May 16, 2003

Desktop Activity Monitor

Couple of weeks ago I was sent a copy of Screenweaver by the guys at Rubberduck (thank you so much!), read some docs, saw a couple of samples, and today after work, I was able to put together this little gadget that you can see now on the left side of the top page of my blog.

On Chapter 6 of Collaborative Virtual Environments, under the title of "All that is solid melts into software" , Andrew McGrath and Wolfgang Prinz, point out the importance of mutual awareness of the activities individuals are engaged into when sharing the same physical environment.

Say for example I'm at the office, and doing some research on Informational Diagrams, I decide to see what we have in the bookshelf here so I move towards that area. If there's someone already standing infront of the Data Visualization section, I will inevitably ask them for a recommendation. Later I need to do some scans so I move to the scanning station. Say someone comes over, since scanning is probably just a click and wait thing, we will probably get engaged in a random conversation. But as soon as I go sit back at my desk and everyone noticing that I'm working, chances of someone showing up talking about the weather are really low. Most probably my neighbour will tap me in the shoulder with sporadically questions about work, and I will probably forward the question to the guy on the other side who will stand up, and come over to have a quick meeting infront of my neighbour's monitor where we will share ideas, point to the images in the screen, etc. until we reach consensus.

Well in this chapter, they talk about an application, "Forum", which basically logs you into an online multi user environment which will keep track of your activities and through analysis of what is currently your focus of attention, will move your Avatar towards the areas of interest. For example If I open a text file and write a bunch of lines of ActionScript over there, the system will automatically move my avatar towards the ActionScript area, where I will join all the other users working on ActionScript at that time. Later I move onto a XML document, and my Avatar will automatically be moved into the XML area. I suddenly need some advice on that, so I can try text Chatting with one of the persons over there, maybe upgrading into a video chat later if it is needed.

So I decided to give it a shot, and that's what you can see now here. Well yeah, this little app is only one-way at the moment (only YOU can see what I'm up to) and there's not a lot of visualization, except the lill stats, but if people out there are interested, maybe I could extend this so that I can support several users and pump it up a little bit more to a real app.

The way it works is very simple: basically I have a desktop app which registers what am I currently working on, and before posting that to FlashComm, it filters the results through a white list of applications I gave clearance to. Well, yeah, sometimes I maybe working on some super-secret documents which I may not want everyone know about right?

Maybe the guys working at the Together project maybe interested in such a tool?

Well yeah, worry now about big brother...

wow, got heavilly linked during the weekend!


Better behave myself, feels weird beeing watched like that;P
Thanks everyone for the hookup!

Posted by marumushi at May 16, 2003 04:09 AM

That is extremely cool. While reading your entry I was watching your desktop activity as you looked on the MM News Aggregator (I use fullasagoog myself). Then I saw you go to which I had just glanced at based on a link from a post on flashcoders ('Auto Style Format'), so I assume you had just checked your email.

And yet there is a 15 hour difference in our time zones!!

Posted by: dylan at May 16, 2003 06:13 PM

Well, yeah, the ultimate goal of this is actually *mapping* that activity, visualizing human activity over the web of information and maybe somehow steer it back to the truly collaborative essence that it was thought for it in a beginning... oh yeah... should stop being that pretentious... I know Sean will start punching me again;P

Posted by: Marcos Weskamp at May 16, 2003 06:45 PM

The is really cool. I would like to add it into my blog, are you going to share it or what?

Posted by: Moises at May 16, 2003 09:23 PM

Great App! I must say that I love seeing new and innovative ways of using Flash technology. This really could be a powerful little gadget. Speaking of 'Big Brother', it would really be interesting to collect the data and get an overall view of where you spend your time, or where multiple people spend there time. Also, it also could be modified to help measure the time you spend on certain projects.

Anyways, great work Marcos! So, are me and Josh gonna see you at FFNY? :)

Posted by: Daniel Dura at May 16, 2003 10:01 PM

Hey Daniel!

Yeah, actually when I showed this to my boss here today his eyes where sparkling. Well, after all it's a desktop app first, and you can switch it on or off as you wold do with msn or anything like that. But yes, I'm definitivelly forward to improving the way I work and how much time I spend here and there, so although I'm not recollecting that data now, I was planning to do so in the future.
Oh man, FFNY... I'd love to make it there, but I don't think I'll be able to. Just read that Josh will be presenting there. That's excellent! Will you join him on the stage?

Posted by: Marcos Weskamp at May 16, 2003 10:08 PM

Hey Moises,

Well, it definitivelly does need a lots of brush up, but yeah, it'll be cool if everyone joins in.
Now the problem will be flash comm hosting, I can't handle more than 10 users at a time, and making this bigger will probably need way more connectivity...

Posted by: Marcos Weskamp at May 16, 2003 10:14 PM

Actually, I will hosting my own 'Ask the Experts' session. It will be alot of fun. So when are they going to get you up on stage :)

So are you planning on releasing this app?

Posted by: Daniel Dura at May 16, 2003 10:21 PM

Really?? wow man, that's great news! aaarrgh, how much I whish I could make it...

I'd love to release this as soon as I can clean it up a little bit. You know, it's kinda dirty now (yucks), but I'll let you know when I finally do so then;)

Posted by: Marcos Weskamp at May 16, 2003 10:27 PM

Great, I look forward to seeing it!

Posted by: Daniel Dura at May 16, 2003 10:39 PM

Great work, very slick!

Posted by: mike j at May 16, 2003 11:25 PM

Very nice! Very nice indeed. I think the Together people would be interested. It's such a cool idea. You know what it makes me want to do? ... Do the same thing using a Jabber server. Hmm ... presence awareness, offline messaging. Ideas! Maybe combine this with instant messaging ...

Posted by: Sean Voisen at May 17, 2003 03:09 AM

Great work Marcos. Every time your blog is quiet for a little while, you come out with something fantastic.

Also, congrats again on geoTracker. I don't know if I'll be at Siggraph, but I am trying to get down there. If you won't be at Siggraph or FFNY, when will we see you on this side of the pond?

I wanted to get your advice on something off topic, so perhaps I'll shoot you a message off blog. Are you very busy these days?

Posted by: John Blake at May 17, 2003 03:31 AM

we should try this on Jabber for sures. I'll see If I can get something with that during next week.
Haven't had much time to review XIFF still, but I guess I'll be doing so then.

Kudos for this app goes to Thomas Wester from Screenweaver, they did the tough part of talking to a windows .dll to figure out which window is active. The rest is just the usual yadayada.

Posted by: Marcos Weskamp at May 17, 2003 02:46 PM

Very nice app... i look forward to see some of the sources.

Roland Schaer

Posted by: Roland Schaer at July 22, 2003 11:23 PM


Posted by: jon at December 28, 2003 10:09 PM
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