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Movable Type: Declaring Victory, and Moving On

Over on Jay Allen’s blog I’ve posted a comment about Movable Type that sums up where I am with this blogging software.

Generally, break-up notes for a blogging product have this form: blogger attempts to upgrade product; blogger has trouble upgrading; blogger moves to another product and posts frustrated good-bye notice detailing everything that went south during the upgrade process as well as every small or large grump against the product blogger has held within her heart since time immortal.

However, in my case, it’s I’m Moving Out Soon, But Let’s Be Friends Forever. I don’t have a grudge against Movable Type; the upgrade to 3.3 went all right, even after the only support question I posed during this latest upgrade was answered had a brusque and useless response (received after I found and fixed the problem). This blog also sports one more tool in the anti-spam wars: an accessible “captcha.” When you post a comment, you need to type a word, which is presented in plain text–a nice concept to emulate for web forms in LibraryLand.

I also reinstalled Media Manager, a favorite plugin that allows me to rate and review books very easily, and pulls in data from Amazon. Media Manager may be the single most important reason I have stayed with Movable Type, but I’m at a point where I could let it go; support questions for Media Manager get answered very slowly, if at all, which is true for many Movable Type plugins. (Another common story in the land of blogging is of the developer who creates an amazing plugin for Six Apart products, gets hired by them or needs to go work elsewhere, and then no longer has time to work on the amazing plugin, which quietly deteriorates.)

I got to the break-up point with Movable Type not because things went wrong, but because they went well. I like the challenge Movable Type presents me two or three times a year when I have to log in to my shell account, remember how to use gunzip and tar, tweak permissions on files, wander into a MySQL database or two, and modify the MT configuration files. These upgrade episodes are not true geekitude, but it’s geeky enough for me. Like cookie-baking or swimming, upgrading my blogging software provides a long, pleasant fugue state where my brain can travel places it doesn’t usually get to go.

One of the places my brain went this week is to think about Movable Type as a viable product–not “is it working for me now” but “how well does this product fit in the world of blogging?” The answer made me a little sad.

I’ve written earlier about Movable Type’s awkward fit in the blogging world. Once upon a time, Movable Type was a frisky, even seminal product; these days, Movable Type is best defined by what it is not. It’s not an open source product developers can tinker with, it’s not free, it’s not particularly well-supported, it’s not a robust enterprise product, it no longer has critical mass, and it’s not for anyone who just wants to get up and running with a blog. In other words, it’s not WordPress, Movable Type Enterprise, WordPress MU, Blogger, TypePad, or It’s more of a brachiopod–an animal that served its purpose, but now, despite its population density, will soon, and quickly, disappear.

I can go (at least) two directions with my blog: TypePad, which would free me from development concerns, give me a pretty interface, and let me focus on content, or WordPress, which would keep my hands slightly geekified and allow me to enlist the support of an army of WordPress lovers, who can hardly be wrong. I don’t need to make a decision right now, and partly out of sentimental attachment, I don’t want to. But I’ve made that key decision–I’m Moving Out–and that puts my relationship with Movable Type at least partly in the past tense.

I suspect Movable Type is maintained largely as a legacy product at this point, and the real focus for Six Apart is both the “enterprise” product for large organizations and TypePad. From a market standpoint, that’s reasonable. But to paraphrase a song, I already miss Movable Type, and I haven’t even left.

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