Reassessing WordPress.com

WordPress has been around a long, long time, and the company has maintained its commitment to keeping blogs free and available. Of course they would like it if you paid them for services like a custom domain or more storage, but you don’t have to.

Most geeky types, myself included are deep into static site generators like Hugo, Gatsby and Eleventy. It all began with Jekyll and Octopress, but those have fallen out of favor. There’s a big newness-hotness component to it. Hugo is already old, and Gatsby and Eleventy are hot at the moment.

But if you want to put out a blog with a nice theme, full-featured CMS and user comments managed through the same interface, WordPress is there for you. Even though I help manage comments for more than a dozen sites via Disqus, I prefer to use native WordPress comments when it’s manageable.

Yes, you can still download the free, open-source Movable Type

movable-type-necklace

For one reason or another, I’ve been thinking about Movable Type. I went to both of the web sites associated with the blogging software — movabletype.org and movabletype.com — and found no mention of the formerly “free,” open-source Movable Type software I used for so many years.

Instead, MT 6 is $595 for up to five users and $1,195 for unlimited users. Ouch. There’s quite a gap between $0 and $1,195.

Nowhere on those “official” sites could I find a link to the $0 versions of Movable Type (i.e. everything up to Version 5).

I did some searching, and here they are. Start a directory up and there are downloads of MT 6, which I presume will ask you for some kind of licensing information.

But if you want MT 4.x or 5.x, they are available.

And the software that swallowed Movable Type’s user base whole is still available — and still free.

Movable Type was always a great platform, and it still handles multiple blogs and multiple users better than WordPress in my opinion. But you really need a full-time hacker on the job if you want to use Movable Type seriously. There never was enough of a community out there with plugins and themes to get you going.

Blogging: Still revolutionary after all these years

We can argue who invented blogging, or when, but I’m going to peg it at the late 1990s, which means we’re coming up on (or have just reached) the 15th anniversary of blogging as a medium of expression. The same Wikipedia page I link to above offers these milestones:

  • Open Diary began in October 1998
  • LiveJournal began in March 1999
  • Blogger.com began in August 1999. Google bought it in 2003.

Dipping further into Wikipedia for the history of blogging, Movable Type launched in October 2001, and WordPress created its first release in May 2003.

It was possible in the 1990s to create a web page with little technical knowledge, but the idea of reverse-chronological weblog entries, easily created and endlessly archived, with the whole idea of link exchanges via a blogroll was as revolutionary as technology can be. By the time services like Blogger and LiveJournal picked up steam, it was possible for just about anybody to start and maintain a blog.

The whole idea of exposing ones thoughts, feelings, or whatever you wanted to express, to the entire world at once, with no middlemen and no filter — how can that be anything short of transformational.

Since the mid-2000s, the shine has pretty much rubbed off of blogging. Bloggers have been derided as untrained journalists (though many are actual reporters and editors, though that doesn’t mean anything in the grand scheme), self-obsessed and worse.

And then we had MySpace (why it’s still around I don’t know). Now we have Facebook. Twitter.

Those are still “hot.” Most of us are “on” Facebook, and we all know at least a dozen people who post their daily. There’s some comfort in sharing with one’s friends and not the big, bad world at large. I can’t argue with that. Except that what you post leaves your control and gives Facebook (and Twitter to some extent) a product with which to make money through advertising.

Not that blogging services don’t do the same thing. They do. But for the most part — and always with WordPress.com — you can pack up and take every little bit of content with you to use on your own site, on your own server or hosted space. And you can write more than 140 characters. And design and present that content the way you wish.

These kids today. (Sheesh!) It’s hard to remember a world where reaching even your local community with your writing meant persuading any number of editors that what you are churning out is worthy of their readership’s seeing it in the first place. And then there is the whole “we only have so much space” argument.

Well, you can start your own blog — hell, start a dozen if you want — and create your own worldwide publishing empire based on the merit (read: relevance and popularity) of your work.

Today’s blogging software is flexible enough that you can create a web site that has little or nothing to do with reverse-chronological blogging.

It’s revolutionary. Still.

I pretty much gave up tags and categories in the pre-WordPress days

There came a time in Movable Type where I pretty much gave up on using tags and categories in blog posts. I had hundreds of categories, and keeping track of them was just too much trouble. It’s easy enough to type in tags, and I probably should have stuck with that part of the blogging taxonomy, but I just figured that writing the posts was enough and that Google would take care of the rest.

I still think I’m right, but I am also going back to tags and categories. WordPress makes it easy enough.

Ars Technica adds Open Ended, Kit blogs to main journal navigation

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I hadn’t checked in on Ars Technica, one of the better tech news sites, in some time, and when I went to the site’s journals page last night I was surprised to see the Open Ended open-source journal/blog and the Kit hardware blog get equal billing in the navigation on the Journals page.

Due to both blogs’ previous absence from this navigation, I probably wasn’t the only one who never knew they existed.

Open Ended still isn’t getting anywhere near the level of posting that the Infinite Loop (Apple), Opposable Thumbs (games) and One Microsoft Way (subject obvious) blogs enjoy. I’m sure the open-source blog doesn’t get anywhere near the amount of traffic that the more-established Ars blogs get, either.

But both Open Ended and Kit do stand to get a lot more traffic now that they’re as easy to get to as the other Ars Technica blogs.

Want to move your blog to WordPress? It’s easy

After Andrew Hurvitz moved Here in Van Nuys from Blogger to WordPress, something I’ve never done (moving a blog from one platform to another), I decided to do a test.

I made a backup of a Movable Type blog, which generates a giant text file, and then uploaded that file into WordPress.

It took a couple of passes to get all the entries (the operation timed out), but I had a huge WordPress blog in mere minutes.

Since the Movable Type blog was archived in a text file, all of the image links referred back to the old blog, and the images displayed in the WordPress blog were still on the old system.

But as far as entries, categories and tags go, everything moved over perfectly.

The ability to take your blog with you gives the user quite a bit of power. Aside from the problem with hosted images, it’s extremely easy to move years’ worth of blog entries between platforms like WordPress, Movable Type/Typepad and Blogger.

The whole concept of storing blog entries in database format and using protocols such as XML (I’m guessing) to enable data portability is a truly great thing.

Thanks to everybody who has commented on the blog

It’s been a week and a bit since I turned comments back on — this time without anonymous comments allowed due to the massive volume of spam that entails — and I’ve been very encouraged to see people making comments.

If you do wish to comment on an entry, once you go to an individual entry and see the “sign-in” link, clicking on that takes you to a login screen.

There you can sign up for a Movable Type account, confirm it via e-mail and then begin commenting immediately.

But we have a lot of choices as to how you sign in. You can also create and/or use an existing Typekey account. There is also the provision to use OpenID, LiveJournal or Vox accounts.

That’s a lot of choices. I give the Movable Type people a lot of credit. Giving blog administrators such control over comment authentication is a great thing, and if something like OpenID ever really takes off, MT is covered.

But however you sign in, thanks again for being a part of this blog. Special thanks go out to all those who come here from LXer.

Movable Type is working great

We traced most of our Movable Type woes for the Insidesocal.con blogs to a bad plug-in. Now that we’ve obliterated all reference to the plug-in (Feeds.app, if you must know), our new Movable Type Open Source 4.1 system is really flying.

The servers are extremely fast, it’s quicker than ever to write and publish an entry (mostly due to use of MT’s publishing queue option), and it’s less frustrating than ever to redesign and rebuild a blog. I did one yesterday — Inside the Kings, and the process verged on pleasant.

The best part of all this is that for the moment, I’m not pining for the trouble-free worlds of Blogger and WordPress. Movable Type is chugging along quite nicely, and now our bloggers can concentrate on feeding the beast and building their audiences in the process.

It’s a great moment. I will bask in it, if you don’t mind.

Kaye Street

7291-KayeRon.gifThat’s what I told Ron he should name his blog — Kaye Street. Not that he’s the K Street type (i.e. Washington lobbyist), since he’s far from it, but I can’t resist a play on words. That’s what a decade and then some of copy-editing will do to you.

I remember Ron saying how much he liked the personal voice of the blog format, how he encouraged all of us to embrace that voice and bring that energy, innovation and chutzpah to the world of print journalism, while at the same time building our future in the online world.

But he also said — and I remember it well — that try as he might, he couldn’t write in that voice himself.

I knew he could.

I would’ve liked to see a column with his mug on it running down the left side of the Daily News front page once or twice a week, telling Antonio, Fabian, Arnold, H. David (if you know this name, you’re way more inside than I am; Google helped me), the Admiral, the Chief, and all the other politicos who made their way through this dirty, windowless box toward the Zebra Lounge for yet another Editorial Board meeting — I almost lost my train of thought — telling all those guys (and a few ladies, too, I figure) exactly where they could put it.

Ron didn’t mince words in this newsroom, and I don’t expect he will on his blog either. He might want to cut down on the smoking.

And since it’s your own blog, Ron, I’ll expect more than a few f-bombs. It’s the Internet, for crap’s sake.

As far as blogging goes, you got it going over here, so I’ll say welcome to the club of Web blatherers.

I’ll give out a few tips:

  • The words Britney, Spears and nude will do wonders for your traffic. There’s nothing wrong with working “Britney” into an entry — it’s all for a good cause.
  • It’s a good idea to schedule your posts for the future. Nothing makes you look better than having the rest of the world thinking you’re up and writing every single damn day at 5 a.m. It works for me.
  • At any rate, I’ll dip into my cliche bag one last time: kick ass and take names. Like I need to tell you that.

I’ve got links

I finally got around to filling in a bunch of links on the right side of the blog page. The links I chose should reveal a bit regarding what I’m all about these days. I’ll probably bulk it up even more, adding some Apple-oriented items, as well as stuff that has nothing to do with desktop computers.