Where the heck is Six Apart on Movable Type Development



I have been a dedicated Movable Type fan for 4 years, the application continues to do cool stuff that other applications cannot, but that gap is closing very quickly. As evident in this post, but the real issue is this, we have heard virtual silence out of the folks at Six Apart. The only time they make an announcement is when they have signed some big partnership.

We don’t hear anything directed at their base, and guess what, they are going to start loosing us if they don’t get busy and start adding some features that don’t require a developer to integrate. My sister recently started a blog and I was quoted two prices, one was to skin Movable Type in the way she needed to match her e-commerce site, total integration charge $1100.00 when I asked them to quote me how much to Integrate for WordPress I was shocked when they said $240.00

When I asked why the difference, it was because the templates and the tagging on MT was to complicated, and required 4 times as long to do the same work. I said well lets go with Word Press total integration time four hours at $60.00 bucks a hour.

Tell you what makes me mad, is to be sitting here with a product that I happily support, and not seeing it being updated whereas the WordPress folks are flat out kicking them in the Jimmy.

About geeknews

Todd Cochrane is the Founder of Geek News Central and host of the Geek News Central Podcast. He is a Podcast Hall of Fame Inductee and was one of the very first podcasters in 2004. He wrote the first book on podcasting, and did many of the early Podcast Advertising deals in the podcasting space. He does two other podcasts in addition to Geek News Central. The New Media Show and Podcast Legends.


18 thoughts on “Where the heck is Six Apart on Movable Type Development

  1. It’s all well and good to express disappointment, but I’m more in favor of action personally. I’ve been somewhat frustrated by some of the limitations in TypePad and have made quite a few suggestions through the feature request form in the help ticket system. Overall, the response has been pleasant and polite, but I had the impression that my suggestions were not really being looked at.

    So, I’m trying an experiment. I’ve collected a list of 40 improvements to the platform that I’d like to see implemented and I’m starting a grassroots campaign to get users to *pay* TypePad to make at least some of these changes. Whatever comes of it should be interesting, but at a minimum I’m hoping it will get the folks at TypePad to interact more with their user base.

    The blog is called TypePadHacks.org and focuses on:

    • User Design: Collecting useful hacks for extending the capabilities of TypePad blogs.
    • User Forum: Providing a forum for issues, news and user concerns about SixApart products and service.
    • User Power: Organizing users into a unified voice to lobby SixApart for the features, fixes and changes to TypePad most important to us. Call it consumer advocacy.

    I’d be very interested in opinions you might have, and welcome any comments pro or con.

    Please start with the Basic overview:
    http://www.typepadhacks.org/2006/03/start_the_purpo.html

  2. By the way, I don’t know if you saw this but it might give you a little insight on why at least I personally have not been blogging on 6A.com or anywher else. No one on my team is any different…

    I know that it may seem like to someone like yourself who blogs day and night, cranks out a podcast every week or so and a book on the subject that we are being silent, but it’s all relative. Plus, I can tell you that it’s a lot harder to publish when it’s not your primary job and you’re not in the groove.

    Yes, we do need an evangelist role in the company. I’m sure that one day, when we”ve filled enough of the more crucial roles like engineers, project managers, interaction designers, QA engineers and operations people, we’ll have one.

  3. To billg’s last comment above, no, we don’t owe it to anyone to be public about what we’re doing, but being in the business that we are it behooves us to advocate the use of blogs in our own business. And,in fact, we do. Ben and Mena started it long before Six Apart was incorporated, but it’s continued, even up to this day. We do blog. We just don’t blog as much as our customers especially when times get tight.

    Todd wrote:

    “are you concerned about announcing features will tip off the competition.”

    Not at all. However, as a company, we simply don’t talk about things until we know they are real. If you remember the two words “MT Pro”, you’ll probably understand where this comes from.

    “Well I hate to say that the WordPress community is much more active than the MovableType community, heck it’s almost impossible to find the MT forum section link anymore via SixApart.”

    It doesn’t seem a surprise to me that a community centered around an open-source tool will always be more visible and seem more vibrant, but the Movable Type “community” is doing very well — and by that, I mean the Professional Network.

    If you are building then tell us you are building, and if you cant talk about product details then you need to tell us what we need to do to prepare for version 3.3

    Well, there are only two things we do as a software company: build and release. That’s it. Since Movable Type 3.2 was released, we’ve been building and we’ve been doing it at an amazing pace considering our resource constraints.

    The main thing is talk and i am sure there are lots of cool things going on with plugins but you rarely highlight any.

    You’re absolutely right and everyone on our team is to blame for that. I myself have had a three-quarters written blog post highlighting 30 new plugins for a month until I lost my hard drive (R.I.P). Why didn’t I post it? Because I wanted to clean it up and turn it from a list of links to a narrative. In retrospect, obviously, that is a mistake.

    I will tell you: a LOT of posts die on the vine at Six Apart because it’s more difficult to post under your company’s name than it is on your own site. (Ask Niall Kennedy about that one.) So we post a lot of things to our personal sites, just to rattle them off, and before we ever clean them up for the 6A site, we get sucked back down in the actual work we’re doing. If there’s any barrier at all in a startup to blogging, you just won’t do it because you’re hopelessly buried with real deliverables.

    So I guess the big question is, would you rather that we release slower so that we have time to blog more often? We operate under the assumption that that’s not the case. Yes, we do need to get better about blogging, but I know that if you worked for us under the same conditions, you’d find yourself in our shoes. I say that because I have said exactly what you are saying when I was an outside developer living in Hungary. I thought I would come to Six Apart and get us blogging more. I was, at least to this day, wrong.

    You need a evangelist that shows all of us how to use all of these great plugins and talk about why they are important and what gap do they fill that is currently not being filled by the baseline application.

    We completely agree… :-)

    Podcasting is fast approaching two years and although you say you are focused on the next revision your promise of faster releases after the last engine revamp have not materialized.

    I’d say that Yahoo Small Business (which wasn’t just slapping on a logo) and the upcoming MT Enterprise count as two pretty big rocks. Would you?

  4. I’m at a loss to understand why anyone with the skills to understand and manipulate HTML can argue that MT’s tags are more difficult to work with than WordPress’s PHP code. They both adhere to the some essential of templates: the blogging engine replaces tags with content. That’s a pretty old notion, dating at least to the early days of Unix.

    Did you ask the designer to explain the reason for his assertion? How many MT sites has he coded? Maybe your designer was just parroting the residual angst that seems to stem fron SixApart’s decision to stop giving away its primary product. It seems especially strong among people who think that using a vendor’s product makes them a member of a “community” and obligates the vendor to giving the product away, gratis.

    Now, MT’s current set of default templates are, I think, cluttered. Looks like they loaded up code for just about any possible contingency. What they didn’t do is a good enough job documenting those templates, so folks will know what code they can safely excise and which code they need to keep. (maybe that documentation is on their site. It has an awful lot of documentation. But, it ought to be in the templates.)

    But, that’s ony an issue for people who are trying to modify an MT template for there own use. There’s no reason to use any of MT’s templates. Design your site, write the code, and then put the right MT tags in the right place.

    The flip side of all this might be someone who has never heard of PHP trying to build a WordPress layout. Good luck.

    Does SixApart owe people something different than other companies just because it sells blogging software? I don’t think so. It’s a business. If it wants to keep its product development process private, that’s fine with me.

  5. Jay

    After reading through the comments again, it is at least obvious that you have to keep a fair amount of information secret before you release something. But the near silence from you folks has been concerning.

    You are a company that builds blogging tools and like any company these days you need to be blogging, are you concerned about announcing features will tip off the competition.

    Well I hate to say that the WordPress community is much more active than the MovableType community, heck it’s almost impossible to find the MT forum section link anymore via SixApart. If you are building then tell us you are building, and if you cant talk about product details then you need to tell us what we need to do to prepare for version 3.3

    The main thing is talk and i am sure there are lots of cool things going on with plugins but you rarely highlight any. You need a evangelist that shows all of us how to use all of these great plugins and talk about why they are important and what gap do they fill that is currently not being filled by the baseline application.

    Podcasting is fast approaching two years and although you say you are focused on the next revision your promise of faster releases after the last engine revamp have not materialized.

  6. Jay

    After reading through the comments again, it is at least obvious that you have to keep a fair amount of information secret before you release something. But the near silence from you folks has been concerning.

    You are a company that builds blogging tools and like any company these days you need to be blogging, are you concerned about announcing features will tip off the competition.

    Well I hate to say that the WordPress community is much more active than the MovableType community, heck it’s almost impossible to find the MT forum section link anymore via SixApart. If you are building then tell us you are building, and if you cant talk about product details then you need to tell us what we need to do to prepare for version 3.3

    The main thing is talk and i am sure there are lots of cool things going on with plugins but you rarely highlight any. You need a evangelist that shows all of us how to use all of these great plugins and talk about why they are important and what gap do they fill that is currently not being filled by the baseline application.

    Podcasting is fast approaching two years and although you say you are focused on the next revision your promise of faster releases after the last engine revamp have not materialized.

  7. I have switched to WordPress for the fact that there seems to be more community support for it and it definatly has better built-in podcasting support. I got really comfortable with MT and how it’s tags works and have really avoided WP customization as I don’t have to the time to delve in and figure out how it works. MT was easier to delve in and has better documention, but with the ease of posting a podcast in WP, that made me switch. I am still up in the air and may return to MT. Someone just has to convince me.

  8. I hear where your coming from Todd, I know MYSQL and other databases out there but I have never had as much trouble with WordPress or many other as I had with MT. Todd i think I agree with you they make it quite difficult in many aspects

  9. Jason

    I do not consider myself a enterprise customer, I do though expect that their will be a certain amount of time put into the product to keep me engaged as a customer. I have purchased 3 copies for the seperate installs we have running on various servers, I stay in compliance with the license restrictions thus I am supporting SixApart with my wallet.

    I am adding podcasting clients each day and I do not have time to send a message off to Six Apart saying I am looking for a developer, and with any luck I get a message back in a week from you folks. You should have a public website with a list of those in your professional group. This professional group is like some secret society and you all need to take care of them by providing people like me a organized list of companies and their skill sets.

    I have yet to only find one developer that could do a three pane design the way I like it, and you can better believe that I am not at all happy with the number of default templates that are available.

    This site design is great, but makes most developers I hire to do updates, it makes them want to pull there hair out. I do not agree that MT is easy to design to, if it was there would be a 1000 templates to choose from.

    Do a search for Word Press templates and do a Search for Movable Type templates, the proof is in the search results.

  10. Phil, I don’t get it when you mention that there’s no “good free version” of MT — the only limit on the free version is the number of authors, something that it’s pretty hard to say makes it a shabby offering. I’m asking this honestly, not pejoratively: what more should one expect in a free weblog app?

  11. Count me in the group of people that’s confused by your generalization of the differential in price between the quotes you got for MT and WP template designs. I can see why any one individual developer might price their skills that way — someone who knows WP and doesn’t need to learn a new set of tags and skills will naturally charge less to design for WP, and vice versa — but I’m sure that those prices are just that, individualized to that specific developer.

  12. Jay,

    The issue isn’t whether Six Apart is keeping busy. The issue is whether there are enough good MT-based designs (templates or stylesheets) available that are equivalent with those emerging for WordPress. If there’s a genuinely excellent MT design/templates repository available on the Web (as there are for WordPress), please point me to it, with a URL.

    The question is whether, in focusing on the Enterprise, Six Apart is supporting the MT user who likes to build their own sites, but is a better writer than designer. That used to be a core user for MT. Is that still true?

    I don’t want to switch to WordPress because I’ve invested so much time in MT. But blog design is advancing quickly, and my experience is that I see a lot more great-looking designs on WordPress. Whether that’s due to the availability of better free and open source designs for WordPress, or better support from the design community, I can’t tell you. But I don’t think this is imagined.

  13. As someone who has implemented weblogs in both Movable Type and WordPress, I also think you got bad advice regarding templates and tagging.

    Movable Type’s template system works like HTML. Anyone who knows how to mark up a web page can work with its templates.

    WordPress templates call PHP functions and use PHP variables, so it’s more complex.

  14. As someone who has implemented weblogs in both Movable Type and WordPress, I also think you got bad advice regarding templates and tagging.

    Movable Type’s template system works like HTML. Anyone who knows how to mark up a web page can work with its templates.

    WordPress templates call PHP functions and use PHP variables, so it’s more complex.

  15. I don’t really know why Six Apart don’t confess up front that they’re no longer interested in selling single-person licenses (or, ha! having a good free version! oh, how the thought now makes me laugh).

    Regardless of what they *say* it’s clear from what they *do* that they’re only interested in the corporate customers.

  16. Hi Todd. I suppose that it’s a testament to the success of our products that people hold us at Six Apart to a different standard than they might Apple or Microsoft or just about any other company. No one ever says “Steve hasn’t blogged this week! Competitor X is really kicking their butts!”. We take that burden and expectation as a compliment and, even with our more publicly quiet time recently, I would still put our record up against theirs any day.

    The reason that you’ve heard less from us since the Yahoo Small Business version of Movable Type was released (3 months ago including a holiday break) is that we’re nearing the end of the development cycle on two different new versions: Movable Type 3.3 and Movable Type Enterprise.

    In order to get those versions into your hands as soon as possible, we’re all running far over capacity (remember, we’re a small team) and have been for some time now. As such, our schedules haven’t allowed for much blogging or attending conferences like SxSW or eTech (which both Anil and I have had to miss for the first time in years). That said, as we get closer, you can bet that we’ll be talking more.

    We’ve been working on a number of things (aside from the MT code) behind the scenes including massive documentation improvements, a business blogging section of our site and a slew of plugins (on our personal time) all of which make up the entire product of Movable Type. These things will pay off when they’re all public, but in the meantime we are always looking at ways to do a better job of keeping you all apprised of our progress while also still being efficient. I’d love to hear some suggestions about what you’d like to hear when we’re in the middle of a cycle.

    With regards to your sister’s templates, I have to assume that the developer you asked was someone who was very familiar with WordPress and not at all with Movable Type. Not only would this explain the price differential, but also the absurd statement that MT templates are more complicated than WordPress’.

    And when you take into account the integration of Movable Type templates/tags with applications such as Adobe GoLive CS2 and Macromedia Dreamweaver, I think you’ll see that Movable Type enables designers to do what they do best without having to worry about the nitty-gritty details such as learning PHP just to output entries from your blog.

    In the future, when you’re looking for a developer/designer to work with a Movable Type blog, drop me a line. Our Professional Network is comprised of well over a thousand very talented people who do this stuff for a living.

    Oh, you may also find this interesting…

    Take care,
    Jay Allen
    Product Manager
    Six Apart – Professional Products Group

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