Weblog management software is a type of content management, so why do so many weblog publishing applications not let you handle other types of content in the same elegant manner? In my experience, all content you handle is called “posts”, “entries”, “articles”, “logs” — but how is that intuitive? By pigeonholing content into pre-defined terms, you’re virtually eliminating flexibility.
I like MovableType so I like to use it to power full-blown websites that may or may not include a weblog, and may or may not include additional pages outside of a weblog. Unfortunately, when used to provide a backend for a portfolio, an image gallery, a company bio page, a FAQ section, every piece of content you’re writing for those non-weblog areas is still referred to as a post, when it’s clearly not. I’m not writing a “weblog entry”, I’m writing a “Company Employee Biography”. I’m not writing a “weblog entry”, I’m writing a “Branding Work Portfolio Example”. To get around these shortcomings, you can create additional weblogs within your MT install that all shoot out different include files, which are then cobbled together into what you need at the end. Step back from your deep weblog publishing roots for a second and look at this scenario: I’m essentially hacking together my own functionality, forced into naming conventions that honestly make no sense (“weblog entry” = “Software FAQ Entry”???), and then expected to do some PHP/template trickery in order to make the software work the way I want it to.
I’ve been thinking a lot about this process lately, and it really doesn’t make sense to me.
The naysayers will tell me that it’s a MovableType-specific shortcoming, but it’s really not. WordPress works on the same concepts as MovableType, but it has custom fields. “Custom fields” do not equal “custom content template.” I don’t want to add additional fields to a “weblog post”, I want to define my content with my own fields and metadata titles, whether it be a weblog post, an image gallery, or whatever. This isn’t a WP-specific shortcoming, but rather a shortcoming for all weblog software. As soon as a content management application targets weblogs, then it’s all over. You now have no options and can only write “weblog posts” that have categories, keywords, a summary, and maybe some custom fields. Want to put together a dynamic employee biography page? Go ahead and start writing some weblog entries with the employee’s name stuck in the “Weblog Entry Title” field and their manager’s name put in a custom field called “employeeManagerName”.
If I want to have a dynamic company employee page, then I want to have one that makes sense to me, and to my client who will probably be updating it once we hand it over:
“Now remember, Most Important Client We Have, when you’re updating your employee biography page with a new employee, make sure to put their name in the ‘Weblog Entry Title’ field, their job title in the ‘Weblog Post Excerpt’ field, their background information in the ‘Weblog Entry Body’ field, their building number in the ‘Weblog Entry Extended’ field, and the rest of their information into the custom field boxes.”
Not only does this sound unprofessional, but what if they screw it up? Your $XX,XXX website design probably won’t look right if they put the employee’s full job description in the wrong place, and then your site template stuffs it into an
H2 tag because it can’t adapt to user error. See what I’m getting at?
How To Deal
This isn’t MovableType’s fault, this isn’t WordPress’s fault, this isn’t TextPattern’s fault, and it’s not Blogger’s fault. I’m not placing any blame on the weblog software company’s laps, because it has nothing to do with them. They make content management software that works with weblogs, so why not make it work with weblogs?
Unfortunately, if I want to define custom content, make custom content templates and template tags, I need to jump up to enterprise class CM software territory, but what if I still want to run a weblog? What if I need weblog functionality (comments, trackbacks) but need it to be robust enough to handle my employee biography page with fields and dropdown menus named “Employee Name”, “Job Title”, “Team Name”, and “Building Number”? What if I want the software to be robust and flexible enough for me to define its functionality?
Now that’s a question I’d like to tackle. Anyone have an answer?