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The Glass is now half MT

There's no sense in piling on to all the criticism that Six Apart is coming under for their announcements today about MT3--to Mena Trott's credit, she's left an awful lot of disappointed, critical trackbacks intact, at least as far as I can tell.

What I want to do instead is to talk a little about the way that I use MT, and the way that I had hoped to use it. First, I should be clear that I have no objection to 6A trying to make MT a source of revenue. Second, there are indications on the MT site that their licensing structure will make some allowances for educational users, which may go some distance to answering my concerns. That being said, here's what I'd once hoped for MT:


Currently, I'm maintaining two sites, but I've experimented with using MT as my primary interface for course syllabi. Under the current license structure, if I want to continue using MT this way, I'll either have to pay or dump sites once a course is over. Nor can I allow students temporary accounts to post to a site. And honestly, I don't make the kind of money that would allow me to pay for the kind of license I'd need to do these things. (3 users/5 blogs I can afford, but this year, I had upwards of 35 students in each semester.) The pricing structure appears to me to do very little to understand different classes of authors--as far as I can tell, there'd be no price difference between my attempt to enable a semester's worth of access to 20 students for a single course blog (or even hosting 20 blogs for a semester for students) and a company that hosts permanent blogs for 20 users.

But that's relatively minor. I can switch to 3, I suppose, although it will severely limit my range of possible activities, enough so that I'll probably take up Wordpress or Textpattern for potential course blogs.


Ever since the U of Minnesota announced their UThink program, I've been thinking about how we (in my department) might do some of what that program does, albeit on a smaller scale. I've spoken with our tech people about installing MT on our server, putting together some site-specific documentation, and making it available to all faculty and grad students for personal and/or course use. Needless to say, our technology budget would not be sufficient to the task with MT3--there's no way to predict how many users there'd be, or how quickly people would take advantage of it, or even if they would. And given the initial sweep of their price scale, we'd be talking about thousands of dollars, which is prohibitive for us. We're a Mac unit on a PC campus, and even though we get great financial support from the university (fairly frequent upgrades, licenses, etc.), we don't have access to the root IT budget.

I'd also hoped to use MT in the fall to start up a department newsletter (or to restart it, I guess), again a many-to-one blog, but one that was ongoing rather than semesterly. We've talked about transferring our dept's homepage over into MT, or enabling an RSS feed on the homepage that would serve up newsletter items. But again, the cost would be prohibitive, unless we simply stick with MT2.6, and I don't guess that there'll be a whole lot of support or development for it down the road.

I'm going to go ahead and send 6A some feedback, and I hope that they take this to heart (if nothing else): the traditional model for educational licensing has been to drop 10-20% off of the price, but that's simply not going to do it here. With educational users, you're talking about very different patterns of usage, and a price scale that doesn't acknowledge those differences is going to simply drive off that market. It's conceivable, with even just a handful of power users, that the number of users and blogs in a writing program could reach into the thousands over a period of, say, 5 years. But the vast majority of those would be temporary and educational (i.e., non-commercial). Even the stable core (given grad students graduating and professors migrating) wouldn't necessarily be permanent. But you're talking about potentially wide fluctuations in the number of current users, and several potential levels of usage. Should a student required to post to a course blog once a week for 15 weeks cost as much as someone who's maintaining a daily site for years? Of course not. It's a lesson that Textpattern has already learned--I'll be waiting to see if 6A can say the same.

I must confess that I feel a little sad about this. MT has had a great deal to do with how I've learned about weblogs, and a disproportionate influence on how I think about them. The prospect of learning a new system and installation doesn't interest me a whole lot, but unless some major revisions occur, it doesn't look like MT3 is going to be my platform of choice. I haven't decided yet what I'm going to do, but I'll be really thinking about it this summer.


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Yeah, I wonder what UMinn is going to do with their UThink program now? I mean, they could continue to use MT 2.6, which is what many people will do, but I'm sure new features will be developed across weblog platforms that will soon make 2.6 obsolete.

One point I would also add about the university issue. I have *not* downloaded 3.0 so I don't know about this, but can you turn Typekey off? I would feel awfully funny about forcing students to register with Typekey in order to comment on one another's blogs. I also think that there are other ways to eliminate comment spam rather than a universal login, and I would have liked to see 6A look into innovative methods for fighting spam rather than rely on Typekey (which is a tired old trick--e.g. MS Passport--that will not ultimately succeed).

That said, I'm with you in searching out alternatives to MT for universities to use.

As far as I could tell, you can opt out of requiring TK registration. See this site, powered by 3.0, which allows you to "sign in" with TK, but doesn't seem to require it...

I read the MeFi thread with amusement and interest, and I think one thing I've decided is to hold off deciding until (1) 6A makes the edu distinction they promise, and (2) there's a feature release, which would actually allow me to make a decision. I agree with you that 2.6x is going to be obsolete, but I want to see just how obsolete it'll be before I abandon my site...there's always a chance that 3.0F will actually be worth the time it would take me to go begging for tech money...

Thanks for the link. In the 6A FAQ they ask people to contact them for educational pricing, which is supposed to be "significantly lower." My suspicion, though, is that it will be lower than corporate but still high. I'm pretty much resigned that the MT era is over. And I have been thinking about why. It seems that like Typekey, the MT 3.0 release is a PR issue, which is completely sad considering that they have a PR firm!! I just noticed the link on Anil's site. Wth Typekey, people got upset and 6A responded with Mena's Corner (which never got updated). There was an attempt to connect with users, but no follow through (which I completely understand considering the stress and hassle of a start-up company--heck, I might do the same). A comment over at Shelley Powers's site suggests that perhaps they could have reorganized the pricing list to make the free version more prominent and list it first on the page. This might make it more palatable for users. At any rate, these discussions (including Typekey, etc) will make great topics in your Networked Rhetorics course. :-)