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Bake-off in progress for LITA blog, and thoughts about Movable Type

Yes, LITA will have a blog! Thanks to Steve “Library Stuff” Cohen and Andrea Mercado for generously sharing the materials they developed with PLA’s Kathy Hughes to support a blog. LITA members with experience installing and configuring WordPress and Movable Type are evaluating these products for use within LITA.

Personally, I’m unmoved by the argument that WordPress Is Open Source–I have not drunk the KoolAid. I know many LITA members feel otherwise. But that is neither here nor there; we come to install and test Caesar, not to praise him.

As someone with over a year of blogging experience (you laugh, but that makes me at least a second-wave pioneer), I tip my hat to WordPress. WordPress includes several MT doesn’t have that are valuable for a blog with many contributors, such as the ability to invite new contributors and the built-in ability to delegate posts.

One of my complaints about Movable Type is that it wants to be in both worlds. It wants to be a commercial product, with proprietary software and commercial, fee-based licensing. But when it’s convenient, Six Apart claims Movable Type is part of a “community” that feels a little too much like “open source” in its reliance on user-contributed code and solutions except that in the end only MT owns the code and gets the payback.

Comment spam is one area where MT walks both sides of the fence. Six Apart acknowledges that comment spam is a huge problem. Six Apart even recommends using the free and excellent MT-Blacklist plugin produced by Jay Allen, who SA recently hired as Movable Type’s Product Manager. But Six Apart doesn’t help users with plugin problems for MT-Blacklist or any other plugin. Jay Allen continues to solicit donations for MT-Blacklist, and steps in to help users. Allen richly deserves compensation for this product and his support. But what I fail to understand is why the compensation is coming from the licensed end-users of Movable Type, not from Six Apart. Don’t even try asking Six Apart for help with MT-Blacklist: you will be told told they don’t support plugins. (In a similar vein, I was very excited about dynamic publishing, since my blog’s rebuilding time takes longer and longer as it grows, until I discovered that I had trouble implementing popular plugins because dynamic publishing conflicts with their operation. It would have been nice if Six Apart had made that clearer, since it touts both its own products and the plugins that extend them.)

Finally, Six Apart doesn’t have much communication among its own products. I used the Movable Type support function to ask how many users were supported by Typepad, and was told to ask Typepad. However (and this underscores the strange but true phenomonon that Six Apart doesn’t understand its own product, as is evident by the co-founder’s blog, not updated since February 15) the only sales contact with Typepad is through a web form that since March 2 has noted that its performance has been erratic (and which I now cannot locate). I finally set up a test blog in Typepad only to discover that though it does support multiple authors, its “Pro” blogger package is so limited in its administrative capabilities I would only recommend this product to individuals or very small groups for whom installing (or purchasing installation) of Movable Type or WordPress was out of the question.

WordPress is a product that may be around for only as long as its core developers continue to be personally interested in its survival, but it knows what side of the fence it walks. That alone may not be enough of a tipping point for selecting this product, in lieu of other decision factors, but it should count for something.

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