The Rescue Team is proud to announce the release of a powerful new set of features for RescueTime. Here’s a quick rundown of the new goodies and improvements we launched today.
Using the collective knowledge of all of our fantastic users (especially you!), we’ve been able to derive categories for the most used applications and websites in RescueTime. We think this is an extremely powerful feature since it further reduces the need to have to manually tag your data. They also allow for much easier comparisons without a group context than tags, which can often be pretty subjective.
Categories are here for everyone, and they work right out of the box. We recently realized how audacious it is for us to try to categorize every site on the internet, and we understand that some things will probably be miscategorized at first. To remedy this, we’ll soon be offering the ability to suggest categories for things in the event that our categorization engine missed something, or got something wrong.
We’ve enhanced the colors of all RescueTime charts to convey more meaning. Red bars indicate time for things you have scored as unproductive. Bright blue bars represent time spent on things that are productive. Default RescueTime blue represents things that haven’t been scored either way. Just remember blue good (the brighter the better), red bad. You can see the color changes reflected in the category chart screenshot above.
Thanks to everyone for their feedback about the Groups beta. There are still lots of great things on the roadmap for groups, but in this release we’ve added enough improvements and fixed enough issues that we feel like we can safely remove the beta sticker. Categories make your group easier to manage, since everyone’s categories are the same across group and individual views. Navigation between groups has been improved to make it easier to tell where you are. We’ve also added the ability to overlay the individual time of any member of the group onto any of the charts in RescueTime.
For our RescueTime Plus account holders, we’ve also added the ability to see a breakdown of the time each of your team members has spent in total, or in various categories or tags. Paid account holders will see this new graph on their dashboard, and on each tag and category detail page.
If you are an existing groups user and would like to add this feature, you can go to your billing settings page and upgrade your account. We encourage you to try out these improvements and send us your thoughts. There is a 30 day trial period included with all premium registrations.
It’s been a long release for RescueTime, but we’re pretty excited about some of the new features that we’ve rolled out as of tonight. Other than lots and lots of tiny improvements and fixes, here are some highlights:
- Autotagging: Not a few people have mentioned that calling RescueTime “ridiculously easy” was a touch ironic, given the amount of overhead involved with tagging/categorizing apps and sites. Our standard response was that it’s okay to NOT tag the sites you visit for a minute or two, but there are plenty of people who wanted everything tagged. For these tagging die-hards (and for the rest of us!) we now have autotagging, which can be used on your list of untagged apps and sites. Autotagging allows you to automagically tag apps and sites based on the tags that other people have used for that entity… With a strong bias towards tags that you’ve already used. It’s a great option for the “long tail” – apps and sites that you’ve spent just a few minutes on which add up to a significent amount of time. We still recommend manually tagging the big stuff– this is just a great way to classify a big chunk of the little stuff.
- Groups Beta: We’ve launched groups! RescueTime Groups allow you to look at data from a collection of users, which can offer some really interesting trend and aggregate data. It also allows you to compare how you’re spending your time versus the average team member. On a Group dashboard, users can ONLY see the aggregate/average data and their own data… Which means that the your personal data is not easily scrutinized by other team members (or even managers if RescueTime is used in a business setting). Of course, as Jon points out on our forum, a small group has some privacy implications (WhiteLists are a good way to go if for groups where this is a concern). Groups are free for up to 5 people, and cost $12.95/mo (per user) for larger groups. The first 30 days cost nothing and are obligation free. If you already have a RescueTime account, you can click the new “Groups” button and take it for a spin. Groups is in “beta”, which means that we have a lot more in store on this front. If you have any ideas on how Groups could be improved, drop us a line.
- Lots of cool privacy features. We already offer a lot on the privacy front, but we’ve just added the ability to toggle whether RescueTIme records complete URLs (google.com versus google.com/reader), OS Username, and window titles. Turning these off will limit you with some future features, but for some privacy-conscious customers, it might be worth it.
(We’re working on a REALLY amazing idea for RescueTime… It’s hard to tear myself away for a blog post. So this one will be short and sweet)
RescueTime gets the display names for applications in a pretty standard way. Unfortunately, applications are anything but standard in the way they report their names. We had a pretty helpful report from a user telling us that some of his most-used applications were showing with some pretty ugly names, like “powerpnt”, “uedit32″, and “visio”.
Brian Fioca (our local Ruby on Rails god) has whipped up a simple admin tool for us to provide “friendly” names for any app. In the past, we had to manually edit the database (which is a little unweildy).
So- If you have ANYTHING in your RescueTime data that has an ugly name, leave a comment here or drop us a line – email@example.com.
This morning we pushed live another new RescueTime update – both to the website and to the Windows data collector. There are some big additions and some subtle changes. Let me hit the highlights.
We added a widget builder page where you can go and create embeddable widgets of your RescueTime graphs. You can add them to your blog or website to show off how productive you are or motivate yourself to keep busy! We’ve heard somewhere that the fear of public failure is one of the best motivators, but I like to think about it as the satisfaction of public success. You can add your own title, pick your date range, and even set the colors to whatever you want (and make them shiny!). You can either go directly to the widget page or use the handy embed button to link to a builder for the exact graph you want.
You can see Tony’s widget on his personal blog. Widgets were ranked pretty high on our new feature request survey and we’re excited about them. I hope you are, too.
Other Website Enhancements
We’ve condensed the pages a bit, removing some whitespace and shrinking the header. We think this uses the available space better. I’ve also made some small changes that were frequently requested in feedbacks like remembering which tag slices you pick on the bottom graph on the dashboard, and allowing you to enter fractional values in goals (now you can have half hour goals, or 10 minute goals).
Windows Data Collector Updates
Joe has been really busy fixing bugs and adding new features to the data collector, here’s a list of fixes:
- Dramatically reduced physical memory footprint for RescueTime.exe. Physical memory should now be around 2 MB (vs 32 MB) during most operations. Physical memory will jump to 11 MB when uploading log files to the RescueTime server, but should drop back down to the 2 MB range after the upload completes.
- Additional large file checks to prevent files larger than 1,000K from being sent to the RescueTime.com server.
- Removed updater service. This has been causing a number of our users issues and I don’t think we are seeing a whole lot of benefit from it. RescueTime will still check for updates upon startup and through the “Check for updates” menu option.
And here are the new features:
- URL support for Opera
- URL support for Flock
So now RescueTime uses less of your computer’s resources (well, it wasn’t really using them before but it looked that way) and supports Opera and Flock on Windows. Awesome.
That’s it! We’re already working on a new batch of improvements and new features (as always) so keep checking this blog for updates.
Tonight we pushed some of the biggest changes we’ve pushed to date. I’ll run through a quick bullet list and some of the reasoning behind the changes.
Part of the changes were UI changes– which can always be jarring to users. We ask that folks take a bit of time to digest, think hard about what they like (and don’t like) about the new stuff at RescueTime and drop us a line with their thoughts. One of the things that is amazing (and motivating) about RescueTime is that we are constantly buried in feedback (often positive, sometimes “constructive”). So keep it coming!
Change #1 – The calendar UI is radically changed. There are some big obvious wins here in that we introduced quick links to “today”, “this week”, and “this month”. We also introduced new glimpses into data that heretofore have been impossible– offering “this year” and “forever” links. We also now allow for quick toggling via the previous and next button, allowing users to click as fast as they want to shoot back or forth by a few weeks or a few months.
The downside is that now, to see a proper calendar you need to click on the calendar link– so it’s a click away. This gives us more real estate, which is a good thing– but it might not be worth it to lose the sense of “context”. What do you think?
Change #2 We removed the lists on the dashboard, leaving more rooms for “broad-stroke” data. Our rationale here was that the list information was fairly redundant with the graphs (though the lists are slightly more scannable if you are looking at totals). The idea here is that the graphs can be a portal into other “reports” that offer greater detail, complete with list views. As we continue to add cool information to the dashboard, real estate will be at a premium. Do the lists need to exist on the dashboard?
Change #3 Stacked Graphs! I am super excited about this one. On the dashboard, the “total time spent” graph (which used to be a line graph) now allows you to “slice” in 2 different tags, allowing you to see your total time spent, and how much your “work” time and “personal” time make up for of that time. Additionally, on all individual app and tag graphs, you see the time spent on that activity in the context of the total. Very cool!
Change #4 – We moved the top graph to the bottom on the dashboard (you can see mine at the top of the screenshot for change #3. This was to yield real estate for user goals (which are hugely popular). I’m madly in love with the stacking, however– so I miss seeing it. What do you think?
Change #5 We added some cool new tag management features. This includes the ability to rename a tag, merge a tag into another tag, remove a tag from all entities, etc. Not earthshaking, but handy.
These changes will be jarring for some… Mostly the new features are additions, but certain things were moved a click away for the sake of real estate. If you love the new features, shout out. If you miss something that existed (or was easier) in the old design, make some noise, too. We can’t accomodate everyone, but if we find out that some of the decisions we made resulted in universally grumpy users, we’ll make it right.
I just put up a link to the new Netvibes widget for RescueTime on the dashboard. You can check it out here. We also have an iGoogle gadget if you haven’t already noticed. Now you can make sure your productivity is staring you in the face when you’re thinking about wasting time by reading your blogs. Also, as mentioned yesterday in Tony’s post about pies (mmmm), we’ve put up our new feature suggestions voting survey. There are a lot of things we’re planning on adding and we want to make sure we address your immediate demands first and stay away from strange time-wasting tangents. So help us rescue our time by filling out the survey right now!
I am a big fan of letting users drive the features of a product. In fact, we’re about to release a ranking survey based on the feature suggestions in the thousands of emails we’ve received over the past few months.
But one often-requested feature that will likely not be included in RescueTime is pie charts.
The very early mockups of RescueTime did have pie charts and I kinda liked them. They broke up the bar-chart monotony and just seemed more fun. As I continued to show and refine the mockups, it wasn’t long before crafty students of data visualization told me that pie charts were evil. It didn’t take much listening and much research to agree with them. Here are a few points for the consideration of pie-loving RescueTimers:
- Human beings are a lot better at eyeballing length than angle. If you don’t believe, check out the illustration in the sidebar of the Pie Chart Entry in Wikipedia.
- In Show Me the Numbers by Stephen Few the author says “I don’t use pie charts, and I strongly recommend that you abandon them as well.” Few says that pie charts communicate poorly. Robbins agrees. So does Tufte.
- Pie Charts (with small slices) require a legend which necessarily has visual separation from the data.
- Rotating a pie chart changes perception a bit, especially when the slices are of similar size.
- Pie Charts convey magnitude poorly. It’s difficult to eyeball the difference between a 22% slice and a 26% slice.
- When the rubber meets the road and I test pie charts with RescueTime data with Pie charts, it just conveys less meaning (with 10 slices).
All that being said, I think that we could convey the “part-to-whole” information in your usage data a lot better than we are.
So, pie-people– I’m going to do my best to comply with the spirit of your request (“we want better part-to-whole visualization!”) rather than the letter of your request (“we want pie!”). Stay tuned for it!