Movable Type 4 Review

Movable Type 4 has been out for several weeks now and I’ve been waiting for my opportunity to get it installed and a blog moved over. Initially, as demonstrated by the video I posted demonstrating the installation of the software, I planned on moving my sports podcast, Suicide Fan over, but I quickly realized that that would be hard to do without a patch to MT’s core. PodPress is the plugin I use for podcasting and it stores all the relevant details, including the link to the MP3 file, in custom fields. While custom fields (or post meta, as it is called) is included in WXR, Movable Type 4 makes no effort to retain this data. Shame, shame.

So, instead, I’ve moved AaronBrazell.com, which was previously hosted on WordPress.com, over to Movable Type 4 instead.

I have quite a lot of feedback for the Movable Type 4 team based on this experience. I hope they hear my recommendations, take them seriously and address the issues as they make sense for the MT community. I will also include recommendations for the WordPress community as I feel that MT4 really does handle quite a lot very, very well.

Handle Post Meta Better

As I indicated above, I ran into tremendous frustration with porting my blog from WordPress to Movable Type when the blog relied on custom fields/post meta. I realize that Movable Type does not yet support any kind of post meta outside of “Keywords”, “Tags” (how are these different semantically?) and Categories. WordPress is the clear winner here recognizing that none of these are “metadata” really and are in fact staples of entries. With that in mind, MT4 supports no metadata. Which of course hinders the ability to reclaim WordPress users. Change this, SixApart.

Setup Fixes

I’m still disgruntled about Movable Type setup routine. It’s easier than it used to be but it is far from easy and frustrated me as a technologically competent guy. For instance, why can’t the setup wizard trim whitespace from around database login info. I don’t know how it is done in Perl, but in PHP it’s as simple as

1
trim($string);

.

Useful Error Messages

I ran into an issue when dealing with imports of WXR files generated by an older version of WordPress. It seems WordPress did not do a great job of ensuring their export files were truly UTF-8 encoded, a necessity for XML files. MT4 recognized this and killed the import with a cryptic Perl error. Not being a Perl guy, I had no idea what was going on. Fortunately, I realized that I could open the WXR file in Textmate and re-save it as UTF-8. This can be done with other text editors as well. After saving as UTF-8, the import ran smoothly.

Which reminds me, MT4 devs, don’t duplicate entries on import. If the import goes halfway through and fails, then when I re-import, don’t duplicate my entries, pleasethankyouverymuch!.

Instead of displaying Perl error messages (which in theory and a different context, could give away useful system info for hackers), point me to why the error occurred in the first place and maybe provide me with some useful pointers for fixing it. So I don’t waste my precious time. Pleasethankyouverymuch.

Registration and Comments

I don’t really know where to start with this but it certainly pissed me off. In order for the comment form to be visible to visitors, I had to specifically set Anonymous commenters. Why? Make me go out of my way to NOT have anonymous commenters.

Secondly, even if I have anonymous commenters, the moment I choose other authentication methods (Movable Type native, OpenID, Vox, LiveJournal or TypeKey), the comment form disappears and is replaced with a login link.

I repeat… this happens even if I have specifically checked “Anonymous Comments”. This should not be.

Permalink Obfuscation

Fortunately I only have a handful of entries on my blog, because none of the permalinks included in the WXR file (

1
 

) are respected by MT. Everything is mashed together killing any hope of retaining SEO benefits from the blog. This MUST be fixed. It is completely unacceptable!

Sucky Themes

The MT4 team has bragged about the number of themes included with MT4. While there are certainly a number of themes, there really are only 3 – “Cityscapes” which includes a dozen or so of an identical theme with different cartoony city skylines that mostly look the same, “Minimalist” which is an old MT standby theme that has been slapped a half dozen times with different color schemes – but the same layout! – and the Unity themes which are a handful of other boring similar structure themes.

Also, where is the community contributed themes? Why has no one in the MT community released MT4 themes? Was MT4 that much of a surprise? Was MT4 not available as a beta software weeks before it went final? Where is the community? Where are the designers?

Now of course, I have some recommendations for WordPress as MT4 is doing some killer things that WordPress is simply ignoring.

Admin Interface

Movable Type’s admin interface is just plain sexy. I’m telling you it kills WordPress up and down and into next week. We have waited far too long for decent changes to the WordPress admin. Yes, I am aware of Happy Cog recommendations and changes that are coming but the reality is that we should not have waited this long. WordPress’ admin interface is amateur, shoddy and hacked together code. Code is Poetry my foot. Too many inline styles, hacked together HTML and does not have developer guidelines for “where plugin pages should go”, for instance.

Integrated Theme Management

WordPress’ theme management is not “bad” – it’s just that MT4’s is so much better. Now as mentioned, MT4’s theme selection sucks, but why can’t WordPress implement a nice AJAX theme loader/viewer/column option selection routine for themes not necessarily present on the server. Granted I may not know what I’m talking about as all the themes currently available for MT4 are actually on the server, but it seems like this should be a nice feature – with proper security/sanitization in mind.

Shut Your Trap!

Too many WordPress kool-aid drinkers have come out slamming MT4 and defending WordPress. Yes, WordPress is a better platform. You know that and I know that. But MT4 is a significant improvement and if you’re not careful, your arrogance will drive people back to MT. MT certainly does things better than WordPress so you have nothing to shout about. What is good for the GPL/Open Source community is good for WordPress. I recommend you install Movable Type, keep an open mind about what they are doing and see if we can get some ideas (including code slurping!) from them.

Overall, I think WordPress is better. I think the software and community have some growing up to do. SixApart has quietly snuck up and drawn about even in the race for a better software and if WordPress is not careful, public opinion could swing the other way.