History

This section is dedicated to the past, present, and future of ActivityWatch.

We aren’t (yet) able to automatically record our own thoughts, but with ActivityWatch we can record what were thinking about, What projects we worked on, which ideas we read about, the culture we enjoyed, and who created that culture.

We’ve thought a lot about what ActivityWatch could be, and what that could lead to. We unfortunately haven’t made as great a job of writing things down as we should have but here’s an attempt.

We believe that studying our own behavior can also help us identify and get rid of bad habits.

We believe that open source tools like ActivityWatch can be used to crowdsource an open set of research data, enabling entirely new research possibilities regarding the effect of different activities on human psychology and behavior.

Past

It was 2013, I was just about to start university and had been soaked in transhumanist ideas and hacker culture for most of my adolescent life. I had been reading a bit about brain computer interfaces, and in a moment of clarity I realized its potentially enormous impact. I wrote a private note to myself about my realization and that I should definitely join in on making it a reality when the right time comes.

During the same time, I was obsessively logging what I did using: automated time-trackers (like ActivityWatch), a great spreadsheet, a diary, the GPS in my phone (RIP battery), a step/sleep-tracker (Fitbit at the time), version control, etc.

@ErikBjare started building a prototype on Dec 30, 2014. In April 2016 he started working on a rewrite (that included the client-server model) that then became the foundation for ActivityWatch is today. @johan-bjareholt became a regular contributor some time later in 2016, and has since been the second largest contributor to the project by a wide margin.

Now

We’re building it, and we’ve only just begun.

Future

Building new types of privacy-aware services which require data collection

If a lot is collected by the user, new applications could be developed that utilize that data.

See for example Thankful. Or my proposal for a self-hosted aggregated newsfeed, with a highly customizable recommendation engine.

Ubiquitous recording for meaningful information about the past

“We live in an interesting time when more and more of our actions can be in some way recorded and played back without our intervention. […] There’s voice recording technology. Web browsing history. Live desktop video recording and playback. Heck, some folks […] have shown us a taste of the future as power-users of autonomous or assisted self-recording technologies. Go-pro and other consumer tech products are thriving as they discover / cherry-pick / surface compelling use cases. I haven’t experienced general-purpose AI which is quite up to the job of organizing my notes for me. But we’re close to having ubiquitous recording (and storing bits is the important part – facebook didn’t start with entity tags on day 1 but has been able to retroactively infer and index these). There’s no way to record everything with perfect fidelity, because that would require us to preserve as many bits as there are in reality (which violates physical constraints) but there’s a lot we can do to improve. There are still unexplored frontiers, like recording, transmitting, and playing back one’s thoughts (which I don’t think we should consider science fiction, just somewhat expensive and contentious to make viable). Suffice to say, interfaces (there aren’t great memex-like ways to create graph based notes with semantic, taggable entities), politics and logistics of services competing to silo our information, and insufficient AI to infer our meaning and, in fact, to de-duplicate our thoughts and those of others (read: https://distill.pub/2017/research-debt) are major barriers which conspire against making mind-mapping and organizing one’s life’s work frictionless.”

@mekarpeles in a comment on Facebook.