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Introducing MovableType

by Giles Turnbull -- 2001/10/02

There's a new content management system for the masses in town, named Movabletype. WriteTheWeb asked its founders to explain what they're up to.

Husband and wife team Ben and Mena Trott created MT (as we'll call it from here on) in Perl, designed from the ground up as a weblogging software, or as they call it, "a personal publishing system".

With Blogger and Greymatter now firmly established as leaders in the weblog CMS stakes, what prompted these two young San Francisco programmers/developers to create yet another one?

The short answer is that they wanted more features, the ability to import data from other weblog CMSes, auto-RSS feeds, multiple blogs, and much more. But the long answer is much more interesting and entertaining...

WtW: What's the story behind Movabletype? Why build it?

Ben: MT began as a pet project that I would develop in my spare time. Dissatisfaction with existing blog CMSes - performance, stability - led Mena and I to begin development and UI design in earnest in early September.

MT incorporates a lot of neat features that other users have found lacking from current blog CMSes. The feedback we've received so far - in terms of the feature set we have posted on the site - has been very positive.

Mena: I've been using Blogger since I began weblogging earlier this year. MT can't replace Blogger; we don't want it to. There are clear advantages to having a web-based, centrally hosted application. I just felt I out-grew the features of Blogger and was a bit frustrated with the server downtimes and associated problems.

Because of this loyalty to such a great system, I didn't want to switch to anything other than a system we created.

WtW: Tell us a bit about yourselves. Are you programmers? Got any web sites we can look at?

Ben: I am a programmer; I've developed other Content Management Systems, primarily for work. Those systems are the more standard, all-encompassing content management systems, whereas MT is focused primarily on weblogs and journals (although this is more of a design perspective than a technical limitation).

Mena: I work primarily as a web and UI designer. We currently work at the same company in these same roles so the idea of designating different tasks to each other came quite naturally.

We've mostly worked on intranets and private projects so we probably shouldn't make those too public :). I have a personal site at www.dollarshort.org and Ben has one at rhumba.pair.com/ben/, which includes his perl page.

WtW: What did you want to achieve with MT?

Ben: We wanted to build a system that is modular, extensible, and easy to use. And we wanted to push interoperability with other systems. Many users who may want to use MT will probably already be using Greymatter or Blogger - we want to make it easy for those users to switch over to MT, and to import their existing posts into MT. In terms of extensibility and interoperability, we have modular library code that Perl programmers can extend for their own purposes. And we plan on adding XML-RPC and SOAP APIs to the system.

WtW: What features did you want to build into MT that are not already available via other bloggy-style CMSes?

Ben: Multiple index templates, for publishing to multiple output destinations; entry categorization and grouping; built-in RSS syndication; notification on new entries; support for multiple blogs (Blogger has this, but Greymatter does not).

Mena: Multiple blogs are really an important feature for me, not only to enable multiple visible online journals, but for the ability to manage disparate sources of content in the backend, then join them seamlessly into one "superblog".

WtW: Why announce first and release later? What tasks need to be completed before you can go ahead with the planned release in early October?

Ben: Primarily we did an announce-first, release-later because we are still in a development phase, and we wanted to start getting feature suggestions as soon as possible. Obviously, a good amount of those feature suggestions will not be in the first release, because there just isn't enough time for that; but some of them have made it in.

Mena: As Ben said, we're really interested in what others want in the system. Blogging is about personal expression within a somewhat constrained set of guidelines. If you want to stand out and be unique, you're going to want a system that is constantly growing and adapting to new blogging approaches. With MT, we hope that people will be able to easily create weblogs and journals that thrive on personal expression.

Schedule-wise, we're a bit behind. We took about a week and a half off from development because of the tragedies in New York, DC and PA. It was hard to focus on something as trivial as a weblogging content management system when you're watching people's lives fall apart. But then, as we tried to get back to what is seemingly normal, we realized the importance of weblogging in the wake of the attacks. It was really quite amazing.

Depending how the beta-testing goes, we're hoping to still count on an early October release. The system is complete; now we're just spending our time pounding on the system, looking for problems.