Movable Type's static files really work

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The main reason this blog now runs Movable Type (MT) is because that software publishes static files. Unlike my other favourite blog platform, WordPress (WP), once MT publishes a file for an entry or a page to my website, it doesn't have to be running or have a functional database for the file to stay alive and be visible on the Web. That is, for my own somewhat obscure and nerdy reasons, important to me.

Now, I had tested Movable Type before choosing it to make sure it was really true: that the static files work if MT or the database it uses are disabled. But I hadn't tried again since I actually made the move a couple of weeks ago. Not until today.

You see, one of the disadvantages of Movable Type is that upgrading it is still rather a pain. It's stuck where WordPress was a few versions ago, where security patches, bug fixes, and version upgrades require replacing old files on your web server with new ones, restoring plugins and stuff from backups, and generally mucking around with files and permissions and database changes until everything works again. By contrast, WordPress has long had a plugin, and now built-in functionality, to upgrade with just a few clicks within the program itself. That's far better.

Today, Six Apart released a minor 5.02 upgrade for Movable Type, and I had to do the whole update rigamarole manually. That's fine, I'm nerdy and I can handle it. It only took about 20 minutes, including waiting for all the backups and new uploads to complete. I had to mess with some file permissions, but then everything went smoothly.

The one bonus is that, during the upgrade, I completely disabled Movable Type itself in order to replace its application files with the new ones. I couldn't log in, or manage entries, or moderate comments, or do anything while that was happening. But I checked, and my blog itself continued to work fine—although a few things like links to tags and trying to enter new comments obviously wouldn't work.

Once I had the new files in place, all the features returned, just as before. This gives me confidence that if, in future, I bork something up with my Movable Type installation, my blog can keep running while I try to fix it. By contrast, when I've done that with WordPress (which, without a hacky plugin, publishes live from its database all the time), the whole blog disappears until I repair the error.

More seriously, if my health declines and it looks like I might kick the bucket, I can lock down comments and a few other things, and my website can keep working without having to maintain or upgrade Movable Type or the database at all. For most people that's not much of a concern, but over time, for more and more of us it will be.

5 Comments

For different reasons than yours, I think about my site continuing to work without me as well. After all, it's the largest body of my available work. I chose Wordpress, because I'm not nerdy. But I'd be interested in knowing how to perpetuate my writing in case I turn out not to be immortal:-) Dave Winer talks about this sometimes.

Derek,

Do you have an opinion regarding MovableType.com versus MovableType.org, and versus Wordpress.com?

I currently have a domain name that I am not putting to any great use, beyond email, because I find the Google Apps platform to be very weak for websites. I'd like to create a site for my family, think "mini" ancestry.ca more than daily happenings. It would likely be dominated by postings of old photos and files, but I would like it to be interactive and welcoming for family members wherever they are located, so I need a blog element to it as well.

I'm not a developer and, although I can definitely pick stuff up, for the time being I just want something that works and that doesn't require to me to rely on standard themes. Any suggestions?

Thanks Derek. I took a look at SquareSpace, which I had not heard about before, and it looks pretty reasonable. It has a fourteen day free trial period, so I will give it a try before investigating the other options.

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