March 29, 2010

LedeLog: Google Apps Hosted Media Workflow, Launches

In what Google's Brett Slatkin termed a "small foray into productivity software", the developer best known for his work on the PubSubHubbub protocol released a note-taking application for journalists and researchers, featuring rich text, tagging and built-in privacy controls that keep notes available only to the creator. The product, titled LedeLog, runs on Google's cloud infrastructure, and auto-saves progress every ten seconds, so vital notes don't get lost. As simple as it sounds, it is robust enough to serve not just for its intended audience, but it looks like the beginning of new word processing or blog authoring tools. In fact, just for testing purposes, I authored this post on LedeLog.

The product's name derives from journalist's use of the term "Lede", which refers to the lead paragraph in any story, and says it is built for the workflow of modern journalists - but could work for anyone who wants to take down notes and save drafts with tags that are searchable.

This Post, Being Authored In LedeLog

When I am interviewing somebody for a story, or dictating notes in a meeting or event, I tend to simply open Apple Mail and tap out my data there - a byproduct of my getting used to older blog platforms from yesteryear that lost my data if the Web browser froze (although Blogger autosaves now). This results in an undesirable list of untitled drafts in my draft messages folder, sorted only by date - certainly without any tags. Going back a full decade to my time at the Daily Californian at UC Berkeley when I was a reporter in college, I similar wrote out my notes in Nisus Writer, an archaic word processing system for the Mac. It's highly likely that many journalists today, provided they aren't using a pen and paper, are typing out their notes in Microsoft Word - so you can forget about tagging or searching those documents. LedeLog, though new and raw, could be an interesting alternative.

For any journalist who wants to keep their sources secure and their notes safe, LedeLog is a step above saving any of that content on a local disk. LedeLog "ledes" are saved in the Google cloud (I assume powered by AppEngine, where Brett spends most of his time), and are accessible only through one's Google Account or OpenID.

Searching LedeLog by Tag and Discovering This Post

Unlike many startup projects, which release in beta with no users, it sounds like LedeLog has already proven itself in the field. Its description in the Google Apps Marketplace says "LedeLog has been in constant use by professional journalists since January 2009." The Marketplace description also says the product is free for the next three months and may have further pricing information after that point. Including the product in the Google Apps Marketplace, in the document management category, enables companies who have set up Google Apps for their domain to deploy LedeLog for their users.

The media hasn't been given too many helping hands of late, and LedeLog isn't designed to make unprofitable businesses profitable again. But it is a very handy tool for note-taking, search and security. It's another peek into a world without Microsoft Office, where documents can be created in the cloud and shared outward. Every LedeLog can be e-mailed to an external address, such as an editor. Brett's initial notes on the product suggest in can handle the management of hundreds of Ledes easily. You can give it a shot at