Major Release: Time to Put out some Fires!

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I remember seeing this little gem on Twitter many months ago and @inem recent retweeted it.  The original fellow probably had no idea how much it’s been a call to action for us!

We’re incredibly excited to announce that we’re ready to start putting out some fires and that individuals and teams can now choose to make RescueTime a bit more of a harsh mistress.  This is a huge release for us, so I’ll start with a quick summary list of what’s in the release and then I’ll add a list of screenshots to illustrate some of the fabulous stuff in this release.

The Big List of What’s New

  • We now have near real-time alerts– right on your Desktop. Set a limit of how much time you want to spend on a particular activity and RescueTime can instantly nudge you when you exceed that limit (we’ll even tell you how much your average coworker is spending on that activity).  This is our first step at giving you the option to make RescueTime a “harsh mistress”.  We often liken the power of RescueTime to the ability to look at how you spend money with apps like Mint or Quicken.  Now imagine if Mint could send you a quick text message RIGHT BEFORE you’re about to spend money at a place you’re trying to avoid spending too much money in! (note: this is a premium feature)
  • Tags are officially gone. We broke down our reasoning here if you’re curious.
  • SEARCH. Now that RescueTime has the option of tracking documents within many applications, getting at the data you care about has gotten more challenging.  Now you can just type in an application name, document name, or site name in the search box.  In times past, if you wanted to know how much time you spent on Google related activities, you had to tag everything googly and then look at that report (dozens of clicks!).  Now you could just type “google” into the search box to get a report for anything matching that in the URL.
  • Graph Widgets for your site/blog/favorite dashboard. Every single RescueTime time data graph can be embedded into any HTML page that allows you to drop in a JavaScript snippet.  Are you worried about people getting buried in email?  Embed the email graph onto your company’s internal blog/wiki to keep people aware of email.  Making a public commitment to reduce your Twitter addiction?  Add your Twitter graph to your blog to hold yourself accountable!
  • A brand new categorization system. Previously, categories were a bit sparse and sometimes maddeningly hard to use.  We’ve refreshed our categories (with a nested category system) and have made the user experience for adding/editing categories worlds easier.
  • Great default categories and scores.  Much of the value of RescueTime really only manifested when you took the time to label and rank things– which is a timesink (ironic, no?).  Henceforth, all apps and sites will be categorized and scored based on the majority “vote” (you can always override it).  This removes most of the ongoing burden and makes the lives of our new users much easier.  Rejoice!
  • Numerous UI/UX improvements. We pored over all of the feedback we’ve gotten over the past months and attacked all of the confusing bits that we could find.

Release Screenshots

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A new report!  A breakdown of your time based on productivity.  In this view, blue is good and red is bad.


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New categorization selection UI.


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New scoring UI


16 Comments on “Major Release: Time to Put out some Fires!”

  1. jammus says:

    Boo.

    I’m going to start complaining straight away. Go me.

    Despite 2 years of tagging, most of my time is now flagged as ‘Uncategorized’. That’s a bit annoying. Doubly so when I try to add a new category as I get a 500 error.

    Also, the white lines on the all activities by day report make it quite hard to read unless you go fullscreen.

    Also, I miss percentages already.

    Also, I’m tired.

    • Tony Wright says:

      Hey Jammus! We’re working on the 500 errors– sorry about that. Regarding the uncategorized stuff… I know it’s a rough transition for most of our heavy taggers. Could you try categorizing your top 20 things or so for the month? When/if you do, I’d wager uncategorized stuff would fade away to a large degree.

      https://www.rescuetime.com/browse/category/0/by/rank/for/the/month/of/2009-07-17

      Because categories are fixed rather than different for each user, we can leverage the categorization work that we all do to help EVERYONE. For example– if you tag something as “webdev” and I tag in as “web_dev”, it’s really hard for us set a default tag. With categories, it’s fixed– we both categorize it and the next guy doesn’t have to. And all of the folks who are categorizing should lighten your burden as well!

  2. sbriansmith says:

    I’m excited about the new changes but my line graphs don’t work… I can’t see my productivity over time now!

  3. andy says:

    I like the changes. The new report, the auto-categorization system and, most of all, the possibility to include any graph are extremely useful!

  4. gene says:

    My experience with the switch is that categories do everything I was using tags for anyway.

    What about internal dev servers, custom built apps, etc. How will categories address this?

  5. jolien says:

    I’m sorry, but I really dislike the changes. I’m actually considering deleting my rescuetime-account. I don’t have any overview anymore.

  6. ya-ya says:

    Hi, Is there a simple way to get my “Custom Categories” to show up again, rather than showing on my Dashboard as “Custom Category”? Thanks!! Overall, I prefer the simpler interface so thank you for all you do!!

  7. Nick Gilbert says:

    Like Jammus, I was fairly enraged when I saw they’d dropped tags, but now I’ve had time to look into it properly, I’ve realised that the built in charts now do exactly what I was using tags to achieve, but possibly better. So give it a try for a couple of weeks before you go complaining to Tony 🙂

  8. jammus says:

    Yeah, I’m sure I’ll get used to it in time. It’s just unfortunate that I’d previously ignore productivity scores and just focused on how much time was spend on ‘work’ and how that was broken down. It a few months I’ll have forgotten all about tags and the wonderful times we spent together, until she left. Blub blub.

    I do really miss percentages though as that was how I scored myself. 70% of desk time working (or very productive now), 45% web development, 15% email were quite a good set of metrics. Again, I’ll move on.

    Is it possible to add new top-level categories? Do I want to?

  9. Andrey Tarantsov says:

    Hey. That twitter pic in the header of your post — I’ve actually got the phrase from your previous blog post about the upcoming changes. Fun twitter turnaround. 🙂

    BTW this fireman thing is great, you should feature it on the home page too.

  10. Daran says:

    The ONLY thing i miss about tags was that i had only tagged stuff billable and unbillable and that was a massive timesaver because i didnt need to look at individual tasks and work it out.

    • Tony Wright says:

      Hey Daran- It might take 10-15m worth of work, but I think scores could do that for you– just assign a score of 2 to anything billable, a score of 1 to anything productive but NOT billable, etc.

  11. Qrystal says:

    Holy smokes, does this update ever look awesome! Good work, RescueTimers.

    I have only one issue, and it’s with this line: “Much of the value of RescueTime really only manifested when you took the time to label and rank things– which is a timesink (ironic, no?).”

    Ironic? No. Ironic means the outcome was unexpected. Timesinking is something I’ve come to expect from any time management tool, because it takes some kind of time investment in order to figure out how to get some time back. I’d say this is more of a Catch-22. Or was, rather. It looks to be fixed rather well!

    I’m looking forward to seeing how the changes inspire me to increase my productivity scores! 🙂

    • Tony Wright says:

      “Timesinking is something I’ve come to expect from any time management tool, because it takes some kind of time investment in order to figure out how to get some time back.”

      True ’nuff. THAT’s where we want to be different. I don’t think we’ll ever be able to pull time from thin air, but hopfully we can keep the learning curve and the required time investment to a bare minimum! 🙂

  12. Gene says:

    What are your thoughts re: taking a Mint.com approach and bringing back tags as a way to create user-defined groupings? (Billable time is a great example, as it would be nice to get a tally of hours rather than a productivity score.)

    • Tony Wright says:

      We watch Mint pretty closely– they’ve been making tags less and less prominent (I imagine they see the same issue with tags– under-use and confusion). I can see why they haven’t removed them (removing features makes people grumpy, but our data/feedback seems to indicate that the pain was worth it– revenue, signups, and retention are shootin’ up since our last release).

      One of the (semi secret) reasons we punted tags is that we do want to eventually implement a project-tracking feature of RescueTime, which I think would give insight into how folks perform on different projects as well as stuff like billability. So something like that may be on the horizon.

      In the meantime, if you wanted to use RescueTime to track billable stuff, I would use scores as tags. I know it’s kind of a kludge, but you could assign activities/documents a score of “2” if they are billable, “1” if they are still productive but not billable, etc.

      If they goal is project level granularity rather than a sum of billable time, that might have to wait for our projects feature (which is realistically at least a month or two away).