The big news in blog application ville is that Moveable Type has upped their pricing which seems to be freezing out a number of university blogging teachers who had set up multiple sites for their students. So I think it’s time to make another pitch for Manila.
Now I know it’s not an open source alternative which many are espousing, and I know that universities are more willing to go down that road. But from a public school perspective, it’s still just not an option for most. So, what about Manila? Educational license is $400 year for as many sites as your server will hold. We’re running a couple of hundred with no problem, and conceivably we could run as many as a couple of thousand. In the past year since we installed it, we’ve had only one or two instances where the server went down for more than just a few moments. (Frontier, the server software Manila runs on, has a cute little “keep it running” feature that automatically restarts it if something crashes.) In other words, it’s been very, very stable with regular maintenance.
The power and flexibility of the software is self-evident, it’s easy to use (at least as easy as MT,) Userland is showing some new energy in developing it, it has widespread implementation, and it’s got a great theme artist cranking out good stuff on a regular basis. It’s a great tool. And you can try it for free here.
No, it’s not perfect, and there is still a lot of work that Userland has ahead of it. But I think it’s still a great alternative to MT. Just my two cents…
Liz Lawley says
In many cases, professors have to start on their own in order to do a proof-of-concept for an institutional implementation. So having something they can install in their own web space is critical.
For me, there’s also the fact that I want to teach my students to install and configure server-side programs, not just to customize displays.
That, plus my commitment generally to open source, makes Manila a lot less attractive. I think Mark Pilgrim (diveintomark.org) did the best job of discussing the open source issues here.
At the moment, I’m leaning heavily towards WordPress, but I’m also planning to play around with Drupal this summer.
Sam D says
Actually I am thinking about WordPress as well in the ed setting. I am going to play around with porting my homework hotlyn set of tools to it over the summer. Looking at other ideas for plugin style modules for teacher use, at least initially then looking toward student needs.
I think one advantage that this might have is the portability of the PHP/mySQL or PHP/some db combination might have for school settings. Not to say I am looking to abandon Frontier, but I would like teachers and schools to have more options that tailor themselves a little more. Any one have a grant that would like some development help with? I know some great developers that would love to take a paycut and do some education work.
Tom Hoffman says
I don’t see why you think installing open source applications in schools is problematic. If they’d require a Linux server, that would be a problem in Windows shops, but your standard PHP/MySQL CMS should run fine on Windows. PHP/MySQL is a more common platform than Manila’s proprietary scripting language and object database.
UserLand’s viability as a company is seriously in question. To grow and become profitable they will almost certainly have to raise their prices and focus on bigger corporate clients. They’ll probably maintain discounts for schools, but selling $400 licenses to public schools is an afterthought, not a business plan. And if they go under, you’re totally screwed.
People should look at Manila if they need the unique features it provides. If MT does more or less what you want it to do, and you don’t want to keep using version 2.x forever, you should make the safer move to a CMS with a license that will protect you: WordPress, Drupal, etc.
Will R. says
I have no objections to open source per se, but it’s a psychological shift (and a personnel shift) that needs to happen before our school at least goes that way. No one will support anything open source right now, and I could give you a list of reasons, most based on lack of experience I’m sure.
Terry Elliott says
The solution I have always sought but never achieved is to run a CMS on my own server from my home. WordPress is really still in alpha, Drupal sounds great, but the learning curve for me is too steep, so what do I do? Since I don’t have Tom Hoffman’s skill it’s all problematic. I just lucked up and got Tom Clifton to do my Manila hosting for me. Manila works for me, but I think the tech level probs are not to be underestimated beings as every school in my state is a Windows shop.
Tom Hoffman says
But in the case that Will originally addressed, Movable Type users looking for a switch, those users can probably manage the Drupal install if they got MT running, and they’ve been getting by without Manila’s features.
I agree with Will’s point about the difficulty in getting others to adopt open-source software alternatives. I am fortunate enough to have a web server running in my classroom, but that has its own challenges. We run the school site on old hardware, so it runs scripts rather slowly. I tested Manila/Frontier at the beginning of the year, but it rendered pages very slowly (I didn’t know much about configuring IIS to serve the static pages at that point). As I have my students refer to the site for classroom activities, it was not feasible to load 30 pages at once.
We switched to MT because it will render static pages that can be viewed quickly. Unfortunately, with about 200 entries, it takes a l-o-n-g time to write to the db and render the pages. I have also tried Drupal, b2evolution, Pivot (my tool of choice at the moment), WordPress, etc. With php-based solutions, I run into the lag time that I had with Manila.
For me it comes down to speed (reader convenience) vs. tools (author/admin convenience). They are not mutually exclusive, but it is difficult to find that balance.