Visualization for Flow / Interruption

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webwright

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Jan 21, 2008, 11:40:51 PM1/21/08
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So here's what we have at RescueTime (http://www.rescuetime.com)....
A pile of happy users who have installed a small data collector on
their Mac and PC. The app creates a mess of XML files detailing the
IN FOCUS app or site activity of the user... Basically, a complete
and thorough attention-stream record of the user. Neat huh?

This gives us vast, vast piles of data.

We've so far given the users very simple visualizations of this data
(sums of individual app/site usage in a particular date period--
viewable by hour, day, week, month, etc-- basically a bunch of bar
charts). We allow users to tag/label individual apps/sites and report
on those as well (so you could see your "comm" time, which might
consist of gmail, gtalk, and thunderbird).

Our users have overwhelmingly expressed interest in better
visualizations for "flow" and interruptions/distractions. We're eager
to provide this, but I'm very concerned about complex
visualizations... Our users aren't necessarily stats geeks and
esoteric charts will likely confuse folks.

So, can anyone thing of any elegant ways to show "flow"? FWIW, I'd
describe flow as the movement between app/site groupings (as defined
for the user). For me, the major groupings are work, comm, and
waste--- but we allow our users to tag/group apps/sites however they
like.

Sérgio Nunes

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Jan 22, 2008, 3:36:44 AM1/22/08
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When you mentioned "flow" I immediately thought of Lee Byron's work on
music history visualization.

http://megamu.com/work/listeninghistory/leebyron

Bryan Bishop

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Jan 22, 2008, 8:09:22 AM1/22/08
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On Monday 21 January 2008, webwright wrote:
> So, can anyone thing of any elegant ways to show "flow"?  FWIW, I'd
> describe flow as the movement between app/site groupings (as defined
> for the user).  For me, the major groupings are work, comm, and
> waste--- but we allow our users to tag/group apps/sites however they
> like.

Maybe work flow, like the UML craze that existed a while back for
software engineering? For that I might point you towards
http://graphviz.org/ but they do not specialize in necessarily large
datasets.

- Bryan
________________________________________
Bryan Bishop
http://heybryan.org/

eisen...@gmail.com

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Jan 22, 2008, 3:03:52 PM1/22/08
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I'm not sure if it's exactly what you're looking for, but you may be
able to capture flow/interruptions by graph the cumulative time a
person spends focusing on a task over time. When active, the line for
a particular application would slowly increase, but it would plateau
whenever a person moved to a different program and broke the flow. The
line for the flow-breaking app would then start to increase. A single
graph like this could show the user how much time they're sending on
each app, whether they're working continuously or in stops and starts,
and which programs tend to interrupt their flow.

If this is at all confusing, let me know and I'll be happy to mock it
up for you.

I think RescueTime is a great idea. Good luck with it!

Noah
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