Tag Archives: Movable Type

Q&A with BoingBoing developer Dean Putney: How the popular site handles millions of views per month — and why it switched from Movable Type to WordPress

Dean Putney, lead developer for BoingBoing.net, as seen on the site.

Dean Putney, lead developer for BoingBoing.net, as seen on the site.

By any stretch, the eclectic, all-things-geeky BoingBoing.net is big — and not just for a blog. The site describes itself as “A Directory of Wonderful Things.” It is indeed. It indulges in what’s hot — steampunk, the Maker movement, all manner of Rube Goldbergian gadgets — but also champions things, people and places that are quite wonderful (and not always well-known, or known at all) from around the world.

According to its own site, BoingBoing drags in 5 million unique visitors per month, though Quantcast pegs BoingBoing.net traffic at 2.1 million uniques and 9.2 million page views for March 5-April 3, 2013.

No matter how you dice it, BoingBoing is pushing a lot of bits. And over the last several years they’ve done it in two blogging CMSes: first Movable Type and now WordPress.

I learned about the switch on BoingBoing itself, and the article I wrote at the time caught the attention of BoingBoing lead developer Dean Putney, who offered to answer my questions about the site’s transition from Movable Type to WordPress and the Disqus commenting system.

The interview was conducted in April 2012, so let’s file it under “better late than never” and get to my questions and Dean’s answers:

Q: What prompted the move of BoingBoing.net from Movable Type to WordPress?

A: When I started working for Boing Boing, they were having lots of issues with Movable Type. I hadn’t worked with it before, but I really liked Boing Boing and wanted to help them, so I spent a lot of time learning its weird innards and fixing things piece by piece.

Movable Type was slow and painful and regularly had problems, but it worked and there was no real reason to make a big switch at the time.

Then Six Apart — which had already been barely supporting Movable Type as it was — was sold and rebranded as Say Media. They all but straight out said, “We’re not going to work on Movable Type any more.” This coincided with my completing my undergraduate degree and coming onto BoingBoing in a larger role.

I proposed we move to WordPress because I predicted that Movable Type would become an orphaned platform. That’s pretty much happened, and we’re now seeing a long overdue exodus from MT. It feels good to have been at the forefront of that.
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Catching up with WordPress

I believe that it’s fairly easy to turn just about any Linux server into a WordPress installation. There is even a port of WordPress for OpenBSD. I thought that I’d try to run Movable Type on OpenBSD, but getting PHP and Perl working with the Web server looks incredibly difficult. If somebody else did this and laid out how they managed it (like How to Forge), I could probably follow along, but the difficulty of dealing with the chroot environment in OpenBSD’s default Apache Web server — which isolates the Web server’s files from the rest of the computer for security purposes — makes it extremely difficult for mortals to set up services in the Web server environment.

For a normal Web server with nothing but HTML pages (and no PHP, Perl/CGI), OpenBSD couldn’t be an easier system to use. It’s when things get more complicated that this that the non-OpenBSD geek is especially challenged.

But as I say, there is a WordPress port for OpenBSD, as well as WordPress packages for GNU/Linux systems such as Debian. I also seem to remember talk about a Movable Type package for Debian Lenny, and if it made the installation and configuration of the blogging system easier, I’d be all for it.

As it is now, between installing and configuring MySQL (or PostgreSQL), making sure PHP and Perl are running and getting all the directory permissions correctly set, putting together one of these blogging systems, even on Linux, is no trivial matter. The last time I set up Movable Type, all the MySQL issues I was having prompted me to dump it and use SQLite as my database software. At least MT gives you some options in this regard.

Why am I writing about Movable Type in WordPress?

I’m using my WordPress blog to write about Movable Type because it’s time for an MT break. I’m suddenly knee-deep in reconfiguring a few dozen Movable Type blogs and find myself baffled by layer upon layer of templates and widgets.

I know there’s a reason why this project uses Movable Type, and I’ll probably figure it out eventually, but in the mean time, I remain baffled by all that is MT.