WordPress and Movable Type

Joe Rybicki asks:

So, would you say you’re happier with WordPress than with Movable Type? Is the effort of switching (assuming one has to do it oneself) worth the reward of functionality?

Well, “happier” is probably not the right term. I miss Movable Type esthetically, and because I really do like the fact it created static pages for my entries, so if, say, my database went down (ahem) the pages were still there. But the fact of the matter is at the end of the day either I was not technically competent enough to handle MT or the 4.0 version just did not want to play well with my host provider. Either way, it was a real mess in the end. It makes me sad, because I still like the product, and I like the people who make it. But ultimately I just couldn’t make it work, and that’s the real issue.

WordPress, on the other hand, works. I installed it in about five minutes. It’s hugely supported by its community, which bats out themes and widgets that you can plug and play in about a minute in a half. If you have a basic sense of css coding, you can fiddle with the way your site looks and feels without too much trouble. In all, since I’ve installed it (it’s about six months now) I’ve really had no major problems of any sort. This is good, because I actually want my site to run without giving me headaches.

That said, I still don’t like that WordPress doesn’t output static entries, save the ones that are generated by WP-Cache in order not to stress the database. I back up entries fairly regularly, but I’ve still be more comfortable with an archival static page for most of the individual entries. If someone wants to make a WordPress plugin that will do that — creative static archive versions on individual entries and then stuff them into their own folder — I’d really like that. Because one day the database is going to do down, and then I’m going to be pissed. At least when all hell broke loose on my MT install, the words I had written were still accessible to me. But again, maybe that’s my own paranoid fear.

Would I switch from MT to WP? Well, I did; but it took a catastrophic failure on the part of MT to get me to do it. Switching is a pain and I don’t necessarily recommend doing so if you don’t have to, and if MT is doing the job for you. But if you find that you don’t have the options you really want from MT, then, sure, a change may be in order. Back up everything first, and then use the MT export function to put your entires into a format where they can be swapped into a WP install (NB: I have personally found the MT export function to be very bad; never in all the times I’ve used it has it actually managed to gather up all the entires I’ve written. However, that may also have had something to do with the sheer number of entries I’ve generated over the years).

Of course, you can just drop in a WP install without getting rid of the MT install at all. I still have a MT install here; I just don’t use it. I just configured everything so that it’s the WP install that’s made the front page of the blog, and so on. But I also admit that this site is a bit of an unholy mess. I don’t recommend the haphazard way I do things to anyone else, really.

So, uh, did I actually answer your question?

Update, 6pm: Hey, I upgraded my WP install without everything going explody on me! Go me!

20 thoughts on “WordPress and Movable Type

  1. Why, as a matter of fact, you did! I’m toying with launching a new site and trying to decide whether I want to stick with the MT install I have or leap over to WP — right now there’s no live content at all, so importing wouldn’t be an issue. I’d have to rebuild all my templates, but if the end result is better functionality it may be worth it.

  2. John,

    To address your db worries you might want to talk to your host and see if they can create a cron job to take a MySQL snapshot periodically. That way you have a mirror of the database as of the last snapshot and if the live database becomes corrupted you still have all of your work up to that point.

    You can take snapshots every few minutes, daily, weekly etc… there’s a slight bump to the load, but it’s not much. If their database server dies this won’t help, but if that happens more than once every year or two they’ve got other issues.

    Here’s a quick link to what I’m talking about:

    http://dev.mysql.com/doc/refman/5.0/en/replication-howto-mysqldump.html

  3. I, personally, am very happy with nanoblogger .. the line at the very bottom just appeals to me: “powered by $EDITOR, bash, cat, grep, sed, and nb 3.3″.

    Why yes, them’s the tools I use for everything else …

    Plus, creating a completely static blog reduces CPU-load on the webserver and allows one to use a static-only webserver. Nice.

  4. I have personally found the MT export function to be very bad; never in all the times I’ve used it has it actually managed to gather up all the entires I’ve written.

    Well, having migrated my blog from the free wordpress.com to a personal installation of wordpress, I can say that it took several attempts to get all the posts out as well – And I think I missed some still. And I don’t have anywhere NEAR the volume of posts.

  5. Take a look at WP Super Cache, a fork of the WP-Cache plugin. It makes a static copy of pages as they’re requested, shoves those static pages in a separate folder, and then does some Apache magic to serve those directly. It doesn’t scan through your site and make a full static archive of it, but over time it’ll come close.

  6. They is horrible, aint they John? :)

    If your host offers CPanel with Fantastico Deluxe with your site you can use that to install and upgrade blog scripts. It’s how I installed WordPress at my place, and what I’ll use to upgrade to 2.5 when that becomes available. But, you do have to wait until the CPanel folks upgrade Fantastico to include the new install/upgrade script.

    Be sure to check out the WP plugin directory. The ‘cache’ tag lists a number of plugins you may want to look at. Cache backups are a good idea in any case.

    If you ever do decide to ‘tidy up’ the front page you could always do what I’ve done and put a lot of the stuff on separate pages. Makes for a cleaner site and faster load. I’ve noticed a number of people are turning their backs on the Victorian Parlor school of page design, which I consider a good thing. Your treadwear may vary.

  7. With regard to MT vs WP – my experience is similar to Scalzi’s in that in almost every instance WordPress works when Movable Type doesn’t.

    The static page generation can be nice for backup purposes, but I make regular database dumps, and it saves me from that agonizing “rebuilding the site” wait time ever time you make a post.

    I’ve also found the WordPress community to be much more supportive and the WP platform to be way more flexible than MT. And moving over is pretty simple. WP comes with a function that sucks all your data out of a previous MT install.

    If you haven’t guessed, I tend to recommend WordPres. That said, go with what works for you.

  8. I’ll need to install that site-under-service plugin myself, John. Next week is going to be hell to pay—this is the WordPress 2.5 release, a big version bump. And few of those are ever quite that smooth.

    My current plan is to wait for other eager folks to install 2.5, watch the lists for plugins that failed/entries that go boom/databases that get corrupted, and then install the new version after a month or two minor patches have gone out, whichever comes last.

    I am programmer. I know that of which I speak.

    I use BackupWordpress to automate MySQL dumps and full archiving of the wp-themes and wp-plugins directories. Especially if you’ve made major tweaks to themes, it is annoying to lose them if all goes boom. Though DB losses are more likely.

  9. I WP. It’s even configurable for static sites…and with the number of free templates available (it only takes a little bit of substitution on graphics here and there) and plug-in support… did I mention I WP?

  10. I’ve used MT before, but these days, Drupal gives me a much bigger programmer’s sandbox to play in. heh.

  11. I guess I’m still a little confused why some folks are so down on dynamic sites. I’ve been in the web game for a long time, and it’s only been with MT that I’ve heard people actually complain “ZOMG!!! my pages don’t really exist!!”

    Now, I’m not saying John’s saying that. It’s just that with a dynamic site, you can do a lot more things you wouldn’t otherwise be able to do — quickly reskin, adjust layout on the fly, etc. It’s not typically seen as excessive to regin every page every time it’s requested, especially if there’s some cacheing going on at either the CMS level or the web server level. The fact that MT seemed biased towards static pages is one reason I’ve never bothered with it.

  12. John, thanks for sharing your story. Sorry the transition wasn’t as smooth as it could be — switchers should have an easier time in the future.

    Katherine, in 2002 when that blog entry was from the best thing was probably static pages on the hardware available at the time. In the past 6 years, though, we’ve come a long way. The front page of Yahoo is dynamic. Every Google search is dynamic. Wikipedia, Facebook, WordPress.com, Digg… Dynamic plus caching is the future.

    Arachne, we released the release candidate on Monday and the response has been great so far. It’s rock solid, I’m using it for my own blog.

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