Blogging Movable Type The Web

Low threshold links

Some people have them in a sidebar and call them “Further random reading“, “sidelights“, “trinkets“, “oddments“, or “obLinks“. Other people post occasional blog entries filled with links, more links, and nothing but links.

But the best and most descriptive name I’ve seen for them for them comes from Cameron Marlow who calles them “Low threshold links“:

“…My threshold for what to post was way to high to catch many of the sites I was laughing at, engaged by, and sending on to my friends. Instead of losing these links thanks to my imperfect brain, I decided like many others to create a separate weblog just for the ephemeral sites that didn’t deserve discussion.”

There’s an abundance of information around on how to set up a sidebar with low threshold links on your blog; Anders Jacobsen has a particularly simple way of doing it for Movable Type.

(My sidebar’s a bit crowded right now, so I’m just going to stick to linkdumps in the body of entries for the moment.)

Movable Type

Multiple blogs on a single index page

For a while back in March I had changed the look of my main blog page so that it showed entries from my Quick Reviews blog interleaved with my main blog entries, in the appropriate chronological order. Frank suggested that I should put together a tutorial on how to do this with Movable Type, so here it is.

Blogging Movable Type


If all went according to plan, This is me up and running with Movable Type on MySQL. It wasn’t nearly as terrifying an experience as I’d feared: run backup, run checks to make sure all libraries are in place, change configuration file to point to MySQL database, run mt-db2mysql.cgi, and then delete same to make sure I don’t accidentally re-run it.

I think I will leave the old Berkeley DB files in place for a while. Now that we’ve upgraded our web hosting account we have stacks of space anyway.

Our web host is still, but for the first time I’m not entirely happy with them. We used to have one of their “Entrepreneur” packages, which gave us everything we needed, such as a MySQL database, a subdomain, PHP, scripts anywhere, shell access, and a number of POP3 mailboxes. That package came with 100MB of file space and heaps of bandwidth. We were pushing up against the file space limit just before I went off to Boston.

Ideally, I would like to have upgraded our account with just some extra file space, but this turned out not to be possible. We had to upgrade to a “Corporate” account, which, as well as bringing our file space allowance up to 200MB, also gives us additional MySQL databases, more subdomains, more POP mailboxes, and more FTP logins. None of which we actually need.

Oh, I ‘m sure we’ll find a way to put all these extras to use (except the POP mailboxes…we really don’t need 30 of the buggers), but they’re costing us an extra $10 a month when all we wanted was some more disk space. With hard disks nowadays coming in at less than a £1 per Gigabyte, this seems kind of ridiculous. It also makes EZPublishing seem quite inflexible, and suddenly much less competitive in the hosting marketplace.

We’ve been with EZPublishing for about three years now. We know them and we trust them. With web hosting being such a commodity market these days, though, it’s inevitable that there are a lot of cowboys out there who will happily sell you a package, but run for cover when the shit starts hitting the fan. I’d be very reluctant to move to a different host without some very good recommendations, from people I trust.

Movable Type


David Raynes has come up with a fantastic plugin for Movable Type: MTOtherBlog. If you have multiple Blogs in your MT installation, it gives you a context where you can pull entries from one blog into another. Effectively, it allows MT to do subcategories, which is going to be tremendously useful.

Movable Type

New MT plugin: MTExtendedAttribute

I’ve just released the <MTExtendedAttribute> plugin for Movable Type into the wild. I’ve been working on this off-and-on for the last month or so, but other things have been keeping me busy, so it’s taken a while to get it polished enough for anyone else to use.

Movable Type only gives you a limited number of fields in which to store data for entries, blogs, categories and authors. With <MTExtendedAttribute>, you can add new fields by adding the extra data into a CSV file, which you drop into your file system, or into a Template Module. I’m using it right now to define multiple icons for each category in my “Quick Reviews” sidebar (which is itself a Movable Type blog).

It’s possible/probably that future versions of MT will allow you to defined custom fields for your entries, categories, and other stuff, but this plugin allows you to do this right away.

Movable Type

MTRandomLine plugin

I’ve just finished doing the documentation for my first Movable Type plugin, MTRandomLine. It’s a tag that extracts and displays a random line from a text file, or a Movable Type template module. Right now, I’m using the tag on this page to display the list of random entries you see in the sidebar.

Note that it only performs the random selection when the relevant MT template is rebuilt. It doesn’t give you a new random selection each time you visit the page. There are plenty of server-side and client-side scripts around that do that already (just go to the Movable Type support forum and do a search for “random”).

The tag is probably best suited to doing random quotes, or random images. It’s a bit of a stretch (though entirely possible) to make it display random blog entries. So my next project is to make a <MTRandomEntries> container tag, which will set up a context for a selection of random entries from your blog (or from a category within the blog). You’ll then be able to use the normal <MTEntryTitle>, <MTEntryBody> and other tags within it. Watch out for it soon!