Movable Type Rant

OK, so I’ve avoided writing this rant for about… oh, three months, I think. But I’ve just wasted almost two hours thanks to nothing more involved than bad documentation, and I’m hopping mad. So here goes:

The whole MT3.x update thing has been a but of a marketing farce, thanks in part’s to Six Apart’s inevitably difficult growth from a couple of well-meaning geeks into a serious middleware empire. John Gruber covered the initial faux-pas and associated fallout with his customary insight. In short: Six Apart promised a free feature release, and delivered a paid-for cleaner-code release. Oops.

Apparently unnoticed in all this, they goofed in what, to my mind, was a more significant fashion. When MT3 was finally let loose, what we got was a ‘Developer Release.’ “OK,” I think, “I’m not a developer, so I guess I’ll stick with v2.6x, and continue to install that for my hostees.” Only, MT2.6 was removed from the file servers. Yes, folks, for the last – what, three months? – there’s been no evident user release of Movable Type. Am I missing something, or was that a bit brain-dead?

A month ago v3.1 was announced. Finally, we were promised, a release for more normal people. Stay tuned, we were told (twice), for more details prior to release. Evidently not learning from their past communication and marketing mistakes, Six Apart proceeded to post nothing more before actually releasing the software.

MT3.1 finally appeared a couple of days ago. With chums clamouring for something – anything – that will stem the flow of comment spam, I tonight took the plunge. Two hours of angst later, it turns out the upgrade install documentation is plain wrong; see my post here. In short, if you’re using Berkeley DB, you don’t need to run the mt-upgrade* scripts. Oh, and incidentally, MT installation is basically the same as it always has been. That is, harder than it might be.

OK, so what’s the lesson here? For Six Apart, it’s very simple: if you promise your customers something, however, trivial, you must deliver. At the moment, the main thing they have going for them is the vague vibe in the blog community that they’re decent people. That’s pretty thin, especially when WordPress is as good as it is.

For the rest of us, my take-home is this: who, exactly, is the target audience for Movable Type? As the features and complexity layer up, it seems aimed increasingly at hard-core digerati and blog envelope pushers. But those of us with a modicum of geek savvy and – crucially – established hosting are not necessarily the target market for TypePad, either.

I hope Six Apart’s market profiling is of better quality than their upgrade documentation. If it’s not, I think they risk splitting their products either side of their customers.

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