Radio/MT Discussion Outtakes

The Radio vs. Movable Type comparison has generated a lot of heat in the (literally) subtext, in the comments. Here are some highlights:

Comments in response to this post:
… It highlights the fact that there is no one “best” blogging tool, but rather, each tool offers a different feel and feature set.

Now the next thing on your plate, Xian, should be an examination of the various client apps, such as w.bloggar, blogbuddy, etc… software that enables people to publish entries directly from a desktop app.

Adam Lasnik [] • 8/14/02; 2:47:11 PM

one thing you didn’t mention was newsfeeds. i’m assuming moveable type doesn’t have a news aggregator? (radio is all i’ve used.)

dix [] • 8/14/02; 10:37:48 PM
MT does not have a news aggregator.

Radio tries to do many things, and to some degree, it succeeds admirably. It’s quite feature-rich and very powerful under the hood.

MT, on the other hand, as Xian smartly noted, is much more focused on blogging. From my experience, then, it’s MUCH easier to create a good looking and powerful BLOG with MT than with Radio. And perhaps more importantly, I honestly believe the default USER (visitor) experience is better with MT than with Radio.

Adam Lasnik [] • 8/15/02; 2:58:54 AM
I’m wondering how maintainable mt and radio are.

I’m using radio now and it seems a little fragile. It’s pretty easy (for me anyway) to tweak something and have the whole mess become inoperable. I get mysterious error messages at times.

But I’m similarly leery about a bunch of perl scripts running on a sql db on a remote unix server. How easy it it to screw the whole thing up?

Barry Parr [] • 8/15/02; 10:32:41 AM
Barry, I ran Radio and switched to MT, and I found Radio to be quite fragile, constantly required repairs and tweaking, and totally lacking in basic security measures. Radio has several major flaws in the closed-source components that cannot be fixed unless Dave decides to fix them (and he won’t). MT on the other hand is quite robust, and has full source code accessible. Let me put it more clearly: Radio contacts the server and updates itself with patches every time you run it. Your machine is under Dave’s control. Suppose one day Dave’s server gets owned (again), your machine could now be compromised by a malicious patch. On the other hand, MT is written in Perl and the source code is available for your review. No code is installed except at your direction. Standard security protocols for MySQL, CGI, etc, are well known and MT runs in compliance with these best-practices. The MT community has been active in contributing improvements, some have been in corporated into the code, and now MT has a plugins structure to help coders enhance the base sw and still keep things manageable. The choice is simple, you can use proprietary closed-source Radio (and believe me, the flaws in the closed source model are all the more glaring in a company like Userland) or you can have MT and keep control over your own project.

Anonymous Zaphodim [] • 8/15/02; 12:02:40 PM
A very nicely written review. I currently use both MT and Radio for different blogs, although I intend to move off Radio whenever I can find a long weekend to play with converting what I already have.
One point that you don’t cover is that with MT, all the pain is upfront. With Radio, all the pain is downstream. Getting MT installed took me about an hour of very careful reading and doing, and it is easy to see how it could be screwed up, or not work. That said, you pay Ben and Meena your $20, and you don’t have to deal with it. After that it just works.
Radio, on the other hand, was easy to install, and very easy to start blogging with. I was seduced by the ease of installation and the number of features. However, the more I use it, the more unstable it gets. It crashes regularly on my computer, and has now twice corrupted its internal database, losing me several days of posts. I have given up adding any links or changing my template in any way, because everytime I do I run into serious problems that require hours to debug. I now back up all of my radio directory every day, and have had to use those backups a couple of times.

Tim [] • 8/15/02; 12:44:26 PM
While I don’t welcome Zaphodim using me to channel their vendetta, I do sympathize with Geodog. My Radio install has never crashed on me, but I’ve been using it less than a month of course. However, when you lose trust in the stability of a product, you stop putting your data into it. My sister had a Palm knock-off that never synched. What a nightmare. Anyway, if I had those problems I’d probably be discouraged too. Are you on a Mac or a PC?

As for “Radio contacts the server and updates itself with patches every time you run it,” I’m pretty sure you can turn off automatic updating of Radio.root, no? Can some more experienced UserLand-head correct me if I’m wrong?

xian [] • 8/15/02; 2:10:30 PM
Strikes me as a good review too. I have used Antville, MT and Radio, and found Radio perfectly OK, but offering no advantages, for me over Antville and/or MT. I recommend that you add Antville to your `must review’ list—it is a good product and a sensible entry in this market space.

That said, I appreciate the balance evident in your report even if I do occasionally disagree with your conclusions.

David Ness [DNess@Comcast.Net] • 8/15/02; 2:38:36 PM
Did someone say ‘zaphodim’?
Nice review, very informative. It’s interesting to see how the two vendors handle it. … That and the MT folks have an open forum for bug reports, feature requests, template tips and the like. The MT folks will even respond when their product can’t live up to user demands. Try that with UserLand and you’ll get a deafening silence; they won’t even reply! And if you get really frustrated with Radio and dare to complain you’ll be greeted with even more hostility! Dave will *personally* take action to block you from any further participation.
It’s nice to see MT evolve. If news aggregation is the only thing you’re missing by using MT then try using a product like Amphetadesk. Great stuff and has an equally cooperative developer. Or open a discussion with the MT folks and encourage them to implement news aggregation. They listen.

Zaphod Beebelbrox [] • 8/15/02; 3:27:21 PM
There’s a pref for turning off automatic software updates on this page — it’s the third checkbox. When unchecked, Radio will not install any software updates without being directed to do so by the user.

All of the source code that runs the Radio application’s UI and back-end ships with the application in readable and modifiable form. We’ve added extensive customization capabilities which you can take advantage of without any modification of the source code at all. What you can’t do is ship modified versions of Radio’s source code to other people, since that violates the end-user license.

Having said that, all sensible requests for new callbacks or other ways to extend or modify the Radio application will be seriously considered if posted to the radio-dev mailing list.

It’s worth noting that there are two built-in backup options, one which archives all of your posts as XML files, and one which keeps a local mirror of your rendered website (HTML files).

Another feature that’s not mentioned in your review: I’m not sure if MT tracks hits and referers, but Radio does this out-of-the-box. I think you’d have to add a 3rd-party hit-tracking or log-browsing tool to your server to get this in MT. Radio’s stats and referer tracking works even if you choose to host your Radio site on a non-UserLand server using the FTP option (or some other upstreaming method).

Last, a note about security: You don’t have to put your computer outside a firewall to access Radio remotely — you only have to open up HTTP on port 5335. You’d have to do something similar to run MT, except in that case it’s port 80. Radio uses HTTP Authentication to control access to your desktop website. (I don’t know what the Zaphodium is referrring to with “totally lacking in basic security measures”. That statement is untrue on its face.)

Jake Savin [] • 8/15/02; 3:30:52 PM
Thanks for filling in those gaps in my knowledge. I may promote some of this discussion to entry content to make sure people can see the give and take.

I think any company owner who puts his or her personality out online without hiding behind PR people deserves kudos, btw. I didn’t find Dave’s crit of my post to be in any way offensive. I invited corrections and additions. He is a passionate advocate of UserLand’s way of doing things. There’s nothing wrong with that. I also try to reveal my own biases. I’m enjoying learning about Radio as fast as I can, thinking about paying Salon and keeping this blog here, also considering using MT for some or all of my blogwork, and I admit that’s partly an aesthetic thing with the interface and the swooning and all.

Most of all, by saying X vs. Y I’m not trying to imply a deathmatch but just a side-by-side comparison. Not quite as sprawling and impersonal as a giant chart, but qualitatively lookin at the feature sets (and indirectly, what they say about how people like to do their blogs).

I’m not trying to suggest conclusions for anyone else, David Neff. So what’s this Antville you mention?

xian [] • 8/15/02; 4:05:42 PM
Movable Type is no more or less open source than Radio is. And I always get compliments on the support Jake and Lawrence provide on the discussion groups. I can’t help people personally right now for health reasons.

Dave Winer [] • 8/15/02; 4:49:32 PM
Dave, I would be curious for you to ellaborate on your comment that MovableType is no more or less open source then Radio. Being somewhat familar with both tools, I believe you are confusing open source with free (as-in-speech) software. MovableType is open source because *all* of its code is available for me to examine, fix and tweak. This is not completely the case with Radio. Like Radio, MovableType is not free software. Its license restricts its use and distribution without permission of Ben and Mena.

Timothy Appnel [] • 8/15/02; 5:52:57 PM
How is open source defined? Not as free, I thought, but by the GPL?

xian [] • 8/15/02; 7:51:03 PM