This web site is in crisis mode.
I’ve been talking the past few days with a lot of people about blogging systems. I’ve worked with a lot of them. Since 1999, I’ve gone from static pages to Manilla to Greymatter to b2, and now, I’m thinking about another move, this time to Movable Type.
At the time I made each move, each of the solutions I chose made sense.
I really liked Manilla’s calendar and I really liked having something take care of the content management for me. I moved to Greymatter from Manilla after editthispage.com had one too many service outages. (I didn’t like its slow speed either. But for what I was paying for it, I couldn’t exactly complain.) Greymatter did everything Manilla would do for me, and it usually did it faster and better.
Greymatter was abandoned right around the time I started using it. But at the time it was the market leader, as far as blogs you ran on your own servers went. I kept on using it for a good while because it was certainly good enough for what I wanted to do, and because it was super-easy to set up. I was too chicken at the time to try anything that would require PHP and MySQL, because at the time, setting up Apache, PHP and MySQL wasn’t exactly child’s play. (It’s still not quite child’s play but it’s a whole lot easier now than it used to be.)
Greymatter remained good enough until one of my posts here got a hundred or so responses. Posting comments to that post became unbearably slow.
So I switched to b2. Fundamentally, b2 was pretty good. Since it wasn’t serving up static pages it wasn’t as fast as Greymatter, but when it came to handling comments, it processed the 219th comment just as quickly as it processed the first. And having a database backend opened up all sorts of new possibilities, like the Top 10 lists on the sidebar (courtesy of Steve DeLassus). And b2 had all the basics right (and still does).
When I switched to b2, a handful of people were using a new package called Movable Type. But b2 had the ability to import a Greymatter site. And Movable Type was written in Perl, like Greymatter, and didn’t appear to use a database backend, so it didn’t appear to be a solution to my problem.
Today, Movable Type does use a MySQL backend. And Movable Type can do all sorts of cool stuff, like pingbacks, and referrer autolinks. Those are cool. If someone writes about something I write and they link to it, as soon as someone follows the link, the link appears at the bottom of my entry. Sure, comments accomplish much the same thing, but this builds community and it gives prolific blogs lots of Googlejuice.
And there’s a six-part series that tells how to use Movable Type to implement absolutely every good idea I’ve ever had about a Weblog but usually couldn’t figure out how to do. There are also some ideas there I never conceived of.
In some cases, b2 just doesn’t have the functionality. In some cases (like the linkbacks), it’s so easy to add to b2 even I can do it. In other cases, like assigning multiple categories to a post, it’s difficult. I don’t doubt b2 will eventually get most of this functionality. But when someone else has the momentum, what to do? Do I want to forever be playing catch-up?
And that’s my struggle. Changing tools is always at least a little bit painful, because links and bookmarks go dead. So I do it only when it’s overwhelmingly worthwhile.
Movable Type will allow you to put links to related entries automatically. Movable Type will help you build meaningful metatags so search engines know what to do with you (MSN had no idea what to do with me for the longest time–I re-coded my page design a couple of weeks ago just to accomodate them). MT will allow you to tell it how much to put into your RSS feed (which I’m sure will draw cheers from the poor folks who are currently pulling down the entire story all the time).
MT doesn’t have karma voting, like Greymatter did (and I had Steve add to b2). I like it but I can live without it. I can probably get the same functionality from page reads. Or I can just code up a “best of” page by hand, using page reads, feedback, and gut feeling as my criteria.
The skinny: I’m torn on whether I should migrate. I stand to gain an awful lot. The main reason I have to stay with what I have is Steve’s custom code, which he worked awfully hard to produce, and some of it gives functionality that MT doesn’t currently have. Then again, for all I know it might not be all that hard to adapt his code to work with MT.
I know Charlie thought long and hard about switching. He’s one of the people I’ve been talking with. And I suspected he would be the first to switch. The biggest surprise to me when he did was that it took him until past 3 p.m. today to do it.
And I can tell you this. If I were starting from scratch, I’d use Movable Type. I doubt I’d even look at anything else.