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.