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Alternatives to Movable Type and WordPress?

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I've been using Movable Type for my own blog since 2005, but have grown increasingly dissatisfied with it of late. Its commenter login system gives lots of errors, its whole setup is kind of clunky, its dynamic publishing system was kind of bolted on, and its documentation tends to be a little weak. It feels a little slow in various ways (I had to remove the archives links from my front page because they were causing the page to take 30+ seconds to load), and I don't think I can post blog entries from a mobile device, though I haven't tried lately.

Also, I haven't yet upgraded to MT6, but I gather that it's becoming much more focused on being a website-publishing system and much less on just being a blogging system, which is all I want it for. (Arguably, I should convert my whole site to a CMS; that might help me bring it up to modern look-and-feel standards. But I'm not ready to turn my whole site into a Movable Type site.)

I keep hearing good things about WordPress, and I had it in the back of my mind that I might someday switch to that. But we used WP to build the Jaggery site, and it was kind of a nightmare. The worst problems were the limitations imposed by wordpress.com, but even after we installed WP locally and shifted to using that, it just doesn't fit my head. It makes some very strong assumptions about your layout and information architecture, and working around those assumptions is a big pain. There are innumerable plugins, but most of the ones I looked at had big bugs, and/or their developers didn't answer email. The pro theme we ended up with was nice, and the theme developer was very responsive and friendly, but even so, there were pretty basic things we wanted to do that turned out to be more or less impossible. Its image support is in some ways super-cool (automatically creates multiple sizes of uploaded images!) and in other ways terrible (doesn't let you see what those sizes are from inside WP!).

And worst of all, WordPress doesn't seem to support writing in HTML very well. You can switch out of WYSIWYG mode and into HTML-editing mode, but it doesn't necessarily preserve your exact HTML, which I find really annoying.

(My love of writing raw HTML is yet more evidence, if any were needed, of my devotion to outmoded technology. But that's a whole nother entry.)

So I'm left wondering whether there are any good alternatives. I'm especially intrigued by Drupal; do any of you know whether that's a good choice for personal blogs? Does it have a good mix of nice-looking templates with customizability?

I think I've also heard good things about Joomla, but preliminary research suggests that it's primarily a Content Management System, with some blog capabilities, so that doesn't seem like a good match for me.

I suppose that blogging itself is an outmoded technology at this point; most of the action is on Twitter and Tumblr and Facebook these days. And G+, at least for photos. But I still stubbornly consider this blog to be my primary publishing platform, my online home; I repost stuff elsewhere (and post little items to Twitter and FB but not here), but when I want to write something substantial, this is where the canonical copy lives. So I'd like to be using a tool that I really like, rather than one that I'm often kind of annoyed and resentful about. Maybe that's a pipe dream; maybe all blogging software (hell, all software) looks greener on the other side of the fence. But I figured it couldn't hurt to ask.

Some features I want:

  • Can be installed in my own web account. (In other words, I'm definitely not looking for a hosted solution like wordpress.com or blogger.com or dreamwidth.org.)
  • Can support multiple blogs in the same domain (at least five, ideally more) and multiple bloggers per blog (at least three, ideally more).
  • Nice-looking blog templates available. (Free and/or paid.)
  • Fairly straightforward to customize the templates. (One of the few things I like about WordPress is its approach to creating variant child themes that inherit from a parent theme, by creating a new directory and putting any changed files in it.)
  • Lets you edit raw HTML, and meticulously preserves exactly the HTML you provide.
  • Has a good way to handle spam.
  • Lets commenters use identities from various major and independent identity provider systems, without a hassle. (Such as Facebook, OpenID, etc.)
  • Easily allows posting from iOS devices.
  • Easily configurable ways to list (eg) last n posts, last n comments, all posts from a given day or month, etc.
  • Good save-draft and preview features. (Ideally including some kind of autosave in case of crashes while writing/editing.)
  • Ability to write a post now but schedule it for later publication.
  • Some kind of quick-post bookmarklet.
  • Dynamic publishing. (As opposed to publishing static pages.)
  • Email notification system so people can subscribe to be notified when new posts are published.
  • Good HTML5 support.
  • Categories and/or tags.
  • Ability to turn off comments easily for any given entry or for a set of entries.
  • Fast and reliable search-contents-of-entries (from within the console/dashboard).

And probably lots more, but that'll do for a start. Thoughts?

2 Comments

Drupal will drive you up a tree. It's too complicated and bloated for a blog, or even a small group of blogs. Joomla is promising, but its community is splintered. It is itself a fork of Mambo, and has been forked at least twice more since then because of infighting among the lead developers.

I think WordPress is your best choice. You can use the Raw HTML plugin to preserve your markup, the OpenID plugin to let people log in with other services, Akismet for spam, and Subscribe2 or Jetpack for email subscriptions. I think everything else on your list is built in. The latest version includes a responsive admin interface that's pretty usable on phones, and there's an official iOS app that's good if all you need to deal with are posts, pages, and comments.


Thanks! I really appreciate the comment and the info.

Unfortunately, WordPress really really just doesn't fit my head. Almost everything about the way it's designed made me want to tear my hair out while I was trying to set it up for Jaggery; on several occasions, I found myself yelling at the computer, which isn't something I do often. Almost nothing worked the way I expected it to, and several of the things that frustrated me were things that as far as I could tell there were no plugins to change; I could have written code to change some of them, but it would've been a lot of work. The whole experience was pretty infuriating. So WordPress isn't, alas, an option for me.


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