Sauce Project: "What Ya Doin?" App


My Watermelon Sauce partner Paul and I were talking about journaling while working on projects. We prototyped and then built a Mac app that we think makes it easier to write little notes to yourself about what you are doing during coding sessions.

It can be really nice to keep a programming log. Especially at the task level. I like to have notes about how long things take and what bugs/challenges I encounter along the way. In fact, that's part of the reason why I created ShortJournal (although I've come to use SJ much more as a bucket for code snippets, ideas, and bookmarks).

I think the biggest hurdle I trip on when I get lazy about detailed journaling while coding is the distraction factor. I don't want to have to switch windows to do it, or even worse, take my hands off the keyboard and mouse to pick up pen and paper. I was chatting with Paul about this problem and about how it might be kind of nice to have something pop up every 30 minutes and ask me what I'm doing, and then just log it with a timestamp to a file. Super simple. He was instantly interested.

First, the Prototype

Within about 15 minutes I'd figured out how to make a prototype in Apple's Automator tool. It was simple enough to pop up a single line text input prompt with the question "Whatchya dooooin?" and then log the answer to a time stamped file. I saved the workflow as an App, and hooked it up to a crontab, and started using it. I really liked it, and Paul liked the prototype, too.

You can download the Mac App and the Automator Workflow here:

The Automator workflow writes the log to ~/doin.log in your home folder. Here's instructions to get it running every 30 minutes via a crontab:

# Run the following command in Terminal

crontab -e

# Add the following line to the file you will be editing

*/30 * * * * open ~/Documents/

# Note:
# ~/Documents/ is the path to your Automator app
# */30 means every 30 minutes... you could tweak that

# Save and quit the editor, and that's it!

Then, the Open Source Native App Version on GitHub

Like I said, Paul liked the idea. He suggested it become an open source Watermelon Sauce project, and that sounded like a great idea. Within just three hours of work he'd built the Native Mac App in Xcode and put WhatYaDoin on GitHub. Check it out! It currently lives in the toolbar and handles popping up every 30 minutes itself.

We've both been using it today, and it is very interesting! Next big question is going to be what to do with all the little journal snippets! I think it could be very useful for blogging or doing estimates.