This blog has, until now, run on Movable Type. I initially chose Movable Type when I set up my first self-hosted blog back in 2002. Back then Movable Type was the only real choice in this area and it had the bonus that it was written in Perl so I could hack on it if I wanted to. Of course I never got round to doing that.
Since then I’ve set up many blogs and they’ve pretty much all used Movable Type. But over the last year or so I’ve been wondering if that’s the right choice. There are a few reasons for this, but the main one is the relative popularity of MT compared with other platforms. There just isn’t the community of people producing themes and plugins for MT that is for, say, WordPress.
I’m already pretty impressed. Moving the stuff over from MT was pretty painless and I’m already reaping the benefit of the larger ecosystem. I’ve found plugins that deal simply with things like Google Adsense and Google Analytics.
Currently the links to the monthly archives are broken. But I’m sure I’ll get those fixed in the next day or so. I’ll be monitoring the error logs closely to see if there are any other missing pages, but please let me know if you find anything that’s broken.
Oh, and just to head off some obvious comments – yes, I’m using a blog engine that is built in PHP, not Perl. My operating system isn’t written in Perl, nor is my web browser or, indeed, most of the software I use from day to day. It would be great if there was a powerful and popular blogging engine written in Perl. But there isn’t, so I’m using this instead.
Warning: It’s likely that I’m going to spend some time playing around until I find a theme that I like. This site is likely to look different every time you visit over the coming weeks.
It’s quite possible that over the last year or so you’ve heard me muttering about a secret project that I’ve been working on. Well, this morning I can finally reveal what it is.
Do you ever wish that the Perl community had a centralised blogging site where anyone could set up a blog for free? Something, perhaps, that allows you to use modern blogging features like images in your posts or tags.
If you’ve ever wished for something like that, then can I suggest that you take a look at blogs.perl.org. I think it might be just what you’re looking for.
The site is built using Movable Type and we were lucky enough to get some people from Six Apart to build it for us. I’d like to particularly thank Steve Cook of their professional services division who has done a lot of the actual work. Thanks also go to Jeremy King who designed the site and David Jacobs who is their manager and allowed them to work on the project on company time.
From the Perl community I need to thanks Aaron Crane who is hosting the site and Curtis Poe and Aristotle Pagaltzis who have both been involved in planning this project. Many other people have given invaluable advice or have been early testers of the site. Thanks to everyone who has been involved.
All that remains now is for you to try it out. You should regard it as a beta test version, so some of you will find problems. When you do, please just let me know and we’ll fix them.
I hope you enjoy the site and find it useful.
Update: Yes, there seems to be one quite glaring problem with it. That’s the web server errors that are generated occasionally when someone tries to log in (or out). Seems to be a resource allocation issue with the server. We’re looking into it. Please bear with me.
Over on my other blog last night I wrote a piece about how building simple web sites has never been easier. I talked about how it’s really simple to use something like WordPress or Drupal to build a web site that will suit the needs of many organisations – charities, schools, organisations like that.
You’ll have noticed that both Drupal and WordPress are written in PHP. If I was going to include another item on the list, it would probably be Joomla – which is also written in PHP. The first Perl-based system on my list would be Movable Type (or perhaps Melody, the community-driven fork of MT).
I use MT to build blogs (this site is built with MT). I also used it to build my company web site. So why isn’t in my top three suggestions? Well for two reasons. Firstly I don’t think that it’s quite as easy to use for non-technical people as the other systems on my list. And secondly, last year I tried to use MT to build something more complex than a single-blog site and it all went horribly wrong. With some help from the people at Six Apart those problems are getting sorted out and hopefully the project will be launched soon, but I’m currently wary of recommending MT to end users wanting to build sites.
Of course MT gets better all the time. The MT5 betas look really nice and I’m really hopeful that Melody will be a great end-user CMS. But currently I’d still recommend Drupal and/or WordPress.
End users don’t care at all what technologies their web sites are built in. As long as the site looks good and works well, why should it matter to them whether the site is written in PHP, Perl or anything else? But from the point of view of language advocacy, I’d like to be able to recommend something that’s written in Perl.
So what can we do? Well, firstly, you can tell me if I’m missing anything. Is there some other Perl-based simple web site builder that has completely passed me by? What systems would you recommend (or use yourselves) if, for example, a local school asked for help building a simple site?
And if there isn’t something that I’ve missed? Should a group of us sign up for the Melody project in order to ensure that it becomes a worthy alternative to Drupal? Is there some other project that we can co-opt to this purpose?
Or do we just not care? Is it ok that we’re in danger of losing the low-end web CMS market to PHP systems?
Right. I think I might have got this cracked now. Here’s some Perl code.
print "Hello World\n";
That’s pretty cool, isn’t it. I wonder what it’ll look like in the web feed.
I’ll try to feed my fixes back to the author of the plugin.
One of the nice things about moving away from use.perl to your own site is that you can install whatever toys you want.
I’ll eventually get round to posting code on this blog. And when I do it would be nice if it had some nice syntax highlighting. I could, of course, write my own syntax higlighter (probably based on something like PPI:HTML) but that sounds far too much like hard work, so a couple of days ago I decided to poke around to see what prior art was out there.
Initially, it looked like I was in luck. In the Movable Type plugins directory I found a link to SyntaxHighlighter for Movable Type, which is an MT wrapper around SyntaxHighlighter 2.0. The example output looked rather nice.
I downloaded it and installed it. And then I prodded at it for an hour or so. But all to no avail. It didn’t seem to work as advertised (or, indeed, at all). I fixed one obvious bug in the Perl support but it didn’t seem to help. I hope that the problem is just that Perl support hasn’t had as much testing as other languages. There’s no obvious route for support, so I’ve left a message for the author on his blog. Hopefully he’ll get back to me and we can get this ironed out.
But, all in all, it looks like I’m not going to be able to be as lazy I’d like to be.
Unless, dear readers, you know better. Do you know of a syntax highlighting plugin for Movable Type? Have you patched this one to work? Is there an alternative solution that I’m missing completely?
 Which is only to be expected as Perl is, as I’m sure you realise, a dead language 🙂