A Nerd Vent

I know I’m supposed to be all “dude, 2004 was awesome and here are 7,000 links to all the awesome stuff.”

Can’t do it. This is a geek entry. It shouldn’t make Leta less cute, though. Plus, Leta was born in 2004. That’s all you need to know, right there.

Anyway, I was going to write a big long message to the Movable Type Developer’s Network, because a certain hot-button issue came up for me. Namely, the way categories are used (and under-used) in Movable Type. Bear in mind that I have a headache, it’s late and I’m too lazy to go back through and change all the MT’s to Movable Type. If you see MT below, I meant to type Movable Type, but couldn’t due to holiday delirium.

Here’s what I was going to send:
I may have been a little glib about the category implementation, but I think the ability to have a template that is specific to a category (or group of categories) should be application-level functionality, not reliant on plug-ins. Regardless of philosophy about what the software does and where it’s going, the app [Movable Type] currently provides categories (and now sub-categories) as a way to display and sort content. It doesn’t allow for a very full range of options. As a result, brilliant plug-ins have been written to make up for the shortcomings of how Movable Type deals with categories. I just think it’s time for MT to step it up in this regard, and having spent three years using MT, it’s been my biggest hangup. MT has created such an enormous level of empowerment, I would love to see it get more powerful from the inside.

When we redesigned Dooce, we used a method described here to get the various category archives to render differently. My real-world reason for venting: what happens when a category is added? The main user (Heather) has to tell me she’s added a category and I have to go in and code all those includes and templates.

How should it work, then? When I make a new category, I should be able to assign an archive template to it. So for categories 1, 2, 4, 6, 8, 9 and 15 archives, use Template A. Categories 3, 5 and 10 use Template B. How sweet would that be? Everytime the user adds a category, they associate an archive template with it. My life would be awesome.

I know that TextPattern has something like this, but why doesn’t Movable Type?

What if I wanted to do a site that had nothing to do with publish date but relied solely on categorization for it’s architecture? I’d have to jump through some big hoops with MT to accomplish this, particularly if I wanted the app to build my navigation. Previous and Next entry within a specific category isn’t something that I can do very easily with MT, either. I believe this should also be core application functionality, particularly for large sites that have loads of categories.

The other major issue with categories being juiced would be having to not sweat plug-in breakage with every major upgrade. That the tutorial and methodology linked to above is dated 2003 speaks to the need for a hard look at categories and their functionality within MT. It’s not just the template per category issue, either. It goes deeper into the app. Let’s say I want to show lastn entries for a particular category on every page of my site. It won’t work without some major gymnastics. It shouldn’t be so hard.

Jay Allen, I was being cheeky in my earlier email. Chalk it up to too much eggnog and chocolate and Aunt Lola’s toffee. But categories, man. Categories. Kind of like in The Graduate where the guy says, “Plastics, Ben, Plastics.”

I’m now going to upgrade my cloak of invisibility to a level 30 and throw a 20-sided die to determine whether or not my gonads will remain attached or put in the freezer.