A few months ago, we announced that we were opening the social graph and invited others to join us. An effort like that encompasses many different technology projects and all kinds of different companies; in just a few months the idea of opening up social networks has received a lot of attention. Today we're excited to share an amazing new plugin for Movable Type that allows you to aggregate, control, and share your actions around the web and we're the first to bring this sort of functionality to free and open source blogging tools...but I'm getting ahead of myself. It's worth revisiting some of the successes the openness movement has accomplished in just the past few months:
- Google's OpenSocial released new versions of its APIs and we hosted a wildly successful hackathon to help support the creation of new widgets for the standard.
- OpenID 2.0 shipped and both Google and Yahoo! are now supporting OpenID, bringing hundreds of millions of new IDs to the community.
- The group DataPortability.org was formed and released a video reinforcing these themes around openness.
- And finally, we've made good on our promise to let you show off all the services you belong to, with TypePad and Vox automatically letting you list your accounts around the web on your blogs using Microformats to link to your profiles. And as of today, the same ability is available for Movable Type.
Taking the Next Step
Blogging has always been about publishing and expression, but it is still evolving when it comes to richer communication. For example, when we speak aloud, we also communicate through more subtle cues like body language, facial expressions or gestures. In short, our actions add important context and nuance to our words. So we want to bring the meaning, expression, and emotion of these actions to blogging.
Today, we're shipping the next step in our vision of openness -- the Action Streams plugin -- an amazing new plugin for Movable Type 4.1 that lets you aggregate, control, and share your actions around the web. Now of course, there are some social networking services that have similar features, but if you're using one of today's hosted services to share your actions it's quite possible that you're giving up either control over your privacy, management of your identity or profile, or support for open standards. With the Action Streams plugin you keep control over the record of your actions on the web. And of course, you also have full control over showing and hiding each of your actions, which is the kind of privacy control that we demonstrated when we were the only partners to launch a strictly opt-in version of Facebook Beacon. Right now, no one has shipped a robust and decentralized complement to services like Facebook's News Feed, FriendFeed, or Plaxo Pulse. The Action Streams plugin, by default, also publishes your stream using Atom and the Microformat hAtom so that your actions aren't trapped in any one service. Open and decentralized implementations of these technologies are important to their evolution and adoption, based on our experiences being involved in creating TrackBack, Atom, OpenID, and OAuth. And we hope others join us as partners in making this a reality.
This is also a story of an individual's actions having an amazing impact. The initial development of these new features was started by Mark Paschal, a Movable Type engineer and long-time member of the MT community, during one of our weekly hackathons. It's a really satisfying example of how a good idea can go from a brainstorm to a real shipping product extremely quickly. (And is even cooler if you remember that we're hiring.) Because Activity Streams is a completely free and open source framework that is extensible, it's easy for any coder to contribute to the project with your own improvements. Just join the MTOS mailing list to become part of the Movable Type Open Source community and start hacking with the team that's created the platform. Mark writes more about building the Action Streams plugin on MovableType.org, the open technologies it uses, and how third-party developers can further extend it.
Getting In On The Action
If you already have a Movable Type blog, it's pretty straightforward to add your action stream to your site. You can already see it in action on a number of sites, like Movable Type's Product Manager Byrne Reese's personal blog who shares his thoughts on how Action Streams is "Blogging Evolved". If you're not yet running Movable Type, you can grab all of this functionality for free with Movable Type Open Source which just shipped its first stable release. You can see a completely free implementation on our Open Platforms Tech Lead David Recordon's site as well as on our VP of Product Michael Sippey's site. The plugin also ships with a Template Set (a new feature in MT 4.1) which allows you to create an action stream in just a few clicks. And all of this functionality is available today, for free, with the Movable Type Action Streams plugin.
There are even cooler possibilities with this new plugin when working with communities. If you power a community with Movable Type and want to aggregate activities of your authors, you can publish a summary of the whole community's activity. We've setup a demonstration of community activity aggregation running on MovableType.org right now. While the plugin today provides action streams for authors within Movable Type, you can imagine the possibilities in the future with all of your users in Movable Type Community Solution.
As we explained half a year ago, we're on a mission. Like we said then, blogs change the way we communicate. Just like with TrackBack, OpenID, opening the social graph, and so much else in blogging, we're hoping that we can influence everyone else to follow our lead and move blogging forward with us. Bringing your actions around the web under your control is a fundamental next step to making all of our blogs even more powerful and expressive.