The start of a footraceWhen SixApart released the 3.0 version of MovableType, there was a lot of confusion and consternation. Although it was released as a “Developer’s Release”, the general sense of the weblog community was that of disappointment. Although the 3.0 release was geared toward developers only, many regular users were dismayed over the lack of features, or improvements and felt no compelling reason to upgrade. Of course this release wasn’t meant for regular users like you and me. The purpose of 3.0D was to encourage developers to upgrade their Plugins with the new architecture SixApart created. Which is why there was a Plugins Developer’s Contest offering $20,000 in prizes. Now that the winners have been announced, SixApart recently made another small announcement regarding MT 3.1 and I have to say – get ready to upgrade!

My Experience With 3.0
As a friend recently told me, when I get into something, I don’t go half way, it’s all or nothing for me. So naturally, I purchased a personal license and upgraded to 3.0D the day that it came out. My experience over the past two and a half months has been MUCH better than I expected. It’s been very stable and I only ran into one or two little quirks here and there, but nothing that I would consider a bug per se.

As much as I’ve enjoyed 3.0D, I had to agree with most folks who didn’t upgrade in the fact that there wasn’t a very compelling reason to upgrade from 2.66. There simply weren’t enough new or improved features.. Most of the changes between 2.x versions of MT and 3.0D were mostly behind the scenes. I noticed that the software ran faster and I liked the new design of the user interface, but that’s not a lot of motivation for most users.

The only real noticeable change with 3.0D had to do with comments. There was now a method of approving comments, which helped limit the amount of comment SPAM that some sites were experiencing, including this one. There was also built-in support for TypeKey, but the weblog community has been lukewarm at best to this type of authentication system. I’ve chosen to use it, but most weblogs haven’t added support for it, so I’ve really only used it on my weblogs. All-in-all the comment and trackback handling has been greatly improved, but again, it wasn’t compelling enough for most users to upgrade.

The New Stuff
I think all that will change at the end of this month when SixApart releases version 3.1. According to their web site, there’s a bevy of new features and from what they’re telling us thus far, it all looks good. Here’s a breakdown of what coming on August 31st

1. Dynamic Pages
Some people don’t like the “rebuild” aspect of MT and for those people, their prayers will be answered with this new feature. Now you’ll be able to specify if a page is to be dynamic, or static. I currently do this now, sort of, by using PHP where I need it. The important thing here is that these features will be built-in to MT, so you don’t have to be knowledgeable about the technology in order to use it. Don’t know PHP? No worries!

2. Post Scheduling
This may only appeal to the truly prolific anal-retentive writers out there, but you’ll soon be able to schedule a post in the future. For example, if you like to post one entry a day, but find that you’re several days ahead of schedule, you’ll be able to set when you want your future posts to appear.

I think it’s a great feature for news based web sites that are using MT and due to non-disclosure agreements have posts that can’t appear before a certain time. Take a Palm OS news site for example. Let’s say that PalmStation has some pre-release information given to them from pa1m0ne. PalmStation now has all the details regarding a future product and writes and article about the new device. However, because of the non-disclosure agreement they signed in order to get this coveted information, they can’t publish it until Midnight EST. With MT 3.1, sites with these issues will no longer have to stay up until the appointed time in order to publish.

3. Subcategories
For me, this is the best feature of all! One of the main reasons that I create multiple weblogs in order to configure this one web site, is because I can’t have sub-categories. With MT 3.1, I’ll finally be able to consolidate at least three weblogs (main, photos, travelogue) into one. In other words, I can have categories that are specific to the Travelogue that don’t appear in regular posts.

4. Application-level callbacks
This may not mean much to you and me, but for developers, this is great news because it will allow them to do more with MT.

5. Plugin Suite Included
Six Apart is also including the six winners from the Developer’s Contest as part of a suite of Plugins. You can take a look at this page to read more about the Plugins, but the most important one for most MT users will be MT-Blacklist.

If you’re running MT 2.x then you should have MT-Blacklist installed. Period. It’s a piece of cake to use and it makes the management of comment SPAM a breeze. However, for those of us that migrated to MT 3.0D, I have to say that I’ve missed the features of MT-Blacklist. Well, with the developer’s contest, Jay Allen upgraded his application and actually won the grand prize. You can read all about the details at this link, but from the sound of it MT-Blacklist 2.0 will be a VERY powerful tool that will be a must have for any MT 3.0 weblog.

So There You Have It
After all of the hullabaloo surrounding the new pricing structure and what MT 3.0 was or wasn’t, there’s finally convincing reasons for upgrading your weblog to version 3. There is still a free version of MT with no support that most personal webloggers will still qualify for and even if you don’t, at most you’ll spend $100 which is a pittance for the quality product that you’ll receive in return. With dynamic pages, post scheduling, subcategories and fantastic new Plugins, there’s no reason that I can see that MT users shouldn’t upgrade come September.

So ladies and gentleman, start your upgrade engines! 🙂