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track work hoursThese days, working from home is becoming an everyday reality for a growing number of people. One thing that’s very important when working from home is accountability. Your boss needs to be able to figure out what you’ve been spending your time on and what you’ve produced. Solutions for this problem span the gamut from complete trust (my favorite, when the boss and employee have worked together for a while) all the way to apps that take constant screenshots of your desktop and monitor your every move via the webcam (seriously, that’s what vWorker.com uses, and sometimes it’s necessary). [NO LONGER WORKS] Ididwork lies closer to the “trust” end of the spectrum. It lets employees report what they’ve done in short, tweet-like messages, and is very unobtrusive.

Ididwork feels very social, and the resemblance to Twitter is often striking. For instance, let’s look at the employee sign-up page:

track work hours

Now let’s compare and contrast with Twitter’s sign-up form:

track work hours online

See what I mean? Three fields and a button, large typography. While I won’t turn this post into a study in UI design trends, the general vibe is quite clear. Let’s take a look at the manager sign-up form:

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track work hours online

Ididwork is almost like two apps in one: It’s cut cleanly down the middle, with a different interface for managers and employees.

Let’s take a look at what an employee sees when they first log on:

track work hours online

Couldn’t be simpler. You get a large text field and can just type in what you did. Each status update can be up to (you guessed it) 160 characters long. This can either be a tiny task (“Finished first draft of one drawing”), if your boss likes to micro-manage. Or it can be something substantial, if you’re fortunate enough to have a hands-off type of manager. Some beautiful UI work there: See how ididwork allows advanced functionality (submitting via IM and using tags), but hides it using unobtrusive links.

Let’s learn a little bit about the tags and to-do items:

track progress project

There’s very nice help text for all three properties (tags, time tracking and to-do tracking), and they’re quite simple.

Let’s tag this entry as “marketing” and specify how long it took me:

track progress project

Whoops, and here’s the first glitch. My seemingly flawless syntax yielded an error message:

track progress project

Turns out I can’t use a comma, which is a common tag separator. Okay, let’s lose the comma and just use a space. All done! The entry was saved, and looks like this:

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It really could not be simpler. The star isn’t all that clear, though: Why should you star a task you did yourself, and where will that star show up? I could find no explanation for this in the UI.

Next, let’s look at the weekly report option:

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Here too, the advanced options are hidden in a section which is collapsed by default. Very nice, and lets users get right to the point. The resulting PDF is exceedingly bare-bones:

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By default, it’s just a list of tasks and dates. I guess it’s for the kind of boss who couldn’t be bothered to log onto yet another web app, and just wants you to submit a weekly report in no-nonsense format. I was hoping for some bells and whistles, but then it occurred to me how silly it would be to use color in a PDF that’s meant for printing on a typical office laser jet. If it’s bells and whistles you’re after, the Analyze section might serve you better:

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It clearly shows what tags you’ve spent most of your time with, and this is one place where you can see your starred tasks. This is only an accurate gauge if all tasks you log are of a similar size. Otherwise, ten tiny marketing tasks would loom larger on the graph than one huge wildlife-related task that took much longer. The graph also lets you drill down into a single category and compare it to past weeks, so you can see how the nature of your work changes over time.

So far we’ve focused on the logging and analysis, but where do your peers, or your boss, come into the picture? Right here:

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If you can get a few of your teammates to use ididwork, you can all share the same feed, know what you’re each working on and even give props for certain tasks. This looks like a very useful feature for a tight-knit group. Next, let’s see where your boss fits into the picture:

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You can email your boss even if he’s not an ididwork user:

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Sadly though, we won’t be able to tell what that email looks like, because this is what happened when I tried sending it:

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Oops indeed! Not to dwell on this failure, let’s quickly move on to the settings, which is the last thing we’ll be looking at. They are quite numerous:

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That IM tab looks intriguing:

track work hours

That’s right: You can report your work via AIM, Yahoo! Messenger or Google Talk. I’ve tested this before, using Google Talk, and it worked very well. This is actually the handiest way to use ididwork: You just add it to your friends list, and ping it whenever you complete a task. No need to open a browser tab or log-in. Couldn’t be simpler, really.

Bottom Line

Ididwork is a lovely app that gets almost everything right. The UI strikes a fine balance between simplicity and power, and the overall concept is very compelling, both for managers and employees. Both telecommuting and cubicle-dwelling employees could make very good use of it.

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