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MovableHype

Posted on Saturday, April 8th, 2006

Dave!Yesterday was one of the greatest days ever because my Batman Legos arrived. But do I have time to put together my Bat-mobile, Bat-plane, Bat-boat, and Bat-dragster?? No. No I do not. And why haven't I had time to play with my new toys? Because my blog is still completely messed up. I got an email last night telling me that most of the links on my Best Of page are broken. A quick check of my server logs shows hundreds upon hundreds of "Page Not Found" errors... broken links everywhere.

It turns out that there is a major, major problem with Movable Type. I'm not going to go into it just yet but, suffice to say, if you are an MT user I've put the whole story in an extended entry and you should read it. For everybody else, it's time for BULLET POINTS!!

Blog Bullets

• Campaign. All next week I will be participating in Kevin's "grassroots campaign" to promote Paul Davidson's new book The Lost Blogs. This is a great opportunity to blog as somebody else for a while, so I'm looking forward to it.

• Celebrate. The week after that is Blogography's Kick-Ass Blogiversary III Celebration, which means it's going to be a busy few weeks. I don't want to give anything away... but prizes will be involved.

• Vegas. The show Las Vegas gave a nice shout-out to my favorite charitable organization, Doctors Without Borders, in last night's episode. This is one of those shows that surprises me with its consistency... you can always count on being entertained when you tune in (though part of that might be due to my infatuation with Mary, Sam, and Delinda on the show).

• Loopy. On the other end of the television spectrum, FOX has unleashed a new show called The Loop upon an unsuspecting nation. I tuned in because it stars that kid who was the next-door neighbor in Grounded for Life, only to be subjected to the stupidest half-hour of television I've seen in a long, long time. How in the heck did this show get greenlit?

• Cheese. Holy crap! I just went to make myself a sandwich and found out that I'm out of Tillamook Medium Cheddar Cheese! WHY?!? OH LORD, WHY ME??? IS THERE NOTHING SACRED? WAAAHHHHH!

Today, I am a man without cheese. =sob!=

I guess I have to run to the store before I can play with my Batman Legos.

And now, A SERIOUS PROBLEM WITH MOVABLE TYPE...

Within the Movable Type package is an import/export feature which allows you to backup your entries and comments for safe-keeping or transfer to another system. The process is simple, straight-forward and works exceedingly well.

Or so I thought.

It turns out there is a serious flaw if you build static individual archives. The "basename" of the files generated by Movable Type are NOT exported with your entries. So if you transfer to a new host, you could potentially end up with files that are not named the same as they were on the old host... thus breaking links on a system-wide scale.

Movable Type gives you absolutely NO warning that this is going to happen. And since the Six Apart KnowledgeBase acknowledges the issue in an article from July of 2005, one has to wonder WHY they don't give you any warning. To add insult to injury, the steps that Six Apart give you to correct the problem are flawed (and can actually make matters worse, if you can believe it). So here's the deal...

If you manually enter basenames for your individual archive entries... You're screwed. If you care at all about maintaining your links of search-engine standings, you absolutely cannot use the import/export built into MT itself. Your only option would be to export from the database you're using directly. This can cause a whole suite of other problems (I have never been able to rebuild an MT site successfully from a database backup), so be very careful.

If you have Movable Type generate basenames for your individual archive entries... You're probably still screwed. Where I ran into a problem was that the basename length was defaulted at 15 characters on my old system, but "unlimited" characters on the new system (even though I never touched it on either system). This meant any entry with a title over 15 characters was now a broken link. As mentioned above, following Six Apart's suggestion to regenerate the basenames with a custom archive naming scheme is actually a bad, BAD idea (see below), and so the only option ends up being to completely delete every entry and comment, then make sure the basename length is set the same as it was before, then completely rebuild. Since there is no "delete all entries and comments" command in Movable Type, you've got loads of work ahead of you if you've got a lot of entries. If you are running MT on MySQL (or some other database) it's far faster to use MySQL commands to wipe them out.

Why is Six Apart's solution so bad? Because it doesn't work properly. Let's say you have a bunch of files named as follows...

    Long Blog Entry Naming Number One
    Long Blog Entry Naming Number Two
    Long Blog Entry Naming Number Three
    Long Blog Entry Naming Number Four

If you rebuild them with the custom archive naming scheme they provide, and crop to 15 characters, ALL of the above four entries will be named "long_blog_entr.html" (note that it gives you 14 characters, not 15!). So not only do you end up with the four broken links, you end up with three MISSING entry archives!

But if I delete everything and start over with the same basename character limit, I'm okay, right? Not necessarily. I still have over a dozen links that did NOT rebuild properly, and I have no idea why. I am having to create permanent redirects in my .htaccess file to avoid breaking links.

Yargh.

Despite my liking Six Apart as a company (Ben, Mena, Anil, and everybody seem like great people), I am growing increasingly disillusioned with Movable Type as a product. When it was a freeware system meant for hobbyists, you accept problems like this because that's how it goes. But now that Moveable Type is a pay-for product that is being heavily solicited to big companies for professional blogging, you have to wonder why issues like this are not addressed... or, if not addressed, at least warned against. This problem alone can cause you to lose data, break links, destroy archives, hurt your search engine rankings, and waste hours of your valuable time.

So, between runaway CPU usage, major bugs, an incomplete help system, and truly shitty documentation... one has to ask... what in the heck is Six Apart doing to fix this stuff? From all appearances, the answer is "nothing".

Go ahead and visit the blog for the self-proclaimed "premier weblog publishing platform". Turns out that the people who build blogs have a company blog that is rarely updated. Or maybe visit co-founder Mena Trott's blog, also infrequently updated. There's a blog for Movable Type, but it's just fluff about what's happening WITH the product. There's no news about what's happening TO the product.

Six Apart has an entire business section telling companies about the huge benefit that comes from keeping their customers informed with blogging. Given their own blogging efforts, this seems rather hypocritical.

So why doesn't Six Apart follow the same advice that they give to everybody else? Who knows. Maybe they're too busy buying other companies (like LiveJournal), or working on the future (like Project Comet), or telling other businesses how they should blog (ironic, isn't it?). All I know is that they should attend one of their own seminars. Maybe then customers like me would have some hope that things are going to improve. As it is, I spend most of my time regretting the day I ever got involved with Movable Type.

Is it too much to hope that this is the last time I blog about problems with my blog?


Categories: Blogging 2006Click To It: Permalink
   

Comments

  1. RW says:

    Moe, Larry, Cheese!

  2. SJ says:

    I love Las Vegas. It’s on my must-see list. One of the few shows that can get me away from Sci-Fi Fridays.

    I almost switched to Movable Type awhile back, but decided it would be too much hassle transferring everything. I’m thanking Mother Mary and all her wacky nephews right about now!

  3. Looking forward to the Kick-Ass celebration!

    Sorry you’re having so many problems with MT…

  4. Chase says:

    As if I wasn’t freaked out enough with having to move hosts. Now I want to re-do it ALL. And I have no clue how. Geez, Louise.

    Off to get drunk and read up on WordPress.

  5. “I don’t want to give anything away… but prizes will be involved.”

    You know… That could be the driest pun I’ve ever heard.

  6. Pauly D says:

    Dare I say it, but I like The Loop.

    However, this week’s episode was the worst out of all of them. It’ll be on twice this week (its finale is on Thursday, I think) and there will be some interesting cameos. If you get a chance to see previous episodes, the one where they hook up a zip line from their window straight to the falafel cart on the corner is hilarious.

    From the people who brought you Andy Richter Controls the Universe and South Park — how can you go wrong?

    Except for this week, of course.

  7. Dave2 says:

    RW: Cheese Stooges!!

    SJ: The sad thing is that Movable Type does some things very well… if they would only create some documentation, solve some major problems, and keep people informed… it would be a sweet blogging platform.

    Reluctant Housewife: Oh you should be! You should be! (say that with a Yoda voice!)

    Chase: Depending on your configuration, you may be okay. Just be prepared for a bunch of broken links. Out of 1600 entries, I am estimating that 150 are broken. Unfortunately, that 150 includes some of my most popular entries, so tracking them down is a huge waste of time that I am forced to spend.

    Kachina: As I wrote that line, I laughed out loud to myself, and wondered if anybody would notice. The fact that you saw it so quickly restores my faith in humanity!

    Pauly: Wait… the finale is Thursday? Didn’t it JUST premiere? South Park and Andy Richter are genius, which makes this show all the more perplexing… was I supposed to be laughing over the twist on the tired old “dog ate my homework” schtick? Oh well… I believe you when you say the show gets better (how could it possibly get even worse, unless Pauly Shore is one of the cameos?) so I suppose I’ll leave the TiVo Season Pass for a while.

  8. Chanakin says:

    Methinks there will be a lot of drinking going on during Blogiversary III….

  9. Belinda says:

    I’m not a Moveable Type user, and yet here I am reading your extended entry…maybe something is going right?

    I can’t watch “Las Vegas” until they start spelling my name correctly.

    And I hope you got your cheese. We made baked potatoes tonight, and ALL hubby had brought home in lieu of cheese to top them was Velveeta. Let that sink in. Velveeta. Which we all know is not EVEN in the cheese family. I likes my cheddar aged, and SHARP. No namby-pamby “medium” for me, but I feel your pain.

    I’m trying to clear my head in preparation for the GBBMC week. My fear is that while “my” person is someone beloved to me, not enough people will recognize them, and that additionally my entries will suck. Hard.

  10. Belinda says:

    “Best Of” links are working fine too. I’ve lost my favored commentor status, but I’m OK with that. *sob*

  11. Anthony says:

    Sorry to hear about the MT publishing problems. You should seriously consider a port to WordPress. There’s enough expertise out there to port a blog this size over flawlessly and although all of the pages will generate database queries, the overhead isn’t bad at all. Blogging is about writing, not messing about trying to fix the software.

  12. prolurker says:

    I’m told conversion to WordPress from MT is fairly easy. I keep thinking about making the change myself. Especially since my own experience with it and LunarPages (see http://www.professional-lurker.com/archives/001249.html). Clearly MT has problems that are not being addressed by the company, which is just wonderful ain’t it. *sigh*

  13. Dave2 says:

    Chanakin: Blogiversary III is two weeks away. I started drinking last night.

    Belinda: I do enjoy me a good sharp cheddar, but I buy my cheese by the brick, and so I end up getting medium because it’s a bit more versatile. GBBMC is driving me crazy. I still don’t know who I am going to be for the week. I wish we could change people every day, because I just don’t know how I am going to maintain a single character for a week. I worked on my frickin’ links ALL DAY YESTERDAY. I am still not done, but got the major ones taken care of. This sucks! I am running as few additional scripts as possible, and have no automated white-list anymore. I worry it will cause a CPU spike or something. You’re still special to me, however. :-)

    Anthony. The problem with switching to another blogging platform is all the broken links that would ensue. Since there doesn’t seem to be any rhyme or reason for how my blog ended up, I don’t know how to recreate things for another platform. On top of that, my research shows that some of the specialized plugins I use have no equivalents in WordPress, so I think that I am stuck, unless I want to completely start over. I don’t want to, but it may be my only choice.

    Prolurker: I had a sense of deja-vu reading your problems with Lunarpages. That’s exactly how it went for me as well (except I never crashed the server… it was just that “excess CPU usage thing”. But despite the problems, Lunarpages was actually quite civil to me throughout the entire ordeal. While I absolutely do NOT recommend them for Movable Type installations, I would have no problem recommending them for other hosting. I was there for three years, and it wasn’t until my site “became too popular” that there was a problem, and I certainly can’t blame Movable Type’s flaws on them. Good luck at Dreamhost… when I wrote about hosting my MT blog there, they actually advised against it!

  14. Juli says:

    Yippee! I’m sportin’ my party hat already. Last year’s bash was a blast. :) Included in the stash I won was a bar of soap from Stormy Mountain Soaps. I’ve continued to do business with them. http://stormysoap.com/ So who needs the SayWa campaign?? The state has YOU!

  15. SJ says:

    OK, I just used the Blogography search box to find the answer to this question, and got nothing. Since I don’t know if that feature is actually WORKING, I’m just going to ask:

    Have you ever been to Legoland in Carlsbad, CA? A whole theme park of All Things Lego. Seems like that would be your idea of heaven, especially if Liz accompanied you.

  16. James Bow says:

    I too have experienced the base name catastrophe. After manually cropping my file names at fifteen characters, the fact that different SQL installations insist on lopping off words while others don’t, and MT’s ability to put a _1 and _2 etc after the base name resulted in me shattering the internal links of my blog.

    There was nothing I can do about it, but gradually re-edit the links as I came upon them. It has been a sloooow process.

    I’ve had my eye on WordPress for a while, which has a number of advantages that MT doesn’t. It’s free license, with a strong support community, and it can do the things that MT can do. I haven’t switched, however, because I am leery of learning a new template structure, and imports and exports are a pain. However, in your case, it may be customizable enough to allow you to name your files the way you want, thus restoring your broken links.

  17. Brent says:

    “Is it too much to hope that this is the last time I blog about problems with my blog?”

    Dave, it is not too much to ask. I can’t see you never running into a problem again, though. So you will be blogging in the future about problems. At least there’s a lot to keep you going these days: your mad obsessions ranging from Cheese to Hurley, your 3 year anniversary, the campaign for THE LOST BLOGS, and in order: your Powerbook, friends and family, and blogography readers. Now that I think about it, blog problems be damned! Life ain’t so bad. Regards, Brent

  18. Kevin says:

    I’ve said it before and I’ll say it again, I’m sticking with Typepad, dammit.

    Can’t wait for Blogiversary III. Should be a boatload of fun.

    Yeah, I don’t understand how The Loop was greenlit, either. Terrible show. Will they come up with a good Chicago show already? No, ER doesn’t count. Hasn’t counted for a while now.

  19. Jill says:

    Oh my, you’ve mentioned cheddar cheese and Batman Legos in the same post. I am so hooked.

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