I was recently commissioned with the task of selecting an appropriate blogging tool for our upcoming Intellectual Property Weblog class. Selecting blogging software is becoming increasingly tricky, in part because there are so many packages out there, and because so many of them are so good. All have been appending each other’s features as time goes on, making their advantages progressively less distinct.
Our criteria for blogging software for the class were:
- Must allow multiple authors (this is to be a team/group blog)
- Should be low cost or free, ideally open source
- We want to host it ourselves rather than using 3rd party servers
- Ideally searchable
- Should have some kind of CMS (Allow posting of drafts, which other editors approve)
- Easy posting from Macs (bookmarklets, hotkey for hyperlinks within a web form)
- RSS syndication and, ideally, aggregation
Time is limited, so I chose five blogging packages to install and test:
We’re inevitably missing lots of good ones, but one can only do so much in a couple of days.
Multi-author / CMS (team blogging) turned out to be really easy in some blogging packages, almost impossible in others. While this feature is built into Movable Type and Greymatter from the start, Radio makes you rely on 3rd party tools or hack out an aggregation of multiple blogs. LiveJournal has “communities” built specifically for this purpose, but each author has to have a separate account, which would mean either paying for or finding lots of LJ invitations to spread around. Even then, only Movable Type offered the ability to make a post in draft mode, then have another author / editor approve and make it live.
Search functionality was surprisingly absent from most of these packages. Greymatter puts it right up front. Movable Type puts search into the back end, but not into the front end, which I found somewhat bizarre. I’m assuming I can add searching to MT’s front end fairly easily. Blogger makes you buy the Pro version, Radio doesn’t make it all obvious whether searching is possible, and LiveJournal doesn’t have it at all.
Radio’s web form for posting has nifty anchor, bold, etc. buttons when viewed under Windows, but not from the Mac. Bookmarklets for Radio may or may not work on the Mac. A bookmarklet system does not seem to be bundled with the product, and I didn’t get around to checking out the 3rd party solutions.
I found the following discussions at Radio Free Blogistan (run by friend Christian Crumlish) largely mirrored my experiences getting Greymatter, Movable Type, and Radio up and running:
- Radio vs. Movable Type (contains links to earlier comparisons)
- Dave Winer, CEO of Userland, responds re Radio v. MT
- Followup discussion re Radio v. MT
I concur that MT’s pain is all in the up-front setup, while Radio’s setup is easy, but the system is fragile. I was just getting up and running with Radio and starting to like it when I made a change that prevented the entire system from running. Not even reinstalling the entire app could get me running again.
I keep my personal blog at LiveJournal, and really love the system. I’d recommend it to anyone looking to get up and running quickly, and who lacks technical knowledge. It’s custom client is a joy to post with, and LJ’s interconnectedness of blogs is unparalleled - truly wonderful to follow the links between friends and friends of friends, etc. But it quickly became apparent that LiveJournal was not appropriate for this class. Greymatter and Radio are both great systems in their own ways, but Movable Type moved to the front of the pack very quickly, and is the package we’ll be using. If only Movable Type handled RSS aggregation as well as Radio… but one can’t have it all.