Why Movable Type?
08 September 2008

I have received quite a few comments from friends about why I went with Movable Type over one of the many other blogging services/systems out there. So here goes a brief explanation as to my decision process.

My first idea was to roll my own. Using this an an excuse to learn python, I sat down over a couple of days and wrote some nice code which would convert simply text entries into a blog format.
This was nice. It was clean. It required no additional software othe than Python; however, it did not support comments, archives, or searching. Although not a deal breaker, I began to feel that I needed something a little more powerful.

My next idea was to check out the online blogging systems, such as Blogger or tumblr. Both of these are nice and support many nice features and I went as far as to register a tumblr id, however, after some experiments I felt some customization I wanted was lacking. (Still if forced, I could have made do with tumblr).

Finally, I became a little braver. If I am going to host a blog then I will run open source software on my own server. The main players here were Wordpress, Joomla and Movable Type. My first experiments were with Wordpress, mainly out of laziness. My host, A2 Hosting has an auto-install feature which includes wordpress. I set up a database and begin to play around. The general UI was nice and again I could have made this system work; however, I found the technique for customization a little too constricting. I felt forced into a WP box in my design ideas. Next on the list was Joomla. My good buddy Q uses and loves Joomla so I downloaded it and gave it a shot. Again, it was nice, but just not me. Everything about it felt “busy”. About to give up in despair, I came across Movable Type. MT powers some of the better designed blogs out there (in my opinion at least), including on of my few daily readings Daring Fireball. I downloaded, installed, and set up and software and was off. The first thing I noticed is that unlike WP, the documentation is slightly lacking. This IS annoying, but still I pushed through. I began studying the templating and design features and became more and more impressed. MT seemed to be a system whih allowed you to design your site however you wished, bending itself around you as opposed to forcing you to bend you design ideas around it. MT is not all sun and rainbows though. As I said, documentation can be really bad. Important concepts such as the mythical “blog id” are not mentioned and many plug-ins are extremely tricky to get working. (After a week of hacking, I STILL cant get the PostOffice plugin to work properly.) For example, the Action Stream plugin is quite nice, allowing the blog designer to pull in info from other third party sites. HOwever, no where in the readme file is it mentioned how to actually set where this stream is pulled in from. (It is under User -> Add Profiles if you are looking.) All of this can be frustrating and Anne heard a few curses underneath my breath as I was trying to get things to work.

To conclude, I went with MT because it seemed to give a lot of freedom in design. Would I recommend it to others; it depends. If you just want a full-featured blog that works, go with WP or tumblr. If you want to make design a top-priority, while sacrificing a little sanity, MT may be the way to go. Either way, blog on!