- What does it do?
The Integrated Time Tracking System is a project with the aim to develop a software program designed to automatically calculate the time you spend working and assign it to categories. In other words, a program that will produce a report on how much you have worked on each topic/ project throughout a specified period of time, with little to no user intervention.
- Does that mean I won’t have to manually complete timesheets anymore?
It means that completing timesheets will be much easier. You will occasionally have to give some input or define some words to be considered unimportant, but in general IT-TRAS should get more independent the more you use it.
- That’s fantastic! How does it work?
At the core of IT-TRAS there is a so-called clustering algorithm. Through minimally supervised machine learning IT-TRAS learns to categorize your various activities into topics/projects. For the time being it focuses only on work performed online through browsers, based on your browser history.
- Wait, it’s reading my browser history? Isn’t that spying?
No. IT-TRAS has been specifically designed to preclude any unwanted and intrusive monitoring of your personal data. The processing of personal browsing history takes place locally on a predetermined device. The actual data does not get sent anywhere.
If reporting to an employer or a customer, what they will get is the final result produced by the algorithm, not the data that was used to reach that result – and these results are subject to user approval before they are finalized. Keep in mind that if you’re working on a company network, your boss and the system administrator probably already have access to your browser history. So do many common websites and search engines.
There is a chance that the IT-TRAS team might want to utilize a user’s data to train its algorithm. In such a case it will a) ask for your permission (actually, you will have to provide us with your browsing history yourself), and b) use locally anonymized data so that they are not traceable back to you.
- I’ve tried some time-tracking programs before and they’re a bit time-consuming. Is IT-TRAS easy to use?
The idea is that once it’s installed, IT-TRAS should produce reasonably reliable results even if left to run alone with the default parameter values. Supervision (i.e. user intervention) is in principle unnecessary, but it might help improve results in the long run. In some cases, for instance if you are browsing websites in various languages, supervision might be necessary to start with. But as mentioned earlier, IT-TRAS will get more effective with use.
The execution time may vary depending on various factors, such as the parameter values set. Obviously, it takes more time when there are more data points i.e. number of web visits. So the longer the browser history, the longer it will take to produce results.