Beeminder Forum

Integrating RescueTime with Beeminder

I am a freelance writer specializing in tools that support remote learning for school students forced to learn from home by the pandemic. One of the most common complaints parents have is that the unexpected thrust into remote learning leaves them at a loss for how to monitor their child’s on-line work habits. In one case, a 5th grader went several weeks without submitting assignments before the parent got a call from the teacher. When asked about this, the child first insisted he had submitted them. Upon further questioning, he claimed he was not aware that he had any homework. Parents are struggling so I am testing the feasibility of Using Rescuetime to monitor the student’s time on-line and having RT report goal data to Beemnder. In turn, Beeminder could send status reports to parents and/or teachers for follow-up. I would appreciate any suggestions/tips y’all may have on this topic.

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Looking into it, it seems that RescueTime is really just meant for personal use. They have use case stories for students and teachers–but university students, specifically.

There is RescueTime for Teams which might work, but it’s very pricey. I’m also worried about privacy issues.

Here’s a list of time tracking software specifically for educational institutions, though none of them have Beeminder integration.

Thanks Brennan,
You raise some very important points. Regarding the “personal use” issue, I was thinking that a parent could install it on their child’s computer to be used during remote learning times at home. The New Normal seems to point toward hybrid school sessions: one or two days in the classroom and three or four days working on-line from home. This allows schools to practice social distancing guidelines without having to expand facilities. Students would attend class on alternate days. Also working parents with teenagers could go to work with less concern about their stay-at-home kids by monitoring their daily progress using a combo of Rescuetime and Beeminder. Failing to meet goals = loss of gaming apps. cell phone etc. This is based on the approach President Reagan used with the USSR for Treaty Agreements: TRUST BUT VERIFY… The Beemionder approach supports this in a way that teaches personal responsibility rather than getting results by force.

Joe Z.

Since my October 15 report on my user experience integrating RT and Bee, I have learned how to create goals in Bee that are automatically updated by RT. There are two factors to keep in mind when setting up this relationship:

  • RT only sees applications that are running on-line. It cannot differentiate activities the user is performing with the application. My goal was to create blog material for 2 hours per day using Google Blogger. I expected to use 30 of the 120 minutes per day researching information and assumed that since I was using Google Search that the 30 minutes would be included within the 2 hour timeframe. It wasn’t. I derailed by the 3rd day…

  • Bee takes whatever data RT provides and creates data points for my goal schedule. It should have received 2+ hours per day for this goal. If I had been inputting the data manually, I would have gotten 3 or more hours per day because that is how much time I actually worked on the Blog. But RT only saw about an hour of run time using Blogger and that is what Bee got automatically from RT.
    LESSON LEARNED
    When creating a goal, start with RT. Tell it what Apps/URLs you want to track [RT has access to to every application on your machine and also can track URL usage [example: I use gmail to read articles I want to explore. RT can track the time I spend using gmail or the time I spend reading a newsletter hyperlinked to my email. But it cannot track both as one activity.
    So if my Bee goal is to spend only one hour per day reading email, then I create that goal in Bee and have RT track the time I am using the gmail app each day. But if my Bee goal is to spend at least two hours per day scanning the newsletter i access via gmail, then I have to give Bee that URL and report hours spent using that URL. RT does not care that I got to the URL via a hyperlink from gmail. It will consider the few minutes I spent using gmail against my e-mail goal and the hours I spent reading the newsletter as time spent scanning the newsletter.

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UPDATE: Have learned how to make the RT/Bee link track my goal activity in a more cohesive way. My newbie mistake was to lump several subgoals into one. big goal [writing 2 hr per day] for Bee. But RT is not set up to do that and only passed status for one of the subgoals to Bee. That only allotted about 30 min per day so I derailed very quickly.
For now RT has no interest in monitoring “macro” goals. So if I want Bee to track the time I spend writing my blog I have to break it into 3 separate goals: using Blogger.com [ 1hr]/day]; using Google search[30 min/day; and using Wiki.com [30 min/day].That is a bit more rigid than I would prefer, but is more accurate than just using a single goal [Blogger.com 1hr/per day].
Perhaps Bee will cme up with a way to merge the results of multiple goals into one goal status?
That would be honeyful!

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UPDATE +1 I now understand the relationship that my goals have to RT. Here are some tips I have for anyone wanting to emulate my RescueTime=>Beeminder automatic tracking strategy for time-related goals [Spend at least 2 hrs/day blogging]:

  1. Start with RT. Select and define the application URLs you will use to work your goal. In my case there were three: Google Blogger, Google Search, and Evernote. RT is dedicated to helping you rescue productive time from distractions when you are “working” online.It provides a spectrum that ranges from “very productive” to “very distracting”

  2. By default, any time I spend on Google Blogger is “very productive” So I link its URL to Beeminder and commit to 1 hr per day. Data points will be populated automatically by RT.

  3. But I must also do research to facilitate my articles. Normally it takes about 30 minutes to research details for each article. So I rank Google Search as “very productive” and link its URL to Beeminder with a commitment of 30 minutes per day. Again data points for this goal will be populated automatically by RT.

  4. I use Evernote to clip articles that provide grist for my creative urges. As rule of thumb I spend about 30 minutes per day abstracting information from news feeds, e-mails, and other subscription services. So I rank Evernote as “very productive” and link its URL to Beeminder with a commitment of 30 minutes per day. Data points for this goal will also be populated automatically by RT.

The manual part of this commitment involves the need to mentally concatenate the results of three micro goals into one macro goal [spend 2 hrs / day blogging]. But that is more of an inconvenience than it is a problem. At the end of the day if all three goals are in the GREEN, I can sleep well and start fresh the next day :wink:

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Idea: have thought of using IFTTT to concatenate these goals for you and send a single data point to Beeminder?
IDK if it works but it’s worth exploring

Thanks for the tip. I will try it if I can figure out how to use IFTTT to do this.

Good news! I figured out how to use IFTTT to manipulate the data passed from RescueTime to Beeminder. It works quite well and is flexible. I can distribute the time Tracked by Rt to any goal I choose within the general goal of x- time spent writing per day or week.
Thanks for the tip!

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You’re welcome!