Sun, Sep
5
2004

Movable Type 3.1 Reviewed

Movable Type 3.0 (reviewed this past May) was a developer release primarily unveiled by the folks at Six Apart so that the community of MT plugin developers knew what they were getting into. There were few new features for non-technical users, beyond enhanced comment controls. This, combined with a controversial and confused licensing debut, bought Movable Type a fair amount of bad press. To Six Apart’s credit, they listened to the furor and made changes. Most MT users settled down to patiently wait.

That wait has been somewhat rewarded with the release of Movable Type 3.1. A lot of things about this release bodes well. For one, MT 3.1 was unveiled on the previously announced date (followed quickly by a bugfix release), with no embarrassing delays (despite the fact that they probably gave Jay Allen something of a nervous breakdown). The gap between it and the previous version of MT was just three months, instead of the year that separated version 2.6 from version 3.0. Six Apart itself trumpets this, crediting their new business plan with allowing them to focus on product development, implying that new versions will come out on a similarly sped-up schedule.

After slogging through MT’s complicated upgrading procedures, I’d have to say that the sped-up production schedule, if it exists, is a good thing, because Movable Type 3.1’s new feature list is still somewhat anemic, and a number of the trumpted new features may not be of use to the less technically-adept of the MT community. The new features include:

  • Dynamic Pages

A clear nod towards the success of Wordpress and their ability to build blogs with entries which are built only as a user requests them. Not very useful to a person like myself who has no clue how to write in Php, and who has no problem with having a lot of HTML files on my site.

  • Post Scheduling

The ability to set a post to be published in the future, and to have that post appear on your website automatically. A neat trick.

  • Subcategories

A pretty useful way of trying to rein in your blog’s categories. I spent two hours after uploading Movable Type 3.1 reworking my blog to handle subcategories. For the most part, the move went well (despite some depressingly unclear documentation on how to transform existing categories into subcategories). You can see the fruits of my labour in my archive. Unfortunately, while my ability to post to my blog has not been hampered, the change appears to have upped the load on my server, such that I get a 500 internal server error when I try to rebuild my category pages all at once.

  • The Plugin Pack

This is the meat of this release. Through the summer, Six Apart ran a developer contest which attracted some heavy hitters. Not only were the winners rewarded with some beautiful prizes, but the best plugins were gathered in a plugin pack that could be downloaded by MT 3.1 users.

The plugin-pack is not included as part of the MT 3.1 download (at least, not the upgrade version), but it can be downloaded separately with a little searching. The plugins include KoalaRainbow, Multiblog, Notifier, MT-Search-X and MTPlus, Markdown and MT-Blacklist.

Two of these plugins were really attractive to me. MT-Blacklist 2.0b alone was worth the trouble of upgrading to Movable Type 3.1, with its award winning, comment-spam eliminating features, now fully accessible to former MT 3.01D users who’d previously had to make do with a feature-reduced emergency edition. MT-Blacklist continues to guard our comment boxes, letting legitimate feedback in, while keeping the vandals out. It’s easy to see why Jay Allen won top prize in the development contest. I was a little surprised to see MT-Blacklist kept as a separate download rather than integrated into the Movable Type itself.

Markdown is the other of the two plugins I am happy to use. This program allows you to type your blog posts in plain text, using small clues like *this* and **this** to get the server to transform your text into this and this, all in nicely made HTML. It’s a break on my fingers not to have to code in raw HTML format anymore, and Markdown itself seems to take up far fewer server resources than Brad Choate’s Textile. Another award winner that should be integrated into the MT program.

Unfortunately the other plugin programs don’t appeal to me as much, although I’m sure they’re all fine and good. Koalarainbow in particular is a bizarre data visualization engine that is sure to appeal to people with far higher geek credentials than I currently have. The items it produces are beautiful and startling, and could only have been coded by a genius, but are entirely useless to my blog.

And that’s basically it for visible new features. There also appear to be some minor alterations in the program’s appearance, all to enhance the new car smell, but most of the changes that took place between 3.01D and 3.1 are under the hood. Termed “better extensibility”, MT 3.1 now offers developers more opportunities to make use of the database features beneath the application, all to build better and stronger plugins.

So, MT 3.1 shares the same promise that MT 3.0 had. The new feature list may be anemic, but there are bound to be more features in the future. I’m looking forward to it. I myself would like an on-board spell-checker, and possibly something to automatically check my HTML. But by releasing the new version of Movable Type on time and with new features, the folks at Six Apart continue to restore their credibility as honest, hard working individuals working for a small company that’s boxing far above its weight.

Moveable Type 3.1 is worth upgrading to, whether you operate with the developer edition, or MT 2.6. Just don’t expect the world.

That may come with Movable Type 3.2.


Clinton’s Heart Troubles

2004 seems to be a year for past presidents making the news. First there was Reagan’s funeral, and now news of Bill Clinton’s Emergency Bypass Surgery. As someone who has seen a family member undergo heart surgery recently, I think I can guess what Clinton’s family must be feeling right now, especially considering that the news came as a great shock. All Americans, with an ounce of compassion in their bones, should sympathize and pray.

I am struck by a few things, however. I’m struck by just how much privacy a political figure sacrifices in the United States upon taking office, and how much of that sacrifice remains even after leaving office. Clinton is doing nothing more political these days than campaigning and promoting his book; his opinions may carry weight with a lot of people, but he has no power to directly influence policy. He is not a figure for change. And yet news of his surprise bypass surgery was immediately launched past Hurricane Frances in the news ledes.

I am also struck by this bit of news. Even as Bush gets a bit of a convention bounce against Kerry in the national polls, I’m not ready to call this election just yet. For one thing, Bush is only marginally ahead in the electoral college race, and Kerry only needs to pick off either Pennsylvania or Florida to be put over the top. That’s immensely doable. It is also the case that Bush has seen peaks in his popularity before, only to have his leads blown by stupid mistakes. Like this one, for instance.

On the other end of the spectrum, forgive me for saying this, but was Hilary Clinton born with a congenital birth defect that made her speak in nothing but speeches? Erin noticed this too and wondered if she sounds exactly the same when she is relaying her husband’s thanks for people’s thoughts and prayers as when she’s criticizing the Bush Administration as when she’s calling “cleanup on aisle three!” Oh, well. I guess some people can turn off the politics, and some people can’t.


Update: AP Retracts Story Saying Clinton’s Name Was Booed at Bush Rally. Interesting.


On This Day

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