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Movable Type Monday: Themes, Plugins, and an Interview with Anil Dash

Movable Type Monday: Themes, Plugins, and an Interview with Anil Dash

Happy Monday, folks! We’ve got lots to cover this week, including an interview with Anil Dash from Six Apart about the WordPress plugins they recently released. But let’s start off with new stuff for your Movable Type blog.

First, Byrne Reese posted a preview of a new theme he’s working on: Hybrid News. This is a port of the WordPress theme of the same name. Byrne will release the theme under an open source license when it’s ready, and promises lots of new, MT-only features when it comes out.

Also from Byrne is a rather clever pagination hack. What I like about this hack is it allows you to keep the benefits of static publishing while making use of PHP to give the illusion of dynamic pages.

Another small tip comes from Mike Wendell and involves automatically displaying the comment form. I love finding little tips and tricks like these because they help new MT users tweak the default templates in fun and useful ways.

Now for some plugins. Mark Carey has a new version of his commenting plugin that allows commenters to login through their Twitter account. Version 2.0 uses OAuth, a much more secure way for users to log into a third-party site.

Also updated recently is the Share plugin from Dan Wolfgang. Share allows your visitors to email a blog post to a friend. This latest release adds a template tag for displaying a “Top 10” of shared posts.

And now, a new plugin from Byrne Reese. This plugin, Link Checker, adds an option to check the validity of links in your blog posts. Great for making sure your blog archives aren’t filling up with dead links.

Finally, it’s our interview with Anil Dash. If you recall, Six Apart recently released two plugins for WordPress: Typepad Antispam and Typepad Connect. We spoke with Anil about what this means for Six Apart and Movable Type:

Billy Mabray: Anil, thanks for taking the time to talk with us. For anybody that might not be familiar with your work, tell us a little about your background and what you do at Six Apart.

Anil Dash: I helped start Six Apart, having just celebrated my sixth anniversary with the company, and over the years my roles have ranged from working with the product team, to marketing, to business development. Today, my primary responsibility is to talk to our customers, partners, community and collaborators about where our work and social media as a whole is headed, and how they can benefit from our efforts.

A couple of weeks ago, you announced two WordPress plugins from Six Apart: Typepad Connect and Typepad Antispam. What prompted 6A to get into WP development?

We’ve actually provided some offerings for WordPress users for more than a year — our Six Apart Media team powers advertising for a number of high-profile WordPress blogs, and our Six Apart Services team has implemented sites on WordPress for clients. This announcement was about making it even easier for any WordPress user to take advantage of our offerings.

Looking through the WP plugins directory, there are several authentication plugins already out there. And, of course, there’s Akismet. What do these new plugins offer that WP users didn’t already have?

There’s obviously a great ecosystem of services for WordPress users already, but we had some unique offerings to bring to the table. First, we think Akismet is useful for a lot of people, but it’s not open source and for a lot of users, it’s not free. So TypePad AntiSpam, in addition to providing better results than Akismet for a lot of users, is both free and open source, no matter how you use it.

As far as authentication goes, we think a lot of the really robust services for commenting are overly complicated and require your community to create yet another login if they want to comment. But at Six Apart, we invented OpenID, and we had half a decade of experience with TypeKey as the predecessor to TypePad Connect, so we have more experience with providing great community features than almost anybody. TypePad Connect lets a Google or Facebook or Yahoo user bring their identity with them, and the site owner benefits by not having to choose between Google or Facebook for their site.

There are also some great profiles powered by TypePad, and a lot of other nice little touches.

What other WP plugins can we expect from 6A in the future?

I think you can expect a refinement of the offerings we’ve talked about so far, as well as additional features based on the feedback we hear from the community.

Any possibility of 6A developing for other platforms, like Drupal or ExpressionEngine?

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Definitely! ExpressionEngine was one of the first communities to really embrace TypePad AntiSpam, and it’s as easy to plug in TPAS as Akismet there, but without the worry of having to pay. We’ve seen a number of big Drupal sites make the switch, too — changing to TPAS is super simple because it’s 100% compatible with the Akismet API. As far as TypePad Connect goes, I think it’s still early, but the Drupal sites we’ve seen testing it thus far tell us that it’s a much better experience for both commenters and administrators than the default commenting plugins built in to the system.

The great thing is that application frameworks are adopting these tools, too. For example, the Zend Framework for PHP now natively supports TypePad AntiSpam as a spam-blocking option, which is good news for any developer who prefers to support open-source options.

What impact will this have on MT development?

None at all. We went to developers outside of Six Apart who were in the WordPress community to contribute to these efforts, because we really wanted them to take advantage of the strengths of that community. I think it’s cool that both an MT site and a WP site could use TypePad to power community features, and we’ve even seen some publishers that use both platforms starting to think about TypePad as a way to tie them together.

One last question, while I have you here: What can you tell us about what’s on the horizon for MT? What changes and/or features can we expect to see soon?

I’m really excited to see MT evolve to become more connected to the rest of the web, as I think the Motion launch earlier this year and these latest TypePad-powered features both hint at. We don’t have any announcements there right now, but I think you can see a ton of activity around the developers on our Services team releasing a whole bunch of open source plugins for MT and that indicates the kind of huge investment we’ve been making in the platform.

Anil, thank you so much for your time. Best of luck to you and the entire 6A staff.

Thanks! And thanks for supporting and being part of the MT community.

That’s it for this week. Done something fun with MT? Let us know in the comments.

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