Results tagged “movable type”

Let's hear it for old software

Movable Typ 6

Jason Snell:

So does it matter that I use Movable Type on this site? Probably not, since the entire point of the site is the content on the pages, not how it was made. It strikes me, though, that the analogy of software being like pop music is even more apt than I thought. In the App Store, we see apps that become hits and climb the charts. Is this because it’s a natural way to think of software, or because the iTunes infrastructure was built for music sales and then adapted to cover software too?

I was flabbergasted to learn via an excellent recent episode of The Talk Show that Jason Snell, late of Macworld, had launched his indie site Six Colors on Movable Type, the all-but-forgotten blog platform that runs this site. But he makes some excellent points, not least that:

  1. It still works great
  2. If you know how to use it, why shift?
  3. It has a database format that makes it relatively easy to get content out, if you ever do need to move.

Old software has its place, within limits. I can't help loving this analogy, though:

Not only is Movable Type uncool (the equivalent of ’80s hair metal), but the language it’s written in, Perl, is supremely uncool. Like, New Kids on the Block uncool.

Well, that explains it. It matches my taste in music perfectly…


I started this daft writing project with ideas of fighting complacency. It's too easy to slip into habits in your blogging, to just keep doing what you did before, without any serious attempt to keep pushing yourself forwards. And, in a sense, I've been scuppered for two days by taking exactly that approach to my technology.

I've been using Movable Type to blog here for over a decade now, and I've been on a single webhost for the majority of that time - since 2007, in fact. Now, I'm seriously reconsidering that decision. The past 48 hours have not covered my webhost in glory. They killed my blog software - and then my whole account - with no clear explanation. It took them 24 hours to resolve a photo uploading problem once the site was restored - and they broke the site several times in the meantime.

And, to cap it all, they gave me utterly wrong information at one point - telling me that I was using very old software (which is true, if your definition of "very old" is two months), which is unmaintained (not true) and therefore my site was "probably hacked". Well, suspending my account because it was "probably hacked' is one thing, although the "probably" is a bit worrying; surely you should check before pulling down sites? Doing it without notification is another.

Migration Labour

So, now I find myself wondering if I should migrate this blog to another of my hosting accounts - and that's another level of work that'll consume time I can ill-afford right now.

But then, I've also been reminded today how much technology does move on when you're not paying attention. It's been over a decade since I bought a printer. That one was on its last legs back in 2008, so I switched it for my late mother's printer when she passed away. That printer has been faithfully serving us every since, but I finally made the decision to do away with it earlier in the year, as the ink prices for it were getting out of hand. When the current cartridges died - it was being replaced. And that happened earlier in the week. This morning, a Canon Pixma 6450 arrived - and it has been a revelation.

Two become one (tech edition)


First of all, it's replacing two devices. Both my old printer and scanner are exiting, with one device taking their place. Welcome back, desk space.

Also, it connects to my wireless network - and, joy of joys, it supports AirPrint, which means I can print from my iPad and iPhone. It was quite something to tap the sharing button I've never used on my iPhone - the one marked "print" - and see a page pop out of the printer a few seconds later. What was more impressive was loading up some 6x4 photo paper and seeing a perfect little print popping out.

And then I realised how much time I wasted getting prints from Boots and those little printing kiosks when sending letters of thanks to people who bought Hazel clothes. This printer is capable of producing just as good results, faster, and without leaving home. The price is not much different. Sticking with that old printer was a false economy, in terms of the time/money trade off. I should have done this a while ago.

Time poor, cash… OK

Mentally, I've never quote made the journey from "time rich, cash poor" to "time starved, cash comfortable". I still make decisions based on saving money not time - but since Hazel came along, time has been at an absolute premium, and I'm not yet making sensible decisions about how to deploy my money to ease that time pressure a little.

Am I paying too little for my web hosting - and suffering huge losses of time as a result? Would some sensible investment in hosting and a managed move to WordPress pay off in the long run? Where else in my life is corner-cutting costing me precious time? These are questions I need to be asking with more rigour - and focus.

Movable Type 6 logo

I've just done what I suspect will be the last major upgrade to the Movable Type system I use to run this blog. While MT itself seems to march along merrily, it's clearly targeting large commercial users (I paid for the software upgrade that I've just installed), and I'm ready to jump ship to something else.

That said, having taken a long look at migrating to WordPress, I've decided to hold fire for a little while, to see how Ghost comes along - its 1.0 release is a way away yet. If I end up going to that system, then I'd rather only do one migration, and its focus on Markdown looks handy, given that I mostly blog using that at the moment.

Movable Type 6 (which is what I've just installed) is the fifth version of MT I've used, since I switched from Blogger a very long time ago...

Responsive Movable Type

I seem to have spent much of the last three years on the verge of migrating this blog off Movable Type to another blog platform. Just as I'm about to do it, the new, Japanese incarnation of Six Apart pulls something out of the hat to make the gain of moving less than the pain of the process.

The latest version of Movable Type has done it again, adding a new, usable version of the interface for smartphones and tablets, and a second responsive design theme. The first I'm using right now to quickly post from my phone. The other I'll implement sometime over the summer.

How long will this keep me happy?

One Man & His Blog: rebooted

All change! This blog has a brand new look, and for those of you in RSS readers, here's a screengrab of it, with the explanation and thinking behind it afterwards: 

The new-look One Man & His Blog

Today is nominally my first day back off paternity leave - as far as the self-employed can ever have paternity leave. How do I decide to celebrate? By completely revamping the look and feel of this blog. Back in the early days of One Man & His Blog, its theme changed every few months. But some time around 2006, it ossified into the design it's had ever since. I've been dissatisfied with it for at least a year, and the time has finally come to bring it into a more modern form.

I wanted to achieve a number of things:

  • Radically simplify the design - all that multi-sidebar stuff is so mid-2000s. 
  • Clear away a lot of the links to pages that are rarely visited - category archives, for example. 
  • Experiment with better web typography through Typekit
  • Give images - always a bit part of this blog - more room to breathe on the page
  • Give a much clearer focus on the content - and give comments more prominence
  • Create something that would work particularly well on mobiles and tablets. 
Some things haven't changed:

  • Taupy the reptile is still the blog's mascot, but in much reduced form. It's a touch of continuity with the old design.
  • It's still Movable Type under here. Maybe one day I'll make the move to WordPress, but it doesn't feel necessary right now. 
  • It's still being heavily cached and minified and CDNed through CloudFlare. The page load times were pretty good under the old design - hopefully I've driven them even lower with the new look.
This design isn't complete - I'm trying to get myself back into the mindset of the blog being in perpetual beta, so expect to see tweaks, changes and alterations for the foreseeable future. For now though - what do you think? 
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Saying goodbye to LewishamIt has been a week of changes, which is one of the reasons for my silence on the blog. The big change came on Monday, when we finally completed the sale of the flat I've lived in for the last decade and a half. For a short while, I am no longer a property owner. Instead, I'm a happily renting with my wife in a town on the south coast, and positively relishing not having a home in London for the first time since, as far as I can recall, 1990. After two decades I am officially no longer a Londoner. And yet, I'm not tired of life. ;-)

And that means some changes for this blog. During 2004 and 2005, this blog was often focused on Lewisham and its surrounds. That phase has long passed, and apart from some recent quick flings with my past, it's not coming back. This blog is now firmly around the intersection of journalism, social media and technology, and I have other places for other subjects. Most particularly:

And there's assorted other stuff, too, but those are the blogs that have inherited what were once parts of this blog's remit. So feed free to dump this feed if you don't care about journalism/social media/technology and pick up one of the others instead...

And, as the week was already one of adapting to change, I made the decision to change the software running this blog. The last time I mentioned this, I was choosing between Movable Type 5, Melody and WordPress. I dismissed WordPress first. Although I create the majority of new blogs I set up on the platform, the effort of migrating the 3000+ entries on this blog, plus all the assets, and then getting the URLs all lined up just didn't seem worth the benefits I'd get. Melody fell next - I like and respect what the team behind it are doing, but they haven't yet persuaded me that they're in it for the long-haul. Perhaps if version 1.1 was out by now, I might have chosen differently. But it isn't, and I didn't. 

One Man & His Blog on Movable Type 5
And so, this blog continues its eight year history on Movable Type, finally hitting version 5 with this software upgrade. (5.12 for the pedants). 

A new start this week, on lots of levels. And lots of stuff to talk about. Onwards, to the future... ;-)
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Giving OM&HB a little CloudFlare

Image representing CloudFlare as depicted in C...

Image via CrunchBase

A brief diversion into administrivia. People with no interest in self-hosted blog platforms can move right along. There's nothing for the like of you here. :-)

This blog has languished somewhat, from a technology point of view. Apart from switching to Disqus for the commenting, I'm essentially running on the same bit of software I've been using for four years now - nearly half the lifetime of the blog... That has to change sometime soon, and I'll make the decision between Movable Type 5, Melody or the more challenging shift to WordPress sometime later in the year, when I gave a little more personal bandwidth to get stuff like this done.

In the meantime, and in the quest for faster loading of the blog, I've activated a service called CloudFlare:

It's acting a combined content distribution network, security service and all-round site speeder-upper (a technical term, you understand...). I've had it running for around four hours now, and all seems fine. Load times are noticeably down on what they were before, and I'll be interested to see if that has any influence on site traffic.
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The company that was Six Apart is gone. The name and Movable Type are ensconced in Japan, Vox is dead and Typepad is part of SAY Media. It seems an appropriate time for a post-mortem, and that's just what former Typepad and Movable Type product manager Byrne Reece has done in a long, insightful and revealing post on his own blog. Between the post and the fascinating discussion in the comments, much that happened in the blog platform war of the mid-2000s is captured for posterity, and there's a whole bunch of lessons in there for today's web companies. It's probably about the last word that needs to be said about the fall of Six Apart.

However, there's one thing I'd like to add, my own bugbear, if you like, that I believe contributed to its fall.

For a company that was, apparently, all about supporting bloggers, it was awful at blogging. Truly, truly awful.

Compare and contrast the posting rate on the Six Apart blogs and the Automattic ones. The main Six Apart blog managed a grand total of 10 posts in the whole of 2010. 8 posts. 16 posts. The Automattic product blogs produce posts at a feverish rate.  The most direct comparison would be 38 plays 16. That's quite a difference. And if you take a moment to compare the posts, you'll see a world  of difference in tone.

And yes, I think this matters. It makes your product look vibrant and alive. It makes it look as if you like your product enough to use it and enjoy using it. And it makes your community feel cared about. A blogging company that doesn't blog has gone seriously wrong somewhere down the line.

I've no idea how or why Six Apart lost its blogging mojo - and find it interesting that SAY Media seems to have it back - but I'd love to know what happened.

More on Movable Type's Future

Jun Kaneko

Give the hoohah over the future of Movable Type post Six Apart's assimilation into Say Media last week, I really couldn't refuse the opportunity to meet Jun Kaneko, the product manager for MT, who was in the UK on holiday until Saturday. He hopped into London on Friday to meet what might be described as the rump of the UK Movable Type community, plus Maarten from Belgium.

Maarten has throughly blogged what we talked about over on Movable Tips, but here's a couple of things I took away from the meeting:

  • The reason that Six Apart KK has succeeded with MT in Japan where the rest of the company struggled worldwide seems to be a simplicity of licensing terms, that favours resellers and solution partners, rather than direct relationships between the software writers and the users.
  • I never realised how anglophone-centric tech reporting is. Sure, I got some taste of it around mobile phone reporting, which often (usually?) neglected to analyse the very different markets in Europe or Asia, but the fact that MT is in fact, in the old joke, big - huge even -  in Japan, has gone almost almost unreported in the English-speaking world. But then, so did the closure of Six Apart Europe (based out of Paris) back in the early part of this year.

I walked back to the office with the very clear feeling that Movable Type has a future, and a strong one, but what Jun and his team do over the next nine months will determine if that's principally in Japan, or in the rest of the world as well.

saymedia Here's a thing to discover just before you go to bed: Six Apart, the company that produces the blog software that's at the heart of much of my day job, is about to be sold. In its new incarnation as part of Say Media, it appears focused on advertising sales and engagement as much (if not more so) than on blogging.

Clearly, this matters to me: we publish hundreds of blogs on Movable Type, have an enterprise support arrangement with Six Apart, and will be watching what happens in coming days very closely. [Update: Typepad bloggers have been officially informed]

That said, I think there's plenty of reasons to be hopeful, and I would suggest that the Mashable piece that questions the future of Movable Type overlooks one key advantage to Say Media keeping both Typepad and Movable Type going, and developing them aggressively. Without them, Say Media is just another ad network, and the world is not short of ad networks. With the blog platforms, they're a full-service publishing support business.

In essence, they can say: "You worry about the content, we'll worry about monetising it and hosting it":

Obviously, we'll know more when the formal announcements are made later today. And, as I said above, I'll be watching developments very carefully. But I'm a way away from pulling the (long-prepared, admittedly) MT-escape lever...

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This is long, but well worth sitting through to catch up with the ideas and concepts that have driven the success of blogging as a medium over the last decade. Don't worry about the software stuff at the beginning - it rapidly moves beyond that.

Blog Software Update

The software underlying this blog has just been updated to Movable Type 4.33. It's just a security update, but if you run into any problems with the site, do let me know.

Movable Type 5 is out now, and I'll be writing about it a little in a few days, but I won't be upgrading this site to it until a few key plugins have been updated, too. 
First of all, a note to the fanboys: this is NOT an attack on WordPress. WordPress is an excellent piece of blogging software, and undoubtedly the best option for non-technical users looking to self-host. And therein lies the problem.

Back in 2003/2004 Movable Type was pretty much the predominant blogging platform for the self-hosters. And then two things broke its dominance in the market-place: a rather dumb pricing decision by Six Apart (which was rapidly corrected) and the growing wave of spam, which Six Apart was slow to get on top of. After all, there were a lot of MT blogs out there - it was worth the spammers targeting it. 

Fast forward 5 years, and WordPress has throughly usurped Movable Type's position as the leading self-hosted blogging platform. And lo, the weekend has been full of people tearing their hair out as their WordPress blogs were hacked seven ways to Sunday. Reading about people having to export, destroy and recreate their blogs was painful. Blogging is over a decade old. We should be better at this stuff by now.

But you could see it coming. It only takes a cursory search around the web to find blogs running on ancient platforms - a Movable Type 2.x here, a WordPress 1.x there.  And then the complaints started about the repeated waves of updates to the 2.8 version of the software. When people are complaining about updates, that means some people just aren't bothering to do it. And that means security vulnerabilities are staying wide open. The the odd savvy user like Suw got hacked. By Saturday, tech celebs from Robert Scoble to Andy Ihnatko got hacked. Twitter was full of the wails of the hacked, and the retweetings of the warning.

As I tweeted, WordPress has become Windows - so dominant that it's a huge target. And this is only going to get worse - access to millions of websites through attacking a single platform? That's just too tempting a target. 
All, being well, this blog should now be running on Movable Type 4.24, the latest version of the software, released last week.

While doing that, I made a few other changes:

  • Userpics on comments are bigger! They also have little icons on them to show if the commenter is using an outside service like OpenID, Livejournal or Vox to sign in. If you don't want to use any of the sign-in services, but want a pretty comment icon, get a Gravatar
  • People using outside authentication service now get the "subscribe to comments via e-mail" option. Should have done that ages ago, sorry.
connect_white_large_long.gifAnd talking of outside services, Facebook Connect is here! You can use your Facebook account to sign into this blog to comment by clicking "sign in to comment" and choosing the Facebook Connect option. It should both grab your userpic and push your comment into your profile on Facebook - but it's still a beta plugin, so we'll see...

Movable Type updated to 4.23

MT Signin
I've just finished upgrading this blog to version 4.23 of Movable Type, a security update that was release last night.

All seems well but, as ever, if you see any problems, please drop me an e-mail.

Inevitably, of course, Six Apart releases a security update less than 24 hours after we finish upgrading all our versions of MT at work...