultural revolution for us.

    The biggest selling point for MT is the multiblog plugin, which lets us create a nice aggregotor for entries and comments. SixApart support is also fantastic, they not only solve technical issues – but actually craft technical solutions to capability questions. I’m not sure we could expect the same enterprise support out of WordPress. Maybe others can shed light here on experience using WordPressMU.

    Is MT perfect? No. The static publishing of MT is a double edge sword. We love the fact that we can have so much content served up statically – awesome for enterprise since lots of hits are to static pages via search appliance (doubt we could dynamically serve up that much content on WordPress). However since MT is static publishing, all the cool things with Multiblog require lots of publishing. This can bog down performance – severely. We cant really complain though since we got this far on a single server. We have plans to revamp the architecture to address the performance stuff. MT is also incredibly complex. The mix of its MT template tags, perl, html – can sometimes be confusing to master – but it is extremely capable once you find the solution.

    I think its unrealistic to ever expect Movable Type to compete in the public space against WordPress, Tumblr, and Blogger. You just can’t compete with free & frankly PHP platforms are superior for individual startup blogs. I think there is a lot of untapped potential for enterprise organizations to ditch SharePoint and use Movable Type.

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  10. By Ariel Nieto posted on December 8, 2010 at 7:55 pm
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    Really nice Post!! I use MT in all my Blogs, sometimes I think that WP is better than MT!! because in these Social Times WP has much better or a lot of Social Widget!!
    But I love my MT Blogs!!! Thanks again for keep MT alive!! :-)

    Reply

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