Every once and a while I discover things that I think are so relevant that I will share them here, even if they are not directly related to temples. The new LDSJournal.com website and service is one of those things. It stands out to me as something very useful and timely. (No, I wasn’t paid to post this.)
I saw an ad in an LDSLiving email about this website, and I was interested so I visited the site. I was immediately struck by how well put together the site is. The design and development of the site are top notch. It is rare these days to come across such a well-designed site, but congrats to the LDSJournal team for accomplishing the feat very well. I also appreciated the respectful use of quotes from the General Authorities on the subject of the importance of journaling, and other reasons why journaling might be beneficial to you spiritually, physically, and for your family history records on the “Why LDSJournal” page.
The website is an effort to help people, especially Latter-day Saints, with the “simple” task of keeping a journal. Of course, anyone who has tried to keep a journal knows that it is not so simple. It is easy to forget. It is hard to make the effort some days, especially when more people are getting used to typing or text messaging rather than handwriting. You lose your journal and have to find it. Where do you keep it so that it isn’t stolen, looked at, or damaged? How do you remind yourself? LDSJournal strives to relieve all these difficulties from the task of journaling, and to make it as simple and secure as possible. And on top of that, it is free.
How could it be free? Well, LDSJournal plans on adding an upgrade Gold member service that will have more storage, printing services, and DVD archival, that they will use to make their revenue. Seems fair to me. They also have a lot of ad space on their site that they might eventually turn over to third-party ads; right now they are only showing LDSJournal ads.
So what is LDSJournal? It is basically gives you a private blog, where you can record all your thoughts, experiences, trips, work, inspirations, insights, and anything else you would typically record in a journal for yourself in the future or your posterity. But this is all online. Some of the main features include:
- Secure – the website uses encryption to store your journal entries internally, encryption on sign in, as well as making the journal completely private, so no one has access to it but you. Although I did notice that once you are logged in there is no web traffic encryption. I wonder why? I also wonder if they will allow sharing capabilities in the future, for close friends and family. (Update (3/10/08): I’ve got a few questions answered. The web traffic once you are logged in is not encrypted, but they say that is the standard practice among many web-based email providers, and it also slowed down the service significantly. I know that some may still want this (as any reading or entering of entries is over an unsecured connection) Maybe it will be a feature that you can enable in the future if you want it.).
- Online – since it is online you can enter your journal entries whenever and wherever you can get on the internet.
- Mobile – you can even text your entries (and photos) into your journal by cell phone. The first time I tried to set up my cell phone I didn’t get a confirmation text back. Maybe it was because I didn’t put anything in the subject line the first time. (I’m looking for them to add Jott capability, or even just be able to email an entry into my journal. I tried setting up my regular Gmail address in the mobile settings, and my email bounced back.) (Update (3/10/08): They are looking into integration with Jott – a “Jott link”. Emailing in entries into your journal may be a paid feature in the future.).
- Footnotes – add photos, videos, links (easy linking to scriptures), etc. to your journal entries.
- Archival/Printing – this is one of the features that really grabbed me. I had checked out LiveJournal before (probably their biggest competitor), but the backup services they provide are slim. At LDSJournal soon you will be able to pay a small charge (around $19.95/year) and be upgraded to a Gold member and get your journal entries printed in a book and archived on DVD every year for safekeeping and reading offline. It looks like they may add a PDF export feature also. I wonder if they will provide an option for one-timers to get the book, DVD, or digital backup without becoming a Gold member. (Update 3/10/08: LDSJournal has informed me that users will be able to print their FREE LDSJournal to a bound book without upgrading).
- Reminder notifications – they will email you reminders on a customized basis to remind you to write in your journal.
- Themes/Skins – soon you’ll be able to make the site look just how you want.
So why use this site instead of a typical private blog (i.e. Blogger, WordPress, LiveJournal, etc.) to do your journaling? The biggest features to me are the simplicity and design of the site, the archival and printing services, and the features that they will add in the future geared specifically to journaling and to an LDS audience (such as easy linking to LDS scriptures). The reminder feature is also handy.
I’m a little confused about the “sealed entry” feature. More explanation of this feature is needed. The LDSJournal team says what this feature is for:
Sealed Entries – an entry that is created on the present day. It is one way in which LDSJournal attempts to provide journal integrity for members. This is most significant in the event users wish to use LDSJournal as a reference to validate that an event took place during a specific time period. (Update 3/10/08: the “sealed entries” feature is used to show that you actually wrote that entry on the same day the entry shows, and that it is not a post-dated entry. Interesting.)
In conclusion, this website looks like a great place to keep a journal. I think I’m going to try it. The site is still in “beta” so watch out for some loose ends.
Update 3/10/08: I’ve made some edits upon communicating with the LDSJournal team. Their response to user inquiries/questions is incredibly fast.