MT Style Contest

Despite the release of the StyleCatcher plugin for Movable Type more than a year ago, the number of freely downloadable styles available for easy implementation in MT is tiny compared to the vast directories of installable templates for WordPress.

Looks like Six Apart is aiming to rectify the situation, leveraging financial incentives where community spirit has for some reason failed. The Style Contest is offering $17,000 in prizes to MT/TypePad-compatible style designers. In a way, it’s a shame that it will take money to do what the WP/open source community has done so well for free. On the other hand, this is a great opportunity for some of the more handsome MT sites out there to get some juice for their efforts.

Music: Guru Guru :: Drumming Man

9 Replies to “MT Style Contest”

  1. Hi Scott. One nit about your reference to open source. I don’t see the obvious connection between the communities that have developed around MT and WP and open source. MT’s code is as open and modify-able as WP’s. The only difference is that you can’t freely distribute modified (or unmodified) MT code. I think there are other factors that have contributed to the WordPress popularity – its easy installation, its lightweight backend, the fact that it’s free and an untangible coolness-hipness factor. But I don’t necessarily see open source playing a role here. Cheers.

  2. Hi Michael –

    While MT is modifiable and you can view/edit source (since it’s all perl), that fact in no way makes it open source — I can’t distribute / sell a modified version of MT without permission. MT is commercial software, plain and simple.

    MT’s change in licensing terms a while back was responsible for a huge exodus from closed to open source blog/CMS tools.

    I’m not saying commercial software is a bad thing at all – I don’t have open source religion, even though I use a lot of OSS software and think it’s often great. But open source attracts a very different kind of community and culture — a culture that’s very into sharing modifications back to the community.

  3. Yes, I noted that MT is not open source. And I certainly don’t disagree with: “open source attracts a very different kind of community and culture — a culture that’s very into sharing modifications back to the community.” I guess my point is that the magic of open source gets ascribed to a lot of things and behaviors, some of which have nothing to do with open source, IMHO. I think MT and WP are just geared toward different users (MT is more for corporate uses or large multi-blog deployments). Six Apart will tell you as much. So the disparity in templates has more to do with that, in my view, than open source. But I could be wrong.

  4. MT also backtracked on their licensing scheme they introduced back in 2005 because of the mass exodus. You can’t have unlimited users with the free version (I don’t think v2.66 allowed this either) but you can have unlimited blogs now like with the v2.66 (they originally were saying a max of 3 blogs for the free version of v3).

  5. No, I don’t think WP being open source is magically responsible for the fact there are literally hundreds of times more downloadable templates for it than for MT. It’s all about the different cultures of the two. Although I do think the cultural differences are somewhat recent. Until a while ago, MT was THE most popular installable blogging platform, and it’s still got a huge installed base of non-corporate users. But there’s definitely much more of a hacker ethos surrounding WP than MT, which can’t be accounted for from the code side of things, since MT is every bit as hackable. When I ascribe the difference to open source, I’m talking about the surrounding culture, not the technology.

    Six Apart’s backtracking on the original licensing change was actually a good indication that they care a great deal about the non-corporate users, though their web site lately seems to be focusing more and more on corporate.

  6. I have a different view than this:

    When I ascribe the difference to open source, I’m talking about the surrounding culture, not the technology

    When I make a decision about what software to adopt, I’m most definitely and centrally concerned with technology — and closed source, commercial distributions simply cannot leverage the enormous scale that open internet based development can. They, therefore, inevitably, lag. Given the overhead involved in learning a new language, application, or environment, the kind isolation that ensues can be expensive. I decided for these reasons to adopt WordPress rather than Movable Type, and I’ll probably go with Drupal rather than MT for larger projects.

    Code-obfuscated distributions, such as Microsoft products, are even more at a disadvantage: diagnosing problems becomes a black box endeavor, they tend to be broken because their code isn’t subject to peer-review, and the inability to fork code precludes innovative, derivative efforts.

  7. Good points Robert, but germane to the point here is that is not easier to create themes for WP than for MT. If anything, it’s easier for MT because it doesn’t have the system of inheritance that WP has, so it’s easier to understand how to create MT themes.

    The fact that it’s easier to create MT themes but there are still fewer of them is, to me, further evidence that the culture of open source – not technology – is responsible for the wide availability of WP themes.

  8. I think you raise an interesting point here, Scott, but I think this also might be a reflection of the relative value of the work being done. There’s a robust and active economy around developing sites and styles and designs for Movable Type. If you look, for example, at Seed Magazine’s relaunch, you can see on Tim’s site that while he uses WordPress for his own blog, the right tool for the professional gig with a rich set of design goals is Movable Type.

    That’s not to say that there aren’t tons of people making valuable contributions to the MT community just out of their own generosity. But it does reflect the fact that we made a conscious choice a while ago to not only let MT reflect the value we see in it, but to help others get the same value for their work. I don’t have any doubt that people who are willing to pay for a professional-quality design will find plenty of MT resources available to them. And I have no doubt that talented people who give their work away will eventually gravitate towards the platform that rewards them the most for their work.

    Honestly, most of the code in the MT package is already open source. I’d guess we’ll only ever get more open on the license for the rest of it. That’s a lot easier for us to change than it is for a community to start valuing the idea of rewarding its members who want to build their careers. Fortunately, our community already values that.

    I wrote a bit about this myself today.

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