A WordPress 2.5 Upgrade Guide

By Anil Dash

As you might know, WordPress 2.5 is about to be released, and we wanted to encourage WordPress users to upgrade. To Movable Type.

The truth is, there are lots of good blogging tools out there, and they're all good at different things. But since upgrading from older versions to WP 2.5 can mean changes to your themes, plugins ("print your plugins list"!), and site, we thought we'd take a minute to explain why it may make sense to make those changes in Movable Type instead. For those people in the blogging community who've never taken a look, or who haven't seen MT in a while, you might just find some surprises.

Get Better Tech First

OpenID Sign-In

If you're into the technology of blogging, you've probably been hearing about technologies like Atom and OpenID for a while, and paying attention to newer innovations from Action Streams to iPhone interfaces to OAuth. But for things like Atom and OpenID, WordPress users have had to wait months or even years to get capabilities that Movable Type has pioneered. If you want OpenID commenting support on your blog today, Movable Type has had it built right in since the initial launch of MT4 last year -- we got a little bit of a head start there because Six Apart is where OpenID was invented. And we're not resting on our laurels; support for the newly-updated OpenID 2.0 specification is coming to MT shortly as well. Powerful new web services connected by OAuth are also right around the corner, letting you to keep control of your password without having to share it all around the web just because you want to try out a new web service on your blog.

This kind of stuff isn't new for us: Movable Type was the first an early blogging platform to support plugins at all. [Update: As always, we should have assumed Dave Winer got there first -- Manila had plugins much earlier.] MT was the first to have support for Creative Commons built right in. And it's not just that we participate within existing open source communities to create new standards like Atom, OpenID 2, and OAuth, we also work with companies all over the web to be partners on the OpenSocial project and [a totally non-evil implementation of] Facebook's Beacon on TypePad. Basically, we think that playing well with others makes for a better platform.

Takes a Digging, Keeps on Ticking.

Question: How should you greet the onrush of visitors to your site when you get onto the homepage of Digg or Reddit? Answer: Not with a Database Connection Error. A lot of people have asked us over the years, "Why does MT default to generating static web pages?", even though there's the option to publish fully dynamic pages. The reason is clear, as WordPress core developer and Automattic employee Donncha O Caoimh says, "[U]nder high load, serving static html files will always trump dynamic PHP requests." With Movable Type, the default settings have always been set so that you have a site that's reliable right when you're about to get the most traffic, without having to hunt down, install, or configure any plugins. So when a crowd of people come to your site, they can read what you wrote (and click on your ads, if you're into that sort of thing) instead of wondering what everybody was looking at.

A Dashboard That Measures Success

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One of the biggest goals in redesigning our dashboard for Movable Type 4 nearly a year ago was to get out of the habit of merely listing a bunch of recent entries, comments, and pages. The truth is, you need those listing screens to manage your blogs, but on a dashboard that stuff just ends up looking like another inbox full of clutter to manage. So MT4's completely customizable dashboard has a powerful set of visual representations of your blog's behavior, from charts of the number of entries your authors have created to sliders that let you zoom in and understand why you got more comments on certain days. And of course there are lots of third-party plugins for the MT dashboard, to integrate statistics and information from third-party services like your number of FeedBurner subscribers.

Design Matters

Movable Type was the first blogging platform to use completely CSS-styled, standards-based templates by default, and since then we've worked like crazy to give smarter, prettier tools to everybody for customizing design. We have a strong belief that creating a theme or editing a design shouldn't require knowing PHP or figuring out whether parameters go in the order of "format, before, after" or "before, after, format". In fact, template tags shouldn't be writing HTML markup for you at all -- so in MT, they don't. And the tools for managing and customizing those designs look as good as the designs themselves, as you can see with the Movable Type Design Assistant. The Assistant is designed to help regular bloggers think about their blog's design with some of the insights and perspectives of a professional designer. And the StyleCatcher system built into Movable Type lets you install styles from repositories on the web, without having to manually upload a bunch of theme files to your server.

Plugins Are Good. Not Needing Plugins Is Better.

As the platform that first popularized blogging plugins, Movable Type has tons of them. But even better, there are a huge number of features that would require either the installation and configuration of a plugin, or moving to a completely different platform like WP-MU if you were using WordPress. Instead of wasting time trying to install all those plugins, and then keeping up with the inevitable security updates for them, or compatibility updates whenever you upgrade your software, you can use MT's built-in features and just worry about what you want to say. Some of the key features that are built in to MT that you might want to try out:

  • Manage an unlimited number of blogs with one install
  • Share templates and widgets across all the blogs in your system
  • Easily manage tags
  • Upload, manage, and tag any kind of files with a complete Asset Manager
  • Lots more items that are still on the WordPress wishlist, like image resizing, searching of posts and pages, OpenID, a customizable dashboard, a better WYSIWYG editor, and more

And when you finally do want to do more with your site, in addition to all of the plugins which are available, you can also add in extensions to the platform like the Movable Type Enterprise Solution, for integrating with business-grade infrastructure, and Movable Type Community Solution, which enables features like user profiles, forums, Digg-style ratings, recommendations, and more.

Get Support Right From The Source

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One of the signature features of Movable Type is perhaps the most hidden: Our excellent support. Instead of search around on Google for information that may or may not be out of date, or trying to figure out an obscure chat channel to get answers, paid users can simply file a help ticket and get access to the best support team in the business. It's just one more way to focus on what you want to say with your blog, instead of fighting with technology problems.

And Lots More To Come...

Now, the truth is, we're far from perfect. There are still a lot of times when MT installation takes a lot more than five minutes, though we're working on fixing that. (But of course, having a lot fewer security updates means you're not updating your blogging software all the time, so it can even out.) And MT can import all of your WordPress entries, comments, pages, and content with no problems. Right now, our whole developer community is focused on improving the raw performance of the core platform. But there are also still tons of new features we want to add to the platform as soon as possible. Whether it's adding support for OpenID 2.0, OAuth, or OpenSocial, making the application faster and more responsive, or working with the community to bring users new themes and plugins, we're 100% focused on our responsibility to continue to invent the future of blogging.

Movable Type is a blogging platform that's reliable, innovative, beautifully-designed and full-featured.  Having spent years being both inspired and humbled by the creativity of the blogging community, we'd also like to point out that Movable Type might just be the right platform for a blogger like you.