Browsing my browsing

I mentioned last week that I’d installed MeeTimer and was using it to track my browsing history. Now I’ve built up a weeks worth of data, it’s time to do something fun with it.

If I want to eliminate, or at least manage, distractions, it will be useful to know not just which sites I spend the most accumulated time visiting (MeeTimer already does a pretty good of showing me this), but also which sites I visit most frequently. Because MeeTimer stores all of its lovely date in an SQLite database it’s easy to get to it and create pretty graphs like this one…

Top 30 visited sites for week of 30th March

Even better, lots of scripting languages have support for SQLite (I’m using Xampp as a convenient stack containing Apache PHP 5 and SQLite 3). After hacking around for a couple of hours, my nasty little PHP script was serving up this sort of thing:

Experiment: Browser DNA

(Larger version)

MeeTimer lets you group URLs into different groups, so here those groups are displayed using different coloured rows. Yellow represents site’s I’ve grouped as ‘work’ (mainly work’s webmail address), so it’s easy to see that when I was working on my laptop at home on Friday, i.e. 2 days ago, I was accessing work webmail pretty constantly. I have a desktop at work, so on most days I don’t need to use webmail to check my email except for on the train on the way in and out, but for some reason I had it open for ages on Monday morning (i.e 6 days ago). Perhaps I was away from desk?

I’m also experimenting with alternative ways of displaying the history, including showing the favicons for certain sites.

Experiment: a brief history of favicons

(Larger version)

Here I’m just showing the visits to about a dozen sites I seem to visit (very) regularly, e.g. Twitter, Gmail, Flickr, Google, Technorati, Feedburner, Google Reader, Delicious, etc. You can see that I habitually check Gmail about once per hour, and visit Twitter even more regularly than that.

The code for the DNA one is a bit specific to my groups, so I want to generalise that to work for all groups before I share it, but I’ve put the code on GitHub for the favicon one. It’ll probably only work in Firefox 2 or better. Canvas should work in Safari, but I’ve probably used Mozilla specific stuff for the text. This was a very quick hack, and there’s plenty of scope for enhancements, so let me know if you make any improvements.

6 replies on “Browsing my browsing”

  1. Hi Roo – Very interesting analysis! I’ve been playing with these time tracking tools myself lately (being a productivity enthusiast). Have you seen RescueTime ( ? It does some mighty impressive analysis, categorising your activities and even lets you sets goals such as “spend no more than 2 hours a day social networking”. It also checks for activity so you won’t get spikes when you leave the screen unattended. And it runs on Windows & Mac :-)

    From your graph it looks like the BBC is just as e-mail-centric as IBM then!!

    Take care

  2. Worse, if anything. :-)

    RescueTime looks like a nice way of tracking not just sites, but applications too. Thanks. MeeTimer has the (privacy and data-reusability) advantage of using a local data store, but because RescueTime has a central database it seems to support updates from multiple machines. Could be very helpful for getting a more complete picture of where my attention is going.

  3. Roo, this is great. Funny, I’d been toying with the idea of doing the same with my own RescueTime stats. I wanted to do weekly time graphs with bubbles representing my various timesucks, then animating the change in bubble size throughout the year.

    Of course, you actually did something with your idea, ha. Again, excellent stuff.

  4. Thx for the clues on how to make more of MeeTimer’s database! MeeTimer has some bug with the linux version of FF3.0.10, but still collects the data well.

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