October 21, 2007

Upgrading Movable Type Is Like Getting Hit By A Bus While Watching An Airplane Crash

You think I'm kidding?

You may have noticed that for the past week, there haven't been any new posts and new comments weren't being accepted. That's because the site was up while the blog engine-- Movable Type-- had detonated itself. 

The problem is that upgrading Movable Type requires a level of technical sophistication that seems ridiculous to expect of anyone.  Movable Type comes with these handy instructions:

  1. Make a backup of your database - Whenever you are making a change to your system such as this, it is always considered wise to make a backup of your data just in case you need to undo anything you might have done.

  2. Download Movable Type 4.0 - Once you have backed up your system, download Movable Type to your web server.

  3. Unzip Movable Type - Using your preferred unzipping software, unpack the Movable Type archive onto your file system.

  4. Copy Movable Type's Files Over Your Old Installation - Copy all of Movable Type 4.0's files over your old installation of Movable Type.

  5. Consult "Important Changes You May Need to Make" - In this guide you will find a section devoted to a list of things that everyone upgrading should be aware of. Read this section carefully and make any changes applicable to you.

  6. Login to Movable Type.



While these instructions are typed and have correct punctuation, they do not actually prepare the average user to perform an upgrade.  Do you know what the server name for MySQL database is?  Exactly. Turns out it isn't "localhost," which is weird because that's what Movable Type defaults into the entry box.

mt4-installation-11.jpg
The answer, as it happens, is "mysql" which seems shamefully obvious in retrospect. The 'obvious' part is in retrospect; the 'shamefully' part is every time you interact with support people.   

Can anyone tell me why I can install Windows Microsoft Office with one or two obvious mouse clicks, but upgrading Movable Type requires me to ftp then chmod the following 14 files:
 

chmod.jpg

oh, wait, you don't know what chmod is, either.

Before the slashdot crowd hurl Diet Cokes at me, let me point out that this software is supposed to be for bloggers. That includes the 14 year old who writes the blog I Like Rainy Days, a delightful pink blog with bunnies I just made up.  What, she doesn't deserve to use Movable Type?  She has to stay on MySpace?  This is the wold's biggest problem with software designers: they understand functionality, but not usability.  Programmers are particularly proud of-- insistent on-- clean, well written code.  That's awesome, really, except I can't see the code.  What I see is an error message, which I'll admit is clean and well written.  There's a reason the iPod is doing so well relative to the Zune, even though the Zune is arguably a superior product. And it isn't just because it's white. Well, not completely because it's white.

Movable Type is a product, right?  You want customers, right?  Or are all Movable Type blogs supposed to be about Movable Type?

I once felt an aesthetic and intellectual responsibility to install Linux on my new computer. The result was that my computer committed suicide. Seriously. Right there, in front of me.  It plugged itself in and jumped into a bathtub full of water and pulled in a hair dryer as well, for good measure.  Do you know how much better Linux is than Windows?  Well, neither do I.

Software complexity of this type necessitates some kind of user support system. Too bad.  Movable Type support prefers to communicate using form letters. 

Yahoo!, my web hosting service, was actually worse. It was so much worse that it's comical, bathtub-computer-dryer comical. Ultimately I had to contact Yahoo! on the phone.  Think about this.

The second guy I spoke with-- immediately after I hung up with the first guy-- told me there was no solution to my problem, that I could not upgrade, I could not restore my backup-- because, even though I made a backup which I was at that moment looking at, that backup wasn't actually made, it was only scheduled to be made-- and that all my data-- old blog posts, comments, etc-- was lost.  Got that?  Me: "but I can see it, I'm in the directory, I can download a file, I can read a post, the stuff is there." No, he assured me, it wasn't.  "But I can read--"  No.  I guess if I knew Perl, I'd understand.

The reason I called the second guy in the first place was that the first guy I called referred to "Movable Type" as "Wordpress" which I'm pretty sure is not correct.








Comments

Craptacular. Glad your back... (Below threshold)

October 22, 2007 11:56 AM | Posted by Fargo Holiday: | Reply

Craptacular. Glad your back.

I suppose the biggest difference between web and local software is the remote angle. Web servers end up pretty locked down. Still, it shouldn't ever be such a massive pain in the ass.

I tried using Movable Type once. It didn't take.

To be fair to the config file, localhost is what works on every server I've used, since that's where MySQL is typically running. Yahoo sounds weird, which isn't all that shocking.

I... I actually run linux at home. It really is very easy these days, at least with Ubuntu or Fedora. Mostly Ubuntu though.

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"before the slashdot crowd ... (Below threshold)

October 22, 2007 11:56 AM | Posted by Lee: | Reply

"before the slashdot crowd hurl their Diet Cokes at me, let me point out that this software is supposed to be for bloggers. That includes the 14 year old who writes the blog I Like Rainy Days, a delightful pink blog with bunnies I just made up"

I actually know a ton of 8-14 year olds who could have easily fixed this problem.
But then again I did spend the last 2 summers working at computer camp so my sample's likely a bit biased :P

And Linux, it's a pain in the ass to set up/modify stuff. No- it's a pain in the ass in general. But it has it's fun points. I had my linux phase but then I got lazy and now I'm a mac person because effort is overrated

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Maybe he was trying to subt... (Below threshold)

October 22, 2007 4:20 PM | Posted by Aaron Walker: | Reply

Maybe he was trying to subtly tell you that you should ditch Moveable Type and go to Wordpress.

Everyone's blog that I read who uses Moveable Type has complained about either problems upgrading, posts getting eaten, performance issues, or all of the above.

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I've heard wordpress gets b... (Below threshold)

October 22, 2007 4:35 PM | Posted by demodenise: | Reply

I've heard wordpress gets buggy on high-traffic sites (ie, ones that get dugg or "pick-the-social-news-generator-of-your-choice"-ed frequently. Course, that could be a nasty rumor. I use wp on my blog, and have updated it several times in the past year with no problems. Course, only five people read my blog, so that's not saying much for traffic. :)

I'd suggest ditching yahoo and going with some other hosting service. I've not heard anything good about it from people that have actually used it.

I'm glad you're up and running again, though.

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Hey there, I work with the ... (Below threshold)

October 22, 2007 8:55 PM | Posted by Anil: | Reply

Hey there, I work with the MT team, and first, I wanted to apologize for the frustrating experience you had. We've certainly tried to make things as easy as possible, and we've obviously not met that standard for you, and I'm sorry.

More importantly, I wanted to explain a little bit about where we're coming from, so that some of the frustrations you faced don't seem quite so inexplicable. For example, "localhost" is the right default for the database connection settings for somewhere around 90% of people using MT. I know that's not much of a consolation in your case, but I did want to explain that it's not something we picked arbitrarily -- we just had to optimize for the most common scenarios, which of course can be frustrating . That kind of information about your server would be required, by the way, with any installable blogging tool that you use. So despite whatever hype you hear about any platforms, that's going to be universal.

Which brings me to my second point -- we've got 3 other platforms which don't involve installing any software. TypePad, which is MT's sibling service, and Vox and LiveJournal. Between the 4 platforms we've made, that's about 20 million bloggers, and so when you ask, "let me point out that this software is supposed to be for bloggers. That includes the 14 year old who writes the blog I Like Rainy Days, a delightful pink blog with bunnies I just made up. What, she doesn't deserve to use Movable Type? The law says she has to stay on MySpace?" I have to say -- we completely agree.

That's why we've made professional-grade tools that don't need any server configuration or complicated setup. MT is a power user's tool, designed for people who want the ultimate in flexilibity and control, and admittedly that can be a tough thing to balance against simplicity.

We also do have a really dedicated support team, and if you're frustrated with the response from filing a help ticket, please do let me know personally and I'll see if we can help improve the responses. Thanks again for your patience, and I hope we can make this easier for you next time.

Alone's response: oh my God, do you ever sleep? It seems like 4 seconds after anyone posts anything about MT, you're there. Well, your points are well taken-- Typepad was an option I declined out of a stubborn sense that I should be able to do MT, which is a little like believing you're too old for warm milk, so you jump to whisky.

I did this all to get an "email to a friend" script to add to the posts. Do you happen to know any? (And I'll expect your answer in four seconds... :-) )

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Typepad is an excellent, in... (Below threshold)

October 23, 2007 8:09 AM | Posted by Rich Ziade: | Reply

Typepad is an excellent, industrial-strength service that you might want to look into. It eliminates a lot of this grunt work.

-Rich

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So let's say you tried to i... (Below threshold)

October 23, 2007 12:50 PM | Posted by anonymous: | Reply

So let's say you tried to install a new engine in your car and it didn't run anymore afterwards... would you blame the car manufacturer?

Alone's response: no, but neither am I expected to replace a car engine as part of the ordinary usage of the car.

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Welcome back on board Thoma... (Below threshold)

October 24, 2007 2:56 AM | Posted by Mihai Alexandru Bocsaru: | Reply

Welcome back on board Thomas ;-)

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You are expected to replace... (Below threshold)

October 24, 2007 12:56 PM | Posted by Japhy: | Reply

You are expected to replace the brakes, shocks, etc. as part of the ordinary usage of the car. AND, you don't expect one engine to fit in any car.

At some point, there is going to be a profession of Computer Mechanics. This stuff isn't too hard, if you've taken the time to learn it.

Right now, I live in a small town, and I have a "hosting company"; I charge some local businesses $50/mo. to host, and maintain their websites.

That seems like an exorbitant amount, but most people are more than happy to pay, because they're getting my cell phone instead of a yahoo help service.

Also, per the Linux jab - once you learn how to look up what you need to do, you will understand the inner workings of a computer. If you're into that, you won't need to call tech support ever again. And Linux will do what you want it to do, in the way you want it to do it; which, if all you've ever known or imagined is Windows... there isn't any real point in switching, is there?

But there's no shame in taking your car to a mechanic, or hiring a plumber, etc. It's just a specialized knowledge, that you haven't chosen to spend your time learning.

Peace, maaan! Linux loves you!

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By the way, I think you're ... (Below threshold)

October 26, 2007 6:26 AM | Posted by steve: | Reply

By the way, I think you're Digg widgets aren't working. I often "digg" your stories but they rarely register here on your webpages.

Motherf-----------------!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!! who the HELL is responsible for inventing javascript? Huh? Who needs to die?

I looked into it-- sure enough, today they are not working. Sometimes they seem to register, sometimes they do not-- I don't have an explanation. IF people are so inclined, if you do reddit or digg a post, leave me a comment as well to that effect so I can measure the extent of the problem, if it exists.

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I see your coartoon work is... (Below threshold)

November 13, 2007 11:42 PM | Posted by DrSteve: | Reply

I see your coartoon work is below-par. I've come up with a different way to 'cartoon' therapy/anaysis - check it out.

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When you're in the corner a... (Below threshold)

July 17, 2010 1:10 AM | Posted by MARKSFlora: | Reply

When you're in the corner and have got no cash to move out from that point, you would need to take the loan. Just because it would aid you emphatically. I take secured loan every single year and feel myself good because of this.

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Dude, what?... (Below threshold)

January 31, 2011 6:26 AM | Posted, in reply to MARKSFlora's comment, by immamoviestar: | Reply

Dude, what?

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It is true that Movable Typ... (Below threshold)

September 15, 2011 5:20 AM | Posted by Mark @ White Label SEO: | Reply

It is true that Movable Type doesn’t have quite the expansive community of WordPress or number of tutorials to help new users. However, there are some excellent sites out there that can get you up and running.

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Yes... (Below threshold)

March 29, 2013 1:12 AM | Posted by Antony: | Reply

Yes

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$BLOGCOMMENTS... (Below threshold)

July 30, 2013 2:52 AM | Posted by $FIRSTNAME: | Reply

$BLOGCOMMENTS

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