As many new visitors may know, I recently created this chart showing the various features of weblog software that is available. I want to answer some common questions I've been getting in email about the chart, and tell you finally what I decided to use and why.
In case you missed the text at the top of the chart page, I only included software that you could install on a server of your own. To use any of the software in the list, you would have to rent space at a web host that supports the minimum requirements for the package, upload the software, and configure it yourself.
I did not include tools like Blogger or TypePad because you don't install those packages yourself. Why not? Because I am interested in modifying the code in my installation to do exactly what I want, not what Google or Six Apart thinks is best for me. I did not include packages with desktop applications for the same reasons.
I also did not include generic CMS software; only blog-making software. This excludes software like Drupal and phpNuke. I'm sure you can make a great blog with this software, but there are two things that I found in common the these packages: Either they were too configurable (Drupal, Typo3), or they looked like one of those h4x0r community sites. C'mon, you know what I'm talking about - phpNuke on phpBB. They're fine for keeping a weblog, more community and file-service oriented.
Another common question is about the Six Apart licencing. I've had many people tell me that I've got it all wrong. Listen up- You either didn't read the license or you didn't compare that to what I posted. There is a free verision of MT 3.0, and its details (and limitations) are clearly listed in my chart. I have a lot of ideas about what went on at Six Apart headquarters to get things all screwed up, but we all have that to thank because we're all now doing good things by checking out different software.
Here's a little background: I put up my first web site in 1995. I first started what you would call "blogging" in 1998. A few years ago, I decided that I was tired of uploading static pages every day, and wrote custom software (in ASP) called PageCat. My first blogware was born.
PageCat has gone through a few incarnations, but recently I've become discouraged by a lack of modern features and lack of time to code them in. I decided that my time would be better spent writing words than writing code, and I needed new blogware. The chart was born.
The truth is that I knew what I was going to move to before I put the chart online. I was very sure that I was going to lay out the cash for Expression Engine. But after playing with all of the tools (even Expression Engine via their very generous givaway), WordPress won out. Why?
There are three anwers to this question, and two of them are not represented on the chart at all. Most of the tools there have the modern features that I wanted for my blog, so it didn't really come to a question of, "Which one does what I want?" So here were my deciding factors:
Answer #1: Pretty GUI. Ok, this sounds superficial. But if you're going to be looking at software nearly every day for as long as you blog, you're going to want something that doesn't make you cringe with its color choices. You want all of the buttons to do what they say and be easily found. You want it so clear that when you ask your mom to guest-author while you're on vacation, you don't have to sit with her and explain everything.
Also, loading each admin page fast is a very serious concern.
Some of these tools are seriously butt-ugly. I don't want to point fingers because that seems kind of rude. You developers need to seriously consider bringing someone on to clean up your nasty UIs.
Answer #2: Free. If, for some reason, I get upset that the developers of WordPress are not interested in providing new features that I want, I can grab the code, add my own changes, and release it under a different name. Try doing that with Expression Engine.
This also means that the program will be free of cost. Free of cost forever. If the WordPress folks even decided to charge for changes (and I don't think they can under the old b2 license), it would still cost nothing because someone like me could take the last set of free code and add those features himself.
Even with the free copy of Expression Engine, I'm would end up paying for extra features that I want in the form of plugins. I don't think I want that.
Answer #3: Support. This one takes the cake. If I had to choose blogware based on one thing, this would be it. WordPress simply rules in this venue.
The arrival at this conclusion has to do with how I collected the chart information. I posted a message on the forums of all of the blogware I could think of asking for information. I watched the quality of the responses, the frequency of responses, and the authors of the responses.
I'm about to get mean, because the details of this are very important to my selection. I came to a bunch of hasty, generalized conclusions based on the responses I received.
Responses on the WordPress forum were pretty good. Their user forum is the most active, intelligent bunch of folks in the blogging world, hands-down.
Of other note:
TextPattern, as lauded as it is by critics of WordPress, has the support forum with the worst response. (A personal note on TextPattern- While the UI is nice and the featureset sound, the software still feels like someone's weekend project. There don't seem to be any docs!) It took several days before I got a response. For a smaller tool, I would expect a better response. I've gotten better responses from users of tools whose forums I didn't solicit.
Movable Type - The defacto standard. All of the responses I got at the MT forum were unhelpful. It felt kind of like asking for information about apples and getting opinions on the weather in Tahiti. I get the impression that most MT users have pushed the install button and used their software, but really don't know anything about how it works or what to do if it breaks down. I'm sure that I'll hear objections from the readers of high-profile bloggers, but I don't see many of them down in the trenches helping out. Do you really think A-list blogger Glenn Reynolds has the time, inclination, or ability to help out the rest of the MT community? I don't know if he does, but I find it unlikely.
Developers of many of the other tools provided information about their software directly. I like this because the information came directly from the best source, and disliked it because the information could obviously be biased. So I tried as best I could to verify the features against test installs of their software. Unfortunately, after a developer had provided the information for their blogware, the forum communities usually didn't bother to respond further.
Even more disheartening... .Text is the only blogware that anyone suggested for the Windows platform. I asked and asked about it because I wanted to give Windows a fair shake. Well, it seems that the only thing that .net developers care about is .net. That is, who cares about the applications you can create with it as long as you have this wonderful language to create them with. I wish them well in ever getting anyone off the ground with .Text, since I couldn't even figure out how to get a copy. Yeah, it was that user-unfriendly.
So that's how I arrived at WordPress. What's the downside?
Here are a few things that I would like WordPress to do that aren't as simple as the default install:
- Multiple content areas on one page from different sources (aka multiblog)
- Integrated post and comment RSS
Yeah, that's it. And most of that can be done with easy plugins. In fact, the very cool wp-photos plugin is one of the best things to happen to my blog from the upgrade.
Anyway, there you have it. The twisted reasoning behind my choices. I'm not saying that WordPress is the best blogware out there, just that it meets my needs better than anything else does.