When Movable Type (“MT”) was suggested to me as a means of managing Rands In Repose, I was immediately put off by the requirement of having to display the MT logo on the web page. HEY SCREW YOU PAL, IT’S MY WEBSITE AND I’M NOT AN ADVERTISING WHORE.
After just under a month of using MT, I have no problem adding the MT brand to my webpage. I’ll explain:
FOUR REASONS WHY ANYONE DEVELOPING A WEB APPLICATION SHOULD SPEND TIME WITH MOVABLE TYPE:
Let’s first talk about what I define to be a web application. Yahoo is a web page. Yahoo Mail is a web application. Get it? Let’s move on.
1) MATURE USER EXPERIENCE, SEXY USER INTERACTION
Face it, there are widgets that you’ve gotten used to on your Windows XP or Mac applications which are very hard to do in the stateless HTML world of the web browser. Think of those slick explorer-like collapsible tree controls. Implementations of such controls in a web-world either mean signing up for technology you don’t want (Flash) or an experience you dislike (excessive page reloads).
The lack of these mature controls makes the development of a familiar and useful user experience difficult when it comes to web applications. While my experience with MT has been limited to the management of fewer than thirty entries to date, I’ve had no problem using the web-based design to easily maintain my site. Where it looks like a user would have obvious scalability issues, MT has place filtering mechanism to give easy access to subsets of data.
As for the user interface, it’s just sexy. The selection of the Trebuchet font and soft gray-blue color palette conveys that someone with taste modeled the application. This “warm fuzzy” feeling is key to getting and keeping customers. Just ask Steve Jobs.
2) SIMPLE INTEGRATION OPTIONS
Want to notify weblogs.com when you’ve posted a new entry to your web log? Simply click a button in your preferences section and MT sends an XML-RPC ping to weblogs.com when your new entry is posted. Want to display Google search results via the Google APIs? Just insert your Google API key and you’re ready to roll through the user of integrated Google tags.
You buzzword compliant types might be wondering, “Hey, does this mean MT supports web services?” HELLO YOU ARE MISSING THE POINT, it doesn’t matter what it’s called, what matters is whether or not the functionality does something useful. MT has made it trivial for folks who have no clue what a web service is to do useful simple integrations to Weblogs.com and Google. This concept (and, hopefully, underlying architecture) opens the door to a bevy of other types of integration that we haven’t even thought of yet.
3) VIRAL, COMMUNITY BASED
In terms of installing an application on your Windows or Macintosh desktop, MT is not for the faint of heart and herein lies the only obvious MT weakness: an AOL user can’t even spell CGI and the MT installation involves a lot more than that.
Having no insight into the MT’s business plan, I can’t say whether this was a deliberate choice or not, but I like to think of it as a secret weapon. Here’s my reasoning:
a) It’s non-trivial to install MT. Doing so involves some understanding of Windows/Unix file permissions, CGIs, Perl modules, and other technologies. Translation: installing MT requires a brain of some significance.
b) Since the intellectual requirements to set-up MT are comparably high to, say, sticking an AOL CD into your computer and pressing GO, it stands to reason the average IQ of a MT user is higher than your average AOL user.
c) Given these decidedly non-AOL users are now equipped with a quality personal publishing system, it stands to reason that they’re likely to tell like-minded friends that, “Hey, MT works great!” OH AND LOOK THEY’VE GOT A WEBLOG TOO, FANCY THAT. FREE P.R.!
d) Thus begins the vicious viral cycle of building a loyal, intelligent base of users who (gasp) might actually pay for a product.
4) BUG FREE, WELL DOCUMENTED
Again, with fewer than thirty entries in my weblog, I’ve not right saying that I’ve fully tested the MT system. What I have done is take the system from an archive, installed it, set-up my first weblog, added a whole slew of entries, and tinkered with my templates incessantly. In all of that time (let’s call it over a month), I have not encountered a single significant bug which has impacted my use of the product. I honestly don’t know the history of MT, but if their release cycle is anything like the rest of the planet, a 2.0 product of this quality is unusual. There are bugs, I’m sure of it, but why haven’t I seen a single one?
Oh, and the documentation works. This is documentation which was done as a painful afterthought; this is documentation which has co-existed with the development of the product. Sure, there are support forums for random questions, but I didn’t need them until I wanted to do something really goofy?
So, yes, I am biased towards MT because I’m using it and its working amazing amazingly well for me. And, yes, there are lots of other weblog solutions out there that I didn’t spend a second with that I’m sure have rich feature sets, high quality, and a lack of twits. And, yes, installation requirements can be a little stiff, but MT works and works well. When I use it from any browser on the planet Earth, I feel like I’m using a next generation web application. This is a web application which does not look back at how “things we done” in a desktop or client-server world, this is an application designed from the ground up using technologies developed on the web in order to provide a high quality web service.