Movable Type or WordPress: a crossroads

I am at a crossroads. I currently run several blogs, some personal, some group/professional, and over the years I’ve mostly used Movable Type. I’ve tried Blogger, Typepad, wordpress.com, and even for a brief period Tumblr. But I always get bored with hosted blogs because I like having endless capabilities to change things. I’ve had my own host for ten years and I know how to code.

Anyway, Movable Type has been great, and I know it so well–it’s endlessly configurable. I love that I can have one installation and sign in and manage multiple blogs. But once MT went to 4.0 it was more difficult to get help–the online message boards and community weren’t as ready to answer questions as they once had been. And I also got a little bored with it so I started playing with a download of WordPress. (WordPress.com and wordpress.org are different–the first is hosted, the second is self-hosted and installed.)

I looovved it. I loved how easy it was to install. I loved how many different themes I could just plug in and preview without screwing up my whole site. I loved all the various plug-ins that took a site from very, very basic to Ferrari in about a day. While Movable Type had bunches of plug-ins, they weren’t always straightforward to install, and some were only compatible with a dynamic php version of Movable Type (most of my MT sites were still cgi-driven, not php.) It just seems like WordPress has a much bigger development community than Movable Type’s. From the very beginning WordPress had an open-source philosophy, encouraging outside development, and they made it sound fun and achievable by anyone. On the other hand, Movable Type (which started out before WordPress) didn’t have the same “let’s everybody make this great!” sort of philosophy in its beginning, even though it was free. MT changed their licensing a few times when WordPress became serious competition, and tried to create a developer community, but in my opinion it’s never taken off in the same way.

The community/support issue with any CMS software is becoming more important to me, especially since I run more sites than I used to, and have less time to solve problems when things go wrong. I want to be able ask a question and find a solution within a day.

Both MT and WordPress have grown so much that their community support forums are less responsive than they used to be. I remember the days when the founders of Movable Type were answering questions on their own forum–usually within a couple of days. And I’m sure WordPress was the same. This is all to be expected with growth–but I do think both companies should stop offering “community” as a functional solution because global online services with millions of users are, well, not exactly the intimate global village we all think it is.

Movable Type got it right when they started offering a paid support option for individual bloggers or non-profit users. Just one step up from a free download, one could buy a $100/year pro package that offered a help ticket system. I have loved this system, because I usually get a private response from a Movable Type help employee within 12 hours. WordPress, on the other hand, offers paid support but it starts at $15,000 a year! There is no support outside of the community forums for a small blogger like me–who runs several blogs but certainly none that are corporate, and at this point none that generate revenue.

But the biggest caveat of WordPress has been its inability to run many sites from one install. There are various options for doing that, including WordPress MU (WPMU) and some plug-ins like WP Hive–but none of them have the ease of multi-site running like Movable Type’s. And so I am at a crossroads. I want to upgrade all of my sites to the easier WordPress, but it’s so annoying managing and upgrading six different websites with different sign ins.

WordPress is about to release 3.0 which offers a multi-site capability because it has merged with WPMU. The only problem is that my host (Dreamhost) doesn’t support WPMU yet. Ugh. WP Hive is a cool plug-in that I have been playing with but it has some issues and little support, and I worry that, like some other plug-ins, it will eventually lose its steam with the competition from the new multi-site option and the developer/s stop working on it. Leaving me to come up with yet another solution.