Movable Type, TypePad, and Vox have all been selected as finalists in the 2008 Webware 100 Awards! In case you're not familiar with it, Webware 100 is CNET's yearly awards program where users nominate and then vote for their favorite Web 2.0 applications and sites.
Our three platforms are nominated in the "Publishing and Photography" category. Whether you’re a blogger or a reader, we really hope you’ll take the time to VOTE and let the world know how much you love Six Apart’s blogging solutions.
You can vote three times in each category, so be sure to give your three votes to Movable Type, TypePad and Vox. (Everyone here at Six Apart will be forever grateful!)
Voting is open until March 31, 2008, and the winners will be announced on April 21, 2008.
Gourmet’s TV series “Diary of a Foodie” is a record of people documenting their passion for food, so it’s only natural that they’ve chosen to focus on food blogging this week — food blogs are where all the most passionate foodies are sharing their thoughts and their tables.
In the episode, which you can preview on Gourmet’s site, the producers have documented some of the leading lights of the food blogosphere, from Hong Kong to Hanoi, to two of the cities Six Apart calls home, Paris and San Francisco. And every single one of the blogs featured is powered by Movable Type or TypePad. Once you’ve checked out the show, here are just some of our food bloggers you’ll want to sample:
- Sticky Rice, where Mark Lowry documents his culinary adventures in Hanoi.
- Chez Pim, Pim Techamuanvivit’s signature take on food from the Bay Area and beyond.
- Cha Xiu Bao, Josh Tse’s story of his delicious discoveries around Hong Kong.
- David Lebovitz, the eponymous diary of a Parisian foodie.
If you follow political blogs, you're well acquainted with Talking Points Memo. Josh Marshall's blog has been a staple of the political scene since the 2000 Presidential Elections. Early this month, we helped roll out a new design across TPM, upgraded the site to Movable Type 4 and added support for profiles and recommendations. The day after the launch, Josh was liveblogging Super Tuesday and opining the broadcast of MSNBC's debate coverage. Meanwhile, the site didn't miss a beat.
Since then, Marshall has received the prestigious Polk award, a first for a journalist who's primary readership comes through a blog. But they're not resting on their laurels.
Any one of TPM's features would be a noteworthy site to itself. The site was among the first to trace back the trail of the Spitzer investigation, they maintain the most up-to-date poll report on the web, the acclaimed TPM Muckracker acts as the prototype as the future of investigative journalism, and TPM's readers offer more than a hundred news and opinion posts every day in the TPM Café.
We take design incredibly seriously at Six Apart -- the challenge of understanding constraints and working within them to make something beautiful, the thrill of seeing a final product that "just works", and the quiet satisfaction of knowing that you chose substance over flash and it worked out for the best. Movable Type, TypePad, and Vox provide hundreds of themes and styles ranging from something professional to something intricately elaborate, with many customizable choices in between. We do this to give you freedom of expression and complete control over your blog.
All of that is in the back of our heads when we think about how our tools can advance the state of design on the web. Forgive the cliché, but we don't want to just give people a fish, we want to teach them how to fish. It's easy to make tools to create a design, but it's far harder to create tools that help you get in the mindset of making good tradeoffs.
So today we bring you the Design Assistant for Movable Type. Sure, you can click through it and knock out a cool custom design really quickly. But along the way, you'll start to see how a few common grid/column layouts can impact the way your content is perceived. The Assistant creates finished designs, but you're also encouraged to click on individual page elements and understand the CSS cascade that informs their styling. The last step isn't merely when a particular design is applied to your blog -- the last step is actually the start of learning more, from a broad selection of hand-picked learning resources.
It's similar, in a lot of ways, to the thought 37signals puts into the so-called "blank slate" state for their applications. When you start out using their services and haven't yet entered any data, the tools provide illustrations of what they'll look like in actual use which get you in the right mindset. We know there's an opportunity to get people who are just thinking "I need to pick a theme" to think in the mindset of a designer.
Movable Type was the first blogging platform to popularize CSS-based designs and are proud to count many of the world's most talented and influential designers as members of our community. But we're just as interested in getting people who've never consciously thought about web design to make a first step towards appreciating one of the greatest things blogs have brought to the web: An appreciation for design.
Alright, designers: What should we add to the Assistant? We're going to be evolving the tool rapidly based on your feedback, bringing these capabilities to TypePad members and adding a wide range of new functionality. Your input is going to help us choose where we go next. You can also read more about it on MovableType.org.
I started blogging on Movable Type in 2002 -- and began a long love affair with the product that has helped transform the world of blogging, and the world blogging touches. I remember that sense of both freedom and control that I felt when I realized how easy online publishing could really be for an individual. When I came to Six Apart in 2006 I had the privilege of being put in charge of the Movable Type group. And now as CEO, I get to continue that work, which makes it even more important to explain not just where we've been, but where we're going.
A Re-Commitment to Movable Type
Despite the continued growth of the Movable Type platform, the hard work of the brilliant people on the MT team, and the dedicated community of MT bloggers and developers, when I joined the company MT was confronting a host of challenges from within and without Six Apart. From within, new projects, such as TypePad and Vox, captured some of the internal attention that MT once had, new OSS blog platforms such as WordPress had been gaining traction in some parts of the blogosphere, and Movable Type, while always a platform suitable for individuals, had been distinguishing itself on the high-end while leaving many with the impression that Six Apart didn't care about the individual blogger. This was never true, but the challenge of making a blogging platform both sufficiently easy to use and powerful is certainly significant. In fact, I don't think any blogging or CMS platform has succeeded in combining the ultimate in ease-of-use with the ultimate in power -- yet.
So, back in 2006, we made some decisions. First and foremost, we were going to compete. MT has brought more to blogging than any platform in history -- it was the first professional grade blogging platform (when it launched) and the first enterprise grade blogging platform (with MT Enterprise) -- but in 2006 it was time to double down or take the chips off the table.
We decided to bet on the future.
Central to this effort is Movable Type 4, a completely re-thought version of the software designed to address the way the web and social media have changed in the past half-decade. We wanted to improve the ease of use, the user interface, the installation process, and the content & community management capabilities. We also greatly enhanced our advanced capabilities, launching an Enterprise Solution, making MT unrivaled in its power for large customers who need to run large numbers of blogs integrated with enterprise systems, and the Community Solution, which we believe makes MT the leader in the emerging "CCMS" space (community content management systems) for which we have seen huge market demand.
And Movable Type has always been about freedom, but this was another fundamental tenet that may have become less clear along the way. Despite the fact that Six Apart has always been a major contributor to open source software, and MT itself is built largely on top of OSS, there was no fully open source version of MT. There was a disconnect between our intentions and the decisions we'd made about promoting and distributing Movable Type, and it was hurting us and the community. MT had relied on its innovations to move it forward -- after all, that's what put us on the map. But conversations about distribution and licensing should never overshadow the more important ideas of openness and innovation.
Six Apart has been, and will continue to be, the most innovative blog company around. In addition to MT taking personal, professional, enterprise, and now community blogging where no platform had taken it before, Six Apart also released TypePad, the first high-end hosted blogging platform and TypePad Business Class, the first business class professional blogging platform. Vox was the first social blogging platform, deeply combining social networking and blogging before anyone else and starting a category that is now growing along with peers like Twitter, Tumblr, Pownce, and more. Six Apart is where TrackBack and OpenID were invented, and we're the stewards of some of the major technologies that power today's biggest Internet sites, such as Memcached (which is used by Facebook, Craigslist, Wikipedia, YouTube, Digg, and many more), Perbal, MogileFS, and DJabberd. We've been involved as founding supporters in initiatives such as the Atom protocol, OAuth, and OpenSocial.
We see all of these projects as part of an effort to make the entire web more open, and to give individuals more control.
What's next for MT
Sometimes we've felt a little like Apple was a few years ago -- inventing insanely great stuff but at times outfoxed on the distribution front. A major component of our strategy to fight back and serve the broader market was MT Open Source, which was released in January. This is a huge milestone for Six Apart and MT, and we believe for blogging itself. We've always been more focused on freedom - empowering our bloggers to do whatever they desire -- than on "free", but they aren't mutually exclusive.
But we aren't stopping there.
As mentioned above, I don't think anyone has successfully created a blogging platform that's both extremely easy and extremely powerful. Some might even say that these objectives are inherently at odds. We disagree. While we made great usability advances in MT4, we realize that there is more for us to do in terms of making it easier to get, install and use MT, and we are making a firm commitment to make MT not only the most powerful platform, but the easiest.
Now let me say some words to the whole blogging community, and not just the Six Apart community. Even if you never have or never will use a Six Apart product or service for your blogging, even if you are the most ardent WordPress supporter, you ought to rejoice in the fact that Six Apart and Movable Type are going to push, push, push the art and science of blogging forward and that we are committed to making blogging powerful and easy. While we have competed, MT and WP have helped each other in a fundamental way -- we by introducing blogging features and capabilities that they have not, and they by making blogging simpler and easier to use where we have not. A healthy competition will help BOTH platforms improve. And the winner is blogging itself, and everyone who blogs. Given the explosive stage of growth and evolution that we're seeing in blogging, we even have the chance to help the whole web benefit. So, even if you don't use our platform, we'll help keep your platform honest.
We thank you for more than six years of support for MT, and we hope you'll join us in continuing the successes we've seen with MT 4.1, MTOS, and the recent release of Action Streams. Just head over to movabletype.org to join the community.
On Friday, Google released an interesting new API called the "Social Graph API" which can be used to connect accounts online. The API is a concrete step in opening the social graph, and it is great to see Google demonstrating just how important decentralized social networks are as it really reinforces what we, Plaxo, the DiSo Project, and many others have been building. But we also wanted to highlight some of the complex issues of making social applications on the web that pop up with these kinds of initiatives -- issues that are especially important since some people (including danah boyd and ReadWriteWeb) have concerns about the privacy implications of Google's work.
We're excited about APIs to access social relationships online. But we're concerned that existing systems may result in ugly surprises when your relationships are available in a new or unexpected context. We think that access to the social graph must give individuals control over how and where their relationships are shared.
I've had many conversations with Brad Fitzpatrick (who joined Google last August to develop this API) about the work we're trying to accomplish at both of our companies, as you can see from the initial publication of the "Thoughts on the Social Graph" last year. When I re-joined Six Apart last August I started developing an open source service that would crawl online relationship data and expose it via an API. I showed snippets of it on my blog (pictures and text), gave a brief demo at the Data Sharing Summit, and even came close to releasing an online tool which visualized all of your accounts and friends; instead we opted for demonstrating its power with a screencast showing how you could use it to find your friends. While this implementation of the API was based on publicly discoverable information (like Google's), we simply didn't feel comfortable shipping that project based on current implementations.
Why not? Well, for us to be comfortable that we weren't doing any evil, we wanted to make sure that we first had a way to clearly explain to non-technical users a few important points:
- Where each point of data about relationships is coming from
- How to hide or control sharing of data on each service you use
- A way to prompt the services to update relationships when they change, to make sure they're up to date, as we prototyped along with Ma.gnolia in October
There are many more requirements we could add to this short list, but these seemed like fundamentals to make sure that people have a very high degree of control over their relationship data, and the current implementation of Google's Social Graph API falls a bit short. This is even more important, for example, when we learn in ReadWriteWeb's post on privacy concerns that Aber Whitcomb (CTO of MySpace) has said that Google's "API includes a custom mechanism to extract social connections between friends on MySpace." This means that Google isn't just using profile information designed to be aggregated, but is already willing to extract data as needed (much as Plaxo did to Robert Scoble's Facebook account) from services that don't explicitly share it. While Facebook easily blocked Plaxo's specific crawler, it seems extremely unlikely that MySpace would block Google. This is even more fraught becasue Google is likely basing this API on the data they collect when routinely crawling the web for their search engine. Controlling access to relationship data from a service should not require completely blocking all of Google's crawlers.
Don't get us wrong, having social networking become a feature of every application versus a product by itself will dramatically change the web for the better. Tim O'Reilly discusses this where he says "It's a lot like the evolutionary value of pain. Search creates feedback loops that allow us to learn from and modify our behavior. A false sense of security helps bad actors more than tools that make information more visible." Google's Social Graph API certainly is powerful and we intend to use it within our products (such as recommending accounts to add to your Action Streams) though will always balance our use with your privacy as we've always done in the past. But we do hope to kick-start a conversation about how we can all be given more control over the way our relationships are used.
The guiding principle here is one that Brad Fitzpatrick and many others have relied on many times: The Principle of Least Surprise. PoLS is one of the things that's always guided our work at Six Apart, and we've found that many of our biggest mistakes have come when we forget the lessons it teaches us. There's an obvious point of frustration or embarrassment that can arise from exposing our personal MySpace connections in a context where our professional LinkedIn contacts can see them, for example. The fact that much of this data could theoretically be discovered anyway isn't the point. Just as much of the information in Facebook's News Feed could have been discovered anyway, the fact that these relationships are being moved from "possible to find" to "easy to discover" means that we should be thinking of how this affects social behaviors in this new context.
And the truth is, we don't know the right answer. We're hoping to start a useful conversation in the community to help find the answers. That way, we can make sure everyone who benefits from these new social features finds them to be a pleasant surprise.