Last month, I talked to Chris and Ryan about working on a “nuclear option” for Particletree. I use Movabletype for my personal site and I wanted to try out the new features in the new beta. I was also worried that if the situation with Textpattern worsened I was going to need a way out.

Over the weekend we implemented the “nuclear option” and moved from Textpattern 4.01 to Movabletype 3.2. It was tough decision because 1) Textpattern is a great product with a great community, 2) Movabletype definitely has it’s own set of unique problems and 3) we knew the conversion process was going to be a complete bastard. In the end, here are the factors that came into play:

  1. Too slow. This is not to say the backend was too slow. The TXP interface is 10x more responsive than MT’s. No, Particletree felt like a whale. I tried everything to get her moving faster—compression, caching, code optimization, includes, server manipulation, database manipulation, everything. But whenever the caches needed to be refreshed there would be times when it would take 10 seconds to render the page. There’s no way we could serve our readers well under those conditions. We compared speeds with the static version of Particletree created with MT and the experience for the user is just plain better.

  2. Comment system is neither great for the developer nor the user. There have been many improvements to give more markup control to the user with each version of Textpattern. That said, the recent stable version still wraps comments in divs and prevents me from fully manipulating the comment form. In the form section there is an option to create additional comment templates but there is no real way to implement them. I also don’t like being forced to use Textile in comments (which is not intuitive for most web users), use their cookie system, hack to disable the comment preview and hack to blacklist certain words from comments.

  3. Needed more control of our feeds We were getting constant complaints about our feeds being screwy all the time. There’s no easy way to change or manage them in Textpattern and so I always felt for the most part helpless in this regard. The feeds also, for some reason ,didn’t play well with Feedbuner (I was always having to resync them). I think their solution probably works well for 9 users out of 10, but we needed a solution with a lot of flexibility.

  4. htaccess problems Textpattern’s htaccess settings still handel 404 errors improperly and the settings prevent us from using password protected directories on our account. There are ways around these things, but it’s frustrating to have to dig through my regex knowledge everytime I need to experiment (that’s all we do around here).

  5. We wanted tagging. Yes, you can recreate the effect with Textpattern. But it’s a lot easier to implement and much more elegant in Movabletype thanks to a simple plugin.

There are some other reasons, but those were the major ones. In the end, we were spending way too much time fighting and hacking Textpattern and not enough time just creating content for Particletree. This is not to say that Textpattern is a terrible piece of software. My god, there are some brilliant things in there that works great for probably 90% of the sites out there, but I think we play and experiment way too much on Particletree to have it be our platform.

In the next few days I’ll definitely write up my initial reactions to the new version of Movabletype and the whole TXP -> MT conversion experience. Until then, definitely enjoy the design tweaks that have come with the transition. Any and all thoughts are welcome.

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Kevin Hale

The Nuclear Option is in Play by Kevin Hale

This entry was posted 5 years ago and was filed under Notebooks.
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  1. Jonathan Snook · 5 years ago

    The byline info is much nicer… the old one was too small and I usually missed it. Look forward to hear of your transition trials and tribulations.

  2. Wesley Walser · 5 years ago

    I find the speed issues interesting, does anyone have some linage for an article that elaborates on why txp slows down like this. Is/was it a database cache issue, and if was it a mysql problem, or the way txp implements mysql?

    Further reading or elaboration?

  3. Wesley Walser · 5 years ago

    That is suppose to be ‘linkage’ not ‘linage’ (you may delete this if you would like, not trying to spam).

  4. proph3t · 5 years ago

    Sorry about the criticism before, I was just a bit peeved from the constant reposts in Bloglines. I am actually love textpattern and have used it before, so I can relate to some of your rants.

    I love the site though, one of the few blogs that consistently puts out interesting and detailed articles. Maybe one day I will find the time/motivation to do the same =)

    Cheers, Nate

  5. Chris Campbell · 5 years ago

    Not a problem, proph3t. We were just as frustrated. As Kevin stated, textpattern is a great product and we commend all the hard work they’ve put into it. We’re just starting to outgrow it.

    Also, thanks for the kind words and for being patient.

  6. James · 5 years ago

    A lot of this is good, constructive criticism that I’d like to see addressed in future TXP versions, but…

    I’m curious about the speed problems you were having, because I haven’t really run into them at all, and the benchmarks that are out there showed pretty good performance from TXP even without caching. If you were getting >10 second page loads, I’d start wondering about the platform you’re on (I’ve seen apps which are pretty snappy most places slow to a crawl on Dreamhost) and whether it’s suited to what you’re doing and what level of traffic you get.

    Also, is the live comment preview gone? Because it’s not working here for me…

  7. Anil · 5 years ago

    We’re curious to know what your experience is like with Movable Type and how we could improve it… if speed is an issue, you might want to look into FastCGI for running Movable Type, which can make it about 10x faster.

    We’ll also be updating our Tags support in the future, but I’m glad the plugin works for you now.

  8. Dean · 5 years ago

    A few points responded to on the Txp weblog.

  9. Ryan Campbell · 5 years ago

    I’m still looking into our speed problems, but I would direct most of our complaints to our database, not TXP. That being said, the ability to serve static pages is a welcomed temporary fix for now. We are comparing a couple of hosting options, so we’ll see what happens in the future.

    And yes, live comment preview was temporarily disabled. We are still fixing little things that didn’t convert over nicely, so you will see a couple of bugs/broken features here and there.

    I also wanted to second what Kevin said - TXP may work great for 90% of sites out there. For us, and for where we plan on moving Particletree, we needed a switch. This may very well be because of our own stupidity. Regardless, we don’t have the time right now to play around with getting things to work the way we need them to. In the future, I will definitely be running personal sites off of TXP when I have time to actually participate in their community as well as use their product.

  10. Kevin Hale · 5 years ago

    Dean, thanks for addressing the issues I mentioned above. That was a lot of stuff that we just didn’t know. I think documentation of the intricacies of Textpattern like being able to pull out any sql data with a tag like echo $GLOBALS['thiscomment']['ip']; will help a lot of power users out there.

    Anil, we’re definitely looking at the fastcgi solutions that Brad Choate and others have mentioned. After we spend a few more days with it, we plan on putting up some feedback.