Apr 18, 2006

You might notice that things are looking a bit different around here. After getting a little bit hamstrung by comment spam and quite annoyed at the mechanisms available to me to deal with it, I recently abandoned Movable Type for WordPress. In other words, the software behind this thing changed. For most folks, this means that things are a little prettier. For me, it means I can spend a little more time blogging and a little less time watching the spam counter grow. All signs point to this being a permanent change.

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Sep 9, 2004

I finally bit the bullet and upgraded Movable Type. That little number beside the words “Powered By” on the bottom left used to say 2.6 something something. Now it displays a number greater than that.

Much like any upgrade, this one was driven by irritation. It’s hard to get these fingers moving along an upgrade path. I procrastinate. I’m a big fan of the status quo. But annoy me long or bad enough and I can demonstrate change, barely.

My happiness of the status quo was easy to come by. After all, Movable Type 2 dot something did just about all I needed. I don’t look at blogging, and the tools behind it, as rocket science. The job is pretty simple. Take some text and create a running list of this text. I once even thought of home brewing my own blog-like tool, undoubtably underestimating the effort involved. Movable Type does a wonderful job as a replacement. It makes the simple things simple while adding so many bells and whistles that my inner programmer shines with pride. Not only does it do a wonderful job, it did a pretty good job just a week ago.

I also feared some of the changes that version 3.0 of Movable Type would bring. Well, “some” is probably overestimating. Two is a more accurate number. The first of these involved changes to the licensing of the product. Movable Type used to be free. You could donate if you wanted. The authors appreciated it and, if you asked me, deserved the rather low asking fee (No, I never paid for it. That doesn’t mean I shouldn’t have done so. MT rocks!). Now, all that has (mostly) changed. You are now more than encouraged to pony up some dough. “Free” is now version of the software as opposed to a price. This version is limited, albeit in ways that really don’t affect me, especially in the short term.

(I should be clear that I don’t want to bemoan MT’s authors from shaking the cash cow. They’ve put a lot of blood, sweat, and tears into one of the most used pieces of free software I don’t really own. I just worry when the meaning of free is altered a bit.)

Second, I was worried about their solution to comment spam. Somehow I was under the impression that TypeKey would be the only option for comment registration. TypeKey is a registration system designed to fight comment spam. Basically, grab a TypeKey account and you are considered a trusted user. It’s a global account, in that you can use it for all blogs that support it (i.e. any Movable Type powered blog version 3 or higher). The registration process stops most spam efforts in their tracks and spammers that do manually register (yes, manually register thanks to some well-established safeguards like initially entering a code displayed on an image) are easier to sniff out and ban. Apparently, this impression was wrong — the old Name, Email, URL standbys are still around — but it was still a worry. I didn’t want the same registration process designed to hinder spammers to hinder casual readers alike. I didn’t want my already low comment count to dwindle to zero.

But, like I said, irritation pushed me forward. I love MT-Blacklist, a MT plugin that wrestles comment spam to the ground. Without it, a spam attack I suffered in January would have made me cry. Dealing with the rapid rise of comment spam in my coffers since that event would have been a major pain in the ass without it to light the way.

Still, it wasn’t perfect. For some reason, I never got one of its most touted features to work. Namely, I couldn’t get it to reject comments at the point of entry. I could use it to search for spam and eliminate it — it was pretty obvious when I received a good round of crap — but I wanted a process that didn’t require manual intervention. I was happy (mostly; see status quo above) but not as thrilled as I would have liked.

Then, my comment incident. happened. As I mentioned, something nasty got into my special sauce. Some comments went AWOL and, given my relatively low number of comments, this is considered a bad thing. Those things are precious. So, I upgraded.

And I’m happy, even though that happiness was delayed a couple of days while I dealt with some technical problems with said upgrade (note to self: don’t accidentally overwrite your configuration file) as well as my fantasy football draft (note to self: go LaDainian Tomlinson).

Movable Type appears better than ever. The interface is cleaned up. Mechanisms for dealing with comments — like some special configuration options, a screen that lets you view comments in mass, and the aforementioned addition of a TypeKey option — are great additions. Best of all, the upgrade of MT-Blacklist is not only better integrated, it works like a charm. Want to chat about penis enlargement? Too bad!

Version 3 is up. I still have some work to do, mostly in the form of some new templates that need to be updated, but the upgrade is complete. If anyone notices any wierdness, let me know. I’m getting comfortable in these new shoes.

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