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Sept. 21, 2012, noon
Reporting & Production

First look: Spundge is software to help journalists to manage real-time data streams

It’s like Evernote for TweetDeck for Google Reader for WordPress.

Many power users of Twitter consider TweetDeck essential for managing multiple streams of data. Once you adapt to its overwhelming user interface, the software becomes essential. And addictive.

Spundge logoImagine being able to add more real-time sources to TweetDeck — RSS feeds, Facebook, Flickr, YouTube — and you have something like Spundge, a web app that launches in public beta today. The software is being marketed initially to journalists and is being tested inside a few news organizations.

“The problem is today’s journalist has to use too many products and applications to do their job, and very few of these were actually built with newsrooms or journalistic workflow in mind,” said Craig Silverman, the corrections guru who is working with Spundge to help develop the product for journalists.

“Spundge is a platform that’s built to take a journalist from information discovery and tracking all the way to publishing, regardless of whatever internal systems they have to contend with,” he told me.

A user creates notebooks to organize material (a scheme familiar to Evernote users). Inside a notebook, a user can add streams from multiple sources and activate filters to refine by keyword, time (past few minutes, last week), location, and language.

Spundge extracts links from those sources and displays headlines and summaries in a blog-style river. A user can choose to save individual items to the notebook or hide them from view, and Spundge’s algorithms begin to learn what kind of content to show more or less of. A user can also save clippings from around the web with a bookmarklet (another Evernote-like feature). If a notebook is public, the stream can be embedded in webpages, à la Storify. (Here’s an example of a notebook tracking the ONA 2012 conference.)

The software is free, but an optional $9 monthly fee adds premium features, including the ability to share notebooks with collaborators, who can also add to the notebook and see changes in real time. Quartz, The Atlantic’s new business vertical, is the first news organization to become a paying customer, Silverman said. (Notebooks are perfect for a reporter’s beats or, as Quartz calls them, obsessions.) Silverman said The Guardian and JRC’s Project Thunderdome are also experimenting with the platform.

Say you’re a reporter for the Las Vegas Sun covering the razor-thin Senate race in Nevada. You might set up filters to look for any items mentioning “Berkley” or “Heller” or “poll” or “attack ad.” Your editor can join the notebook as a collaborator and add items you might have missed, or monitor your findings for story ideas.

Premium users can also compose stories in Spundge. Drag and drop items from the notebook into the text window for easy blockquoting and footnoting. The software hooks into WordPress for publishing, though Silverman said Spundge is not meant as a CMS replacement.

“I need something like three different apps running on my computer just to do that important job of tracking and surfacing information. Then I have to use other products to collect and organize the information I want to save. And I have yet another product or two I use two write and publish,” Silverman said. Spundge is meant to be an “end-to-end” solution to that problem, he said.

POSTED     Sept. 21, 2012, noon
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