How Movable Type Lost With Open Source: Page 2

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In the same way, the open source side of Movable Type felt too much of the time like a way to give people a free version of the product without guilt -- not a way to allow people to give the company living feedback through their product. Too often it came off as a way to placate people instead of engage them.

Maybe Six Apart felt the crowd that was clamoring for more open-source-oriented engagement wasn't their customer base. But when you're dealing with open source in any form, it's a mistake to have such narrow definitions.

A number of Movable Type developers decided to independently do something about the direction of the product. They've forked the open source 4.x codebase of MT into a new product, Melody, which they are determined to have developed in a transparent and community-driven fashion (as opposed to the Six Apart top-down corporate-driven model). A 1.0 release is not quite fully baked yet. They're at beta 3 as I write this. But when it's done I'll be taking a closer look. I'm hoping it'll work as an incubator for ideas that never made it into the conventional product, as well as a spur for healthy, competitive development on Movable Type itself.

Because when you get down to it, I can't completely write off Movable Type. At its core it's a good program, with a lot of technical sophistication. But the power of the product needs to be brought to users in a more friendly way. I'd run out of fingers counting the number of times a product has failed because its engineers assumed mere technical superiority would be enough (e.g., OS/2 vs. DOS/Windows 3.x).

There needs to be more attention paid to taking the good things they have and making them absolutely irresistible to users: bloggers, search-engine wonks, pundits, Perl hackers, plugin authors, template designers, CSS codemonkeys. They're all users, not just "developers" or "contributors."

I don't doubt that Movable Type will enjoy continued success with its paying customers. What I wonder is whether or not it will once again become an attractive option for end users, for open source mavens, for people who want something that isn't WordPress for whatever reason. There's no inherent contradiction between building a product which can be sold to paying customers and having an enthusiastic user base contribute to its development. If anything, they can support each other all the more enthusiastically.

I hold out hope that Movable Type could still become a prime example of that, and with the company's recent change of ownership (they're now owned by Infocom of Japan) that could happen.

For now, though, if people pick WordPress first, I'm hardly going to blame them.

ALSO SEE: 20 New User Misconceptions about Linux

AND: The Linux Desktop: Nine Myths

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Tags: open source, Linux, blogging, Six Apart, Moveable Type

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