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Rebuilding Movable Type

Mike’s post at Business Logs announcing their latest design project (a redesign of A Socialite’s Life) has an interesting commentary comparing Movable Type and WordPress – specifically with the dynamic nature of WP and the need to ‘rebuild’ MT.

‘I now realize why larger weblogs are switching to WordPress — when a site posts a dozen or more entries per day for the past few years, rebuilding the individual entry archives takes a long time. A long, long time. About 32 minutes each rebuild. There is now an option in the newer version of Movable Type to switch to dynamic publishing (aka each individual entry archive request is retrieved from the database dynamically, no static files, like WordPress) but turning the option on and getting it working is not really something a non-technical person can accomplish. WordPress has dynamic publishing on by default (I’m not a WP expert, but I don’t think you can turn it off, not that you’d really want to) so it’s easier for a novice user to setup dynamic publishing using WordPress than with Movable Type.’

This is a difference that has made me start all my newer blogs with WP. There’s nothing worse than having to do a half hour rebuild (it can take longer some days) to make a small change in a sidebar or header. I love some of MT’s features but if you’re going to grow a large site over time you either need to work out how to make it dynamic (beyond me) or consider a dynamic platform.

Update: Mike’s written a great post as a followup that compares Movable Type and WordPress in quite a bit of detail.

About Darren Rowse
Darren Rowse is the founder and editor of ProBlogger Blog Tips and Digital Photography School. Learn more about him here and connect with him on Twitter, Facebook, Google+ and LinkedIn.
  • Go Yahoo!

  • I can’t tell what type of blogging software you are using here at problogger. What type of blogging software are you using here at problogger and how would I know this by looking at your blog?

  • I can tell you this: TypePad lost a customer, partly because of this, and because of other shortcomings in Movable Type. He was horrified to find out that there was no possible way to export every single one of his 25,000 posts! TypePad would only export about 13,000 of them, and then quit.

    In the end, we managed to liberate a grand total of 17,000 of them from TypePad though a few dirty template tricks.

    Even this apparent lock-in wasn’t enough to keep him from moving to WordPress, and we switched him over this weekend. (The fate of the missing posts remains unresolved.)

    Last week’s DDoS attack on TypePad didn’t help, either.

    As a result, I’m now making more money moving people from MT and TypePad to WordPress, than from blogging!

    As for WordPress, it does generate dynamically, and in 2.0 has a query cache to speed things up, and it’s been refined further for the upcoming 2.1.

  • Doug, ProBlogger is running WordPress, which you can see by the meta field that WordPress inserts in the source. Time to upgrade, Darren. :)

  • I’m using Word Press.

  • i know Michael I know :-)

  • Heh, really, it’s a five minute upgrade: Check your plugins for new versions first, (some don’t work with 2.0) install those, then upgrade WP the usual way.

  • Darren there is something else to consider, if you are using wordpress and digged or slashdotted be sure that your server will be down in few minutes :-) sites running Movable type are too much faster (everything is static), and don’t require server’s resources at all.

    A simple calculus I’m using MT ($99)+ hosting ($300/year) and was able to support 10k visitors per day without any problem. If it’s wordpress ($0) + hosting (at least $100/month), maybe there is better but there isn’t less than $400 per year. And btw rebuilding MT have never took more than 2mins for me.

    Also it’s interesing to check LifeType, their long time awaited optimized version is coming finally. I’m not against wordpress, but “code is poetry” have nothing to do with wordpress code.

  • Interesting point there Hatem; I can see where you would benefit from MovableType with a much larger site.

    For those of us in the “magic middle” though, WordPress seems to be an easier platform all around. I switched about a month ago with my site and I have found that it allows the semi-pro blogger a little bit more leg room in the way of design, time, and expandability.

    For my money, the dynamic rebuild is a feature that should not be sacrificed by a blog of any size. If you are advanced enough to get MT working dynamically, then you are truly skilled. For those of us who rely on a much more simple approach, I think WordPress will always do the trick…

  • Hatem – interesting.

    Having been slashdotted on both WP and MT blogs I’ve never had a crash.

    Like Mike in the linked post I’ve found my larger MT blogs can take a long time to rebuild (ie blogs with close to 3000 posts).

    I guess it’s about finding something that suits your expertise and goals in blogging and going with it. I’ve no doubt that MT fits the mould for some.

  • Honestly, I didn’t realize setting up dynamic publishing for MovableType was such a problem for so many people. New item on my article-ideas list for sure! :)

    In my experience, MT with the possibility of mixed static/dynamic templates provides the best solution.

  • If you are planning to build a large site or multiple sites I would recommend TYPO3. I use TYPO3 to publish 5 websites all from one database installation. You can serve just dynamic pages or publish as static. It is also 100% customizable. It has a couple blogging extensions to choose from and many other features you would fine in enterprise level content management systems costing $60 000 plus but TYPO3 is 100% free GPL. It take a little time to learn but if you are planning to build a network of sites it will be worth the time you spend learning it. Check it out at

  • For me the main difference between WordPress and MT is the responsiveness of the admin. interface. MT is an absolute dog! It’s pitifully slow.

    There are some advantages to having a single admin interface to multiple sites – it is a bit easier to manage. If only they could improve the responsiveness of the application …

  • I’ve used MT in the past and found it to be ok, but yeah, the rebuilding after every post was annoying. Never did use it enough to get a high volume of posts and experience the 30 min. delays tho.

    As for wordpress being dynamic, the newest version uses a type of cache system. I’m not tecchie enough to know exactly how it works, but it speeds up database calls and decreases server load for heavy traffic sites or spikes like when you get slashdotted or dugg.

    If you’re interested in making your wordpress post url’s look like static pages, I put up a short tutorial (and use the technique outlined) at my newest blog. It works like a charm for me.

  • With plugins like WP-Cache2, WordPress has much better chance guarding against slashdot effect, even on shared hosting. PHP is still loaded, but cached files are sent back before most of the WP files are imported.

    Check this performance benchmark for the effect of caching on an otherwise slow WP backend.

    Although I do agree that “code is poetry” doesn’t really apply to WordPress, but it is definitely getting better and cleaner.

  • Darren you have your own server, so its different … I’m talking about the majority of bloggers … does a problogger have to buy his own server since the first day ? or start with small account then upgrade when he need to …

  • Hatem – actually I don’t have my own server. I’m not sure how many other sites are on the one I have but my sites are not the biggest on it

  • In this case your hosting provider isn’t really worried about server resources – when your site overload the server other sites on the same server will slow down. That’s why they usually limit memory usage per account, and when this limit is exceeded server start killing scripts automaticly. I talked about this in january when my hosting provider have even suggested me to find another provider :-P

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  • My Movable Type site is by no means large, but I found it helps if I do the rebuilds in stages. At the time of the change, I’ll rebuild just the posts that appear on the front page plus the 5-10 most popular entries according to my stats.Then I’ll do the complete rebuild of all the entries later when I don’t care how long it takes.

  • I use MT’s dynamic building for all pages except the home page of my site. At over 3000 posts, rebuilding the entire site did take a long time. But setting the templates to ‘dynamic’ took me all of five minutes. It’s a few check boxes. You certainly don’t need to be a “technical person” to do it.

    WP certainly seems to be the one many are going with these days, though…

  • Saying that an MT rebuild takes 30 minutes is completely misleading. It strongly depends on how many files have to be rebuilt. Smaller sites will do it in seconds. Larger sites will take longer. But to blindly say an MT rebuild will take 30 minutes is just unfair.

    Also, in MT, the default value is to rebuild 40 files at a time. You can actually increase this number, which will give you a slight speed increase.

  • I have blogs running both MT and WP and I like both for different reasons. My main blog actually runs on TypePad and it runs quite nicely. It is a bit of a concern that TypePad won’t export really large blogs and I hope Six Apart addresses that.

    Mike Rundle’s comparison is pretty handy, thanks for the links Darren.

  • In addition to Dale’s comment above, it’s worth noting that the rebuild time is also highly dependent on your server’s speed. If you have ultra cheap shared hosting on a lowly 2GHz Celeron then slow rebuilds shouldn’t be too much of a surprise.

  • I agree with Dale and Tim – all I’m saying is that when I rebuild my largest MT site it takes well over half an hour (and I have a decent server). I wouldn’t say it as a sweeping statement for all sites. On my smaller ones it can take a few minutes – but I guess in comparison to my WP blogs where changes are immediate even a few minutes can be annoying.

  • Thanks guys.

    What about Blogger?

    Seems to work well for Atrios. 130,000 visitors per day.

  • As folks have said, there are advantages to MT’s static pages approach (particularly with lots of traffic) and WP’s dynamic pages. Although I’m intimately familiar w/ MT and pretty familiar w/ WP, one thing I’ve never been able to figure out is whether most, or even a decent number of MT plugins are compatible with dynamic publishing. I have extremely tweaked MT templates and when I looked into switching to dynamic publishing, nothing worked.

    Anyway, the “30 minute page rebuild” problem is caused in part by category archives. I’ve written up a post describing the problem and providing an optimized template. You can cut down on your rebuild times significantly.

  • We’re currently on MT 3.21 and looking for a long overdue upgrade. Held out for the community features. But would gladly switch to WordPress if someone assured me that it’s plugins had powerful community features.

    So, currently looking for someone who can help with an upgrade or migration for a nominal fee.