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LAUNCH: A Socialite’s Life

Our most recently completed weblog happens to be one of the largest Hollywood gossip and entertainment weblogs in the world, A Socialite’s Life. They are “your daily source for celebrity gossip, photos, fashion news, and media speculation brought to you in digestible bites” and it is suggested you enjoy the site while sipping on a martini. I’m a margarita guy myself, but hey, Hollywood news + alcohol is always a win-win :)

New Socialite

Similar But Different

The previous version of A Socialite’s Life used CSS but the markup was a bit clunky, it had three columns but they were indistinguishable from one another, and it had a similar entry structure however the various blog entry elements were a bit squished. If I had to classify this project, I’d say that the new site is more of a realign than a true redesign. You can view an example of the older look here for the time-being, until the category and monthly archive pages are updated.

High traffic weblogs are normally more function than form, simply because when a site pulls in monster advertising revenue figures each month, you don’t want to mess with the formula for success. For A Socialite’s Life, that formula was three columns: main content on the left, two columns of advertising, and then a wide banner at the top of the site. There’s no point in giving a site a fresh coat of pixels if you endanger its revenue formula.

Movable Type For Large Weblogs?

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.

I’m a big Movable Type advocate as my friends know, however for large weblogs dynamic publishing is the way to go.

About Mike Rundle

Comments

  1. Totally agree with the realign. Good job. Meanwhile, what are a couple of things you wish MT has that WP offers in terms of what you use and do with it; vice-versa? That’ll be interesting to know.

  2. Geof Harries says:

    I second Sherwin’s request – I’ve always used WordPress but have recently been lured away to MovableType (actually, TypePad) for a project. It’s been frustrating thus far, but I’m sure I’ll see the positives soon enough. Can a WP user learn to love MT?

  3. I love Movable Type and TypePad, because their shortcomings are making me lots of money helping people migrate to WordPress.

    When I first got into blogging, I looked at MT, and right away I knew that its static publishing system was not the way to go. Republishing everything after a change? You must be kidding. That’s the old and busted way. WordPress is the new hotness.

    And to be fair, I never could get the dynamic publishing stuff in MT set up, and I’m supposedly an expert at this.

    As for things WP has that MT doesn’t, the big three for me are the GPL license, chutzpah and moxie.

  4. Jack says:

    I’ve been on Movable Type ever since I’ve started blogging. The only reason I haven’t moved is because of the sheer cost of migration.

    Every new blog I’ve set up is running on WordPress. It’s a no brainer to install and there’s a huge momentum and community behind it. There’s plugins for most bits of functionality you’d ever need so it really is all that it’s cracked up to be.

    I want to love Movable Type, I really do. But there just hasn’t been anything happening for it since the heroic push to version 3. After a huge backend rewrite, there still seems to be nothing significant happening for it. It seems to have laid dormant while Six Apart go on to chase bigger things.

    As for large sites, the ideal is static pages for pages that don’t change a lot (i.e. old blog entries) and dynamic for pages that constantly change (front page, category pages, etc.). I’m sure there is at least one caching plugin out there for WordPress to keep your old pages in a pseudo-static sort of way.

  5. Su says:

    rebuilding the individual entry archives takes a long time. A long, long time. About 32 minutes each rebuild.

    By which you’re referring to rebuilding the entirety of the individual archives, correct? And how often does that normally(read: not during a redesign) happen, assuming they’re not doing something just plain silly in the templates? I’m growing rather tired of this complaint, particularly when it ignores the fact that the build time is kinda part of the point.
    If posting an entry takes this long, uh…see above about the templates.

    (Fun fact: ASL is running MT 3.16[reason?], and hence not taking advantage of major speed increases in 3.2. I have other questions, but frankly, they can contact me for rates.)

    Granted, you’re kind of digging your own grave when you put an item into 17 categories, but there are still tricks to alleviate even that.

    however for large weblogs dynamic publishing is the way to go.

    This also bears some digging.
    “Dynamic publishing” is a bit misleading, as what you’re actually talking about is serving pages dynamically. Since you specifically mention high-traffic sites above, it should be pointed out that the same people who’d help those non-techs get dynamic publishing set up might have something to say about whether it’s even a good idea. Both methods have their place, and the decision doesn’t only have to do with how long it takes to publish.

    But yeah, the site’s a lot nicer to look at now *grin* Not that I ever go there.

  6. Mike Rundle says:

    Su,

    “By which you’re referring to rebuilding the entirety of the individual archives, correct? And how often does that normally(read: not during a redesign) happen, assuming they’re not doing something just plain silly in the templates? I’m growing rather tired of this complaint, particularly when it ignores the fact that the build time is kinda part of the point.”

    I’m not really sure why anybody should be put through the pain of a 30+ minute rebuild (I’m working on a site right not that takes over 3 hours to rebuild, again, this is just for the individual entry archives) and it seems a bit masochistic of you to suggest that long rebuilds are “part of the point”. Furthermore I don’t know what point that would be, I guess that they shouldn’t be using Movable Type if it takes that long to rebuild?

    The frequency of how often rebuilding needs to be done, or how much they tinker with their templates doesn’t matter, the point is that it takes too long. If part of the software sucks and your solution is to not use that part of the software, how is that a solution at all?

    “(Fun fact: ASL is running MT 3.16[reason?], and hence not taking advantage of major speed increases in 3.2. I have other questions, but frankly, they can contact me for rates.)”

    Lol, actually they can contact me :)

    “Granted, you’re kind of digging your own grave when you put an item into 17 categories, but there are still tricks to alleviate even that.”

    That would slow down the category archive builds, not the individual entry archive rebuild. It’s not as though the individual entry has to be rebuilt X times based on the X categories it’s listed under.

    “”Dynamic publishing” is a bit misleading, as what you’re actually talking about is serving pages dynamically.”

    I don’t think it’s misleading, considering that’s what Movable Type calls it. WordPress has it on by default, Movable Type calls it “dynamic publishing”, it’s the same thing: one page that has an SQL query + .htaccess rewrites so the entry URLs are intact and don’t look like http://sitehere.com/?p=12345.

    Rebuilding your entire site in 5 seconds as opposed to 2 minutes, or 5 minutes, or 30 minutes, or 3 hours is something that everyone should look into if they’re pissed off with their rebuild times. Gawker has been hurting a lot lately because they started out with MT and now they’re extraordinarily top-heavy with massive rebuild times. I don’t think dynamic publishing is as sketchy as you make it out to be, and I’m a bit confused actually as to why you’re arguing against its usage?

  7. Su says:

    I’m not arguing against dynamic publishing at all.
    I’m saying it has its place, and making the categorical statement that it’s “for large sites” is patently false. Other factors have to be weighed like the possibility of traffic spikes bringing a server to a crawl, whether the user can accept their site being unavailable if the db has a problem, and so on. Both are non-issues with static publishing.

    Static publishing on the other hand can take longer, yes, but it also happens once and you’re done; you make the investment on the front. That’s the “point” I referred to before. Frequency does matter. You do not do a full rebuild often on a live site. Again, if publishing a single given item takes too long, then we have a discussion, and something to look for, but I seriously doubt we’re looking at half an hour there. At least I hope not.

    Few people are more aware of Gawker’s MT problems than I was. Many of them were caused by Gawker themselves more than anything else. That’s all I’ll say on the matter.

  8. Paul says:

    Thank you for this post. I run my business site off MovableType and have actually selected the dynamic publishing option. I thought it seemed like a good idea at the time and now I know why.

  9. Kevin says:

    As the person who has already has the business of the infrastructure work at ASL, there’s probably no chance they’ll be contacting you for your rates. :-).

    You’re looking at a site that went from 0 to 200mph in very little time with zero pre-planning. They have, and to an extent, still are paying for that. There is a plan in place to address it, but it’s an evolutionary process.

    Things are the way they are for a reason. Specifically you are the designer, and a decision was made not to introduce more chaos into the mix of a server move and archive renaming by doing an MT upgrade until the new design was done. When the design is done those plans will be put into place.

    As someone who has tested dynamic pages on the ASL site I can tell you that the volume of traffic they receive is above the point at which most dynamic publishing systems will croak, be it MT’s or WP’s. I know of several high traffic sites that have migrated to WP only to find that their host are anxious to get rid of them due to the increase in system resources (mostly DB) required to serve up the pages.

    The major knock on MT in ASL’s setup is the categories. Gawker has the same issue – too many categories; or rather MT’s inability to scale categories into the range of several thousands. Most people never run into this issue becasue they don’t categorize obbesively. The development team at SA is aware of the issue and I’m pretty confident that it will be addressed in the next release.

    As the publisher of a site with well over 10,000 posts I’m not going to blow smoke up anybody’s ass and say that an individual archive rebuild is fast, BUT with proper planning the need to actually do a full rebuild can be all but eliminated. I’ve done exactly no full rebuilds in the past three months merely by chunking up common page elements into include statements. The sidebar is an index template that gets rebuilt once and is in place for thousands of pages in several different sites in my install.

    I’ve had pages on my MT installation that got 500,000 visitors in one day and been damn thankful that they were static pages instead of WP’s MySQL too many connections error pages…

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