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.