MovableType 3 Sting

Completely sick of the comment spammers. MT-Blacklist is great at what it does, but only works after a string has been blacklisted, so every morning brings a heap of new garbage, “flies buzzing around my eyes, blood on my saddle.” Is the only viable long-term solution comment registration? To get that, you have to move to MovableType 3.0.

The J-School has been looking forward to MT3 for a long time, hoping for new features that would make it easier to manage the 17 blogs and 260 authors (with ~50 new authors added per semester) we currently support. What we didn’t anticipate was the new licensing scheme that could not only become prohibitively expensive, but a logistical nightmare as we try to track and pay for licenses for each new author, semester to semester. diveintomark has an excellent piece on why the “free enough” approach MT takes isn’t enough. Even if there’s a free version, tie yourself to a corporation and you’re subject to all their whims, prat falls, and unfortunate licensing decisions. Unless SixApart responds soon to my query on custom licensing, we’ll either be moving on to WordPress, a homebrew PHP/MySQL solution, or all of our blogs will be integrated into whatever CMS I choose for the rest of the J-School site this summer.

The licensing issue doesn’t apply to birdhouse — SixApart still offers a free version for non-commercial purposes. Disappointingly, MT3 offers almost no new features beyond comment registration. That’s okay – I’ve seen software revved to major numbers for minor changes plenty of times, and I wanted some real solution to the comment spam problem. So I ran the upgrade tonight. A few technical misfires (apparently not uncommon) — finally succeeded by installing the full version rather than the upgrade and then running the database upgrade script. Signed up for TypeKey, and received a token to drop into the new and improved back-end. Added the new DynamicComments directive to mt.cfg. But wait — after integrating the new comment registration tag into my templates, things fell apart. Not only were existing comments hidden from view, but when users clicked on the “Sign up to comment” link, they were told that birdhouse was not registered with TypeKey (it was). Screw it. Backpedal. Restore the original MT directory; fortunately it still worked, even though the upgrade script had modified some database structures.

MT3 is almost certainly a no-go for the J-School, and I’m increasingly skeptical about using it for birdhouse. There seems to be an MT –> WordPress exodus afoot, and I’ll probably join it. Lots of content out there on migration strategies.

Music: The Mekons :: Funeral

13 Replies to “MovableType 3 Sting”

  1. I’ve moved from MT to WordPress. Took a while to configure my look and feel, but otherwise easy. The migration of all my log entries really was simple. The administration is fairly easy also.

    I’m glad I made the move.

  2. Scot,

    I successfully use MT-Bayesian [1], which (once trained) marks spam comments as spam. Then in the MT template, I’ve chosen to display a vanilla “this comment has been marked as spam by a Bayesian spam filter”. Thus there’s no wait for the blacklist to be updated, and the spammers don’t get their desired PageRank.


  3. I’m using MT_Bayesian, but getting really fed up with the daily round of spams from the same fsking porn site – the filter recognises them as spam, but I still have to manually rebuild all the files, etc etc. I’m sure there’s better solutions out there (this guy uses the same email address every time – I ought to be able to block that) but… time, time, time! I still haven’t fully managed my Blogger to MT migration, I really don’t feel like making more work for myself.

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  5. Kristan, were you able to keep all of your database IDs, ie did your permalink URLs stay intact?

    Sounds like MT-Bayesian has the same fundamental problem as MT-Blacklist — needs to be trained, ie can only do its work after the fact for spam strings it hasn’t seen before.

  6. Scot, I’ve been worrying about your old-style permalinks for a while now, tied as they are to arbitrary post ids from within the MT database.

  7. Right – I’ve already had the whole site worth of permalinks change once, about a year ago when I did an export/import to move the site onto my own host. I don’t really want to go through it again, but I guess I’ll have to move to a date/slug system to prevent it ever happening again.

  8. Scot, I’m facing a similar situation here at the Engineering Dean’s Office (University of Washington, Seattle). I doubt we’re using MT the same way you are, but similar issues apply – an abrupt, expensive, and nebulous shift in licensing that just doesn’t seem to “fit” what we’re doing.

    After spending a lot of time looking at alternatives and grousing that they didn’t do one thing or another that I’d tweaker together in MT, I decided to push the issue via email with SixApart. While I’ve been civil, neither have I held anything back. It’s been constructive.

    I made sure to say that we’re *willing* to pay for a reasonable MT license. After all, we shell out $160×3 for “right-to-use” licenses of Adobe Creative Suite for our web endeavors – why should we expect to pay a pittance (or nothing) for the software that manages site templates, authors, and updates? But the sudden jump in cost, obtuse licensing scheme, and poor cost comparison to the competition is a nigh-dealbreaker.

    Expect to see a new take on educational licensing posted by SixApart in the next week or so. Even then, I have a conference call scheduled for Monday with two of their folks (one being their VP of BizDev). Drop me an email so I have your address, and I’ll let you know how it goes (and perhaps sneak you some more info)

    And… worst comes to worst… look at Emotion Engine and pMachine Pro. In many ways, they seem to be PHP-based MT-workalikes for a much more reasonable license price.

  9. I’ve been looking a lot recently at Textpattern ( I think WordPress may do more (most notably XML-RPC, which is coming to TP but not there yet), but Textpattern seems to have a … philosophy behind it, for lack of a better description, that I like a lot. I’m still technically under the MT free limit for weblogs — I’m likely moving my personal weblog back to LiveJournal, since the mirror there was the one that got all the comments and the MT incarnation just harvests spam — but I’m considering using Textpattern for a new project.

  10. Jim, I’m hearing from other corners about a much more reasonable cost exception for educational institutions making broad use of MT, so it’s starting to look like we’ll be able to keep using it after all (their solution will satisfy both the cost issue and the number of licenses/logistics issue).

    I did evaluate pMachine quite extensively for my MacWorld roundup last year, and loved it – came close to switching myself. It’s still on my list, but if I’m going to make the switch, it’s going to be to an open source solution; otherwise I’m still in the same boat as I’m now with the new licensing scheme.

    TextPattern is certainly on the table for me; I need to get a better handle on WordPress vs. TextPattern and see how they stack up.

    Ludovic, why not have both database servers running? No harm in that.

  11. Scot,

    MT-Bayesian is better than MT-Blacklist, because it learns what is likely to be spam, without having to have encountered any given string before.

  12. Hey Scot-

    Looks like my suggestion of James Seng’s Baynesian comment filter has already been trumped, but he does also have the less-perfect “What does the picture say” authentication plugin (he did that before realizing the problems with such an approach.

    Sidenote: Personally, I was pretty taken aback by the diveintomark post. (My stream-of-consciousness take on 3.0 and the response its been getting, courtesy of the comments from a 3.0-using friend’s blog). Me? I still haven’t launched the blog yet, but I am looking more at WordPress than anything else. Tried Drupal, still kinda scares me though.

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