Yesterday’s Thoughts

February 2, 2005

Movable Type Categories

I am becoming more familiar with Movable Type. Basically I am satisfied with it, and it facilitates the process of publishing this blog, but here is what I consider to be an oddity.

Movable Type has categories. I think that I want this. I want it for myself, because I am using this blog partially as a personal information manager, replacing the bloxsom blog that I was using for that same purpose, and categories correspond to the paper folders, and computer folders and directories that I have been using for the past 20+ years. I also want categories for my readers. Some of what I have to say may be useful or interesting to others, but very few readers will care about all categories of what I have to say. Just because you are interested in Software, there is no reason to think that you are also interested in Triathlon, or Family Life, or Politics, so you should be able to read just those posts that are interesting to you.

There are two problems that I have discovered with Movable Type categories. First, when you assign a category, you don’t automatically enable an RSS feed from that category. I think that you should be able to subscribe to a feed from this blog that includes only a single category and ignore the rest. I am sure I can make it happen, but it doesn’t come free out of the box.

The second problem is more serious, and I may have to reconsider some of the things that I was planning to do with the blog. I want to have a hierarchy of categories. This post will (initially?) be in the category “Movable Type.” Movable Type is a subcategory of “Software.” This shows clearly in the category list on the right if you are looking at the current index page. I have selected “Movable Type” as the Primary Category. My expectation was that this would automatically tag this post as also belonging to the category “Software,” but it doesn’t. If I look at the Software category page, this post will not appear, unless I explicitly add Software as a secondary category.

Blosxom was based on directories, so the hierarchical categories came for free. Also, Blosxom would create a RSS feed for any file, so you could subscribe to any category, subcategory, or even an individual post. Having the automatically propagation of categories up the tree, is probably a precondition for have the ability to have a category level feed.

The way I have this blog set up, MT will store an entry with one category four places. There is a permanent store in the database, an entry that shows up on the root /blog/index.html page that will persist until I make an entry more than a week from now, an entry that shows up on the /blog/archive/software/movable_type/index.html page that will continue as long as I have that category and this post in that category and an entry on /blog/archive/2005/02/index.html. Each of the last three is generated automatically from the database entry whenever I add a new entry that will add to the same file, or when I change the templates or style sheet.

If I do my first inclination, adding additional categories, “Software” in this case, then the post is stored a fifth page, /blog/archive/software/index.html. This doesn’t seem to do what I want either, although it does make it possible to view all the entries related to software on a single page, which is one of my goals. I don’t know what happens when there are many entries in a single category, maybe there is a limit to the number of entries, but I don’t see a setting, which I would expect from everything that I see in Movable Type.

I think I would be satisfied with 1) having the subcategories included in the RSS feeds and 2) modifying the templates for the category pages so that the subcategories of the current category appear as links so that the user can drill down if required. I need to modify the template to add some navigation tools and other information to the category pages anyway.

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