My transition to Movable Type is mostly complete now, at least in terms of migrating content from Radio Userland and getting my new CSS design to a position of relative stability. In this post I'll explain my motives for switching to Movable Type. In my next post I'll provide some details of the process I went through to switch and how I designed the CSS.
First of all, let me say that I have nothing against Radio Userland as a product. I've been using it for over 2 years, it introduced me to the world of blogging and RSS, and it's served me well. But now it's time for a change and here are my main reasons:
The desktop model of publishing no longer suits me.
Radio Userland is a kind of web server for your PC. It's an application that resides on your PC and to publish from it, you "upstream" html pages from your PC to your web server. Movable Type on the other hand is an application that is installed on the web server and accessed via your web browser. There are benefits to both models, but the main benefit to the MT one is that you are not tied to one computer. You can publish from MT using any computer that's connected to the Internet. Which is what I want nowadays.
I want dynamic webpages.
Movable Type has strong support for PHP, which is a server-side scripting language. This is something I want to learn more about. I'm very familiar with ASP (Microsoft's server-side scripting language) and I used to run an ASP-based website in the late 90's. PHP is basically the open source counterpart of ASP, so I'd like to play around with it.
Movable Type has a very strong Developer community - e.g. lots of
This is something I feel that Radio Userland has lost a lot of ground in over the past year. When I first started using Radio, there was a vibrant community of developers who created new add-ons and plug-ins. But those developers have drifted away from Radio, while at the same time MT's developer community has flourished. I think this has a lot to do with Radio Userland not having had any major upgrade in functionality in the last 2 years. Radio Userland version 8.0.8 was released in May 2002 and there hasn't been another version since that date. And what's most frustrating is that Radio users have been promised new features for quite some time, but nothing has eventuated. In July 2003 then-CEO John Robb promised that "lots of great things coming for Radio will be out in the next 3-4 months" and that many of them would be "truly revolutionary".
Well I'm sick of waiting. I don't mean that to sound mean-spirited, because I'm very fond of the Radio Userland product and community. Many of the people I've met over the last year and put on my blogroll are Radio users. I just feel that we've been let down by the product not moving forward and not keeping pace with the likes of Movable Type and Wordpress.
But back to Movable Type - it has a strong developer community and a guy like me relies and thrives on plug-ins and add-ons. I'm not a programmer by trade, but I do like to tinker and mess around under the hood of software products. I've had a great deal of fun mucking around in the radio.root file, for example. I'm looking forward to doing the same with MT, but with PHP and plug-ins. btw that's also why I like XML technologies such as XSLT and XPath - they allow me to experiment and be an "information-remix junkie" (Rogers Cadenhead's term).
MT is free
As in free beer. Radio costs US$40 per year, so even if it did come up with a major new upgrade in 2004 I'd have to shell out about $75 dollars for it (NZ currency). While I have nothing against paying for software, I'm afraid $75 per year isn't trivial for me. Radio should perhaps consider a model where you pay US$40 for purchasing the product, then say US$10 every year for the privilege of downloading upgrades.
Movable Type is a lot easier to design CSS layouts with
Designing with Web Standards and CSS is important for me, not so much to show my wares as a designer (I'm "graphically-challenged", I guess you could put it!). CSS is mainly important to me because of its semantic qualities. I've written about this before, so I won't repeat myself here. But I will say that Movable Type is much easier to design in CSS with. When I did my first CSS layout in Radio, I had to change some macros and fiddle around in the root file to get it working.
Movable Type has in-built search functionality
I haven't turned this on yet, because I haven't got around to styling it. But it's coming soon...
I wanted a stronger connection between my main weblog and my linkblog.
I've been running my linkblog in Movable Type for the past 7 months. I think now's the time for me to integrate it more strongly with my main weblog. Not just in terms of what tool I use to publish it, but in the next few weeks you'll see the designs of those two blogs move closer together.
I've joked in the past about the 'Read/Write Web Media Empire', but I do have some real-life plans to have a "network" of blogs. So far I have a main writing weblog (Read/Write Web) and a blog to store links (Web of Ideas). Next up: multimedia blogging!
Those are the main reasons why I moved to Movable Type. But it's also got a lot to do with the kind of person I am - curious, an intellectual explorer, someone who likes to challenge himself with Web technologies. Those are all fancy ways of saying: time for a change. I still like Radio Userland and would recommend it to my friends. But the Movable Type era has begun at Read/Write Web!