WordPress, Six Apart silences and communities

Adam Tinworth
Adam Tinworth

The company that was Six Apart is gone. The name and Movable Type are ensconced in Japan, Vox is dead and Typepad is part of SAY Media. It seems an appropriate time for a post-mortem, and that’s just what former Typepad and Movable Type product manager Byrne Reece has done in a long, insightful and revealing post on his own blog. Between the post and the fascinating discussion in the comments, much that happened in the blog platform war of the mid-2000s is captured for posterity, and there’s a whole bunch of lessons in there for today’s web companies. It’s probably about the last word that needs to be said about the fall of Six Apart.

However, there’s one thing I’d like to add, my own bugbear, if you like, that I believe contributed to its fall.

For a company that was, apparently, all about supporting bloggers, it was awful at blogging. Truly, truly awful.

Compare and contrast the posting rate on the Six Apart blogs and the Automattic ones. The main Six Apart blog managed a grand total of 10 posts in the whole of 2010.  Movabletype.com? 8 posts. Movabletype.org? 16 posts. The Automattic product blogs produce posts at a feverish rate.  The most direct comparison would be wordpress.org/movabletype.org. 38 plays 16. That’s quite a difference. And if you take a moment to compare the posts, you’ll see a world  of difference in tone.

And yes, I think this matters. It makes your product look vibrant and alive. It makes it look as if you like your product enough to use it and enjoy using it. And it makes your community feel cared about. A blogging company that doesn’t blog has gone seriously wrong somewhere down the line.

I’ve no idea how or why Six Apart lost its blogging mojo – and find it interesting that SAY Media seems to have it back – but I’d love to know what happened.

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Adam is a lecturer, trainer and writer. He's been a blogger for over 20 years, and a journalist for more than 30. He lectures on audience strategy and engagement at City, University of London.