Ping’s Thesis – From Diary to Graph

Yesterday I wrote about the inaugural QS Show&Tell, where the very first show-and-teller, Ka-Ping Yee, stood up and explained that he had been tracking most of his activities over the last three years. (I didn’t want to use his name or link to his entry until I asked permission, which he quickly granted.) Below is a chart of a recent period.

thesis-timeline.pngThe orange is writing and the grey is sleep. (He was working on his dissertation at the time.) The large gap on the left hand side is when he went to burning man. Ping collects this data using a widget he wrote. There is a text box in the upper right hand side of screen, and he simply keeps a brief log of his activity. He writes a few words, and a time stamp is automatically added. Duration is calculated by subtracting the time one activity began from the time the subsequent activity began. He can edit the text, which allows him to note activity that takes place away from the computer; he just catches up on his list when he’s back. And by using some keywords – for instance, “fun” – in the text, he can easily write a script to graph the allocation of his time.

I liked this idea, because it permits Ping to log his actions in normal written language, but also allows him to gather data and graph it. No natural language processing AI needed!

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3 Responses to Ping’s Thesis – From Diary to Graph

  1. Gary Wolf says:

    Thanks Ping for sharing your data!

  2. Jessica Mullen says:

    I love using RescueTime ( for monitoring what I do on the computer. I’ve thought about adding “programs” to run while I’m away from the computer to track offline time as well, or perhaps an iPhone app. Ping’s work sounds like a Twitter+RescueTime–very cool!

  3. ad7am says:

    For monitoring your own computer usage in OS X, the freeware Active Timer ( works fantastic for me.
    • Small, lightweight app
    • Tracks time on a per window basis
    • Preference to enable/disable idle detection
    • Can export to csv file
    I’ve been using it for years. And yes, it’s FREE.

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