MT 3.2 upgrade -- not going so well

I've been fairly happy with Movable Type, but the upgrade to 3.2 has been a disappointment, a discouragement, and enormously frustrating. I forgave SixApart for the clunky manual install process when I tried it the first time (version 2.x). Once installed life was good. And then I purchased a license when they went to the 3.1x series. I thought the 2.x -> 3.1x upgrade was pretty convoluted when I did it then. Download, but be careful how you ftp, copy files over the other ones (always a learning experience in Unix to do this correctly), and then verify and monkey with the permission settings. Yikes! But I did it, and promptly forgot about it. The blog was functioning. I picked up using Ecto as my blogging client and life was great.

[LESSON 1: take notes when doing installs. Really. Take notes.]

So when I decided it was time for 3.2 I was totally unprepared for the same, manual, and almost totally clerical process. Except for the transfer of data from the old to new configuration file, this upgrade seems a prime candidate for automation. Why isn't it? But I had forgotten the issues with file permissions: cgi files are executable, but perl files are not. Javascript files? It's hard to say.(Could it be more confusing?)

And then the upgrade just hung until, saved by the excellent SixApart e-mail support, I was reminded of how the ".js" files need to ftp-ed in ASCII mode not binary. Well I've been avoiding ftp and using scp instead, which seems easier and used ssh. Anyway, scp doesn't work for this. I needed to upload the ".js" files again and install and set permissions (do they need to be executable? I should know, but ...).

So, I did get it running. But now, when I've tried to use Ecto to create a new post on a new weblog I get posting errors. Yeah, could be an Ecto error, but, right now it's just one more headache. It's been two whole days ....

I think MT is reaching a complexity stage that's unsustainable. I think I'll be looking for alternatives. But I'm not sanguine that the grass will be greener anywhere else. I think we're in for a long experience of learning about systems and complexity the hard way.


4 Comments

I'm sorry to hear that you had so many problems with the upgrade.

We agree that installation and upgrade is harder than it should be, which is why we made great effort in this release to reduce the number of steps and the complexity. We've still got work to do to be sure, but we've heard from an overwhelming number of people that it was the easiest upgrade of any web application ever. It saddens me to hear stories of the few who didn't get the full experience that we worked so hard to implement for 3.2.

The upgrade instructions[1] (and installation instructions) cover all of the topics you mentioned: file permissions, the site javascript file in the static folder, ASCII vs Binary and using external editors like Ecto. The upside here is, you don't have to remember all of these things from upgrade to upgrade because we've documented the steps for you.

A lot of people actually **like** to think about all of these complexities, because it gives them the ability to very finely customize their installation and server, but if you don't you should check out TypePad[2]. It's an excellent service that removes the need to care about the technical aspects of the system and gives you the freedom to blog, moblog, podcast, etc.

Anyway, we appreciate the feedback and are well aware of what we need to do in the future to make the installation and upgrade process for Movable Type even more painless.

Jay Allen
Product Manager
Professional Products Group
Six Apart

[1] - http://www.sixapart.com/movabletype/docs/3.2/01_installation_and_upgrade/upgrading_movable_type.html
[2] - http://www.sixapart.com/typepad

Allen's reply, quoting

A lot of people actually **like** to think about all of these complexities

reminds me when I was a product manager at AT&T, peddling tools in the C Compliation suite (c. 1985). I had a difficult time accepting the notion the market size for programming tools (of the build-install variety) was limited by 15% of the computers sold. Today the number is no doubt a small fraction of 1%.

This does not invalidate Mr Allen's assertion.
As a utilitarian view his claim fails. On relection, he might well observe "a far greater number do not want to know the details". At best, the product should easily install, and then invite you to explore those nuances. Forcing you to grasp some or a signficant part is not what this discipline is about.

And now for the documentation denounment: What is easier? Put a statement like: chmod 732 *.js in the installation/user document, or in an executable script. A thoughtful designer will understand the needs of the 80%-ile customer. One of the product managers at yet-another-rochester-phone-company observed: Our sales force has solved the 80-20 question. The only problem is they're listening to the 80% of the customers who bring us 20% of the business

On relection, he might well observe "a far greater number do not want to know the details". At best, the product should easily install, and then invite you to explore those nuances. Forcing you to grasp some or a signficant part is not what this discipline is about.

We agree completely! This is a continual journey towards refinement. As I said in my comment, it's not as easy as we'd like it to be yet.

What is easier?

Well, for one, we've done away with all of the upgrade scripts which you used to have to execute, in order, to upgrade your database from one version to the next. Skip one and you're in trouble.

We also did away with mt-load.cgi. Why can't the system just do the work for the user? It can! We strived in this release to make the web-based portion of the upgrade as easy as possible.

The hard part now is making the installation of the actual files easy. That's not a simple thing to do when you realize that Movable Type runs in over 13000 environments. That means that there are very few assumptions we can make.

No matter what, we are at the mercy of hosting environments. As a downloadable server-side product, there will always be issues that the user has to deal with. Personally, I've never once had to fiddle with permissions because my FTP software just does the right thing. Some people aren't so lucky because they are using old or broken FTP software. Again, we can't assume anything.

In any case, we'd like to ensure that every release of Movable Type is easier to install or upgrade than the last. That's my goal.

Jay, thanks for the feedback; I appreciate it.

One reason I posted my experience is that I like using MovableType, and I'd like to keep using it. And I did appreciate that once installed properly, the upgrade process was fairly automatic. But for me getting the software installed properly was the stumbling block.

Here at Praxis101 we focus on the experience of the end user, and from this perspective my experience, as I indicated, was frustrating. I look forward to not making the same mistakes again. But I look forward even more to not having to think about those details, unless I choose to.

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