Back in December 2007, Six Apart announced that the Movable Type (MT) blogging system was going open source. The move was greeted with enthusiasm, but the momentum never really seemed to build from that point. Now a group of ex-Six Apart staff and other MT enthusiasts have taken matters -- and the code -- into their own hands. Say hello to Open Melody. Let's have a look.

The Open Melody Team

It struck us as odd when in 2008 the hyper dedicated Movable Type product manager, Byrne Reese, was laid off from Six Apart. Times were indeed bad, but Byrne was the face of Six Apart in the MT community. It was news that caused some head scratching.

So it came as no great surprise when back in January we caught wind of Melody, with Byrne and a few other bright lights at the helm.

With today's announcement, the key Melody contributors include:

  • Byrne Reese -- former MT product manager
  • Jay Allen -- former MT product manager
  • Tim Appnel -- Founder, The Appnel Group
  • Dan Wolfgang -- MT consultant
  • Jesse Gardner -- Founder Plastic Mind Design
  • Su -- prolific community member and MT consultant

Open Melody Derives Directly from MTOS

Movable Type Open Source (MTOS) 4.2x is the starting point for the Open Melody project. The main difference one will find from the outset is the community oriented process for managing the product roadmap.

This particular point seems to be, from what we see, the main reason for the Melody fork -- MTOS is indeed an open source product with a public repository, but the roadmap decisions for the MT product were not made in a very public fashion.

The project founders assert that Melody is distinct from Movable Type by "having put in place a set of processes that assist the greater Movable Type and Melody communities to contribute features, changes and fixes more freely and quickly back to the core product."

What Melody Isn't

This is one of the first points to note. MTOS does not have all the features of what is called Movable Type Pro, and therefore, neither does Melody.

Learning Opportunities

Of particular note is the Custom Fields functionality. This feature of MT Pro allows administrators to define additional attributes for system objects and content entities. You can most easily think of this as GUI-based content type extensibility. It's important and has become nearly standard issue for web content management systems.

Melody is also not MT Enterprise. This means that if you need advanced user and group management, LDAP support or support for databases like Oracle and MS SQL Server, you had better look elsewhere. The same goes for professional support services with an SLA. They are not to be found for the moment, but it would not surprise us if they develop. Revenue models have surely been discussed and support is going to bubble up to the surface quickly.

How Far Are They Forking?

The talk is all friendly and warm thus far. And there are good reasons -- like retaining plug-in support -- for keeping Melody feature, architecture and API compatible with Movable Type. But we'll see how that plays out. After all if a lack of community engagement and transparency for roadmap decisions drove this group to create Melody, then there seems little promise of future compatibility. Cords were apparently crying to be cut.

With that said, long time Six Apart evangelist, Anil Dash, has agreed to join the board of advisers for the project, which bodes well for all involved. And Movable Type founder, Ben Trott, has given a friendly introduction to Melody on the Six Apart website. It sounds warm 'n fuzzy, but time will tell.

Looking Ahead

There is no official release of Meloday today. What we have is a team, a formal organization to manage the processes, a code repository and no doubt a lot of good ideas. Early speculation has release 1.0 arriving this Fall, but first up is a call for community members to participate in building and finalizing the feature set.

MT fans, Open Melody is your nearly blank slate. Come on down and get involved.