GSoC Baseline: Recap of Activity Journal – Current Status (0.8.0 Release), Part 1


This post is part one of a recap of the Activity Journal in its current status. A quick impression of the 0.8.0 release of the application can be gained from three of Stefano’s screencasts (1, 2, 3).

Looking Backward … and some more

In that incarnation, the Activity Journal is about looking backward in time. It’s a viewport into your past, which provides means for navigation, search, and view filtering and, in addition, gives you some preventive control over what goes into your Zeitgeist activity log , allows you to selectively clean it, as well as lets you annotate and pin activities.

Automatic Experiential Maps of Personal Information Space

The Activity Journal focuses on mapping out over time your past activity/experience with information (as, e.g., captured in web pages and your files) and with people (as, e.g., via instant messaging). It does so by presenting automatically generated, time-based views onto your personal information space, which are updated in near real-time.

This, on the one hand, reflects the idea that your personal information space is implicitly and gradually assembled by what you’ve experienced and interacted with (in analogy to your brain, keeping memories about what you’ve seen and done).

Time as Interaction Metaphor

On the other hand, the approach of automatically drawing personal time maps echoes the observation that time, though amongst the most natural reference figures and orientation aids to humans, is a currently underleveraged resource for improving user experience with personal technology. This seems contradictory to the fact that, likewise space, time is part of an unavoidable systematic framework for organizing our experiences.

Therefore, the Activity Journal employs time as a powerful unifying frame of reference for mapping out footprints/traces of your ‘digital’ activities.

This follows the line of argument that while computer systems have contributed to information fragmentation, they can also be used to put the pieces together again: Fueled by the per-device activity log of your net-/notebook or desktop as maintained by Zeitgeist, the Activity Journal displays a rather comprehensive account of your activities (across places/folders/collections and web, and across applications/types and other domain notions), by merging all of the corresponding footprints into temporally structured pictures of your doings.

As a side note, the feasibility of cross-device, mobile, and cloud coverage has been successfully prototyped, but that’s beyond the focus of this recap.

Overview of Targeted User Tasks

The Activity Journal enables the utilization of temporal navigation strategies, such as traveling backwards in time by cursoring over the line-up of your activity footprints as well as the navigation by temporal landmarks.

The deployed temporal navigation strategies not only allow you to re-find stuff in your personal information space by employing your remembrances of when (i.e. at what day or within some other time frame) you used, saw, or listened to that stuff, but the presented activity footprints also tell you about what else you then did, at the same time, before and after.

Consequently, the other way round, you can appropriate any of the displayed activity footprints as temporal landmarks, which allow you to narrow in on a looked-for activity: particularly, you might remember having performed a target activity simultaneously, before, or after a just encountered landmark activity.

So, with the Activity Journal, you can look for both your stuff and your previous activities. The latter effectively helps you remember (i.e. reminds you) about what you’ve done and experienced in the past, and thereby leads to a better overall awareness of your activities as well as of their distribution over time. This again contributes to an increased feeling of control as to reporting tasks and offers the opportunity to review and reflect upon your overall workflow. Finally, some basic time tracking support is given.

Referring to situations in your past (first and foremost defined by their placement and extent in time), still have another application domain, namely task switching. Navigating back to an anchored time frame, which shows you (embedded in an overall, structured-by-the-day activity picture), what you did before an interruption occurred, is particularly helpful with regard to reinstatement of complex information tasks: the context and associated resources, … all you need to resume the task is just there.

Towards Interlinked Complementary Maps of Personal Information Space

Hence, the time-based perspective of the Activity Journal is beneficially complementary to hierarchical and other information and access structures in your personal information space, as exemplified by folders, links, bookmarks and by metadata such as tags.

Beyond complementary co-existence, the Activity Journal also affords some basic interactions with the aforementioned structures, in the sense of ‘upward navigation’ (for gaining the contexts and corresponding navigation/orientation means they make available), and in terms of drag and drop for the creation of information collections from activity footprints.

Between Recent Documents and Versioning Histories

With respect to level of detail and temporal coverage, the activity log data shown by the Activity Journal ranges in between the somewhat imprecise and temporally very gappy activity metadata held by standard file systems (such as ‘created’ and ‘last modified’ timestamps), on the one hand, and the usually very precise and abundant metadata for retracing file development, which is captured (to varying, but often fairly fine-grained temporal granularities) by versioning file systems.

What’s Next?

In the following posts, I’ll first talk a bit more about the views provided by the Activity Journal and about how overviewing and browsing activities by time differs from using some other, currently more widely deployed means for relating back to information you’ve used in the past. Second, the conceptual placement of Zeitgeist log data (and thereby also of the thereon-based Activity Journal) between lists of recently used information and detailed version histories will be discussed. Then, I’ll review in more detail issues related to re-finding and will explain re-finding strategies, which are specifically enabled by the Activity Journal. Finally, fourth, the means for enabling user control (beyond view manipulations as to an otherwise sometimes considered ‘not manipulable’ log), implemented in the past two releases of the Activity Journal will receive some attention. See you soon!

2 Responses to “GSoC Baseline: Recap of Activity Journal – Current Status (0.8.0 Release), Part 1”

  1. chris says:

    foreseeable@rolled.frizzling” rel=”nofollow”>.…


  2. max says:” rel=”nofollow”>.…

    thanks for information….

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