Six Apart’s Problem?

Whenever I search for some plugins on MovableType community, I constantly run into the great plug-ins by Byrne Reese. The plugin that is in my head is AutoLink. I am thinking about installing it tonight. However, when I just browse the articles on Byrne’s website, I stumbled upon an article dated back to December 5, 2008: A sad departure from Six Apart and looking to the future. Byrne left the company? It was from that entry did I understood that Six Apart has done 8% layoff in November 2008.

I Do Care about Six Apart

Long time readers of this blog may understand my love to MovableType and its creator, Six Apart. Without MovableType, I am very sure I won’t have started blogging 7 years ago, and won’t write for 7 years. My blog started just as a test drive of MovableType in 2002, and my first entry of this 7 year old blog was exactly about my experience of installing the software: < href="">MovableType Successfully Installed on Windows XP. In the last 7 years, I used MovableType more often than Windows. I open MovableType everyday, and I even don’t do so for Windows (I also used Unix system).

I still remember my first visit to Six Apart office by introduction of Chris (CEO of at that time, and later became CEO of Six Apart), met Mena and Ben, and visited the office many times later. I also enjoyed hosting my friends Ginger and Seki in Shanghai.

My friends in Six Apart treated me so well. On for 5th Anniversary of blogging, the whole Six Apart team had a wonderful celebration party for me, and Ginger brought me to see baseball game at AT&T Park.

It would be fair to say, I am a hard-core MovableType fan, friend of the company, and the person who cares about this company a lot.

My Thoughts about Six Apart

From the upgrade of MovableType from 3.x to 4, my direct feeling is Six Apart is losing its focus, and slips to the wrong direction. I said, MovableType 4.2 is disappointing after I had been expecting it for a long time. But that is not the key problem. I just feel Six Apart is doing too many things at the same time, and now, MovableType is no longer the focus of the company. I am very sure that my friend in Six Apart will argue that MT is still the most important product, but importance is really measured by resources put into it.

I read about Chris’ post about Changes of Six Apart:

This year was one of profound growth and change for Six Apart. In addition to welcoming almost 90 new people and growing to a company of over 200 employees, we launched Six Apart Services, Six Apart Media,, Movable Type Open Source and MT Pro, a suite of TypePad-powered products, including Blog It, Blog Link, the TypePad iPhone app and TypePad AntiSpam, and reached the final stage of the biggest technical project in the company’s history: the migration of TypePad onto a new platform. And, as you all know, we aren’t done yet, with several of our most significant product releases still to come this year.


Let me count the initiatives:

  1. 90 new people (almost double) in one year
  2. Six Apart Services
  3. Six Apart Media
  5. MovableType Open Source
  6. MT Pro
  7. Typepad-powered products
  8. Migration of the Typepad platform

I believe this was just the new initiative in 2008, and there are many lasting projects accumulated from as early as 2002 when the company was formally founded. All those projects need maintaining resources.

Among all the initiatives, I think I personally have most concern toward Six Apart Services, and Media. Although it is where revenue comes from, but don’t forget about the cost side of the equation. Any company has its unique DNA. Who founded the company? What is the story? Who hired the first 10 people? What format the company meeting is? All these small details makes a company unique, and optimized for one particular task. Simply put it, I don’t think the same group of people who build blogging software can do service well, or sell advertisement well, or the other way. The result is either a hard-core engineering team building great software + a so-so advertising and services team (the best possible situation), or a diluted so-so engineering team + a so-so advertising/services team (most possible).

That is the reason why Ben can ship MovableType 1.0 with one person, and now 200 people shipped MovableType 4. Don’t get me wrong. MovableType 4 IS great in many aspect, but I am just talking about the ratio of resources put into it, and the outcome. Till now, I still think MovableType 3.2 is the best blogging software in the world – I still have my Chinese blog, and my friends’ blog running on it. MT 4 is great in functionality, but the core is not about functionality for many people, it is about simplicity, reliability, and speed, which I think MT 3.2 is better.

In tough times, it is even more important to keep focus. My personal bias is, Six Apart was a great technical company and should remain to that core. I know everyone faces revenue challenges, but doing engineering is the most cost-effective way to run a company, isn’t it? Saving the cost of expansion to other business also means moving toward profit.

I Still Stand on the Side of Six Apart

Although I have some pretty harsh comments about my great friends there, I want to make it clear that it was just because I care the company so much. I want to see a successful company, and my best wishes goes to Six Apart from Shanghai, China.

2 thoughts on “Six Apart’s Problem?

  1. Joseph

    I think that the open sourcing of Moveable Type means that it’s now their legacy. Sure, there’s still a pro version, but the Pro version is more about support than it is about features. New releases of Pro, I’m sure, will be built from the Open Source edition, and obviously there’s hope that many people will contribute to it. Perhaps users like you?

    I think they bought Apperceptive because of their devotion to Moveable Type, and their client base. This brought Services into the mix, which is going to be profitable. Apperceptive must have been profitable, or Six Apart would have never considered moving in that direction. Why should this nobody company with big clients get all the credit for developing custom MT blogs? The answer, it shouldn’t. My theory is that Six Apart saw the need to keep their own branding by purchasing them. Media was a natural progression once they had Services. Why farm out ads to someone else? Offer a full solution to your customers.

    Typepad is something that started jsut a few years after Moveable Type. From what I know of it, it’s more or less a glorified hosted MT, so I don’t see this as problematic. Features from TypePad probably make it back into MT in some regard…

    Typepad Migration. Everyone outgrows an initial system eventually. Maybe that’s what’s up with that. Ultimately, it seems as though Six Apart is still on par with what it’s always done best, and I like you, hope that continues.

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