MovableType as CMS

Preparing a database-backed site for J-School students to produce election-night coverage, and it occurred to me that I might not be giving MovableType enough credit as a generic publishing solution rather than pure blogging tool. With some deeper modifications to templates, removal of comments and calendaring, rearranged permalinks etc., there’s no reason MovableType can’t function as a full CMS. The Categories feature plays perfectly for creating “Departments” for the site. So far so good, but there are two problems with the scenario.

1) There is no way to weight certain stories so they aren’t pushed down the page as new stories are published. That’s how slashdot works – it’s not how CNN.com works – stories need to be at the top of the page if they’re important, not just because they’re new.

2) Blogging software assumes that the person who publishes the story is also the author. But in our case, we’ll have a bunch of people writing but only two “techie” people publishing their stories. We need actual author bylines, and don’t care about who actually posted the piece. There’s no way to add a “byline” field without hacking the actual MT engine and modifying the database. Go down that road and you instantly cut yourself off from future updates (you just forked the code). I want to limit modifications to things I can do with templates and plugins. To get around this, we’ll simply put the byline into the story body manually. Inelegant from a database perspective, but it will get the job done.

I’m beginning to realize how flexible this could be as a generic publishing solution for lots of j-school students – it’s near perfect – MT just needs a few more generic CMS features to replace the more specific blogging features.

6 Replies to “MovableType as CMS”

  1. You could put all the authors in the database and then have the “techie” authors log in as that author when they post the stories.

    And I agree, Greymatter has an option to “keep this story at the top of the page” which Moveable Type needs.

  2. Right, that’s one option I’m considering (putting all authors in the database). The problem is that there are a lot of them, and I’m reluctant to have them intermingled with all the actual blog software users from other classes. There’s good option-level security, so maybe it doesn’t matter. It would be cleaner at the database level, that’s for sure. Although it would be a pain having to ask the techies to log in and out… hang on… here’s the answer: The techies can drop all the stories in the database and then use the Power-Editing mode – from that interface you can change the author of any story en masse, without having to log in and out again. Bingo.

  3. Great, that’s an even better solution.

    I’ll use that when I open up my neighborhood blog for more participants.

  4. Yes, but I set it up with Mailman. I think a mailing list would make for a great addition to Moveable Type.

    And how does your mailing list run? Is it high-traffic or more announcement-oriented?

  5. We just use yahoogroups. A bit annoying with the text ads in each message, but not that big a deal, and it’s nice that none of us has to deal with mailing list software. It pretty much runs itself. Traffic is around 1-10 msgs / day for around 30 current subscribers. I wouldn’t call it high-traffic, but it’s discussion, not announcement – we’re all just constantly talking about ways to make our neighborhood safer, reporting suspicious activity to each other, etc.

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