The Stinky Stench of Defeat

I have been using Movable Type since 2001. My good friend Daniel installed it on my server waaay back in the beta beginning when there was Ben and Mena in their living room and a handful of other testers. And I have remained faithful and devoted ever since, through thick and thin and Trackback spam.

But now with MT4 I just want to curl up and howl and wave the white flag. My host upgraded me a few weeks ago and everything seemed fine; I was loving the sexy new interface. Now I've got all these Server 500 errors with the comments and I have no idea why. It was working fine after the upgrade and then suddenly it wasn't.

(On that topic – if you leave a comment, you'll get the Error page, but your comment will be received by the database. It's just not publishing it or sending me the notification email. I can manually publish your comments later on though, so by all means, please say hello!)

I've been looking at new default templates and after years of bumbling and bluffing my way through the Land of MT I think I've finally reached the limit of my technical abilities. I just cannot wrap my head around these new templates; all the includes and widgets and nested whatnots. I thought I could swap my blog to the default templates and just tweak it to look like my current template – chuck in a banner image, throw in my sidebar info, fiddle with the fonts and colours. But I just cannae figure it out at all.

I created a dummy blog and imported my archives and then I got stuck. Everything seems so much more complicated now with a bazillion more files to edit. Where is the default stylesheet hiding? Which file do I need for the sidebar? How do I get this category pagination thing to work? And why have my old entries lost their SmartyPants formatting, curly quotes, etc?

I've looked online for some sort of template guidance to no avail – I remember when MT3 came out some lovely person did a great guide to disecting all the new templates for idiots. I'm crossing my fingers that an equally kind and brainy soul feels compelled to do this for MT4. Or… maybe everyone else has found the transition a walk in the park and the simple diagnosis is:  I'M A MORON.

For now my options are stay stuck with broken comments or whack up the boring default templates without any of my customisations, unless I miraculously become clever and/or blessed with ten gallons of spare time overnight. I couldn't be arsed switching to WordPress; it took me six years to feign a basic level of competence with MT. I just want to write stupid entries and chitty chat with the commenters and not think about the geeky stuff. Blah.

About Shauna Reid

Ahoy there! I’m Shauna, an author, copywriter and content mentor. I love telling stories about life and helping others to tell theirs.

Find out more about me and how we can work together – I’m now booking for January 2022.

31 thoughts on “The Stinky Stench of Defeat

  1. Hey, Shauna, I’m in exactly the same boat (kayak?) and I feel the same way. I was puttering along just fine with MT3.whatever and loving my site design all up to the point where I switched to MT4. I grew so frustrated with the templates that I just decided to keep my site in the default MT4 design.

    I’ve written an entry describing just how I feel about Six Apart’s lack of adequate documentation for MT4. It got the attention of Byrne Reese, the MT4 product manager, who wrote a nice long comment stating that he personally “waiting to see a little bit how things evolve” before making too much documentation available/editable. Did you know there’s a wiki for MT4, just the place where all sorts of users could come together and create the documentation you and I need about these template tags? Nah, nobody else does, either, and as a consequence the wiki is pretty much empty.

    I can only hope that Six Apart pulls their act together, or I’m going to ditch MT altogether for something like WordPress. Desperately seeking alternatives…

    (I hope the entry link above works; I’m having problems with my site too!)

  2. Me again – the thing that slags me off the most about MT4 is the lack of reasonable support. Six Apart have decided to position MT for “business blogging”, and they’ve expired our personal support subscriptions – so you and I can each now pay about US$50 for a year of tech support from them.

    MT3 had great support where they would answer your questions for free, and there was even a snappy forum where other users could actually help you solve problems. Remember that forum? It’s still there, but it’s in link-never-never-land as it’s not linked anywhere on the numerous MT4 websites. Sigh.

    Hang in there…

  3. oh kelly, thanks a bunch for your comments! and i liked your post too.

    you’ve hit the nail on the head re lack of documentation. i really see the new templates as a MAJOR change from MT3, and I thought there’d be more explanation of the changes – like they did last time they totally overhauled the templates.

    I did check out the 6A forum but it doesn’t seem as active and welcoming as it once was.

    cheers again πŸ™‚

  4. Thanks, Shauna! πŸ™‚

    I did a bit more digging and found this site for you – it might help you immensely with the MT4 crapulence. The site explains in a step-by-step way how to upgrade your MT3 site to use the new features of the MT4 templates. I might give this a try myself too πŸ™‚

  5. Shauny, give John Scalzi at Whatever an email shout. He too installed MT4, had it blow up, screw up the comments database, etc. but seems to have solved the worst of the problems now. Hard to believe that an upgrade, supposedly vetted through the beta process, could be this bad, eh, what?

    Good luck, whatever you choose to do.

  6. Actually dear Gordon, my host has a thingy where you can install WP in two clicks so i did so this evening. While it looks pretty good, it seems a little clumsy when you have shitload of entries. and when i imported my MT entries it didn’t bring in any of the 13,894 comments… d’oh!

    Weird that the MT comments are working again for no apparent reason… methinks I will just carry on for now…

  7. Hello.

    I stumbled upon your site and found this post so ironic…I also recently upgraded to MT4 and in doing so broke my archives. I am slowly figuring the templates out and making frequent backups before I change anything.


    Longing for the simpleness of MT 4

  8. Please, please don’t go to WordPress, unless you (or some minion of yours) spends time making it look pretty. Every site I’ve seen that runs WordPress looks like Arse.

  9. This is probably against the majority but I’ve NEVER had a problem with Blogger, only when I made stupid mistakes myself. Sorry, not much help with MT4.

  10. I quite LIKE my WordPress template, and I just went with one of theirs and didn’t change it. (tongue stick out at Lizz hehe). I especially like it today because the first entry shows this gorgeous top I just bought, which pretties up the page.

    I hope the comments continue to work, because changing everything would be a time consuming drag!

  11. As a devoted Shauny minion, I’d be glad to fix everything … if I knew how. I too am confuzzled by all this MT4 business. Didn’t know I’d turned into a doddering old drool-jaw before I hit 30.

  12. This is exactly why I’m in the middle of switching to WordPress. (although now I hope I don’t have the same issues that you’ve had with comments not importing)

  13. So with you – when Blogger introduced their fancy amendable templates I refused to join and am still on the old template, amendable by html, cos I can steal that from places but the widgets are too hard to figure out. It would take me a million hours just to get back where I started and what’s the point of that?!

  14. Whatho Shauna, just looking at your ‘metal milkshake cup making me homesick’ link-thang up to the left. Whenever this affliction comes calling, run straight into the nearest decent Indian restaurant and order a mango lassi. They tend to come in ice-cold, straight from the freezer, kill any feeling in your hands, metal beakers.
    Not only do you get your metal beaker fix, you get mango lassi, then, once in an Indian restaurant ordering drinks it would be madness not to eat anything, and my bolshie Indians pals have taught me how to refuse to eat with cutlery in an Indian restaurant, viz, it is ok to swim in the food, if anyone looks askance at you, fix them with a stare and declare ‘this is how we do it in Mother India, sunshine’. *sigh*, heaven. You know it makes sense.

  15. Like Loth, I don’t understand what you’re all saying, but: there, there. Anything that gets between Shauna and her fans is a Very Bad Thing.

    K had such a nice time with you and Rosemary on Friday, by the way! She says you’re lovely – which I entirely believe.

  16. Lizz — it’s not as though beauty is in the eye of the beholder, or anything… ;op

    Shauna — if the comments are working, just make sure you make a backup of your database, eh?

  17. Verity – shall do!

    Andrea – oh yes πŸ™‚

    Isabelle – ohh that is a relief to hear, cheers!

    Donalda – Mmmm, anything involving mangoes sounds like a good idea to me! πŸ™‚

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