Sun 09 Sep
For the time being, I’m sticking with Movable Type as the publishing system for Subtraction.com as well as A Brief Message. It’s not that I’m still enamored of it; as anyone who’s been patient and persistent enough to post remarks on my posts lately (thank you, by the way) will attest to, my particular installation of Movable Type is often painfully slow, and the version that I’m using, 3.33, gets longer in the tooth every day.
I’ve complained about this before, but the reason I’m staying put is that the switching cost is too high for me at the moment. I just can’t imagine investing the time necessary to re-create these templates in another publishing system; that’s a project for when I get laid off. I’m also holding out hope that a coming revision to its promising but not quite ready for prime time fourth version will modernize Movable Type sufficiently that switching to a competing package will offer fewer advantages. I still maintain that going over to WordPress would be trading in one set of problems for another (I know there will be many people who disagree with me on that point).
In the meantime, to ameliorate the situation, I was fortunate enough to be able to get some help from fellow blogger and friend Matt Jacobs, who is something of a Movable Type jockey (Matt is employed by my friends at Apperceptive, who are responsible for some of the most ambitious Movable Type projects anywhere). I’m all thumbs when it comes to working on the server side of the equation, so it was great to have Matt help me make some critical changes to my set-up that, hopefully, will result in some speed gains.
Comments are the linchpin, of course, and most of the work he did focused on reigning in the regular assault of junk comments fired at Movable Type every day and that in turn bog the system down. Matt deleted the thousands of comments held up in Movable Type’s junk pile and optimized the MySQL database powering it, which hopefully cleared out enough cruft to help the system run a little faster.
He also installed BlogJanitor, a plug-in that can automatically close comments on posts of a specific age. So, as of now, posts older than thirty-days will be shut down to new comments. For those of you who go on holiday for longer than thirty days at a time and miss out on your chance to add remarks, you have my sympathies.
Finally, Matt recommended TinyTuring, a plug-in that requires a CAPTCHA-like validation before comments can be posted. It’s as simple a test as you can ask for: just manually enter the randomly selected character specified by the one-line instruction that appears at just before the “Submit” button. You can see that in action now at the bottom of this page. I was reluctant to add further complexity to my comments form, but I’m desperate enough to stamp out comment spam that I’m willing to give it a try.
Hopefully with these changes, you’ll notice some meaningful improvement in comment speed. I admit though that none of these efforts are likely to help this site break any records for responsiveness. That’s because I suspect, when it comes down to it, the biggest speed culprit is the server itself; these sites are served by Dreamhost, and are therefore undernourished in terms of processing power. One day, I’ll move everything over to a dedicated box, one day…