UPDATE:  April 23, 2008.  This Urban Semiotic blog — and all of David W. Boles’ domains and blogs
are once again, and now solely, hosted by Pair Networks!  We will continue to leave article online to protect the
chain of understanding and we will update this space as necessary.

(UPDATE 4/18/08:  We are now using Movable Type Open Source 4.1 on Media Temple.  Here is the story why.)

Hello, and welcome to Urban Semiotic!  This blog is now running — racing, really — on Movable Type 4.1 hosted by pair Networks!

This blog used to run on WordPress and then on WordPress.com and you may be wondering why we decided to move to the MT4 platform.  We’ll tell you the whole story now.

When big decisions are made there isn’t a single reason you can give
that created the determination of mind.  There are thousands of reasons
why things happen and some of them are more resonant than others and
some are pettier than anything else.

I respect many of the folks
at Automattic — the “makers” of WordPress.com — and I will always
have heaps of honors for Mark and Andy and Ryan because they always
treated me, and this blog, with kindness, interest and, dare I say it,
“Love.”  However, there are others on staff that I will not miss, but
that’s true of any intensive relationship and we’ll talk a bit more
about that later.

One of the reasons I left WordPress.com was the advertising forced on blogs. 

I
understand advertising is the devil’s deal you make when you accept
free hosting, and WordPress.com does a cunning job of “hiding” the
advertising from visitors who are logged in, but one day I happened to
be outside my normal routine and I was away from my logged in computers.

I was showing someone a Love Letter I had written to my wife on this blog called — Eleven Heart-Shaped Balloons
— and that heartfelt missive was packed, surrounded, really, with
Google advertising above and below the brief article selling, of all
things… balloons! 

So there was my throbbing heart suffocating
between two banner ads with three texts ads each.  Six balloons ads
wholly overwhelming a quiet reflection seemed a little much to my
aesthetic sense.

There were rumors WordPress.com might offer a
for-pay “advertising free” blog hosting setup, but I tired of waiting
for a rumor that did not become real.

Another cause for concern happened when I recently had a strange event with an article of mine that was deleted from WordPress.com
I didn’t delete it, and no one else on my Urban Semiotic staff has ever
had the ability to remove articles or even publish articles.

I was able to resurrect the article via the wonders of the Google Cache and republish it — with all the previous comments intact — on my own website so the record could be preserved. 

You can read the article — Urban Semiotic Articles Deleted from Google? — on this blog again but the original comments are missing so check out the “cached version” for the full glory.

A final nudge to move my blog from WordPress.com to MT4 happened when I read this blog article written by Anil Dash on the Movable Type website. 

Some
of the Automattic staff began attacking Anil in the comments flow — I
know how that feels, and if you read my Deleted Article comments
you’ll see why — and I found that public behavior unseemly and
unprofessional for company employees to do that to another company. 

The
attack made WordPress look brittle and unable to handle even the
slightest pinch of competition with any sense of grace or even a
modicum of good sportsmanship. 

It seemed obvious there would not
have been such a public attack on Movable Type unless there was
something worthwhile that was seen as dangerous by those staff members. 

Unfortunately,
attacks that appear orchestrated to quell open conversation can have
the opposite effect of pressing interest into something that would not
need to be investigated except to divine the truth. 

I decided to look into Movable Type to see why there was so much fuss from Automattic about the product. 

I have been writing my WordPunk blog
on TypePad for a year now, so I had some idea of what Six Apart might
be doing with MT4 but to find out, I decided to find a host where I
didn’t have to worry about the technical back end or having to deal
with the database.  I want to focus on writing, not on maintaining the
technical aspects of publishing.

My online search led me to pair Networks
I was drawn to pair because they would install MT4 and update it for
you as you wished.  If you had trouble with your installation or the
database, they would fix it for you. 

That sort of rare “we are here to serve you” customer service is unique in the online world. 

I
pay around $3 extra a month for Movable Type on my hosting account in
addition to my normal hosting fees.  I get no sweetheart deals.  I pay
my own way to host this blog on pair.  I’m not out to make any money on
linking you to a referral program.  All the links on this blog are
clean and advertising-free. 

I tested MT4 on the new RelationShaping
blog I created on pair Networks and I was impressed with the speed and
reliability of that new blog.  I enjoyed the deep user roles
assignment. I liked the plugin structure.  I also loved the fact I was
once-again advertising-free. 

The last thing that pushed me to move Urban Semiotic from WordPress to MT4 was the discovery I could use the same Cutline theme!  That was a divine signal I could not deny.

No
one wants to make a move alone. In any large transition from one
publishing platform to another, there are bound to be pratfalls and
pinnacles and I needed help.  I contacted pair support and asked for
assistance.

Enter our new best friend — “Bob L.” — at pair Networks!

Bob L. has not only taken us by the hand — but he carried us up the stairs, washed our feet and put us to bed.

Bob
L. had never done such a large import before — this blog had over
1,160 posts and 30,000 comments in a 36 MB output file — and it took
him most of an entire day to chop up that WordPress.com export file and
import us over to Movable Type.  We’ve been “live” here on pair for
about three days.

There have been a few
glitches in the transition, but most of them have been fixed.  Our
formatting is a little screwy and we’re working on resolving some
lingering URL issues but the move from WordPress.com to Movable Type
4.1 has been 95% pain-free, 99.99% pain-tolerable and 100% satisfied.

If you’re looking to give Movable Type a test run, you can’t do better than choosing pair Networks and there are some super things coming in the next Movable Type update.

Please
click around here.  Do some searches.  How is the speed?  Are your
comments appearing?  Give us your feedback and love by posting a
comment.  Tell us what you think of MT4 and pair Networks.

44 Comments

  1. I am aware, as the Gods would have it, that this blog is currently broken! Ha!
    The templates have gone askew. All the content is still here. It’s just not being styled correctly.
    Some of our Trackbacks are currently broken. The Archives are properly resolving, but links from articles and from the outside world are still hurting.
    We have SOS’es out to pair Networks and Movable Type and any other people on the street we might meet who can get us back working again.
    We’ll update this as we move along!

  2. Yay! I fixed the template myself. Sort of. What a mess. Something got screwy on the back end. No idea who what or why…
    It’s fixed for now — at least until Monday until I can start wringing people’s… I mean… ringing up people… to track it all down.

  3. P.S.
    Matt Mullenweg — WordPress Genius and Automattic Boss — sent me a kind email this morning after reading this article.
    Matt marked the mail “Private” so we’ll honor his request and keep his words between us — but I will say publicly I thank him for his refreshing honesty and his immense talent.

  4. Wow, David! Your world is a technical one, indeed! It was interesting to read that back article where you went head to head with WordPress. I followed it as best I could. But the bottomline was that you felt something wasn’t “right” and you weren’t satisfied with the answers.
    So now you’ve chosen to move on.
    Thanks for bringing me into the technical world of blogging for a brief moment.
    How you manage to keep your creative juices flowing amidst the muck of all this, I have no idea!
    Your wife is obviously a great inspiration to you and the “balloon” story makes me want to go out right now and give someone a big old helium!
    It’s stories like these that transform the world in small but cumulative ways!

  5. Thanks for the insight and feedback, Donna!
    My world is, yes, too technical for me! SMILE! It can wear you out — plus I’ve had a bit of a cold this week and my voice is lost, so it’s hard to call on the phone and get help when you can barely speak to be understood.
    You’re right that it just felt like the right time to make a change. I hoped WP.com would make a move toward a more sophisticated for-pay structure, but after 18 months of hoping, I realized nothing new was forthcoming any time soon.
    So now we’re in the MT4 soup. If things go feet up here, there’s always Habari and Expression Engine 2.0 is coming out this summer!
    I was finally able to catch up on my other blogs yesterday — and it felt good to let go of the technical problems here and just write again. That’s why I prefer a hosted solution to blogging where you can get help on the backend — but when support is closed on the weekend, you’re basically in your own stewing until Monday morning.
    I’m blessed with a wonderful wife who blazes her own path and encourages me to go my own way. We are lucky in that we also get to work together a lot. That’s so much fun.

  6. I have to give you props – not stage props, or propositions, but the kind that people give one another in praise. I’m not sure I could handle this kind of yuckiness with your amazing tenacity. Technical problems make me physically sick.
    On a different note, I love Movable Type. I have worn a Six Apart hat for a few years with much love – one of my favourite hats. 🙂 I’m so glad they have finally implemented tree comments.

  7. Hi David!
    I am in – finally! Yay!!!
    The page looks neat (I am biased…because blue is my favourite!!!) – so is everything – not sure about the “search box” though – need to poke a little more – will get back!
    Have fun with it!

  8. Gordon!
    Yes! You have been a loyal LiveJournal Lad for many years! Your happiness with them was an inspiration for me to try TypePad. There are many things I like about TypePad more than MT4 — I think it’s a friendlier publishing platform in many significant ways — and it’s definitely much faster in every respect.
    I, too, hate having to manage technical trouble — especially when support just goes away for the weekend — that is cringe-inducing, but not unique. WordPress.com stopped offering official support on the weekends and that’s one of the other reasons why I decided to stop publishing weekend articles: If you died on Friday night, or had other tough trouble, you had to wait until Monday morning at 11am Eastern time to even report it.
    TypePad, however, are around on the weekend if something blows up and they fix it for you as they have done for me in the past. You pay for that kind of fast/ongoing TypePad technical service, but not more than I’m paying pair Networks here for MT4.
    We will hope for some good news and action on Monday — then we have the rest of the week to bang away here to get things set up as advertised.
    Tree comments are coming in the next release. I wonder if they will “tree” previous comments or just new ones that get posted? That will be an interesting feature.

  9. Katha!
    I’m glad you’re in and registered! I just granted you contributor permission so you can now write entries as you wish. Be sure to use the other URL to login to the admin interface. If you have trouble, shoot me an email!
    The search box here isn’t bad — and it should get better and faster in the next version! You can also drill down after your first attempt if you need to focus more. I’ve been pretty pleased with the search performance so far and it’s getting a huge workout because people are landing here, but not getting their correct article because of the URLs problem, so they’re searching for the article they want.

  10. I’m so thrilled you’re going back and reading old articles, Katha! That’s important to do in a move like this from one publishing platform to another — just to make sure all the good old stuff is still there. Let us know what you find and what you enjoy.

  11. UPDATE:
    Bob L. at pair worked hard for us today.
    We’re on a faster, newer, server. The login and sign up pages are working again.
    Let me know if the site feels faster for you or not — we’re still working on getting our URLs to resolve, but I feel it will only be a matter of moments before that is fixed as well.
    You are currently seeing a Plain Green theme — I like the look and feel. It could change to something else at any time…
    Cutline is still my favorite theme, but it is broken in its current port to MT4.1: When you have an entry divided into Body | Extended, the Extended font is HUGE — even when you just hit refresh to load the entry on a single page.

  12. UPDATE:
    Bob L., once again, dedicated a lot of his day to getting us working right.
    All our URLs should be working now — that’s a great gift!
    It was hard and confusing work for me to get my head around what was happening on the backend, but Bob L. saw us through and got it done.
    Let us know what you find — or can’t find — and we’ll get to fixing it!

  13. Wow, David, you are a brave person throwing yourself into this kind of transition. I am glad you were able to make the changes you deemed necessary to your blog.
    Truth is, I am a bit jealous. Some things have happened recently on my WP blogs that had me thinking of a switch. Unfortunately, since I post media, both audio and video, using Podpress plugins, the switch would involve way too much trouble.
    Still, it is great to see things humming along so well here!
    Cheers,
    Eban

  14. My friend! Eban! There you are! Yay on ye! Nice to see you here with us again.
    It was a big decision to move from WordPress to Movable Type but I’ve been wondering on it for quite some time but never had the kick to finally up and move until recently. Salvaging the original URLs after the move was a blessing I didn’t anticipate I would need… so it is certainly nice to have.
    I know what you mean about being stuck in proprietary blogging software features! It’s a real trap. That’s why I always remotely call my images from my private server. That way I never had to worry about moving gigs of stuff in a move like this.
    That said, I do plan to write an http://RelationShaping.com article about the perils of using even a bit of proprietary code — let alone URL structures — like emoticons and calling YouTube videos and such because then you really have to go in in raw mode and hand edit it all out entry…. by…. entry… What a mess!
    If you want more info on MT4 or hosting here with pair, let me know and I’m happy to share what I’ve learned. I’ve even found a couple of keen MT4 IT pros you can hire if you really want a spectacular site.
    Here’s one of the main MT4’s guy’s sites: http://www.majordojo.com/projects/ You can see his Podcasting and Media plugins there. I’m using his Hemingway theme port on RelationShaping.com right now and loving and I’m also using his WordPress login plugin so folks can use it to login.

  15. Good to see another user switch!
    You might want to check out this plugin to help you get people accustomed to your new blog. It’s got support for a related entries feature based on the tags that you assign to posts. I’ve found that it works pretty well for that sort of thing.
    Also, I have posted some themes that I converted from WordPress here. You might want to take a look and see if there are any that you like. If you download them, just put their directories under mt-static/themes, and if there are any problems with them, feel free to let me know.

  16. Hey Mike!
    It does feel good to be switched!
    I have been looking for a “Related Entries” plugin that just plugs in without me having to re-index the database or re-code pages of junk. Does that plugin work with dynamic publishing or does it require static pages?
    I’m also trying to figure out how to get userpics working here — but the documentation is lousy and imprecise.
    Thanks for the tip on your templates site. Can we use the StyleCatcher to work with them? That’s a super easy way to get a look at new styles.

  17. Yeah. Just put them in mt-static/themes and they should work just fine with StyleCatcher. That’s how I use them on my blog. WRT the related posts plugin, I’m not sure. I know it works for static publishing, but that’s all that I am aware of at this point. On that note, you might want to consider a transition to static publishing. MTOS 4.15 is getting template caching built-in so static publishing will get a tremendous performance increase in the next release. Before you do that, talk to the guys at movabletype.org, but I’d recommend you at least consider it because with that caching, you could see a big performance increase.

  18. Thanks for the insight, Mike!
    We’re still static here. Going “dynamic” takes a tremendous amount of backend work and we’ve been struggling with it. With your advice concerning 4.15, I guess we should just stay at our default for now, eh?
    It’s annoying right now, however, to force a page refresh to see entry changes or new comments.
    The Style Catcher in MT 4.1 only requires a URL to work. That’s the beauty of it. I wonder if using the URL for your fine demos would work? Here’s Byrne’s excellent explanation of how to get Cutline to load:
    http://www.majordojo.com/projects/cutline/documentation.html
    Have you considered a Freshy port? I love that theme.
    I, too, am confused by the Plugins. That’s why I’m staying rather safe and stale for now. I keep hoping 4.15 will add more native functionality. I prefer speed over beauty.

  19. I just bundled them up as zip files. I’ll probably get around to making a real stylecatcher repository at some point if I can remember 🙂 All you have to do to get them to your blog is download the zip files and unzip them in mt-static/themes in your Movable Type directory. StyleCatcher will pick them up with the rest of the default entries you have.
    WRT porting a style, it’s a sort of hit or miss thing. I try to make sure that I work on ones that don’t require any modification to the existing templates at all, and unfortunately that excludes probably a good 50% of all WordPress themes. WordPress has the advantage that you can plugin in new templates more easily, but the template files themselves play a far bigger role in the rendering and security of the blog than they probably should in WordPress.
    Template sets are a new, still somewhat nascent feature, that has the potential to make creating whole new layouts painless. I am hoping that they will make the default interface for working with them conducive to quickly generating new layouts from previous ones. That’d make it a lot easier for designers to start from the basic layout and move quickly toward customizing everything.
    I’d head on over to MT.org and take a look at the feature list for 4.15. It might be worth getting someone to experiment with it for you, but it’s best to stay on the conservative side of things because you can never tell exactly what is going to break. With MT, it’s usually trivial stuff at worst, but sometimes it’s a real pain like when the Privacy plugin broke when I went from 4.0 to 4.1 🙂 (though I recently emailed a patched up copy of the plugin to the author)

  20. Okay, Mike, that sounds like a good plan. I like the template you’re using on your main blog. Very slick!
    It is interesting that MT4 put so little emphasis on interesting templates, but TypePad is the same way, so I guess they prefer we focus on content and not design.
    I agree with staying conservative. It’s too easy to be fooled by flash and content. There’s a reason plain is secure.
    What is the Privacy plugin and what does it do?

  21. Yes, I had our previous CUTLINE theme all worked out — including the rotating image headers — but there was a font problem with the stylesheet I could not solve on my own. I’m still looking into it.
    I thank you for your feedback, natzgal!

  22. David,
    I can see from your “Recent Comments” on the side bar that you replied to my comment, but I cannot see my comment nor your new comment. Am I doing something wrong?
    – Natalie

  23. Click on the comment link to refresh your browser, natzgal. Or you can always force a new page to load by using SHIFT+REFRESH/RELOAD in your browser. Some web browsers are not set up to load a fresh page with each visit… even though they should!

  24. natzgal —
    MT4.1 uses static publishing to push pages out really fast while WordPress uses dynamic publishing. Static is faster when you have a lot of readers. Dynamic is better when you have commenters wanting to see what they wrote. The solution for static is to always force a page refresh.

  25. There you are, Trent! You were caught in my Spam trap for some reason.
    How are you, dear friend? I hope you are feeling keen and cool. You do a fine job in your blogging work and I love reading your writing.
    Yes, we’re finally settling in here a bit. We’re back on Pair Networks now running on a dedicated server, so our speed and management problems are now a thing of our beautiful history!

  26. Oh, and Trent? I made you a “Trusted Commenter” here so you won’t have any trouble in the future getting caught as Spam and your comments will immediately appear and not be held in moderation.

  27. Oh this looks dreadfully complicated for a dedicated technophobe like myself.
    I am very concerned about the advertising on WP now especially with some of the subject matters I cover! I will have to log in from another place – or ask someone else to have a look at see what they are putting there.

  28. Nicola —
    If you blog is marked as “mature” — I believe they don’t put ads on your site and they don’t put your blog in the tag system and you’re not in the “next blog” rotation. Most WP.com bloggers loathe being labeled a “mature” blog and they fight that assignment or change their content so they aren’t ostracized from the reader traffic.
    If you test for advertising, make sure there are no WP.com cookies on the computer and any WP.com accounts are logged out.