a measure of depth rather than breadth  

writing on eggshells
July 10, 2007 10:54 AM

I don't know why I keep posting topical things when there's so much going on in real life, but here I am anyway.

This blog runs on the back of Movable Type, which is the first blogging software I ever came across, and which I have continued to support and use even through their licensing fiasco and the increasing ease of use and functionality of their primary competitor, Wordpress.

I had done a manual edit-resave-archive process on my website framework for years, and so software that actually did all the drudgery for you was a complete revelation to me. This was before blogging was something they talked about on the nightly news - I saw it merely as an automation of what I'd been doing anyway, though I could definitely see how it had the potential to unlock mass publishing for everyone who could manage basic double clicking.

Movable Type's been through its trials and tribulations, as I pointed out - they were woefully behind on comment management at a time when comment spam spiked, and at this same moment unveiled a wildly unpopular licensing scheme to try and make some money off their work. I narrowly escaped being affected by this licensing scheme through a cunning combination of laziness in updating and taking advantage of the fact that they brokered a compromise with the Pitchfork crowd and delivered a free 3-blog-one-author version. This solved my needs - though I was upset at the limitations, it did what I expressly needed and I had become accustomed to it. Others, however, were outraged. That moment raised the notoriety of Wordpress considerably, and with some of the hosted solutions gaining steam and benefiting from a collected userbase (Livejournal, then basically all social network sites that let you write, though I hate calling those 'blogs,' especially Myspace,) MT had been playing catchup for some time.

They still are, really, even with TypePad and Vox and the updates they've made to their software. Every new blog I've helped friends bring to life has been Wordpress. I have stayed with MT this far because for my own purposes I'm used to it, and I personally find WP's template editor maddening.

I'm currently typing this into version 3.34, which finally got some good comment management, but still was ripe for spam to overrun it. I'm using the Scode plugin to provide captchas to counteract that, and an autosave plugin to satiate my now-hair-trigger rage at webapps that don't autosave my work. Six Apart, you can thank Google for my newfound intolerance.

Anyway, with these two plugins, I finally have little to bitch about with MT. I don't have to screen out the spam, the Captcha does a wonderful job of that, and MT's default junk comment system allows me to delete them en masse very efficiently. I haven't lost any writing in some time thanks to the autosave plugin. I find it annoying that I need to rely on the third party developer community to get to what I consider "adequate," but as I'm not paying them anything, I suppose it's not my place to get too cranky.

So, being that I finally have an attractive and functional system I can't bitch about, I had to log in to a Six Apart News post of: "MT4: Time To Give It A Try."

I'd read that they were going back open-source and generally free a while back, and had resisted the urge to check it out, because...well, it finally worked right, and they would probably change stuff.

I've gone ahead and set up a test doodle blog, though, as I cannot resist authoritative headlines like "Time To Give It A Try." So far, I'm not a huge fan. They've rolled in some important features, like autosave on posts, and the ability to easily create static pages, which have been standard issue in Wordpress for some time. Their new template editor is absolutely fantastic, allows drop-down inserts of the cumbersome-to-remember special tags, and color codes the template code for easy readability.

But the administration UI is sluggish, harsh on the eyes, and though it claims to be customizable, I'm not immediately seeing how. My issue with Wordpress is that the admin UI never did it for me, and unfortunately it seems they have run in that direction in MT4. Slow, blocky DHTML menus seem to be what is on the offer in MT4, and it's a shame, because MT3's admin UI was for the most part a thing of beauty. Narrow, perhaps, given the average monitor these days, but quite good. This new thing is like a demo for a new browser standard, and while I assume they will polish the chrome before release, it makes testing it very annoying for me.

Anyway, testing 4 beta 5 has made me yearn for the elegance of my somewhat-modified 3.34, and so I came running back to it, and that caused me to begin writing.

This is hardly a review, and I may even have some facts wrong about when they introduced certain features - I have always been very behind the times on my MT installation, because they tend to monkey with shit a lot and blog writing is very ritualistic for me. Screws me up if the candles are all gradient-ified now and the gold trimmed gown has the pockets on the left side now. Anyway, as I play with it further, a more detailed examination of MT4 will be forthcoming, as will the decision about whether to migrate to it.

[elephants hate eggshells]


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