Movable Type and ColdFusion

August 28, 2004

logging in from the “I’m totally swamped with work” port—apologies for light blogging recently)

Awhile back, without any real ceremony, I switched this site off of Movable Type, which it had run on for a year and a half or so.

While I did this in the midst of “the great 3.0 pricing controversy”, I didn’t really do so because of the price; rather, the “tempest in a teapot” gave some recently matured alternatives a chance to shine, and I went shopping for a replacement.

My main reason for replacing MT was the constant server drag rebuilding the site.  With a few posts, it wasn’t bad, but rebuilding a couple of hundred every time stuff changed was slow and painful.  I could have probably made some things less dynamic-appearing and taken some of the pain away, but it was more fun to learn something new.  So this site went to Expression Engine, and my other blog went to WordPress.  At the moment, I wish both of them were WordPress, but that’s a post for another day.

Meanwhile, down here in the swamp, one of my clients needed the ability to add periodic content to their site, without having to do pages in HTML (or have me do them). 

Aha!  A perfect problem for a piece of blogging software, or other CMS type system

Unfortunately, their site uses a complex and sophisticated user rights management system built in ColdFusion, and the content presented by this new feature needed to follow the rights set up in that system.

Blogging software in ColdFusion hasn’t come very far (to put it politely), and the few CMS’s were either way over-featured for the job at hand, too pricey, or both.

I was looking at taking a PHP system such as WordPress and splicing it into the ColdFusion rights sytem, when it finally occured to me that Movable Type was a dandy tool for the job.

The same thing that made Movable Type problematic on this site—a Perl process that builds lots of static HTML pages each time something new is added—made it perfect for this task.  Because, of course, it doesn’t HAVE to output HTML—it just as happily will output files with a .CFM extension, and with whatever ColdFusion markup you want to add to the template. 

Movable Type’s markup language is more than happy to output things like “categories” as a comma delimited list, which ColdFusion in turn is quite happy to treat as a list data type.

So, a handful of relatively tortuous code at the top of each template, and all of the rights management is automatically handled for each new article posted to the system.  I can point the client to a nifty little desktop client like Ecto to add and edit their content, and everything is nicely sewn up.

The new Movable Type (3.x) is quite nice.  My only gripe was with the purchasing process (yes, I did have the client buy the appropriate license for the code).

Having not gone to 3.x myself, and apparently having never commented on anyone else’s 3.x site that uses TypeKey, I was unprepared at the end of the purchase when it wanted me to log in via TypeKey to download the code.

I followed the instructions, and registered with TypeKey, and something went badly awry—the TypeKey system kept failing with an obscure error message every time I tried to log in.

I went around for an entire afternoon with their Tech Support, who couldn’t even find my address registered (despite my having received the activation e-mail to that address, which I forwarded them).  Eventually, they suggested I just set up a different TypeKey account.

Duh.  It hadn’t occured to me that that was a possibility—since it asked at the end of the purchase process, I assumed that it had to be a TypeKey account registered “right then”. 

I tried it again, set up another account without problems, and downloaded the software.

I can’t say I’ve got a lot of warm fuzzy feelings for the TypeKey system, however. Not that I’m some kind of genius or anything, but I’m guessing that if I got this confused over this, a lot of folks are going to throw up their hands before they get registered to comment on a Typekey-using blog…


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