Movable Type 3.0 and Eating.

by Timothy Appnel

In the wee hours of the morning today, Six Apart released Movable Type 3.0 to mixed reviews. (More on that in a bit.) This release is being called a developers edition that is not for general public use. It is also not a feature release says Six Apart. In many ways this release is like that of the original release of Mac OS X. There were few new features, but a significant changes to the underlying system that are poised to take the company in a whole new direction.

In that vein, MT is graduating to a platform rather then just a personal publishing system. This is great news and an important distinction for developers looking to extend and enhance MT for various non-traditional weblog uses like I have in my work. Six Apart is acknowledging the importance of developers to the evolution of MT. To kick off this renewed commitment to developers, they've announced the formation of a developer's network, plugin contest (more here), and new less restrictive and more diverse and costly licenses. First the happier side of the news.

Drilling down, new features for developers include:

  • The ability to create object callback plugins on pre and post saves, loads and removes. These will come in handy for doing automated mirroring, versioning and integrating subsystems that link to core information.
  • A plugin registration API that displays the plugin name and other metadata such as description, documentation and configuration script links in the MT content management interface.
  • A pluggable authentication system for comment boards. (The company launched their own hosted system that MT defaults to named TypeKey.)
  • Numerous performance enhancements including lazy fetching of data. (Developers can take advantage of this capability in their own plugins.)
  • A number of bug fixes. For instance, MTElse works with conditional plugin tags now.

From a user perspective MT 3 features a new lighter-weight interface which takes full advantage of CSS. It also reorganizes the interface to make comment and Trackback ping moderation easier to manage. Comments also have a number of new features which include moderation approval of messages and posters in addition to authentication. Email notifications have become more robust adding a verification step and (finally!) an unsubscribe feature.

Six Apart also announced new licensing which has been quickly panned by the push button publishing community. While there still will be a free version of MT, it is limited to 3 weblogs and 1 author. The reaction has been swift as many decry the new terms (specifically the fees) that run many weblogs with many authors that using MT will cost them. Many of these posts gripe that alternate server-based tools such as WordPress do not support multiple blogs and/or authors yet. What's a bit silly about these posts is that not one so far notes that the hosted version of MT (TypePad) allows for unlimited authors and weblogs (plus many other features not available in MT) at a price that rivals basic hosting packages.

The delineation between TypePad and MT have become clear with this release – TypePad is for general users wanting to blog and Movable Type is for developers and professional organizations wanting to do more then just weblogging.

Of the reactions I've read this morning I think Brian Stearns had the most poignant observation of this furor. Noting many of the initial Trackback pings to Mena's post he writes ...

For me this outlines that a large part of the weblog world was in it because it was free to do for the most part and an easy way to do something innovative (at least when they started). I think a large part of the internet world is cheap and not willing to pay for things so I will not be surprised to see people dump MovableType to start using a free weblog tool or discontinuing their weblogs altogether.

Agreed, Brian. Rumor around the MT community is that Six Apart was collecting less then 50 cents (US) for each copy of MT downloaded. That is absurd for a piece of commercial software!

This outcry raises a bigger more important point which is the reason for my post. As a developer and one who makes a living writing code, this reaction to Six Apart's new licensing is really disheartening and on a certain level frustrating to see. I am a firm believer and backer of open sourcefree software. (CORRECTION: I meant free software and slipped. I do back open source and open code software though.) I've personally released quite a bit of open source code myself and will continue to do so. However this apparent expectation of the vocal part of community that it is their right to have all great works of software at no cost is bothersome. If users don't have the funds or won't pay on principle for my time, effort or talent – how do I eat?

How are professional developer supposed to eat?


24 Comments

garym
2004-05-13 12:13:00
Migrating from MT to Drupal
This is all going to be good news for Drupal and especially for James Seng's new crusade for migrating MT sites to Drupal
jacobc
2004-05-13 14:19:19
you're missing the issue
Six Apart is effectively asking many of their users to pay for less features, and is doing so in a way that has caught all of their users off guard and unprepared.


MT has been promoted as a free, full-featured weblogging tool since day one; the only exception I recall was commercial use. More recently, Six Apart began talking about Movable Type Pro, and gave the impression that this would be a non-free upgrade for users whose needs exceed the features provided by the current Movable Type system. I had donated to Six Apart before, I've helped with Typepad beta testing and MT3 alpha testing, and was in fact planning to purchase Movable Type Pro simply as a display of gratitude. I'm sure other MT users felt similarly. The problem with the new pricing scheme isn't that people aren't willing to pay (though the prices are unreasonable for most users) -- it's that it runs counter to all of the expectations that Six Apart had built, and people don't know whether to trust Six Apart anymore; users had been led to believe that MT, with its existing feature set, would always be free of charge. Now this feels like a bait-and-switch. I have a friend who runs a family site that he had upgraded to MT3 while testing the beta; he's now looking at a $600 price tag.


Note that users of Wordpress, which is licensed under the GPL, will never face this issue.


On a separate note, the MT personal use license is absurd. It limits MT's use to a single computer on a single-processor system, which effectively precludes every web host out there.

beelerspace
2004-05-13 15:10:54
Not against free, but against expensive
I won't pay for Movable Type.


But I'm also not a cheapskate.


It's not that people expect that the internet is free. That's an overly simplistic quite blidnly from the developer's point of view.


First, people will move to a service that's free. And why the heck wouldn't they? If it's as good as MT, or even almost as good, why shouldn't I use it if it's free? This isn't even an issue of morality as it was with mp3s and p2p. If something costs $69, and something of equal value costs $0, why should I _not_ choose the $0? So of course people will transfer to free blog software. And, the result is that that software will get better as people have made MT better.


Which brings me to my second point. MT became what is very much because of the community that surrounded it. Asking $69 (a discounted price!) is an insult to people that feel thay _made_ MT what it is.


Thirdly, People don't think the internet is free. They're paying for their net access, and they're paying for their webhosting. People pay for livejournal, and they pay for blogger. It goes without saying that they should probably be paying for MT as well. But $69, again a discounted price (!), is excessive. I might even say greedy. SixApart would have done much better - MUCH better - if they'd charged $40-60 for a personal license, and more for a license. Simple. Now, people won't pay the $69 at all.


Limiting the amount of blogs created hurts SixApart more than the money will help.

nrcowlishaw
2004-05-13 16:24:33
Ashamed of Movable Type
"This is all going to be good news for Drupal and especially for James Seng's new crusade for migrating MT sites to Drupal"


Ya... I was disheartened to find out about the new version of Movable Type 3.0. I was a beta tester. But now I think they put too many restrictions on the free use license. I've been looking at Drupal, but don't know if I can install as easily as Movable Type was. In fact, I've been thinking of doing something like that.


I still respect Movable Type, but to a limited extent now. I'm ashamed. :(

cccp
2004-05-13 19:47:21
There's a simple solution.
The dismissal of the outcry in the dramatic change of licensing structure as nothing more than the shrill howl of cheapskates speaks volumes on its own. Free clue kid: 50 cents a download is good money if you have a million downloads.


Open source and free software is a gift culture. You should not approach a gift culture expecting a payout. If you want to be paid for code, don't give it away. Duh.


Sixapart, of course, is free to set whatever terms they wish to. But the really interesting issue of this outcry has been missed: Sixapart shocked its userbase. Instead of working for conversions of the free base and slowly making changes, they shocked their users. Yeah, it's hard. Yeah, it sucks. But when you have legions grovelling at the Trott's feet, you don't kick them in the face. (See the Clutrain Manifesto for the significance of this.)


This was a monkey-effing-a-football disaster of a marketing rollout. Anyone who says otherwise clearly doesn't understand the power of word-of-mouth... WHICH IS WHAT BLOGGING IS ALL ABOUT YOU FOOLS.

tima
2004-05-13 20:29:32
Right, and...
And anyone who makes a post like that doesn't understand that they will be dismissed as a ranting loon. In otherwords, there is no need to be insulting and take this type of tone. The rollout could have been handled better by SixApart. Calling this a kick in the face is an over reaction at best as is the rest of your post.
tima
2004-05-13 20:52:51
Really now.
"MT became what is very much because of the community that surround it. Asking $69 (a discounted price!) is an insult to people that feel thay _made_ MT what it is."


A classic example of the absurd attitude I was pointing out. Six Apart has almost been giving aware their software for over 2 years and THEY owe the community? I agree that one of MT's strengths have been its community, but to say the community made MT what it is? Really now.


If you want to use something for $0 that is your prerogative and I begrudge no one for their choice. Flogging Six Apart because they don't want to play that game (or any other software developer for that matter) seems silly. You get what you pay for. I remain unconvinced that the current alternate tools, while promising and nice, provide the equal value you speak of.

mbaze
2004-05-13 22:56:57
Point taken, but...
I hear what you're saying. But I think the Trotts created a big problem by venturing down a far different path than people expected. The expectation among veteran MT users was that there would always be a free, feature-limited version that was at least no worse than we have now and a feature-rich Pro version that would have many more features (better content management, photo albums, etc.) but would cost. The Trotts never indicated a price, but my assumption was that it would be somewhere between $50 and $150. And my sense was that many people were more than eager to pay for a Pro version. Now we have something entirely different. A free product out of the box that is marginally better in some ways and worse in others (limits on blogs, authors, etc). And a paid product that hardly seems so much better that it's worth the exorbitant price. They've given me no reason to even consider upgrading from the version I have, and many reasons to begin looking elsewhere for other tools. In an apparent attempt to get control of the illegally hosted MT problem, they have created a huge PR misstep. How sad.
cccp
2004-05-13 23:17:28
It's a kick in the face.
Don't like the sound of it? Tough. I'm using blunt language to make the point. Dismissing the obvious is how people get into these situations in the first place. They pissed off their users, that's unforgivable unless they're an easily marginalized minority. And by the looks of it, they miscalculated horribly.


Dismiss your users at your peril.

michaelashby
2004-05-14 02:26:10
Eating Should Include A Balanced Diet
Nice article Timothy, however I think the outcry isn't that people are unwilling to pay, it's just the limits that are being applied to the purchased versions. MT is not a full-featured CMS program. It's primarily centered around publishing a weblog. However, many users have pushed what the software is designed to do beyond the simple blog and are managing their entire site. As a result they have many "weblogs" even though in reality it may only be one real weblog being served to the public. In addition, many volunteer web sites who generate zero dollars in revenue, use MT and are now faced with a serious decision. Depending upon the complexity of the site, can they justify an $800 fee for managing a free site?


There is a huge community that has surrounded SixApart, but I would bet that a good percentage of them run personal or volunteer sites that really don't generate revenue justifiable to acquire the adequate license. I'm sorry that the old license structure didn't work, but going from unlimited weblogs to 3 is a lot to handle. People ARE willing to pay and I think would be happy to, but it has to be balanced.


vBulletin is a prime example of pay-for software the is VERY popular. Sure there are free forum software out there, yet vB continues to be a top choice among webmasters. MT was very much the same thing in the weblog space, but with this unbalanced licenses scheme, I can't see people staying with them in the manner in which they did.


My only hope is that changes are made to the licensing scheme, or that 3.0 ends up becoming a more full-featured CMS client. But wasn't that was MT Pro was supposed to be?

keath
2004-05-14 06:27:18
MT $99.95 and up, special intro prices starting at $69.95 for a limited time!
: )
comingupforair
2004-05-14 07:12:26
Is Mena eating properly?
after your article, i was relieved to see mena was looking healthy and well-fed in her photo.


perhaps in your next article you can check up on radiohead to ensure they're also eating properly in this era of rampant file-sharing.


also, to call MT users 'cheap' is just plain wrongheaded. you're talking about a community of artists and writers - ranging from the erudite to the illiterate - who enrich the internet on a daily basis with their words and images. for most of whom, the thought of being paid (however absurd or reasonable) doesn't cross their mind. why? because the very spirit of blogging is that information wants to be free. it only makes sense that they're going to use a platform that embodies this principle.


it comes down to this: we suspected six apart weren't in touch with their users before and now we know they weren't.


tima
2004-05-14 07:33:10
Please.
This community of artists and writers then can use emacs or notepad with FTP to express themselves. That's like saying Apple should give away their G5's because artists and writers use would their machie to enrich the Internet.


I ran a music zine for years (at a loss -- for years) and met many a starving artist. (I was one of those starving writers.) I know that even the successful artist really never got duly compenstated for their work. So I absolutely support artists and writers getting compenstated. Two wrongs don't make a right though.


Writing software of the quality they have takes talent and a lot of work. Supporting it and working with the community even more. Posts like your are the type that dishearten me and my profession because it shows a lack of appreciation for what I and others do.


They are a young business trying to learn what it means to be just that -- a business. Could this have been handled better? Yes. Mistakes are bound to happen. Cut them some slack and stop being so insulting.

tima
2004-05-14 07:37:14
Re: Eating Should Include A Balanced Diet
Thank you for a well thought out comment. I do see were you are coming from and think there is room for a balance to be struck. I'm not sure how this will ultimately play out, but it would be an over reaction to dimsiss Six Apart so quickly since the licensing terms have been out for just over 24 hours -- hardly any time to react.
sailoreagle
2004-05-14 09:16:42
Good post, but...
With all due respect, you're missing the point.


I have a smallish personal site which I don't get a dime from, and yet if I were to upgrade to MT3, it would cost me at least $150, which is just ridiculous. The tiered pricing based on the number of users and blogs makes sense for commercial licenses, not for personal ones.


Kottke has a good post about this, so I'll save myself the repeating / rewording and just point to it.


What's making me annoyed about this new pricing structure isn't that now I'll have to give Six Apart money for MT. I very much want to give money to Six Apart for MT - it's a great tool and I've been enjoying it for a while. I'd already planned to donate to them once I actually got a job, and so had money to do so. Right now though, with this pricing structure, I really can't afford to pay as much as they're asking.


The prices for personal licenses are too high - that's what's annoying most people I've seen complain, not the fact that MT now actually costs money.


It's funny, though, in a way, if you think about it. I really want to give them money, but they're making it quite impossible for me to do so.

tima
2004-05-14 10:08:45
I can see your point and....
Thanks for your comment. I'll save myself the repeating/rewording and just point to a post I made that pretty much answers your comment here.


I read Kottke's post and I'm sot sure if I totally agree, but its well argued and I can't say it doesn't have its merits.

musnat
2004-05-14 12:02:21
You completely missed the point
It is sad to see that someone like you, who has experience in these issues, can totally miss the point. Maybe you delibaretely missed it and try to deceive people that asking for 150$ or 100$ is really ok, but I disagree. There are so many nice blogging tools out there, but I haven't heard anything that asks 100$. That's a lot of money to ask for a tool that does a simple task, which is to publish your daily posts. Of course they can move in a different direction, but trying to justify the price is totally ridicilous.
tima
2004-05-14 21:41:28
I don't think I have.
If your requirements is a simple task of publishing daily posts then MT probably isn't for you. If you crack open the code to MT you will know that its functionally far surpasses simple. You contradict yourself which makes it hard to reply further.


gerardvan der leun
2004-05-15 16:53:25
Trotts Poor People Skills
Look, the point is not now and never really has been paying. Plenty of people would and will pay. The point is that the license terms and the payment structures are way, way, way out of line.


Their inability to see this and their pathetic people skills in communicating this have cost them dearly. And will continue to do so.


You might betatest software but you never ever beta test price in public that they've done.


Bonehead business error #1. You have to know what you are worth before you ask for it.


They didn't.


They believed their own myth, but this is reality. They've blown their base apart when they could have rallied them behind them.


Silly people.

musnat
2004-05-15 17:06:46
I don't think I have.
Really? I am a perl expert, yes an epxert. I have been programming in perl more than 8 years and produced few serious programs, one is far more complex than MT. I have gone through MT and many other programs, your arrogance shows that you don't know how to evaluate MT. This is a problem with technically challenged people, since they don't know what they are talking about. But, for you I have a tip. Try to check out the features if you can't understand the perl code to really understand where MT stand. You should also check out other programs, trying to evalute MT by itself is meaningless as you are trying to do. You got to understand what MT gives to judge what you should pay for. Right now MT's bigggest advantage over WordPress has been multiple blogs, but even that's not a big issue. You can still use WordPress for multiple blogs. Now that most of the users of MT is moving to other platforms, watch out how SixApart fail miserably. You can't ask 1000$ for something that worths 100$, similarly you can't ask for 600$ for something that worths 50$. People will not pay for these set of features no matter how many lies you spread.
musnat
2004-05-15 17:18:46
Please.
tima, I think you are being insulting to users of MT. Just because they don't want to pay 100$ up to 600$ doesn't mean insulting. You are being insulting to other users I think. You have every right to defend SixApart, maybe you have a financial gain to do so or not, but don't try to insult users like that!!! People just don't want to pay for that price and insulting them for expressing their opinions is insulting itself. Also remember that MT become MT thanks to many of its users who recommended it to their friends. You seem to disregard all of these people.


By the way, I truly understand your pain as a software developer. I am also one of them I truly understand that, but this pricing scheme is totally stupid. They could come up with a fantastic licensing scheme where they could still make lots of money without pissing people off.


For example,


3 blog 3 authors restriction for free version.
unlimited blogs/unlimited authors for personal edition without reselling to others and not hosting other authors' blogs with this license and charge something around 40-60$ for this.


and then commercial licenses which I don't care


author, blog restriction is totally arbitrary, trying to increase the price based on these is not a good idea. That's the main point.


Also provide some more features for the MT 3.0, right now Typekey is not that interesting.

gerardvan der leun
2004-05-15 17:41:33
I don't think I have.
"If your requirements is a simple task of publishing daily posts then MT probably isn't for you. If you crack open the code to MT you will know that its functionally far surpasses simple. "


That's a classic example of an 'argument from geek science" and really does miss the point. It's like saying, "If you could only see the deep internal greatness that I with my superior geek skills can see..."


Ten yards and loss of down.

darrenaddy
2004-05-18 12:48:57
Right, and...
_I'm_ not dismissing him as a ranting loon. He makes some valid points if you are capable of looking past the adrenaline/testosterone-fueled syntax. Your dismissive reply to his post is arrogant, at best.


Rather than his post being "an over reaction", I think the resulting furor shows that your saying "The rollout could have been handled better by SixApart" is an understatement of epic proportions.


I think the best assessment of this whole MT license thing can be found here:
http://diveintomark.org/archives/2004/05/14/freedom-0
.


MT users seem to have made the mistake of equating a free version of the software with Open Source software, which it is (and has been) NOT. The way Six Apart handled all of this just woke a lot of people up to that fact.


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