Month: June 2016

Movable Type 3.2 Impressions

I just upgraded to Movable Type 3.2 a few days ago, and as predicted, it has just enough nice new additions to keep me, once again, from switching to WordPress (sorry Matt!). If I were starting from scratch, WordPress might be my chosen platform, but MT gives me enough to keep me happy, and it’s still arguably better than WordPress in several important categories.

Some observations:

  • I’ll start with perhaps the only major disappointment in MT 3.2 because that is what I would like the community’s help on: search. Since the beginning of time, Movable Type’s search function has been a severely limited raw CGI query which outputs ugly search results incapable (without serious hacking) of displaying themselves on a PHP, ASP, JSP, or other dynamic page. If you wanted the search results page to look nice, you had to either hack some design love into the cgi output or do what I currently do: set your CGI search results as a PHP variable and output the results with PHP. It’s a horrible hack and the worst part about it is that it doesn’t even return results 100% of the time. If the CGI query doesn’t return in time or gets throttled by MT’s search throttler, you get an empty record set. Anywayyyyyyyyyy, I am sick of this. Really, I am. So I got to thinking… why hasn’t someone just written a simple PHP function to query MT’s database and return a record set? Am I missing something here? Why would that be a hard/bad thing to do? If anyone is willing and able to do this, I, and plenty of other Movable Type users would be eternally thankful. The function would just need to take in search terms and return an unordered list showing a linked entry title, entry date, and either the MTExcerpt field or the first X number of words in the entry. Anybody see any problems with this? Seems like something a PHP/mySQL expert could do in like an hour, no?
  • Movable Type has vastly improved the cleanliness of their URLs. You no longer need a mountain of hacks to produce custom, extensionless, search-engine-friendly URLs. This is a huge improvement and I am very thankful for it. However, it’s still missing one bit of flexibility I’d like to see, hopefully in the core, but perhaps in a plug-in: I like to save my files out with .php extensions for easier identification and editing, but on the web, I want to refer to them as extensionless. Movable Type will let you refer to them as extensionless, but only if you save them out as extensionless. What’s really needed in this case is the ability for MTPermalink (and any other tag which returns a URL) to automatically strip the extension off the end. Right now, I’m stuck using a regex in all of my MT templates to accomplish this.
  • The Movable Type interface has been tidied up and beautified quite nicely with this latest addition. One of the main reasons I chose MT over WordPress from the beginning was the nicer interface, and MT has widened their lead in this department with 3.2. Matt showed me the new Aqua-like WordPress admin skin in San Francisco last week, and it looks nice, but I’m pretty happy with what MT 3.2 has done (besides using 10px Trebuchet all over the place… had to switch that to Lucida Grande, ASAP).
  • The new trackback moderation is nice. I’ve already pretty much licked comment spam on my own, but illegitimate trackbacks have always bothered me. With MT 3.2, you can keep trackbacks from being posted immediately without applying this moderation rule to your comments as well. I want comments posted immediately. However, with trackbacks, immediacy is not as important… so this new feature is great.
  • The new plug-in framework sounds great, and I like the name: BigPAPI. Good times.
  • My favorite plug-in, MT Notifier, has been updated to work with MT 3.2 and it functions even better than before.
  • Still no live preview, Six Apart??? C’mon! I need the ability to publish a new entry directly to a non-publicized URL (without it pinging anyone or adding it to my feed) to check visually intricate entries for design completeness and general visual quality. The only way to (kind of) do this right now is to publish your entry with a date long in the past and turn off pinging temporarily. That way, it’s live, but nobody knows about it. Horrible solution. Please fix.

Anyway, my overall opinion of this new version of Movable Type is a positive one, and I do recommend all MT users install this upgrade… but we’re still not quite there yet. I’ve been bugging Anil on IM a lot over the last couple of weeks, and both he and the Six Apart team are aware of these little nagging issues. They are dealing with them as time allows, but I of course, must continue pushing… Seeks Creative Director

This just in: ESPN is looking to fill a very high-profile web position — Creative Director, You heard it here first. Yes, that’s right… a chance to set the design standards for the largest sports site on the web and continue to blaze the trails ESPN has been blazing since the original days of ESPNet SportsZone back in the mid ’90s.

I’m not going to post a long description of the job since the position more or less sells itself, but I will say that this is a great opportunity to work with some very talented people on some very exciting projects. The position is out of the main ESPN headquarters in Bristol, Connecticut and is only suitable for a candidate with a wealth of experience managing design teams as well as a killer portfolio. Experience managing the design of high-traffic web properties is a huge plus as well.

Anyway, I don’t work at ESPN anymore but I’ve volunteered to post the position on this site in hopes that either a Mike Industries reader or a friend of a Mike Industries reader might be the right person for the job. If you (or someone you know) think you might have the right stuff, drop me a line through the contact form and I’ll see what I can do. I can’t answer many specific questions about the job but I can help shepherd the process along a bit. Any e-mails should include at the very least a URL where some of your work can be viewed.

Baseball’s Latest Scandal: Milk Suspensions

ESPN has word of the latest scandal to hit baseball: milk consumption contests. Much like The Saltine Challenge, these competitions test the human body’s ability to ingest an uncomfortable amount of food over a very short period of time.

The Milk Challenge has been around for a long time and is, in my opinion, much tougher than the Saltine Challenge. The idea is to consume an entire gallon of the white stuff in less than an hour without throwing up. I’m not even sure I could do that with water, but with milk? Certainly not. Too much lactose makes the stomach very, very angry.

So you’d think that if someone could actually defeat the Milk Challenge, he’d be showered in glory and valuable prizes, right? Well, not in baseball. Brad Penny, former pitcher for the Florida Marlins (now with the Dodgers), challenged a batboy to complete the challenge with $500 in cash as an incentive. The poor kid ended up drinking the gallon, held it down, but didn’t come in under the one hour mark so he never got the payout. As if that wasn’t bad enough, the Marlins then suspended him for six games! 10 games for steroid abuse and 6 games for milk abuse. Good times.

I only hope Penny ended up giving the kid his $500.

UPDATE: Looks like the ballboy is fielding multiple publicity offers now. Alright!

A List Apart Redesigns, Makes Me Weep

A List Apart, the venerable online periodical for web people, has quite possibly just pulled off the perfect redesign.

Everything is great. Nothing is bad. Click here to see the wickedness.

Favorite design touch: The hover underlines which disappear in the middle of the center-stacked text.

Favorite new feature: Adjustable color palettes for different issues.

Congratulations to Jeffrey Zeldman, Jason Santa Maria, Eric Meyer, Dan Benjamin, Kevin Cornell, Erin Kissane, and team on a great piece of work.

Meatspace Stan has more here.

*Prediction: A center-stacked headline mini-boom begins today.

Fantasy Football Cameo Opportunity

I run a 20 person fantasy football league of industry bloggers. We have an extra spot available. The entry fee is $25 (goes straight to prize pool) and the online draft is this Sunday at 6:30pm Pacific.

If you’d like the spot, simply send me an email with your picks for last year’s fantasy MVP in the QB, RB, and WR positions. Need to weed out the crazies. :)

UPDATE: Filled, by the talented Paul Mayne.

I Camp. You Camp. Foo Camp.

This weekend I was psyched and honored to attend Tim O’Reilly’s third annual Foo Camp in Sebastopol, California. Aside from being one of the best professional/academic gatherings I’ve been to, it reminded me exactly how little I know. Ever sit in a room full of 20 people laughing at a joke you don’t even begin to understand? Multiple times? It’s humbling.

I experienced a little of that this weekend, not to mention breaking bread (or keg) with the some of the people I most respect in this industry. To try and remember every conversation would be futile, but the most surreal moment for me was at a dinner table with Esther Dyson and Jeff Bezos when I relayed to Jeff that we used his original attorney at Amazon to incorporate our own company. Apparently this attorney was also instrumental in talking Jeff out of Amazon’s original name “Cadabra” (sounded too much like “Cadaver”).

*Note: 2nd most surreal moment — riding an off-road Segway for the first time. Fun!

This weekend wasn’t about networking though, and that’s what made it so different and so much better than any conference I’ve been to. Nobody pitched their product, nobody talked about how great their company was, and nobody tried to appear better than anyone else. In essence, the political and competitive aspects were completely absent, and replacing them was genuine altruistic discourse. People demoed concepts and expressed opinions they’d never do in an open forum with the simple caveat “Please don’t blog about this.” In other words, there was no agenda other than the exploration of ideas.

I was also struck by how little millions of dollars seem to change great technologists. Brewster Kahle sold his company to Amazon for $250 million several years ago and the cat is still hard at work and walking around in 10 year old New Balances. Stewart Butterfield and Caterina Fake are freshly minted from their $35 million sale of Flickr to Yahoo and not only have they continued their great work at Flickr, but their pace of innovation seems to have actually increased.

There were only a few other designers at Foo Camp so perhaps that led a bit to my fish-out-of-water feeling, but in the end, that could have been the best thing about the event. I’d rather stand around a campfire with an engineer, a CEO, a video producer, and a sociologist and talk about mass transportation than talk about Gaussian Blurs with a bunch of people who are already like me. This phenomenon was actually the subject of many conversations around tagging and communities; do you really want your online information so tuned to your current tastes that you are never exposed to anything new?

Anyway, it was a great weekend and I sincerely hope a new crop of people are able to enjoy it next year. I’d certainly go again, but I much agree with Scoble on the issue:

“I’d far prefer that someone else had a chance at it… Let’s put it this way… I was dragging down the IQ scale.”

You and me both.

Google Redesign or Stealthy Affiliate Program?

So I’m at the Blog Business Summit right now, courtesy of Byron, and in my A.D.D. 2.0 haze, I’m getting a really weird version of Google right now.

Here is what I’m getting.

My first reaction was that Google had been redesigned… rather poorly in fact. I asked Mike Rundle if he was getting the same page. He said yes. Then, I instant messaged a few people who weren’t in the conference. They were all getting the regular page.

So then I thought maybe Google was testing a new design on a small percentage of the population. Companies like Amazon have been known to do this. As I queried more people, it seemed that everyone in the conference (all connected via the same wifi network) was getting the weird version and all people outside were getting the normal version.

So I suppose two things are possible:

  1. Google is indeed running this test and they are doing it by IP address. Hence, everyone in the conference is getting the weird page.
  2. The wifi provider (AnchorFree), is doing some funky proxy stuff and essentially routing all Google searches to an “affiliate” search page powered by Google… and collecting click fees. What’s weird though is that people on the outside get the same IP address when they ping as I do.

Anyone have any insight into this? If the first scenario is happening, oh my god, change it back. If the second scenario is happening (which seems more likely), is this even kosher with Google? And furthermore, if it *is* kosher, are we going to see more of this? Why wouldn’t Comcast or any other huge ISP do this? Is this part of the future plan for Google?

Anyone have any insight?

iPod Giveaway #5: The Great Unknowns

Original illustration by Michael Schwab.For the 5th Monthly Mike Industries iPod-A-Month Creativity Competition, we’re going to keep it extremely simple. So simple, in fact, that you aren’t even the one who has to be creative. The winner of this competition will be the person who posts the best site I’ve never seen in the comments.

If you have a site you’d like to nominate, by all means do, but please no self-promotion whatsoever. If all goes well, we’ll have a nice little huge page full of inspiration by the time everyone’s done.

Here are the rules:

  1. Post the URL on the first line. If you can write a lick of HTML, try to link it properly. Here’s how —
    <a href="">Site Title</a>
  2. Post an explanation of exactly one sentence or one word (or none at all). Anything more than one sentence will be disqualified.
  3. On or around midnight on the last day of August Monday, August 22nd, I will close the contest and pick my five favorites.
  4. I will then post the five favorites, and using the new Mike Industries Polling System, I’ll put it up for a vote. Most votes wins.

* One entry per person only. Multiple entries will be disqualified and overtly offensive material removed. Multiple entries are also considered overtly offensive.

As always, the winner will receive a brand new iPod Shuffle from me and a pair of $150 Etymotic ER-6i earbuds from iLounge. iPod fans might also want to check out iLounge’s free iPod Book as well.

Good luck, and you can’t tell me it gets any easier than this!

Helpful hint: If the site you submit requires 20 minutes of time just to figure out what’s going on, I probably won’t get past the first minute.

RULE CLARIFICATION: You can post something you’ve worked on, but anything that leads overtly back to you (like submitting your blog or portfolio) will be considered self-promotion and disqualified. Many thanks… great entries so far!
UPDATE: I’m shortening the entry period to Monday, August 22nd to keep the list at something close to a manageable level.

Heading to Frisco

Just a quick note to let anybody who’s interested know that I’m going to be in San Francisco for the Blog Business Summit from Wednesday until Friday and then Foo Camp in Sebastopol over the weekend. If you’re going to be at either event, feel free to come say hi.

I love going to San Francisco because it’s my second favorite U.S. city behind Seattle, and it’s home to many great designers like Michael Schwab (work pictured at right), and Doug Bowman. I also can’t wait to get my hands on about twenty In-N-Out burgers… a delicacy not available in the Great Northwest.

The Blog Business Summit should be an entertaining affair with plenty of great speakers, not to mention a pinch of Scrivs as well. Those of you who thought the kid’s head couldn’t get any bigger are about to be wrong. :)

If you’re going to be in the area and haven’t purchased a ticket to the conference yet, I believe some are still available.

As for Foo Camp, well, I really don’t know what to expect at all from it, but I’ve heard spectacular things. I haven’t been to Sebastopol since I was about 10, but I do remember they have the world’s best apple juice. The opportunity to camp, do keg-stands, and talk shop with some of the best minds in the industry sounds like a good time… I can’t wait.

The Polls Are In

Mike Industries Poll

What is your favorite feature to be added to Mike Industries in the last year?

I’ve wanted to add polls to this site for quite awhile now but never had the time to write a good voting component. Sure, there are some pre-made ones out there ripe for stealing but I wanted something fast, compact, flexible, and standards-based. Something I could just insert into any blog entry at any time to allow voting.

As luck would have it, we need polls at our new company, and so we busted one out. Several things like visual effects and more flexibility still need to be added, but I figured I’d let it loose for some early testing. Please make your selection on the right and post any suggestions or bug reports in the comments.

A couple of notes: You can only vote once. This is controlled via a combination of IP checking and cookies. The poll should work in all browsers, but we haven’t tested the obscure ones yet, so no guarantees at this early alpha stage.

The next thing on the plate is to add auto-updating, so for high-volume polls (certain not any on this here little popsicle-stand-of-a-site) you will be able to watch the results change on the fly.

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