The Six Apart Challenge: Open Source MT
Duncan Riley> I’m pleased to report that Anil Dash of Six Apart is back commenting on posts at The Blog Herald here and I’d note in a reasonable way as well. Now I won’t rehash the past yet again but one thing I’ll say about Anil, is that he is (nearly) always a gentleman in his comments, and also has the amazing ability to pop up absolutely anywhere SixApart products are mentioned, indeed I’ve often wondered if there is actually a team of people calling themselves Anil Dash sitting at SixApart headquarters monitoring blogs 24/7 and looking for opportunities to defend the company line under the pseudonym of Anil Dash.
But lets look at the common ground: Anil writes that SixApart (SA) is the leader in the business blogging field, and on that one we agree. SA, rightly or wrongly went aggressively after the business market from MT 3 onwards and I’d be guessing to say that they probably own 50-60% of this market, if not more. It wasn’t MT alone of course, TypePad, which leveraged the experience and script of MT into a hosted blogging product was literally the gold at the end of the VC rainbow.
Now I don’t know whether SA is profitable or not, but I do know that they are certainly bringing in some serious money, particularly off the back of TypePad.
Sure, Mena has never actually apologised for MT 3 because she thinks that they did no wrong, but surely someone in SA has noticed a difference since those days.
Sure, they are making money, but the good will and community support has contracted (note I didn’t say dried up, there are still SA die-hards out there). Imagine if SA could deliver the same profits, or increasing profits, and start building some good will again amongst their old disciples, myself included, and most of the people supporting WordPress today?
So here is my proposal, or challenge to Six Apart. Open Source MT. No, it doesn’t have to even be on the GNU Public License. The BSD (I think this is right) Licence allows Open Sourcing without the ability for anyone to profit from the sale of the open script. I’m sure you could do a variation on the theme that would allow Six Apart to use the script for profit with TypePad but still allow anyone to use the MT script with their blogs, whether that be for profit or not.
I ask SixApart staff that were on board 2 years, or even 18 months ago: don’t you miss the days where you had a huge, supportive community that would willingly promote everything you did and even help debug and write extensions and plugins for your code? I’m not saying that you can fix this overnight, but Open Sourcing MT would start to bring back some of the people you’d lost over time, plus new people who’d rather use Open Source than buy. Seriously, even I’d go back to at least trying to use your products if you did this, and I’d reckon a whole lot of people I know in the blogosphere would give you a shot again as well. This is not to disparage WordPress, but competition is a great thing, and unfortunately on pure Open Source blogging only plays there’s no beating WordPress at the moment. (please dont flame me, there are lots of good CMS packages out there, Nucleus in particular, but Nucleus is not blog only). If Red Hat can build a business off Open Source and paid support, surely SA has got a better chance with Open Source Script and a hosted blogging solution.
So to Anil, Joi Ito, Ben, and others at Six Apart, think about it. You made your money off the good will of many in the blogosphere. Why don’t you give something back. Open sourcing MT is a win/ win for the company and bloggers alike. Be brave, lead the pack, and care about your heartland again. SixApart can win the battle of the hearts of the blogosphere, and this could be the key to your redemption.
I missed most of that history, but your solution is certainly intriguing. I’d be surprised though if they haven’t already done some feasibility work on that. I’m also surprised that WordPress hasn’t offered a hosting solution, especially if the licensing can be finessed as you suggest.
The thing with WordPress is that basically all good hosting providers already provide it in their packages, be it stand alone or through Fanstastico. My host, Site5 for example offer it through Fantastico and its used by a lot of users, so its supported through the Site5 support as well, the GNU Public License allows this, and I’ve got to add that its also been a big factor in the popular usage of WordPress because lots of companies now offer it. Having said this I can see a market for the WordPress team offering hosting support, but unfortunately there isn’t the corporate structure there at the moment to do so, and I’m not sure that as a WordPress user I’d want it to either: the fact that the development team remain focused on the open source aspect is a bonus. There was some talk about a WordPress Inc. at one stage but I’m not sure where that has gotten to, either way personally I’d support whatever Matt Mullenweg did in this regards, a bit like I’d have supported Mena in 2003 if she hadn’t looked to charge for MT.
Given Matt’s recent foray into gaming Google, though, Duncan, maybe he’s feeling the pinch. It’s great being a saint, but you do have to get used to thin gruel and slim pickings.
For this mistake the good Matt has done will always outway the evil of that mistake in my books, because at least I can say that he was using the funds to put back into WordPress and not his own pocket. Watching the MT faithful like Andy at Waxy.org attack him sickened me, and remember that they did so while he was on holiday and off the net so he couldn’t respond. Perhaps I’m amongst the fortunate few but as a consequence of that I actually got to know through email Matt’s family (who are all very lovely people) and I’ve got to say that if anyone on the net was close to sainthood I’d nominate Matt tomorrow. They guy is a genius in my books who could have sold out 10 times over if he had wanted to. Sure, he made a mistake, but all the good he has bought us far outweighs any mistake he has made. At the end of the day there are very few people like Matt in the world. We should cherish them always, and I’ll be honest in saying I’m not nearly as good a person as Matt, because I tend to see the dollar in most things, even if I don’t always pursue it.
Sorry but WordPress is superior to MT. One example: to install image protection against comment spam robots, it was enough for me to copy ONE FILE to plugins directory and then click on “activate”. WordPress rocks on many many levels.
What exactly does an open source MT give the end user that they don’t already have? There’s already a license that allows MT usage for free. And the source code of the application is fully available, so people can hack it to their heart’s content. The only thing the current license doesn’t allow that an OS license would is the redistribution of those hacks. And to my knowledge, 6A has only once asked someone not to distribute a source hack.
About the only real benefit I can see to the end user is that they could legally use MT for free beyond the limitiations of the existing free license. And that they could say the product they’re using is open source. But frankly, an open source license that prohibits commercial use or redistribution is in reality no different than the licenses 6A already has. Releasing code under such a license would likely gain them more critisism than friends.
“is that he is (nearly) always a gentleman in his comments, and also has the amazing ability to pop up absolutely anywhere SixApart products are mentioned, indeed Iâ€™ve often wondered if there is actually a team of people calling themselves Anil Dash sitting at SixApart headquarters monitoring blogs 24/7 and looking for opportunities to defend the company line under the pseudonym of Anil Dash.”
I experienced it some days ago on one of my post. Really, I love that kind of company: they care about customers needs and are always looking for insights. I did not know him before his comment, but I love the way this man work.
Branding MT under an open-source license won’t help anything. Whether a free product is open-source or not has absolutely no effect on my impression of the product itself. It’s features that matter, not licenses. The question you should be asking is how can MT differentiate itself from the hundreds of crappy, ok, and great open source blogging platforms and put out a featureset that automatically attracts new customers.
I swear I’ve been talking to Anil in person, only to see another Anil slipping into the bathroom, and yet another ducking behind a newspaper at the bar. They’re everywhere.
It seems like a lot of people are jumping to WordPress. Ditto on Matt being a real standup guy. I really didn’t understand the fuss about “gaming Google” – so what? I do it, though not with a software site or anything. The guy’s gotta make a little money somewhere.
I’m actually using MoveableType for the very first time on my new videoblog http://mnstories.com and I’m awfully pleased. Of course I hugely love TypePad so it’s a very familiar world. I’m also not sure how open source would benefit a mature package like MT – seems like they’re right where they ought to be. (Disclaimer: I don’t know anything.)