Whither Movable Type?

September 30, 2010

There are several comparisons of WordPress and Drupal here at Changing Way, the most recent being 5 months ago. What about other social publishing platforms? Well, I posted about a Smashing comparison of WordPress and Joomla at around the same time.

And what about Movable Type? That’s the question posed in a recent comment on the WordPress and Drupal post. It’s a good question, particularly in the light of recent news about MT’s parent company. I refer to Six Apart dropping Vox, and then being acquired by VideoEgg. (I didn’t post about the acquisition, but former Six Apart evangelist Anil Dash did.)

The most recent post on the official MT blog is a promise that MT is safe: “of course we will continue development and support of this platform that now has a decade of history behind it.” The same post stresses that MT is open source. In that, it is similar to WordPress, Drupal, and Joomla. Unlike those other platforms, it was not born free/open.

Many of the key points at the MT overview page will be familiar to those made about the other open/free social publishing platforms. MT isn’t just for blogging, it can be used as a more general tool to create websites. It can be used to build community, as well as to publish content.

Movable Type is not 6A’s only product, or even its only platform. There’s also TypePad, “Six Apart’s premier hosted blogging service… [with its] easy to use interface.”

So, that’s my shot at mixing Movable Type into the comparison. It may be more about 6A than about MT, but that seems appropriate at the moment. Comments are welcome, on 6A, on more technical aspects of MT, or on pretty much anything else.

Vox Stops: Six Apart?

September 8, 2010

Six Apart launched Vox in 2006. I don’t think it ever lived up to 6A’s hopes for it to be “home, home, on the web” for a great many. I said so around Vox’s first anniversary. Anil Dash, who was 6A’s chief evangelist at the time, left a Vox-defending comment. At the time I felt that his comment seemed to arise out of duty, rather than out of the passion he often conveyed for 6A’s other offerings.

Now Vox is headed to what TechCrunch call the deadpool. I prefer the term amputation ward, since Vox is a limb, and 6A still has other limbs. That said, 6A went out on a limb in terms of the resources invested in Vox.

I hope that use of the term deadpool won’t soon be appropriate for 6A. It seems rather ominous that, of the social media blogs I subscribe to, only TechCrunch considered the amputation of Vox worth a post in itself. Mashable gave it a mention toward the bottom of a roundup post.

ReadWriteWeb, which used to run on 6A’s Movable Type (but now runs on WordPress) didn’t even mention the silencing of the Vox (or mentioned it so quietly that I didn’t hear). Anil, who left 6A a while ago, didn’t post about it either.

Even though I won’t miss Vox, I find its closing sad.

Recent posts at ReadWriteWeb, at GigaOm, and elsewhere discuss the “social” direction that blogging is taking. The discussion seems strange, given that blogging has always been social.

One way of explaining it is that:

  • Blogging is conversation (Naked or otherwise).
  • Conversation = content + connection.
  • There’s a current emphasis on connection. Connection is of course the defining feature of social networks such as Facebook and LinkedIn.
  • Connection is also a feature of blogging software, such as Movable Type and WordPress.

It is indeed on Movable Type and WordPress that the RWW and GOm posts focus. I’ll keep that focus, despite comments that Drupal and Elgg also belong in the conversation. But I’d like to make the comparison between Movable Type and WordPress, just as I’ve made elsewhere the comparison between Six Apart and Automattic, the respective firms behind MT and WP.

Here’s what Anil Dash of Six Apart recently announced.

Movable Type Pro lets you turn any site into a full social publishing platform, combining all of Movable Type’s abilities as a blogging and CMS with social networking features like profiles, ratings, user registration, forums, following, and more.

Six Apart offer three platforms: MT, TypePad, and Vox. There is no TypePad counterpart to MT Pro (although there is something called TypePad Pro). Vox is, and has been from the start, a “social blogging” platform, with its content and connection features sharing top billing.

While Six Apart offer three platforms, Automattic offer one: WordPress. While Six Apart’s MT Pro moves social networking up alongside blogging, Automattic’s BuddyPress moves social networking up in front of blogging: BuddyPress will move the main focus of WordPress MU away from blogs, and onto the actual member profile.

While MT Pro includes forums, BuddyPress doesn’t. That’s not because Automattic consider forums unimportant; it’s because they offer specialized forum software: bbPress.

Now to try and summarize the different ways in which the two blogging firms are increasing emphasis on connection. Six Apart offer social blogging in two forms: MT Pro for the enterprise, and Vox for the individual. Automattic offers blogging in the form of WordPress, and social networking in the form of BuddyPress.

Of course, summarize often means (over-)simplify, and there’s a lot of simplification above. For example, BuddyPress is essentially Multi-User WordPress plus plugins and themes, so the relative emphasis on content (blogging) and connection (social network) can be calibrated as appropriate.

I leave any further clarifications to this account of social blogging to comments…

Blog It is a Facebook application from Six Apart, makers of TypePad and other blogging tools and platforms. I’ve used Blog It once: that was a few months ago, to remark that I didn’t see much point in using Blog It to post to WordPress.com. David Recordon of Six Apart commented that Blog It is being enhanced, and hence the case for using it is getting stronger.

The case for using Blog It may recently have got a lot stronger. Earlier this month, David posted about Blog It for the iPhone, the iPhone/Safari version of the application. It looks like a pretty slick interface and it can be used to blog to the same platforms as can the Facebook application: that includes WordPress.com.

Having said that, I’m posting this from a PC rather than from an iPhone. Changing Way Labs technology budget doesn’t stretch to an iPhone. Anyone out there had a chance to try the iPhone/Blog It to WordPress.com connection?

This post follows from the previous, which discussed strategic and ad-hoc adoption of E2. It will map vendors on to that discussion, in a couple of ways.

First, I want to map four specific vendors on the continuum of E2 adoption, anchored at one end by a purely strategic, top-down approach and at the other by a purely ad-hoc, bottom-up approach. I found myself writing down beside that continuum the following four vendors. I’ll list them in descending order of fit with the strategic approach, and hence in ascending order to fit with the ad-hoc approach.

  1. IBM. I still think of IBM as the enterprise IT vendor that gets in well with top management. That thought may of course be a sign of my age, or of IBM’s.
  2. Acquia. Drupal is ready to go… built-in functionality, combined with… add-on modules, will enable features such as content management, blogs, wiki collaborative authoring, tagging, picture galleries… Already, “Drupal powers sites including the homepages of Warner Brothers Records, The New York Observer, Fast Company, Popular Science, and Amnesty International and project sites by SonyBMG, Forbes, Harvard University…”
  3. Six Apart. 6A provides the best illustration of something that’s true for all vendors: a vendor isn’t a single point in the continuum. Movable Type is further toward the strategic end then TypePad.
  4. Automattic. WordPress requires three easy steps below to start blogging in minutes. Automattic’s projects emphasize the same ease of use and speed.

In case it’s not already obvious, I should point out that the above is a simplification and a starting point. Since first jotting it down, I’ve had conversations (with myself and others) about how to capture the richness of what various vendors offer without obscuring the basic continuum too much. But, having shared the starting point with you, I have another way to look from the strategic/ad-hoc perspective toward vendors.

The starting point for this second half of the post is the claim that some large organizations are in an ad-hoc E2 stage, and are embarking on strategic E2. Such organizations may well decide that their strategy should be based on the lessons and successes of existing ad-hoc E2 efforts. Yes, I am implying that grand strategy is not necessarily better than ad-hocery and tactics, and may often have much to learn from them.

An important challenge, then, is that of managing the diversity of E2 approaches and heterogeneity of tools already present in the organization. One aspect of this is realizing that the organization already has web-based social networks, and deriving from them the social graph.

Did someone say social graph? Brad Fitzpatrick and David Recordon did, and their
Thoughts on the Social Graph aroused much discussion. Their thoughts are couched more in consumer than in enterprise terms.

However, social graph for the enterprise looks like a fascinating arena. The most obvious contender is this arena is, duh, Google, which already has a Social Graph API, on which Brad is currently working.

UK-based Trampoline Systems may also turn out to be a contender. If I were doing E2 strategy for a corporation, and realized that there was a lot of E2 already in that corporation, I’d definitely want to take a look at SONAR Flightdeck, at the server that powers it, and at the API for said server.

I’ve mentioned only half a dozen of the many E2 vendors. That’s fine, by me at least. This post is meant to sketch out ideas, and illustrate them with vendors, rather than to provide detailed comparisons of many vendors. It’s also meant to start discussion…

Acquia was started up by Dries Buytaert, the lead developer of the Drupal CMS, in late 2007. At the time I remarked on the similarities between Acquia and Automattic.

Now that Dries has announced Mollom, there’s a new and significant similarity. Mollom, like Automattic’s Akismet, is a spam-fighting web service. Duncan at TechCrunch reports that Akismet is the current market leader.

Here are a couple of ways in which Mollom is following the leader. In each case, the server code is closed-source, even though it comes from a firm notable for its foundations in open source. In each case, the spam-fighting service can be invoked by any client using the API: Mollom isn’t just for Drupal, any more than Akismet is just for WordPress. One of the main differences is that Mollom uses captcha, albeit only when it’s unsure whether it’s just bitten on spam or ham.

Meanwhile, Six Apart has made an acquisition that expands its range beyond blogging, albeit into a closely related domain. Mike Arrington posted a guest the acquired firm contest on Friday. It now has almost 400 comments: that guy really knows how to get his audience going.

It turns out that Six Apart acquired Apperceptive. Here’s how Rafat Ali described the deal.

SixApart, the blogging software firm with products like MovableType, Typepad and Vox, is now moving up the value chain into offering advertising and consulting services, and has bought New York City-based social media creative agency, Apperceptive. The financial details were not disclosed.

In case you, like me, were wondering what “social media creative agency” means, it seems to be how they say “ad network” on the mean streets of New York.

I'm posting this from Facebook using BlogIt, an application written by Six Apart. You might know Six Apart from such blogging tools as Movable Type, TypePad, and Vox. BlogIt allows you to post, from Facebook, to a blog at any one of those three – or at Blogger, or at WordPress (self-hosted or .com), and so on.

BlogIt allows you to send the same post to a combination of such places, as well as to your Facebook mini-feed. This post is just going to Changing Way and to my mini-feed. That would be a good thing if I had friends for whom Facebook is the web (just as AOL was the pseudo-web of their parents), and I wanted to make sure that they saw my blog posts. I already do that, and do it rather better, using the WordPress.com FB app, but of course that's WordPress.com-specific.

Even so, I don't see why or how BlogIt could be the start of something big. And now I have to go to WordPress.com to fix this post, since BlogIt doesn't let me categorize or tag it, and I'd rather use the post editor there to put in links than have to type in the html here.

On WordPress.com, everyone’s free upload space has been increased 60x from 50mb to 3,000mb. Matt followed up the news with some competitor comparisons.

To get the same amount of space at our nearest competitor, Typepad, you’d pay at least $300 a year. Blogger only gives you 1GB. We’re doing the same thing for free.

I thought of following up on the comparison with TypePad, then forgot about it. Then I saw that Justin interprets Matt’s announcement as “FU” to Typepad and decided to do the comparison after all.

The table shows that the comparison is a tricky one, in that WordPress.com and TypePad are packaged differently. Automattic offers free, ad-supported, hosted blogging at WordPress.com, and offers a few specific paid upgrades. Six Apart offers paid, ad-free blogging at TypePad.com in the form of different packages: Basic and Plus are the “smallest.”

WordPress.com WordPress.com upgrades TypePad Basic TypePad Plus
Price (year) Free $50 $90
Storage 3 GB (= 3000 MB) + $20 for + 5 GB,… 100 MB 500 MB
Can store JPG, GIF Yes Yes Yes
Can store MP3, video No With storage upgrade Yes Yes
Bandwidth Unlimited 2 GB/month 5 GB/month
Domain mapping No + $10 No Yes
Ads Yes, by/for Automattic Ad-related upgrade in the works Yes, by/for you if you want Yes, by/for you if you want
Templates/themes Yes Yes Yes
Drag and drop to customize layouts Using sidebar widgets (only within sidebar) No Yes
Customize CSS No + $15 No No

The mapping between features of WordPress and of TypePad isn’t always a neat one. This is borne out in particular by the last rows of the table, and by the notes they prompt me to add. Custom CSS for TypePad requires the Pro package, which costs $150/year. But TypePad plus offers some customization options not available at WordPress.com, even with the CSS upgrade.

The difference is sufficient to prompt the cliche of “comparing apples and oranges.” It might be interesting to expand the comparison to include pears and kiwi fruit: that is, Blogger and Vox. In fact, Matt made the comparison with Blogger’s storage allowance in the above quote. Vox is the most recently-introduced of Six Apart’s blogging services.

For a comparison between Automattic and Six Apart, see my guest post at Read/Write Web. But note that Six Apart has since sold LiveJournal.

From LiveJournal to…

December 11, 2007

200px-livejournal-logo.pngLiveJournal is, among other things, a hosted blogging service. It is interesting in many ways: it’s powered by free/open source software; it’s been sold recently, and for the second time; it has a strong social networking component; it’s one of the older blogging products/services, having been started in 1999; it’s popular, with the LJ stats page claiming over 14 million blogs at the time of this writing.

There are of course posts all over the place about the sale. The post by Frank, the LJ mascot, has drawn 5000 comments already. Even my posts on the LJ sale drew some comments. One of the comments was from that girl again, who also made her own post on the sale.

Having plundered everything they could from its code and staff, Six Apart have offloaded the troublesome Livejournal onto some Russians… I don’t trust SUP. I see even more ads and even less privacy in my LJ future.

Oh well, at least the guy who runs Insanejournal is happy. Every cloud…

The most solid silver lining to this “cloud” is that LJ is free/open source. The LJ code is available, and is indeed in use at multiple other sites, including InsaneJournal and, yes, DeadJournal.

I wrote “most solid silver,” not “cast iron” or “copper-bottomed,” because there is a loophole in the GPL. Nevertheless, if you like the software of LJ (or WordPress.com, for that matter) but dislike other aspects of the site itself, you can find other sites running much the same software under different policies.

Finally, I want to pick up on the point that LJ includes a stronger social networking component than most blogging products and services. This is particularly interesting, given the current spate of posts (e.g.) referring to “social blogs.”

Such hybrids include Six Apart’s Vox. Since the launch, it has seemed to me that: Vox is like LJ with the corners carefully rounded and polished; 6A acquired LJ, not because it wanted LJ, but because it wanted Vox.

Social blogging platforms also include trendy venture capital bait like Tumblr and Twitter. Hence it seems that LJ was ahead of its time: social blogging in the previous millennium.

Six Apart Sells LiveJournal

December 2, 2007

I just saw a couple of posts about Six Apart selling LiveJournal to SUP, a Russian media firm. My reaction to the news was similar to Om Malik‘s.

The sale of LiveJournal shouldn’t come as a surprise to anyone. LiveJournal founder and lifeforce Brad Fitzpatrick recently left SixApart to pursue other opportunities. He currently works for Google.

Meanwhile, at Mashable, the headline states that: Six Apart Unloads LiveJournal. In the body of the article, Kristen Nicole puts a more positive spin on things, pointing out that SUP has managed the recent growth of LiveJournal in Russia.

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