As this post goes live MovableType 4.0 is being launched by it’s creators – SixApart. This new release has been a long time coming for those of us with MT blogs (I have a couple that I can’t wait to get upgraded) and so I thought it might be fun to ask Anil Dash from Six Apart a few questions on the launch and what the new MT version is all about. I hope you enjoy this interview with Anil.
You seem really excited about the launch of MT 4.0 – what 3 things are exciting you the most?
1. I think number one, this is a great moment for the whole MT community. Movable Type was first beta tested by a few people (I got to be one of the lucky few!) six years ago, and if you look at the remarkable evolution since then, it’s a testament to how creative and inspiring the community of users are. So the excitement and participation of tens of thousands of people in the MT4 beta, and the hundreds of thousands more around the world who’ve looked at the demos or downloads of the work in progress are truly inspirational. Things like the new MT site and the new plugins site are a testament to that passion.
2. From a purely technical standpoint, the rearchitecture is amazing. There’s the really obvious surface-level changes like the smart dynamic charts showing activity on your blog, or the all-new user interface and navigation. But at a fundamental level, there’s been a redesign that lets you do things like set up pages to publish in a queue, so you get the reliability and performance of static pages without having to wait for them to publish. And at an even lower level, the completely new underpinnings for the system’s infrastructure let you take advantage of the same open source infrastructure that we use to run our other blogging platforms like LiveJournal, Vox, and TypePad. Those infrastructure pieces also help run most of Web 2.0, so it’s a great way of bringing the technology full-circle, especially with the upcoming release of MT’s open source version.
3. Finally, I think there’s just a delight in using a lot of the new features. Things that formerly required plugins or workarounds are just built right in. You can manage all your blogs in one place easier than ever. Tags and Pages and all that stuff aren’t plugins, they’re integrated. And I don’t know how I got by without the asset management system, which tracks all my files and automatically lets me make podcasts with them, or put them in a Recent Photos widget on my sidebar. Once you get used to having it all integrated, you can never go back.
What will MT users upgrading to 4.0 notice the most about the new version?
Right off the top, the new user interface puts things like statistics on your comment and posting activity front and center. So you’ve got the ability to judge your blog’s success immediately, and then you can filter those views or get an XML feed of what’s going on with your block with just a click. Of course, things like editing and revising entries are a lot easier, too, with an all-new rich text editor and asset management and niceties like automatic saving of drafts and automatic conversion of curly quotes from MS Word.
Screenshot of the new Dashboard below:
What are your top 10 features of the new version?
My personal Top 10? Man, that’s hard. I think my list looks something like this:
- The new documentation. I think it’s the best docs anyone’s ever done for any social media app, and the Business Blogging Guide alone is over 75 printed pages worth of information that’s all about the “why”, not just the “how” of blogging.
- There’s *lesson almost every screen. The new UI means that there’s no clutter with stuff being on the screen to confuse me, and at the same time there’s handy links on the side of almost every page leading me to my next task.
- Admin feeds. Every single listing screen in MT4 can be viewed as an XML feed, which i can get to on Google Reader or on my mobile phone. So I know every time someone comments or creates a draft entry, and I can act on them to publish or delete or whatever without having to learn every screen in the application. It just feels like a ton of power to have in your hand, especially when I see my friends with iPhones managing their blogs on a phone with a few taps.
- Built-in file and asset management. Like I said, I don’t know how I got by before this — it’s a piece of cake to reuse files. We use this already on the movabletype.org site, where I can reuse a picture one of the other authors has uploaded, just by clicking on the link.
- OpenID. I know it’s geeky, but the idea of using your own web address as your identity is *important*. Instead of giving away an email address that can be spammed, or relying on an identity from a site I don’t control, my own web address represents me. So good, it seems obvious in retrospect.
- Complete Backup and Restore. Maybe I’m the paranoid type, but a single file that backs up every single entry, page, template, setting, and file on my blog seems like the best thing in the world. And it’s handy for deploying test blogs, since I can just restore them on another MT4 install to make them live.
- The new plugins and plugin directory. *Manour community is amazing. It’s not just the fancy new directory for plugins, but the fact that there are so many cool new MT4-specific plugins out there, and that’s on top of almost all the most popular plugins from MT3 being built right in to MT4.
- Replying to comments right in the administration screen. It’s just a time-saver. The kind of thoughtful little touch that makes managing a blog fun instead of a chore.
- Cross-blog aggregation. We use a ton of blogs inside our company (obviously), and it’s a piece of cake to include posts from one, some, or all of the blogs on a single page. I can even clone a single blog as many times as I want, making it really easy to make a new blog for each project.
- The new template tools. Okay, I’m a geek for this one, but MT4 highlights my template tags when I add them in to my templates, and even tells me if I have a typo when I add tags to my templates. That’s just cool.
MT seems a lot more community oriented these days? Is this an intentional change in your thinking and approach?
I don’t think it’s a change, I think it’s making visible how we’ve always worked. If you look at the history of MT from the beginning, our community has defined what we do, and has given us the best ideas, the strongest praise, and the harshest critiques. We just hadn’t really done a good job of giving a face to that, and so we made sure to do justice to all teh work and passion that the community’s had for almost 6 years now.
How easy is upgrading to 4.0? What issues do those upgrading need to be aware of?
It’s pretty straightforward. This is by far the easiest install process MT has ever had, and we have special pages for people who want to upgrade. In fact, we had our first upgrade-a-thons last week, where everyone joined in at the same time online and on the phone to work to help each other upgrade, and that us help document exactly what it takes to make the leap. You can see those results here.
How about moving from other platforms to MT?
Yep, we’ve got importers for popular platforms, especially since almost every common tool supports the import/export format that MT invented. Honestly, our goal isn’t to get people to waste time messing with tools if what they have is working for them. But if people think MT can be more reliable and let them do things they couldn’t do before, we welcome them into the community. The most important thing is that people know, when they’re telling their boss the company needs to start using blogs, or when their friends ask “what tool should i use?”, they know MT4 is a great choice.
Do you have any questions or comments for Anil? If so – feel free to leave them in comments below as he says he’ll be watching and willing to interact. Thanks to Anil for his time!