[kwlug-disc] Time tracking utility

Andrew Kohlsmith (mailing lists account) aklists at mixdown.ca
Tue Nov 1 09:23:05 EDT 2011


On Thu, Oct 06 10:25:05 AM Oksana Goertzen wrote:
> I was wondering if anyone could recommend a
> good time tracking utility?

(late to the party, but fashionably so, I hope).

I have struggled with this very problem for a while. My requirements are 
simple: I want to be able to enter time in a relatively human way, not be 
locked in to someone's app or backend service, and have my data stored on my 
own hardware.

I've tried a multitude of system tray utilities, desktop widgets, web 
services, iphone apps... you name it. They all failed, largely due to failing 
the "relatively human data entry" or not being available to me at any time, 
any where.

I ended up doing something a little unusual. I started using a service called 
Yammer. Yammer is essentially a company Twitter. It's private, unlike Twitter. 
I can enter data via their web interface, via their iPhone app, or even 
through an XMPP (aka Jabber or GTalk) bot. They allow me to subscribe to my 
own feed via RSS, so I can pull my data back into my own hardware via any RSS 
aggregator.

It isn't strictly a time tracker, but I use it as one thusly: "yesterday 
worked 9a-6p on $foo" or "3h on $bar" or "11h trying to figure out $baz for 
$quux."

Generating timesheets was a matter of going through the RSS feed with keyword 
filters. For me, that meant company or project names. A manual search is kind 
of disgusting, but it is easily scriptable when I have time to do it myself or 
money to hire someone to do it for me.

VERY human-centric data entry. Available damn near ANYWHERE. Data stored in my 
own hardware. Infinite flexibility in filtering and reporting. WIN!

Then Yammer started stinking. They changed their plans so I had to pay for RSS 
feeds. Their XMPP bot was unavailable 90% of the time. They didn't respond to 
support requests. Fail. I started looking for an alternative. I found it in 
Socialcast. Everything the same, different company. They even offer a twitter-
compatible API so I can use any app that can speak Twitter to enter my data. 
Back to winning.

I'm planning on expanding this use of a "feed" to create a messagebus similar 
to dbus. Basically I can write notes, reminders, todos, etc. and have an army 
of bots watching the feed and interpreting the data. so something like "pick 
up the kid @3p" will send me a reminder notification via XMPP or Growl at 2:30. 
"check oven +30m" will do something similar. "[ ] reschedule dentist appt" 
will create a todo. You get the idea.

I'm sick of having my data locked away in other people's formats and servers. 
I think I may have finally found something that works very well for me and is 
flexible enough to grow. If Socialcast also goes belly-up I can always set up 
my own twitter service and everything will just port over.

-A.



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