Six Apart Musings

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Via email, someone asked me a number of questions about my thoughts on the future of Movable Type, Six Apart, and my plugins. These are questions I seem to be answering a lot lately, so here’s my public response.

Do you plan to continue to develop plug-ins, etc for MT?

I will probably develop plugins as I find a need for them. I’ve got a few that I wrote for my own use but didn’t release. It takes a lot of time to support plugins and other tools. No matter how simple and bulletproof something is, people always seem to be able to screw things up and need help.

I don’t plan on creating any PHP plugins for MT. I certainly don’t plan on porting existing plugins to PHP. If someone wants to turn my plugins into PHP, they’re welcome to take a crack at it.

What are your thoughts on the job Six Apart is doing?

Six Apart needs to start innovating again. As they grew larger, they stopped innovating. The features of MT 3 and 3.1 appeal mainly to developers. TypeKey and dynamic publishing are mainly reactionary developments.

The outside investment and the new seasoned management have turned the company’s focus to creating a stable, viable business. They focused on making the product offerings profitable and sustainable. That’s great and was probably needed (most growing companies need to do that). But now it’s time to start looking again at the product. Most of the great features of blogging platforms today sprung out of Six Apart. They existed first in Movable Type. I’d like to see some more of that.

MT will slowly become a product that is marketed to power users, businesses, and developers. TypePad will be the product of choice for those just looking to start a blog. It’s already started heading this direction and will probably do so more once TypePad can start using plugins.

The addition of Sippey to the team at Six Apart is smart. He’s a bright guy and will hopefully get them innovating again. The developer features in MT 3 are fantastic and allow people outside the company to extend the product, in essence moving innovation outside the company. That’s a good move because not all the smart people in the world work at 6A. But not all the smart people work outside of 6A either. So let’s take the scary amount of talent and brains that’s inside that company and come up with something that blows everyone’s minds.

Have you looked at WordPress?

I’ve looked at Wordpress and it’s fantastic, but it doesn’t suit my needs. If I move from Movable Type I’ll likely end up on a full-fledged CMS instead of another blogging tool. I’m guessing that by the time I’m wanting a full CMS, MT will be ready to fill that role nicely.

Toby Simmons
September 2, 2004 6:15 PM

Just curious (I've posted a comment to Bill Zeller's site and haven't seen a response in a couple of weeks so I thought I'd check with you) -- is Zempt still viable or has it fallen by the wayside.

Deane
September 2, 2004 7:27 PM

"Six Apart needs to start innovating again. As they grew larger, they stopped innovating. The features of MT 3 and 3.1 appeal mainly to developers." I'm convinced this is the point. They point an enourmous amount of work into the plugin API. Why? So people would write plugins and extensions for them. With an API as finally tuned as they have it now, they essentially "hired" a hundred new developers without having to pay anyone anything. Genius, if you ask me. Why innovate when you can get unpaid volunteers to do it for you?

Michael
September 3, 2004 4:54 AM

"They point an enourmous amount of work into the plugin API." The obvious questions are... 1) How many will forgo using the PHP capabilities because the innovation they want is only available under Perl? 2) How many Perl plugin developers will opt not to convert them to PHP? 3) When someone does create something truly innovative on the PHP side, will users be forced to give up some Perl only functionality in order to get some PHP one. MT no longer has a plugin API. It has two separate and potentially incompatible APIs. I am not sure how this is an advancement for everyone. For now, I intend to keep my MT weblogs strictly non-dynamic. And if I have a desire to do something PHP-wise, MT is a distant third choice.

Deane
September 3, 2004 9:15 AM

So, who thinks that Perl was just a bad choice for MT from the start? Perl has always been the third rail of MT -- you just didn't talk about whether or not it was a good idea. Should they have gone with PHP from start? Or something else? Adam, what's your take? Will WordPress have an advantage going forward because the underlying platform is PHP over Perl?

Adam Kalsey
September 3, 2004 9:38 AM

That implies that there's something wrong with Perl. Or that PHP is somehow better than Perl. Perl is used by more companies in more projects than PHP. The move to a PHP front-end was likely due to two related factors: increased competition from dynamic publishing systems like pMachine and Wordpress and customer demand for the feature (brought on by the feature sets of competing features).

Jonathan Sanderson
September 4, 2004 4:33 AM

Moving innovation out into the userbase is all well and good for blog envelope-pushers, but may not produce the coherence and ease of use necessary for 'the rest of us.' I worry that Six Apart are pushing TypePad for newcomers whilst driving Movable Type up-market; and somehow overlooking those of us in the middle ground.

Anil
September 4, 2004 11:07 AM

Jonathan, that's a very interesting comment... how would you define "the middle ground" here? Are there any specific traits that you think identify this audience?

Jonathan Sanderson
September 4, 2004 6:09 PM

Heh. Well, Anil, that's (perhaps literally) the million-dollar question, isn't it? :-) I'm fiddling around in another window here trying to express it, and heading in about five directions all at once. Adopting the scattergun approach: - People who reject TypePad, for whatever reason; why punish them with a large jump in complexity to achieve fewer immediate features? - People who already have hosting and/or an investment in other tools, who want the flexibility of DIY. They're MT customers, right? What level of technical aptitude is assumed? How are you helping those who don't know the difference between Perl and PHP? - (facetiously?) people who would have continued to use 2.6 during the 3.0D period. For a while there, we really were 'existing users,' 'developers,' or 'TypePad customers.' 'New MT users'? I'm not quite clear what they were supposed to do, since 2.6 had disappeared off your servers. At least, I couldn't find it. How did you manage to not have a current user release? - (summarising the above?) Hands up those of us who want TypePad + plugin support, only hosted ourselves? (but why would we want that?) - Hypothesise a new competitor product, akin to WordPress but with (say) gallery/moblog features integrated fairly well. If it sold for $40, how many customers would Six Apart lose? $50? $30? GPL? Define the product that worries you most, and you've found your middle ground. If the words swim into a more coherent/illuminating arrangement, I'll drop you an email.

Scott Johnson
September 6, 2004 10:29 AM

"The move to a PHP front-end was likely due to two related factors: increased competition from dynamic publishing systems like pMachine and Wordpress and customer demand for the feature (brought on by the feature sets of competing features)." The move to a PHP front-end is, in my opinion, just silly. WordPress either has or is working on a plugin that allows the generation of static content. MT had it right from the start. Static pages are now and will always be a lighter load on the server. Dynamic pages for blogs are unnecessary in most cases. The content only changes when a reader adds a comment, so that is really the only time a page needs to be generated. It is very pointless to generated a page for every single view.

Anil
September 7, 2004 1:11 PM

To clarify a couple of points here... "At least, I couldn't find it. How did you manage to not have a current user release?" 2.661 was our current supported release, and it was available in the account of anyone who downloaded MT 3.0D or 3.01D. Judging by what you've said, that should have been communicated more clearly. To address Scott's point, we didn't switch to a PHP front-end. We added a supported way to use PHP to manage your output. A large number of our users have been doing that to some degree since day one (like, um, me!) and now there's a simple and elegant way to integrate that option into MT. I do prefer static pages, and that's why most of my MT sites stick with static HTML output from the app. When I want to do tricky dynamic output stuff, I use the new PHP support. Best of both worlds, I think. "People who already have hosting and/or an investment in other tools, who want the flexibility of DIY. They're MT customers, right? What level of technical aptitude is assumed? How are you helping those who don't know the difference between Perl and PHP?" I think MT is the right tool for people who know what FTP is. IF you don't, TypePad's probably a better choice. I think we're assuming familiarity with server software, which has always been the intended focus of MT's audience, notwithstanding its use by tens of thousands of people who had almost no knowledge of server apps. To a certain degree, web apps are like office suites, in that people might end up only using 20% of the functionality, but for each user it's a different 20%. I don't doubt we have some features you might not use. The important part is whether we have the features you *do* use, and I think we generally do pretty well on that count.

katalog
September 27, 2006 3:44 AM

Someone else below asked this already. I am getting nailed with Spam in my guestbook for our catalog website. Is there anyway to stop this? If not, there really isn't any point in leaving it up and active. Any help will be greatly appreciated. Thanks

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