Time use and PHP

I finally need to teach myself PHP. I’ve held off because I am happy doing everything in Python, but for some of the stuff I want to do, Python really is too heavy-weight (maybe).

The two first PHP projects I’m doing to teach myself are related to entering info into a MySQL database. The first is for the department, a form for undergraduates to request that they be overloaded for particular classes. This represents a serious amount of work for our undergraduate advisor, and I agreed to take it on since it seemed like a relatively easy project.

The second is related to journaling my everyday activities. There is a huge literature on time-use, ranging from the differences among world cultures to the business measurement and time-and-motion studies since Taylor. There are regular panels at the meetings of the American Sociological Association devoted to time use.

What I’m interested in is ongoing time-use measurement, tracking, and indexing, and linking this to data and work. The trick is, for this to be usable it needs to be as unobtrusive as possible. For work on the computer, eventually I am thinking of something along the lines of a combination keylogger and classification system. I want to start small, though, and maybe allow for it to happen outside of the computer. For now, that means plaintext lists of what I am doing during the day.

But I want a web-based widget that allows me to indicate what I am working on at a particular time. I am leaning toward the web because although that requires that I be at a computer, it does allow me to be at any computer. The idea of using technology for doing these kinds of studies isn’t new. Previous studies have used bar codes for this, for example (see “Scanning Technology Can Improve Time-Use Studies”-pdf). I’m thinking something with buttons for common activities and a button for less common activities. Eventually, this would move to the client side and be, in some way, “context aware.” Eventually, this would be integrated with other parts of the file system and PIM.

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3 Comments

  1. Posted 11/4/2003 at 11:42 pm | Permalink

    but why php? wouldn’t mod_python work just as well in apache, then use the mysql class to insert to the db, no? not sure you need php to do this, not that php is hard to learn or anything, but it is the fall you know and all programmers get that winter ‘new language itch’ right about now, and it doesn hinder productivity a bit….. whistling something about irony and time studies…… heheh

  2. Posted 11/5/2003 at 12:02 am | Permalink

    Why PHP? I guess because it’s there. As you suggest above, these are mainly excuses to see why PHP is so popular. It seems like it’s pretty easy to learn, and it seems silly that I’ve never tried using it.

    Why not mod_python? That’s a good enough question, I guess. I’ve never used mod_python. I’m not much of a python programmer–or rather not much of a programmer, period–but it’s the language I am most comfortable in lately.

    One reason is that I don’t administer most of the web servers I use, which makes it simply a matter of availability: right now I would have to decide between PHP and CGI python. The latter has been fine for me… I may just use it.

    Or maybe I will put mod_python somewhere to play with it. I just worry about getting comfortable with a way of doing things that is not as ubiquitous as PHP seems to be lately.

  3. Posted 11/6/2003 at 10:34 am | Permalink

    don’t get me wrong, i like php, its fast and pretty good with objects, and its pretty much my prefered web language (i recently tried ruby on the web and wasn’t enthused) though i take ruby over python because i’m more familiar with ruby and i think the name is more appropriate(yadda yadda). if you are going to use php see if you can use pear or not, pear can save alot of time when you are getting used to php.

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