MT Community Solution: Blogs Meet Forums 2.0

mt.jpgSixApart has launched a new version of the their Movable Type (MT) blogging platform, Movable Type Community Solution (MTCS) that takes blogging into the realms of forum hosting, with some nice 2.0 touches.

Other sites have reported that the new version is something akin to a Ning competitor, but this isn’t the case. I asked Six Apart’s VP Anil Dash exactly what we are looking at

MTCS is about rescuing the huge parts of the web that are still suffering under circa-1997 technologies. I call it the “Dark Web” — all these conversations that are taking place on bulletin boards, forums, and message boards, but they don’t have any of the usability or identity benefits of modern web technologies. And that’s leaving aside niceties like good URLs (for Google indexing) and tagging and rich media support. I mean, you just don’t see a forum where you can easily upload video or audio assets, for example.

MTCS generates a member profile for every user in a system, providing a profile page that shows commenting, interactions etc, but Dash says that isn’t the exciting part:

If I look at your profile, and the only conversations you’ve inspired are flame wars, it’s easy to know you’re not a valuable contributor. But to the contrary, if every comment or post you write gets marked as a favorite, then I can start to think about promoting you (using MT4’s built-in permissions system) to be an author or administrator, either on the forums or on other blogs in the system. Maybe you can even make static content pages. (Just imagine, instead of having to “pin a post” at the top of a forum to define policy, you can just *make a policy page*. So obvious, but such an improvement.)

The cross action integration is where SixApart feels that MTCS excels:

Upload a user picture for yourself, and it’s stored (and tagged) in MT4’s built-in asset management system. Vote for something as a favorite, and it shows up on the MT4 dashboard as favorite content, so other authors know it’s what the community is looking for. And best of all, administration and community participation features are separate, as they’ve always been in blogging tools — that fixes the problem forums have always had of trying to shove administration and management tools into the user-facing part of the site.

MTCS supports third party widgets (SixApart is a member of OpenSocial) and OpenID comes as standard.

Dash emphasized that MTCS is a “serious commercial product.”

It’ll likely cost a few thousand dollars to start, and the target audience is serious, large-scale communities like media companies, major brands, educational institutions, and intranet/enterprise deployments. I suspect that smaller independent sites will mostly grab a small number of free plugins that reproduce some of this functionality on a smaller scale and use that with the free version of MT if they are price-sensitive.

A demo forum running MTCS can be found here. A number of other sites, including Gothamist, BoingBoing and SeriousEats are already using some of the functionality including commenter profiles and recommendation tools.