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Movable Type

2002-10-24 14:43:38+00 by Dan Lyke 7 comments

I've been geeking out a lot recently, but oh well, here's more: Had dinner at Sakae in Burlingame last night with Diane, then we retired to the local Starbucks (because they were the only place in the area aside from a few hotel lobbies that had wireless net access, through T-Mobile) to work on setting up her new Movable Type blog. Sakae[Wiki] was excellent, although given the way traffic and all worked out we should have stuck with the original plan and gone down to Mountain View to Dana Street Roasting Company[Wiki], where the coffee wouild have been better and the net access cheaper (T-Mobile was $50 for 300 minutes, since I didn't want to sign up for their $30/month recurring billing).

In retrospect too I should've just bit the bullet and set up Diane on the Flutterby CMS, despite the rough edges. Movable Type[Wiki] suffers from the problem that I see in most "user friendly" software, in abstracting the interface to things like uploading templates it makes minor incremental gains in usability for naive users in exchange for having to learn a whole new way of doing everything. But we got the basic concepts down, got the domain registered (and I checked this morning, Diane[Wiki], it's live now), and I'll set up to spider the old site so that we can move all the content over.

I also want to check the Movable Type[Wiki] templates to re-use their page structure here, so that spiders and syndicators can use style sheet information on common blogs, rather than having to republish in silly formats like RSS.

[ related topics: Wireless Dan's Life Content Management Weblogs Bay Area Software Engineering ]

comments in ascending chronological order (reverse):

#Comment made: 2002-10-24 20:11:50+00 by: canis

Movable Type suffers from the problem that I see in most "user friendly" software, in abstracting the interface to things like uploading templates it makes minor incremental gains in usability for naive users in exchange for having to learn a whole new way of doing everything.

Dan, could you elucidate on that a little? Partly from the point of view of being occasionally asked to recommend blog software but never having actually had reason to use Movable Type, but also because I'm currently working on some networking software in my spare time that's aimed at novice users, and have been wrestling with various UI issues for what seems like far-too-long...

#Comment made: 2002-10-24 20:54:26+00 by: Dan Lyke

It's really not about Movable Type[Wiki], it's about working around basic operating system knowledge with yet another scheme. In the specific case, we already have various methods to transfer between filesystems, FTP, SSH, etc, but some of the confusion last night came because a good bit of the Movable Type[Wiki] interface is about saving template files.

This is easier for people who have no pre-knowledge of computers, but when I'm trying to figure out where they store the template files so that I can quickly hash some together it's just an annoyance.

And I run into this philosophy a lot, I've done a lot, building yet another work around rather than simply insisting that users understand what a filesystem is and how to move files within that filesystem.

So not really an issue with Movable Type[Wiki], more an issue with users.

I'll try to be more coherent when I'm not squeezing comments in between compiles.

#Comment made: 2002-10-24 21:53:44+00 by: mkelley

In v2.5, look in the where_you_install_/tmpl/cms directory Those are the default templates.....if you simply want a copy of the html and css, they're available on the front page of movabletype.org

#Comment made: 2002-10-24 23:15:07+00 by: Diane Reese [edit history]

So as another party in this transaction, I'll be happy to comment on the whole Moveable Type business from a user standpoint. I'd been used to using EditThisPage, which requires me to know essentially nothing -- I show up at my page, push a button that says "Flip the Page", type a bunch of stuff, click a link that says "Pictures" and fill in a simple form if I want to upload images, push a button to choose a new "look", stuff like that. I am quite capable of learning to ftp files and can handle general HTML stuff, but this is a whole different mental model for me. I know what templates are, generally speaking, but I don't know why I need half a dozen of them and when to choose which ones and how to set them up, and I normally wouldn't care where they're stored, but now I have to care. I don't have a dummy's interface anymore, I have to learn stuff. It's a lot more work for me, and so far I haven't fully made sense of it: it's not intuitive yet. (Is that a contradiction in terms?)

mkelley, when you say something like, "Those are the default templates....if you simply want a copy of the html and css...", I can't claim to know what you're talking about. But if I want to manage my site, I have to learn these things. Even something as "simple" as, "... look in the where_you_install_/tmpl/cms directory" is completely Greek to me right now. How do I do this "looking" you speak of? It will make sense soon, I suspect, but the burden is being put on me, The User, to learn new stuff, and fast. Not every user may want to become their own sysadmin also, and this is probably where the ETP simplified user model came from.

And so far, from the time we spent looking at the Help files last night and the times I've looked since, I'd say that they are not designed to help someone who doesn't already have significant knowledge of what they're doing. This is not a tool for amateurs, unless they're prepared to become more expert quickly.

PS: THANK YOU, Dan, for your time and patience and friendship. :-)

#Comment made: 2002-10-25 00:56:24+00 by: Dori


You don't have to care anything about templates, and I'm not sure why you think you do. Don't touch 'em. Leave 'em alone. You'll be just fine with the defaults.

MT is absolutely a tool for amateurs once it's installed (and you can pay what is it, $10? to have that done for you if you want); unfortunately, it appears that you're being thrown in the deep end when you should be sitting by the side of the pool with a drink.

If you're finding MT hard, it means that you're doing something wrong. Take a step back. Why do you feel that you need to change templates? Why do you want to change the defaults? I'm happy to help, but I need to know what problems you were having in the first place that you thought changing these things would solve.

Dan, I gotta say, the idea of you working with MT sounds a lot like you working with Macs. There's nothing that's ever been done to simplify computer usage that you can't make complex :-).

#Comment made: 2002-10-25 03:16:44+00 by: Diane Reese

Dori, thanks for the reassurance that MT should be easier than it seems to me right now. I'd never seen it before last night, and my introduction to it was through working with Dan to get it set up to work. Right now there isn't a template for archived files or something, and so nothing is viewable after the current entry. Once we get it going, I trust it will be much simpler. I shall report back in a few weeks. :-)

#Comment made: 2002-10-25 03:19:08+00 by: mkelley

I completely crashed and burned the first few times I tried to install Movable Type. I hated it. Then I saw that a lot of others were able to get it going. So that made me try it again and as Frank Zappa use to say "put eyebrows on it". Not every blog/cms system is as friendly to a non-technical user as Blogger is, just point and shoot with it and Radio too.

But the one thing MT has going for it, is that the Support Forum is a really really good resource...probably the best I've encountered in years. There are alot of people in the MT community who know MT as good or better than Ben or Mena. So if you have a problem, that would me my first stop....I've been there and had an answer or a path to follow in a couple of hours.

If you need any help with the templates or just the general design of it, email me. I have my new site (weblog.mkelley.net) up and my new work site all MT powered....(whatta way to spend the Summer.) and have a good idea of what MT can do...and how to not break it.