June 23, 2003

MovableType Slips, Stumbles, and Pratfalls

"Why must there always be fightn' and killin'? Why can't there be peace in the blogsphere?"

In a move all too typical of "organisations in transistion," Six Apart, creators of the excellent blog publishing system Movable Type, has taken its first tumble on the long slope towards being a successful company.

Flush with cash and with what looks to be the killer app of blogware MovableType, Six Apart last week sought to enforce the clumsy terms of its license agreement against one Kathy Kinsley. Bad idea. Very bad idea.

As Stephen Den Beste at USS Clueless puts it:

"Kathy Kinsley, she of the Third Hand, was going to start a small hosting service whereby people could pay a small fee per month for a site which would have Movable Type on it. Even in the most optimistic of predictions, Kathy isn't going to become wealthy doing this. Likely about the best she'll do is break even or make a bit of pocket-change out of it, running a system with a few dozen users. And it appears she's still going to offer this service, but it isn't going to be based on Movable Type. Kathy received a nasty letter from the folks behind MT telling her she was violating their license agreement, and demanding either that she cease forthwith or that she fork over a big fee for a professional license. I'm not happy about that. I wrote a long article recently praising Movable Type, and now I want to take it all back."

It is never, ever, a good idea in the blogsphere to draw the attention of Den Beste. He's got his own server, a full-featured keyboard, a huge capture buffer and he's not afraid to use it. Besides, 99.99% of the time he knows what he's talking about.

MovableType has been trying to retreat from their blunder but still retain their position vis-a-vis their license terms. There's even a Mena Trout explanation over on Movabletype But the tone seems forced and newly 'corporate' to me. Clumsily so.

The fact remains that MovableType threatened a much nicer and less wealthy ally with the lawyer club. Using lawyers to control behavior in the blogsphere is never, ever a good idea. Even when you win, you lose. Why? Because people, which is after all what the blogsphere is made of, just don't like it.

The bottom line is that what we have here is a case of a newly grown Goliath threatening to whup a very nice and considerate David.

Not a popular move. Gives people a bad perception of Six Apart and Movable Type. And in the blogsphere, perception is all there is.

Posted by Vanderleun at June 23, 2003 2:40 PM
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"It is impossible to speak in such a way that you cannot be misunderstood." -- Karl Popper N.B.: Comments are moderated and may not appear immediately. Comments that exceed the obscenity or stupidity limits will be either edited or expunged.

There was a certain amount of misunderstanding on both sides.
I wasn't offering MT hosting (where you buy an account with MT installed), I was offering blog hosting and offering to install (gratis) whatever software people wanted, if I knew the software (or install none at all). MT just happens to be one of the ones I know well!.
And I obviously misunderstood their license, because even that is not permissable. Oh well.
So, I just changed to offer to gratis installation of any program that would run on my server and had a license that did not forbid that. I'll probably have to learn a few more programs' quirks and MT and I both will probably get a few less customers. C'est la vie.

Posted by: Kathy K at June 23, 2003 3:10 PM

I take your point. The deeper problem seems to be the tendency of people in the blogsphere to default to the state of email, when, at times, picking up the telephone and having a chat is a much better option.

I'm assuming here that they didn't call. Correct?

Posted by: Van der Leun at June 23, 2003 7:10 PM


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