Just a quick update to those of you who are building applications on top of the TypeKey service: We'll be updating our servers tonight at 10pm PDT. There are no changes to the protocol, and no downtime is expected, so there should be no impact on your applications, but you'll want to double-check after the update to verify full compatibility.
Most improvements to the service are focused around simplifying registration and sign-in and enabling new features in TypePad.
As always, if you're interested in building your sites or applications on top of TypeKey, we recommend going to the Everything TypeKey wiki for documentation and reference material.
One of Movable Type's biggest strengths is the platform's support for an unlimited number of weblogs. Once you've got a thriving community of bloggers creating entries and publishing their thoughts, though, it quickly becomes necessary to manage the weblogs on your system.
To meet this need, we've introduced an entire new area of functionality in Movable Type 3.2: The System Overview. We've chosen the System Overview as the first feature to highlight in this new release because it represents a single home for administrators. It's one place to go to oversee everything that's happening across your installation, whether that's a single blog for your site, dozens of blogs managing projects in your workgroup, or even hundreds of blogs for everyone in your organization.
The System Overview features a global listing of Entries, Comments and TrackBacks across all weblogs. But it's easier to show you than to tell you, so check out the screenshot and see for yourself.
[This is part one in a series called "Our 32 Favorite Features of Movable Type 3.2".]
The services are fairly similar, despite some good-natured ribbing from some of the folks involved, and the truly exciting part is that there's now two powerful, free, simple services for adding mapping/location data to your web sites or applications. Especially in combination with the recently-revamped GeoURL service, there's a lot of new toys for blog developers to build on.
Technorati's David Sifry informed us about a great opportunity for Bloggers to help support Live 8 and to get a once-in-a-lifetime experience:
The gracious folks from one.org have procured 10 backstage press passes to each of 5 of the following Live 8 concerts - Philadelphia, Paris, Rome, Berlin, and Tokyo. The folks at one.org and Live 8 believe that bloggers can help to shape the media and bring a new voice and perspective - and help to set the agenda - before the G8 conference in Scotland. (BTW, check out their new blog.
This is quite the event and quite an exciting endeavor for all involved.
Arvind Satyanarayan shows why his site Movalog is one of the most popular references on Movable Type with his post about Movalog: Variables and Conditional Display. Explaining the obscure, but extremely powerful, Movable Type template tags
MTGetVar, Arvind shows how they can be used in combination with some simple PHP scripting to allow for conditional display of content on your Movable Type-powered pages.
Joe Gregorio's launched a cool new web service for generating Sparklines, the information-rich little graphics that can present a lot of data in a tiny space. The service seems like a natural fit for a lot of web applications, and one that pops to mind is connecting Sparklines to FeedBurner's Feed Awareness API.
The Awareness API documentation offers full details, but the short story is that statistics for any feed managed through the FeedBurner service should be available via a simple REST request. With your readership numbers plugged into the Sparklines service, it would be easy to display your audience trends over time right on your weblog.
One of the biggest announcements at last week's Gnomedex conference was Microsoft's support for XML feeds in Longhorn, the next release of the Windows platform.
Offering robust support for RSS and Atom, as well as some new extensions for lists and a system-level library for building syndication-aware applications, the services being made available should allow for a new class of XML-aware programs.
In addition to the overview on the Microsoft Developer Network, the Internet Explorer team's blog offers some more insights into the development of these new features for Windows.
Being able to update a page inline is one of the benefits of the trend towards AJAX applications, and Bryan Buchs shows this to good effect with his demonstration of Ajax-ified comments. By including some simple template updates for Movable Type, it's possible to streamline the commenting experience on your site, and make your blog a little more gee-whiz while doing it.
The Wall Street Journal has a look at marketers who look to blogs for discussions of their brands. This is a trend a lot of us are familiar with, but the specific examples are very useful.
Marketers say bloggers' unsolicited opinions and offhand comments are a source of invaluable insights that are hard to get elsewhere. "We look at the blogosphere as a focus group with 15 million people going on 24/7 that you can tap into without going behind a one-way mirror," says Rick Murray, executive vice president of Edelman, a Chicago public-relations firm.
Our own Mark Paschal has just published the newest Professional Network article, Shuffling Atom with Atom Filter. Offering an overview of Mark's CPAN module XML::Atom::Filter (which is available on our Power Tools page), the article shows how some simple tools can let you manipulate Atom feeds at the command line, with example code for personal aggregation or creating a feed TypeList on TypePad.
Mark puts it well in his article:
The atomflow idea is a useful one: Atom is merely a tool for transferring weblog entry data between programs, and that goes for single purpose command line tools as much as it does web applications.
Atom is a standardized format for describing weblog content. With a standard format, you can exchange weblog content not only between web services but between command line tools--that's the idea behind some Java programs called "atomflow." To the same end as the atomflow project, I'm delighted to present a Perl module for creating command line Atom tools. I'm using it to post Flickr photos to a TypePad sidebar, but I'm sure you'll have many more ideas for it.
The Atom format is being designed as a lingua franca of weblog content. Recognizing that a standard format makes meaningful integration between software programs easier, Diego Doval, Matt Webb, and Ben Hammersley invented atomflow at EuroFoo last year. The core idea in atomflow is using Atom not only for aggregation and posting to weblogs, but to exchange web content between command line tools; that is, wrapping the UNIX and Web ends of “small pieces, loosely joined” around to meet again.
As existing Atom content will probably be on the web, you'll find yourself downloading feeds from the command line. While you could use a simple program like the standard
GET command to download Atom feeds, keep in mind you should use a tool that supports conditional HTTP GET such as Diego Doval's atomflow-spider or DJ Adams' Perl script to honor ETags with wget.
For some uses such as posting to a blog or sidebar, you'll also want to prevent reposts. For my use (and in the example
atompost.pl in the XML::Atom::Filter package), I used Perl's
Storable module to keep a list of what Atom entry IDs were previously posted to what Atom endpoint URIs. That's a fairly brute force solution; the atomflow storage system takes duplicates in stride, so you might store the entries in atomflow then retrieve the new ones by creation date.
When writing an XML::Atom::Filter script, keep in mind that Atom entry IDs are supposed to be “universally unique.” Transformative processes like
atom2linkTL should modify the IDs too, to show that the content is different. In my scripts, I prepended a
tag: URI prefix so not only were the IDs unique, they were the same each time the process is performed:
## Keep the ID unique from the unprocessed entry. my $id = $e->get($atomNS, 'id'); $e->set($atomNS, 'id', 'tag:markpasc.org,2004,atom2linkTL:'. $id);
Also keep in mind that, if you're fetching and posting web resources as automated processes, you'll probably be saving passwords for web sites in your scripts. If you're running your scripts on a shared server, make sure you set the permissions on the scripts so that only you can read them. For posting to Movable Type blogs, you might also set up a second account that can only post to that blog, so you don't even have to keep the password to your full account there.
Example: A feed TypeList
The main itch I was scratching with XML::Atom::Filter was to post Flickr photos tagged
nintendo ds to the sidebar of my Nintendo DS blog. Flickr provides the former as an Atom feed, and you can post to TypeLists with Atom, so gluing the two together was quick work. There were four parts to the task:
- Get the photos as an Atom feed from Flickr.
- Clean up the Flickr content for sidebar use. Flickr's Atom feeds have descriptions and rather large thumbnails, so I decided to convert the feed to just titles and thumbnails, and shrink the thumbnails' display a bit with HTML.
- Fill in the Link TypeList extension fields. Because TypePad supports special fields for Link TypeList entries, I wanted to fill those fields in with the content from the Flickr feed for better display on the blog.
- Post the new entries to my TypeList.
As noted above, there are several ways to grab an Atom feed from the command line. I had to implement the other steps as Perl scripts with XML::Atom::Filter. (The last step, posting entries over Atom, is provided in the XML::Atom::Filter package as an example script.) Now that I have, I can recombine them in any order or context to perform that specific task.
nintendo ds photos to my DS blog's sidebar, that order is:
wget.pl 'http://flickr.com/services/feeds/photos_public.gne? tags=nintendods&format=atom_03' | ./flickr-nice.pl | ./atom2linkTL.pl | ./atompost.pl 'http://www.typepad.com/t/atom/lists/list_id=150635' markpasc password
If instead I wanted to post the Flickr photos to a Movable Type weblog (and didn't want to use one of these plugins), I could set up another weblog to display as a sidebar to the other then write:
wget.pl 'http://flickr.com/services/feeds/photos_public.gne? tags=nintendods&format=atom_03' | ./flickr-nice.pl | ./atompost.pl 'http://example.org/mt/mt-atom.cgi/weblog/blog_id=12' markpasc 'atom authentication token'
Example: personal aggregation
You can also use XML::Atom::Filter to build a personal profile page from many web services. (Services like Foopad promise to make this kind of thing easier, but you can DIY with a system like this.)
I set up one blog with a category for each blog and service I wanted to syndicate, then wrote an XML::Atom::Filter script,
categorize.pl, to add a category from the command line to each entry in the feed. When the newly categorized entries are posted to the Movable Type blog, they're ready to be placed in the right place by the templates.
wget.pl 'http://www.livejournal.com/users/markpasc/data/atom' | ./categorize.pl 'lj' | ./atompost.pl $POSTURL profileposter $POSTPW
wget.pl "http://rss.netflix.com/TrackingRSS?id=$NETFLIXFEEDID" | ./rss2atom.pl | ./netflix-nice.pl | ./categorize.pl 'netflix' | ./atompost.pl $POSTURL profileposter $POSTPW
You can then use the
category attribute on the
<MTEntries> tag to select which feeds go where in your templates. For example, you might put your regular weblog posts in the content column, but your del.icio.us links in a sidebar. (I used the category descriptions for site URLs.)
The only problem I had was keeping the URL of the original link. Movable Type entries don't yet have a native field for an external link, so I had to abuse the excerpt field for that by copying the entries' links into the summary field before posting them.
If you do the same, then using template code like:
<div class="sidebar"> <MTEntries category="delicious OR netflix"> <div class="<MTEntryCategory>"> <h2><a href="<MTEntryExcerpt>"><MTEntryTitle></a></h2> <p><MTEntryBody></p> </div> </MTEntries> </div>
Can make something a lot like this, and syndicate all your content in one place for an easy glance of (almost) all your web output.
A tool for you
The atomflow idea is a useful one: Atom is merely a tool for transferring weblog entry data between programs, and that goes for single purpose command line tools as much as it does web applications. I hope this example shows how powerful the interoperability of reading and writing tools speaking the same extensible format can be.
One of the most fun new TypePad blogs we've seen is Popwatch, from Entertainment Weekly magazine, which offers an amusing overview of what's going on in pop culture today. In addition to the great writing, they've got a blogroll of must-read blogs covering celebrities, movies, music, TV, and all else you'd expect from EW.
The Morning News has long been a great example of how simple blog publishing tools can be used to create an exceptional online magazine. In the announcement of their new redesign, the team behind the site offers some insight into the process of creating their new look and feel, while continuing to take advantage of Movable Type's power to support multiple authors and an unlimited number of weblogs.
After the success of the first event earlier this year, the Blog Business Summit is returning, this time in San Francisco. Scheduled for August 17-19, the event promises a full calendar of practical, business-centric conversation about the benefits of blogging.
Congrats to Kevin Werbach on organizing yet another successful Supernova. Having been lucky enough to attend the first two West Coast editions, it's great to see the gathering getting stronger by the year...
Yesterday I was part of the workshops on microformats and business blogging. The microformats session was a great introduction to the value of distributed, structured content, and coincided with the launch of microformats.org. Six Apart has been part of the development of the hReview specification, and yesterday I gave a (very) quick introduction to that spec, and demonstrated how the combination of Movable Type's weblog templating language and support for alternate application templates makes it easy for power users to customize their MT install and turn it into a product review machine.
The business blogging session featured Charlene Li, Suw Charman, the inimitable Robert Scoble and I talking about how businesses are using blogs. Charlene gave a great overview of the latest stats on blog reading and writing in the US (look to Forrester for an upcoming release of her report), and gave an overview of some of the more interesting applications of business blogging she's seen in her travels. Robert talked about the impact that Microsoft's embrace of public blogging (and the launch of Channel 9) has had on their relationship with their customers. Suw and I focused on life behind the firewall, and walked through some examples of how blogs are being used to facilitate collaboration and communication inside organizations.
While I'm sure those panels had their thrilling moments, the award for "most adept crowd control" has to go to Janice Fraser. Her talk "A Whole New Internet?" sparked a very lively conversation about the implications of open source software devleopment practices, distributed content production, open APIs and Ajaxified user interfaces on web-based businesses. The group didn't come to any conclusions, but the debate was certainly worth the price of admission. I haven't had that much fun at a conference in a long time...
If you've ever used blogdex, then you may be somewhat familiar with Cameron Marlow and his work. In addition to being a great guy, he's been providing the weblog world some very interesting data for the past couple of years. Now, he needs some explicit data from you. If you have a weblog, be sure to take the MIT Weblog Survey:
Our goal is to help understand the way that weblogs are affecting the way we communicate with each other. Specifically we are interested in issues of demographics, communication behaviors, experience with weblogs and other technology, and the meaning of various types of social links within the blogosphere.
It's a fairly quick and painless survey and one that's sure to produce some interesting data. Once you've taken the survey, you can also check out the results.
Starting today, with the check of a box, TypePad Pro members can easily add contextual Kanoodle text ads to their blogs. Additionally, users are able to view reports on how much has been earned from directly within the TypePad application. If you enable ads on your TypePad blog, money earned will be applied to your TypePad subscription fees, and after 90 days earnings can be transferred to your PayPal account.
Available only to Pro-level users, this is the first of several new earnings features we will be adding to TypePad over the coming months. Other features members can look forward to in the coming months: an integrated TipJar feature that will make it easy for blog readers to give money directly to weblog authors, and more sophisticated earnings reports. And, because everyone likes a little competition, there will be a ranking feature to show bloggers how their earnings stack-up compared to the rest of the TypePad community. If you're a TypePad subscriber, be sure to check out this new feature and learn how to get a little more from your weblog.
blo.gs is one of the most popular update pinging services, having been a default service in Movable Type and TypePad for years. Today, Jim Winstead, the service's creator, has announced that blo.gs was sold to Yahoo, after announcing a change of ownership a month ago.
The good news for developers is that both Jim and Yahoo promise that the service will remain completely open, with the goal of improving reliability and stability for the service.
The Electronic Frontier Foundation's just released their Legal Guide for Bloggers, which is a must-read reference if you're concerned with the legal requirements and obligations surrounding publishing online.
Topics covered include liability, intellectual property and defamation, and the information provided is well worth bookmarking for reference for your peers or clients who ask questions about the legal implications of joining the blogosphere.
Though it's short notice, we'll have a number of Six Apart staff members participating in some events in San Francisco tonight where bloggers are gathering. We'd love to meet you there.
First, with the release of the Tags plugin for Movable Type and LiveJournal's announced support for tags due to launch shortly, it's only natural that we'd be at Tag Tuesday. Organized by Technorati and Flickr, this should be an interesting event for geeks who are really into tagging, or who want to find out what's coming next with tag technology.
We're also always interested in Photoblogging, so some Six Apart staff will be at the Bay Area Photobloggers event at the Apple Store in San Francisco. Based on the success of the similar events in New York, we're expecting a good turnout.
Though business blogs behind the firewall are exploding in popularity, one of the areas that gets a lot of attention in business blogging is having a public-facing blog, especially one written by a senior executive.
In most organizations, though, this is seen as almost impossibly difficult to pull off, we've seen it done with great success in the case of General Motors, which launched FastLane on their GMBlogs site earlier this year.
Debbie Weil's captured the story behind the blog's launch on her TypePad-powered site, BlogWrite. It's a useful and instructive example of what's possible even in one of the world's largest corporations if a team believe in the idea of open communication via blogging.
If you'll be in Santa Clara, CA, at the end of this month, you'll want to take a look at SDForum's Vertical Leap, an event focused on vertical search. "Vertical search" is a catch-all term for searches in specific categories of content, and topics of focus include shopping, travel, classifieds, and of course blog search.
The team at Technorati just announced the launch of their new beta site, which collects much of the features and functionality that have been available on the popular blog-tracking service and wraps them in a friendly and fun interface.
In addition to the new look, Technorati's site now has a company blog talking about service news, as well as a developer blog with details for people who want to build on top of the service. Both Movable Type-powered blogs are useful additions to the roster of services available from Technorati, and should help make it easier for a new audience to discover more of the blogosphere.
The library comes to us via Jeff Veen, who offers some excellent perspective on designing for the subtlety that's possible with these new techniques:
ot all that long ago interaction on the Web was a lot simpler -- you clicked a link, the page you were on disappeared, you waited a bit, a new one appeared. No feedback was really necessary. Clearly, something had occured. Whether it was what you were expecting was another matter entirely. From an interaction point of view, there was no question that your action had a reaction from the system.
Enter Ajax. Now, I have the option of requesting bits of data whenever I need it, and updating just parts of a page that has already been rendered. No longer am I required to refresh an entire page every time a user clicks a link or submits data. With Ajax, I can chose.
For more of Jeff's thoughts, you can check out his essay which we've reprinted in the Professional Network articles section, Why Content Management Fails.
The Ajaxian blog has a overview of HTML 5 and XHTML 2, with XHTML 2 being the W3C's official successor to XHTML 1.0 and 1.1, and "HTML5" being the WhatWG's unofficial name for the collection of improvements being made to contemporary HTML practices. Both seem like promising new areas of improvement for the building blocks that all of us depend on when creating web pages or web applications.
Thanks to Scott Andrew at Strange Zen for the links.
Though this one's been running for a little while, we couldn't skip mention of the Family Guy Blog that's accompanying the animated series' return to television. Though the show is already popular with bloggers, we're guessing the Movable Type-powered weblog written by the show's creators will only help increase its popularity in the blogosphere.
We've just released the Tags plugin for Movable Type as part of our Power Tools collection, and there's an accompanying interview with Brad Choate which covers some of his thoughts on creating the plugin.
The Tags plugin meets the needs of a lot of ProNet members who've asked for this type of functionality, but it's also a good basis for building new work on top of, as we're releasing it under the Artistic License.
From a user interface perspective, Tags is implemented as a replacement for the Keywords entry field. In combination with a custom application template, the plugin replaces the Keywords box with a single-line Tags field that lets you enter any tags you want and assigns them as categories to the entry when the entry is saved. As a user, you might want to choose to hide the display of the Primary Category dropdown if you're using Tags as a replacement for categories.
From a template level, this functionality acts like a new way of creating categories. If a tag name is entered for a category that doesn't yet exist, the category is automatically created and assigned to the entry. The plugin also includes a few custom template tags to help you pull out categories that have the "<!--tag-->" hint that indicates that they are tags.
If you're using both tags and categories, there's a simple way to have the application distinguish between them: If you have a category named "Tags", tag-categories that are created "on-the-fly" through the Keywords field will be assigned as a child to that category. If you don't have a "Tags" category, then they are created without any parent. Once the tag-category is created, it isn't altered again, so you can reassign it's parent if you want to organize them in some way.
And finally, it wouldn't be tags without an accompanying weighted list, so you can check out Dan Wolfgang's writeup of how to turn your new tags into a cloud. If you do so, you'll want to consider Zeldman's words on the subject.
As mentioned over on our Partner News blog, Pair Networks has just announced that they've become our latest hosting partner. They've long been a favorite host for a lot of Professional Network members, so we're glad to have them on board, and their offering will officially be launching next week if you'd like to sign up.
Like all of our hosting partners, Pair Networks will be offering Movable Type preinstalled with their hosting plans for just a few additional dollars a month. If you're interested in getting up and running on Movable Type as soon as possible, or you don't want to deal with installing Movable Type yourself, selecting one of our hosting partners is a great way to get started. You can view the complete list of Movable Type hosting partners on our site. And if you're interested in becoming a partner yourself, we've got a information request form to get you started.
With the newest addition to our collection of Power Tools, we've made some interesting new functionality available for Movable Type users. The Tags plugin lets you easily add tags to your Movable Type entries, by modifying the Keyword entry field to allow you to enter tags, and automatically creating categories for each of the tags you submit. Creating archives for tags or including the tags in your XML feeds then becomes simple.
The Tags plugin also makes use of Movable Type's alternate application template functionality.
Brad Choate is one of our developers on the Movable Type team, and long before that he was a member of the Movable Type development community. Brad created Tags both in response to demand for a better user experience for labeling content and to show off some of the newly-polished features in Movable Type.
We asked Brad a few questions about his plugin and about Movable Type development in general.
Q: What does the Tags plugin do? What do you think of the attention around tagging in general?
A: The Tags plugin provides a straightforward way to assign one or more tags to an entry. It does so by using the "Keywords" field from the MT entry screen. In addition to the tags being stored in the keyword field of the entry, a category is also created for each tag if it didn't already exist.
Today's "Tags" are yesterday's "Keywords". I'm a big fan of metadata and use it extensively both on and off the net. Being able to reference sets of data using a tag or two is extremely powerful. I'm glad to see services like del.icio.us, Flickr and Technorati that are promoting and making use of it as they are.
Q: What new (or existing) features in Movable Type is the Tags plugin taking advantage of?
A: Application and object callbacks mostly. These are hooks within Movable Type where you can attach additional operations to particular events. In this case, I'm using a callback that is fired upon saving an entry within the MT interface. I use an additional object callback for handling other interfaces, such as XMLRPC.
Movable Type's support (in versions 3.16 and higher) of alternate templates allows this plugin to provide a convenient way to view and add and remove tags from the tags field of the entry.
Q: What are you hoping people do when they build on top of your code base?
A: Solve their problems. That has been my primary drive for creating the plugins I've written. I get a lot of satisfaction from reading about someone using one of my plugins to do something unique. It's also rewarding to see totally unrelated plugins that are using bits and pieces of my plugins. I sometimes discover that in the ones I rely on myself.
Q: You've been a plugin developer on Movable Type for a long time, what's changed over the past few years? What are new capabilities that MT has which you always wished you'd had when you started? What's possible now that you hadn't even anticipated?
A: Seeing Movable Type grow from "just a blogging tool" into a usable content management system. I've been using it for general content management for some time, and others are too. Businesses are seeing the potential with MT powering huge sites like About.com and the Gawker Media network. It's also been great to see some of the other MT plugin developers earning a living through consulting and MT application development. I myself would never have never imagined that downloading Movable Type 1 three-plus years ago would have led to all of this.
Q: One thing that plugin developers always ask us is why we can't just do [insert their favorite request here] in Movable Type. Now that you're on the other side and have been working with the internals of Movable Type, what was the biggest surprise or change in your perspective?
A: The biggest change has been going from "external" mode to "internal". Although I was very familiar with the MT application code, adjusting to being a maintainer of that code was not insignificant. Developing an application that has the platform, database, web server and web client diversity that MT has is both challenging and rewarding.
And as one of those plugin developers, I came to work at Six Apart with a laundry list of items that I want to add to Movable Type. It's exciting to be implementing them in the application itself.
Q: What cool things are out there on the web or available as web services that you're keeping an eye on?
A: DHTML (or AJAX if you prefer) is exciting again, now that it's easier to support across browsers. I'm also intrigued by recent developments around support for the canvas element (in Firefox and Safari) and native SVG support (in Firefox). Creating a modern interface in a browser window is getting easier.
A recent accolade we've been honored to receive was seeing Movable Type named to TechWeb's Software Hall of Fame. Mike Elgan says, "Movable Type was also one of the first Weblog software packages to take the concept of content management seriously by assuming that more than one blogger might choose to co-exist on the same blog at the same time. Simply brilliant. Similarly, Movable Type was one of the first to allow publishers to pick and chose their own database software, from the Berkely DB flat file database to the widely available MySQL, PostgreSQL, or SQLite."
While we're not (usually) prone to gushing quite so much about the platform, we're thrilled to see Movable Type be recognized both for its innovations and its future potential. Thanks to TechWeb for the recognition, and for the motivation to keep improving in the future.
Les Orchard's got a cool hack for Movable Type that lets you easily generate in the hCalendar format from right within the application, using Firefox's GreaseMonkey extension. You can check out the whole story on Les' blog, complete with a screencast video showing how it works.
We've covered a lot of the potential for Greasemonkey in some earlier posts on ProNet.
Jim Coudal, a long-time member of the Movable Type community and principal at Coudal Partners, sent me an email to let me know about the work they've done for pixiesdiscs.com. Though Jim and his team have designed a number of great sites with Movable Type, this one's close to my heart, having been a fan of the Pixies since high school.
While we've enjoyed the success that Six Apart has had, one of the most satisfying parts of watching blogs mature has been seeing the successes of the people who've been doing creative work over the past few years. If you're into web design, you probably know of great work Coudal Partners has done over the years, including projects like Photoshop Tennis.
Especially great is when the stuff we do overlaps with things near and dear to our hearts (in my case, working with one of my favorite bands.)
Since Coudal Partners has been such an influence to me as a designer, I wanted to ask Jim a few brief questions and give him an opportunity to plug the cool stuff he's been working on.
MT: What's the favorite site you've worked on in the past few years?
JC: Aside from coudal.com, my favorite site to develop was the jewelboxing site since it involved not only designing and building the site but also creating the brand, identity and business model from scratch. When you are your own client it is only you who can say "make the logo bigger!". Also, from a look and feel standpoint, we like the general site for our other company, The Show. It's quite a bit different from most of the sites we have built and visited and maybe it's because we're getting older and our eyesight is failing but the huge text makes an impact and is easy to read.
MT: How did you get started switching from print to the web?
JC: We never switched, we still do a lot of print work and we have made a conscious effort to apply the knowledge and craft of traditional typography and structured layout techniques that we use on posters, package design and other print communication to our web building. We see it as all part of the same thing.
MT: What's the biggest evolution you've seen in the design community?
JC: I guess probably the speed with which styles and techniques travel and the immediate feedback we receive from people when we launch a new project. We're glad to see that we're not the only ones constantly pursuing clarity. These days we're all about stripping away. Fewer words in our copy, fewer lines in our designs.
The web had something to do with it, of course, or maybe it was just the last ten years or so in general. The scope and breadth of information suddenly available on demand required a new approach to its presentation. Cleaner, simpler, easy to use. And pretty. We reject the idea that ugliness is the price of usability. That's just dumb.
MT: How did you get involved with the Pixies -- both the shirt design, the shows and the site?
JC: The whole story is pretty well told in this recent profile.
As for the merchandise design, the band was really happy with the work we did for the discs from the 2004 tour and asked us if we could help them reinvent a design system for their current tour. Since we're huge fans we said yes before they were finished asking. It's been a great project and one that particularly fits the skills of the studio and it has allowed us to control a large amount of material so that the entire presentation is unified.
You'll be able to see it represented best by purchasing one of our recordings of the current tour.
Though Microsoft's Partners program is a bit afield of most of what we cover on ProNet, many of the main concepts apply to systems integrators, consultants, and developers who build on blog platforms as well.
One of the latest of their articles, which is available even to those who aren't members of the Microsoft Partner Program, is a piece called Demonstrate Yoru Credibility. In it, Rick Freedman discusses the differences between going in to a client meeting to talk about your credentials and going in to a meeting to actually show your qualifications. It's a good prompt to re-examine some communications techniques that can always use polishing.
ProNet member Brice Dunwoodie review's a fellow ProNet member's work, Tim Appnel's Feeds.App. In Syndicated Content in Movable Type, his article for CMSWire, Brice covers the highlights of the powerful new plugin and ends with some praise for the new phase that plugin development has entered:
On a personal note, I welcome this turn in the community. I think there have been a lot of generous contributions to what we know today as MT the product. Its good to see an effective and collaborative mechanism for invested MT geeks to get a bit o bacon too.
Though we don't link to every review of our products, sometimes we like to pass along ones that are especially in-depth or insightful. The latest is EContent magazine's review of TypePad. The reviewer's summary:
TypePad is a terrific tool to set up a professional-quality blog in just an hour or so. Perfect for individuals or businesses, TypePad requires no Web design or HTML skills. With the WYSIWYG editor, creating a post is as easy as using Microsoft Word. TypePad is what Web-based services are supposed to be: easy-to-use, powerful, professional, cost-effective, and fun. Many services make the claims, TypePad actually delivers.
Though it's not a new idea to ProNet members, one of great recurring ideas about how to use TypePad and, especially, Movable Type is as a general website platform. Fred Wilson does a great job of explaining the benefits, and one of the issues that was brought up in Fred's comments is requests for how-tos and documentation of such deployments.
We're always looking to improve our documentation, and if you're considering writing up how you've done a Movable Type deployment, let us know and we'll be glad to link to and promote your article or publish it as a Professional Network article.
To get started, there's a few essays on the topic that have become common references, including Matt Haughey's "Beyond the Blog", Doug Bowman's post Adaptive Path's Movable Type-powered website, Brad Choate's doing your whole site with MT, and Keith Robinson's write up of powering an intranet with Movable Type.
We'll be adding additional resources soon, but if you're looking for a place to start, these will get you on your way.
Yesterday, Google announced Google Sitemaps, a simple XML file that describes the contents of your site along with straightforward instructions for how the site should be spidered by the search engine.
Today, Niall Kennedy's already released a Movable Type template for generating a sitemap for your Movable Type-powered site.
Like Niall's earlier work on a template for Amazon's A9 OpenSearch format, or the templates for publishing Microsoft Word XML files from Movable Type, these new output options really show off the power of having a simple but powerful system that can output any XML or HTML format just by copying and pasting a template into the application.
Google's recently-announced Summer of Code program is designed to help encourage students to develop for open source platforms. We're glad to have our LiveJournal community as a participating organization, and they've created a list of projects that are good suggestions for getting started.
In addition to $4500 in prize money, building on top of LiveJournal gives you the chance to get your work in front of a wide audience of non-technical users, making it fairly distinct from some of the other excellent organizations that are participating in the Summer of Code program.
Be sure to get your proposals in as soon as possible, as the number of applications which will be accepted is limited.
The deadline is today, so if you want to attend and are interested in having us cover your cost of registration, get in touch.
You may have noticed that we just announced the release of Movable Type 3.17 over on the MT News blog. This release is a small bug fix release in terms of changes, but an important one for those who are affected by the bugs.
If you're running MT 3.16 and would like to upgrade to this release with the minimum of hassle, you can simply upload the following changed files:
- docs/ (a number of files)
For those of you on international versions, you will also want to upload all of the following where appropriate:
A few new guides that might be of interest to bloggers have just been released by Yahoo. The first is the Publisher's Guide to RSS, which explains the ways that various Yahoo services can take advantage of XML feeds. The practices listed here can all be used to good effect on almost any blog, in addition to meeting Yahoo's needs.
From a slightly different perspective, Yahoo's also published their Employee Blog Guidelines, which are available as a three-page PDF file. Though some of the language and guidelines are specific to Yahoo, almost all of the points would be helpful in drafting a custom set of guidelines for your own organization.
Award-winning Movable Type plugin developer Tim Appnel's just launched a new code section on his Appnel Internet Solutions site, where he's launched a number of powerful new plugins and updated a bunch of his existing plugins.
Among the new releases is Feeds.App, a complete rewrite of the popular mt-rssfeed plugin, with a host of new features and an updated user interface that integrates directly into Movable Type.
In addition to the new plugins, which are available in a variety of licenses ranging from free, to free for personal use with a donation suggested, to a paid license for commerical uses which includes support, Tim's linked to his contributions to CPAN, where he's been active in giving back to the Perl community at large.
From Mark's description:
At Cienna Rand's suggestion, I've been building a site to classify and share Second Life landmarks, Landmarker. On the writing side, you can post landmarks, write a description, add lightweight categories (tags), and link to pictures taken of that place with Snapzilla or Flickr (*cough* TypePad *cough*). For reading, you can browse by author, tag, or in-world geography. You can also add authors and tags to your "inbox" to check more easily.
Full technical details of the implementation are described in Mark's post, and since Mark spends a lot of time working on TypePad, the best way for this to come full circle will be for news of Landmarker to show up on one of the Second Life blogs that are powered by TypePad.
eWeek's just published RSS Updates Moving Beyond Pings, a look at the FeedMesh community. FeedMesh is an emerging format for sharing update notifications between the various tools and services that generate site updates and the clients, services, and applications that consume the updates and make use of them.
Though there are some with misgivings, it seems clear that the value of collaborating on updates, the progress that's already been made, and the positive focus of the community that's already formed will help FeedMesh mature into a truly useful part of the network of web services around blogs.
From the "oldies but goodies" category of tips is a howto on running Multiple Versions of Internet Explorer on a single Windows PC. Though this made the rounds of most design-oriented blogs a few years ago, we still run into people that didn't know this trick was possible. It's a great way to simplify your testing matrix for the various versions of Internet Explorer that exist on the Windows platform.
The del.icio.us team has just started a TypePad-powered blog talking about the popular service. One of the first tips, posted by Joshua Schachter, are some simple but powerful instructions for adding a "bookmark this" link to your post footers. This works on TypePad's advanced templates (available in the Pro level only) or in Movable Type.