So long, MT5. Sorry it didn't work out
Versions | 10 July 2010 |
These things are never easy, but you can’t delay them indefinitely. For months I’ve struggled with MT5. It works just fine — up to a point. If it’s just the basics you want, and if you’re happy to live without almost every bell and whistle, and if you can wrap your head around the completely rejigged workflow and architecture, go ahead.
But I love my bells and whistles, every one of them, some more than others. More: I need some of these plugins and hacks and I’m so dependent on them that they have now become the first point of reference when I check another CMS. Does it have anything like Dan Wolfgang’s Better File Uploader? The Asset Handler? Image Cropper? How does it deal with Markdown? Can I use PHP Markdown Extra? Collate entries, compare dates?
It’s the reason I’ve stayed away from shifting to WordPress or ExpressionEngine. I love the MT templating language; it’s intuitive, reasonably easy, and very flexible. Its great power comes from its native logic and variable template tags, most especially that near-magical thing called variable interpolation.
MT5 was a dream. I was entranced by its paradigm: simple, elegant, logical, centred around the MultiBlog principle of collecting stuff from different places and displaying them in one top-level overarching container unit. Therefore: the Website with its pages but no entries and, below that, Blogs with pages or entries; and the Website pulling content from blogs.
The dream shattered. It released very late, in January 2010 after months of waiting. The documentation was horrendous. Particularly acrimonious posts on the forums (arguably the single most ungainly, ill-designed and user-unfriendly such resources anywhere) resulted in the documentation being updated.
In all this time, SA USA seemed to have abandoned its constituency altogether: us. Only Japan seemed to flourish. I can’t read Japanese. I shouldn’t be expected to. And only Jun Kuneko from Japan came through again and again.
A word about Jun. The gentlest and kindest of men with the most exquisite good manners, he — and he alone — took all the harsh words (and there were many, on ProNet, on the forums) and responded. Not reacted. Responded. As in came through with documentation updates, patient explanations, detailed expositions, often in the face of a serious language barrier. SA needs to acknowledge the worth of this money and put him very high in the organisation. With him, MT is in safe hands.
And there’s the beleaguered Beau Smith, man with more interests, hobbies, occupations and passions than could possible fit into the largest NorthFace pack. In the face of the nearly incessant drubbing MT5 got, Beau kept his cool and stood by the product. Over on FogBugz, some of his questions in the beta-days of MT5 showed his profound concern for the end-user. Besides, by all accounts, he’s a master chef.
On his site, Beau describes SA as “awesome”. That’s now became an escape word, something that you use when you can’t, or don’t want to, more precisely say what it is you like or admire about the object of the term. SA isn’t awesome, not by a long shot. There was a time when SA seemed actually to care about its users. That’s simply not true of English-speaking users any more for any version of MT. SA has shifted its attention to TypePad and other products. MT fell by the wayside. I have no doubt that someone — and I have a fairly good idea who — is going to wade in with a tiresome tirade about how good and fine SA is. Stuff it. Look at the posts on ProNet over the past year. People have been saying that no one seems to be listening and at least one, possibly two, of the SA team, once agreed on Pronet that SA should listen and interact more with the community. That has not happened. SA’s own website is incredibly ugly. Blogs.com is even worse. Both seem tired, jaded, bored. The forums, as I said, are so clunky it’s unbelievable — a worse plug for the product is hard to imagine. And then there’s that continuing confusion between MT-org and MT-com and which has what and why, and the plugins are somewhere else. In the early days MT had the best documentation in the business, stuff you could download, beautifully indexed and cross-linked. Now it’s all over the place. You won’t find the documentation on variable interpolation in, or even linked in, the documentation on variable tags. Sometimes it’s in a comment. The real stuff is on another page altogether. Why? And there’s all kinds of hidden stuff, too, including modifiers for counts (which got documented very late in the day after Mihai Boscaru and I pointed to them) and more. What does this say about usability? Worse: what does it say about approach and attitude?
I was once a great apologist for MT5. I loved its logic. I admired what it was trying to do. I loved the elegance and simplicity with which content could be pulled from different sources and reshaped, repackaged and re-presented.
But intentions, however good and noble, don’t make a great product. MT5 sucks. Big time. Every single valuable MT4 plugin is borked on MT5 — at least all those that matter to me. Dan explained in an email and later on a forum post that plugin developers had been taken into confidence about the changes being made in the code during the shift to MT5. Often the plugins needs only small tweaks to get by: I managed to get Dan’s BFU running on MT5 with just a small change but it took hours of time; time I could have better spent elsewhere; time Dan wasn’t willing to invest (and rightly so); and it only ever ran in a crippled fashion.
Other plugins I had to toss altogether: notably the Asset Handler, which can be a life-saver if you’re running a parallel Xampp install, and Image Cropper. To be fair, lots of the legacy plugins did work, but the ones that didn’t made it a frustrating experience.
What finally did it was this: MT5 is totally rigid and inflexible in its URL structure between the so-called “website” and subsidiary blogs. The blogs cannot have their own independent URLs. You cannot change that setting. An exchange on FogBugz points to this, and says it should have been thought of, but it never was.
Here’s what I mean: the principal site here is gautampatel.com. Hierarchically below that, but on the same Bluehost box, are my blogs, each in its own directory/folder. This one, mcavity, is one such. Each of these blogs has its own domain name, correctly mapped to the Bluehost nameservers. Thus:
is the same as
On MT5, I cannot use the blog’s own URL. Everything has to go to through www.gautampatel.com, and every entry here has to be
That’s just ridiculous. I want a system where I can post to any of my other blogs, have them appear under their own URLs, but it also reflects automatically on the main website, which correctly links back to the post on the sub-blog.
I moved back to MT4. It wasn’t easy. MT5’s multiblogging system and its new website-specific template tags make it a snap to identify sub-blogs and pull content. In MT4, everything is a blog, so you have to correctly identify each blog by its id and carefully map the URLs and blog names to those ids when you’re referencing them elsewhere.
Thank god for variable interpolation and the array functions. I managed to work out a system where from the main faux-website (faux because it’s actually an MT4 blog disguised as an MT5 ‘website’), I can do a search across all subsidiary blogs. I’ll push that bit of code out separately; I believe it should be of interest.
So sayonara MT5. It was good knowing you, but I guess this is the end of the road for us. I’m staying with my first love.