From DisCO Ball Wiki
Jump to: navigation, search

BackBeat is our recommended tool for Time Tracking


BackBeat is the term/suggested name for the DisCO DECK Clockify Clone

Time tracking

The need for time tracking arises when there is productive or reproductive work, that is best measured in time spent on a given task/project (this gives a way of comparing time spent on specific tasks, but also allows us to follow everyone's value streams, Carework, Livelihood and Lovework. Trust is paramount in adopting this model, as anyone can start the clock and let it run while doing other things. So, how do we build that trust? Having a Dating phase (much like a probation period), which allows both the DisCO Committed members and the DisCO Dating members to see if they are happy about the collaboration and would like to have a long-term relationship.

Time tracking is an essential element at and we are quite careful about how to do it. This extends to the tools we use to ensure accurate and transparent time tracking — currently Clockify, although we would like to create our own time tracking tool, in order to adapt it to our specific needs, such as linking the time tracking tool to SpaceTime, our task management tool, or automatically starting when you open a task or document and start typing or stopping when there is no activity on the computer for more than X minutes; it's easy to forget to start or stop the clock.

Backbeat is conceived as a module of The DisCO DECK. The DECK is a shell for FLOSS tools and the means to make them "speak" to each other and other future modules.


While we wait for a suitable FLOSS time tracking tool or to build Backbeat, we are contunuing to use Clockify as a "guidance" tool for the things we want to adapt, change and improve on. The following is copied from GMC's Entry on Clockify. These are some of the practices we'd want to build into Backbeat.

During the four or so years we've spent developing the governance model we kept arriving at an impasse: "how do we account for non-productive or admin work?" The initial idea was to give tasks a credit value, redeemable on completion, but that was always problematic. We were wary about time-based accounting for several reasons, mainly to do with trust. Longtime Guerrilla Translator Susa Oñate cracked this by suggesting the 9-month Dating phase to foster trust during the Hervás June 2018 meeting. If you've read the section on Carework Value you'll know that time tracking is an essential element in Guerrilla Translation and we are quite careful about how to do it. This extends to the tools we use to ensure accurate and transparent time tracking - in this case Clockify.

About Clockify

Clockify was created as a free [1], scalable alternative to Toggl, an almost identical tool we were previously using - until its cost became too prohibitive. Like some of the other proprietary tools, we hope to replace it in the future with something just as good, or better.

At its heart there's not much mystery to using Clockify: it's a stopwatch, you start it when you begin working on something, you stop it when you're finished. The devil lies in the details of course and, perhaps more importantly, the habits of time tracking. Time tracking can feel uncomfortable and/or invasive, so we will spend some time discussing these discomforts and the best way to overcome them. This is part of the support provided by your GT Buddy and Mutual Support Pal, so you will always have someone to help you time track and explain the technical details, as well as someone else to talk you through any possible emotional difficulties related to it.

What we use Clockify for

Time tracking is an essential component of the Open Coop governance/economic model. Like anything else, it's a matter of practice, exploring and forming habits. As you will see, the way we time track is quite precise. What is the reason for this? This has to do with mutual accountability, i.e. not toward an external authority, but we account our activities within the collective towards each other. To achieve this, we need absolute clarity and a high level of precision. This leads us to one of the essential qualities of our tool system: holoptism, or the ability for everyone to see what everyone else is doing.

Clarity provides information on how to best allocate our resources. Time tracking in particular lets us know how long certain tasks take and whether a work circle or person needs help on any given area. Most importantly, it clearly highlights what could otherwise be relegated to invisible work. Time tracking is not a mechanistic protocol for us to distribute value or levy penalties. It serves to clarify conversations about how we spend our time and effort in the collective.

Going back to some of the personal difficulties we mentioned earlier, we understand that time tracking is a process that may call into question your personal work habits and idiosyncrasies. For example, you may be a happy multitasker, prefering to pick and choose among various kinds of tasks. Although this is generally not recommended, we respect your style. Clockify actually allows you to do this, but you'll have to work a little bit like a DJ (using more than two decks) and track a few minutes, here, another few there, etc.

Time tracking can feel normative, because it requires discipline but, to quote Robert Fripp "Discipline is never an end in itself, only a means to an end." What is the end here? To ensure fairness and transparency in contributions and to uphold the governance model we've all agreed to take forward. If this takes some time and effort, it is worth it and, as mentioned above, we will help you every step of the way. Think of it as self-development that is also beneficial for the health of the project.

What Clockify is for

Clockify IS for:

  • Time tracking
  • Visualizing what everyone is doing and how long it takes
  • Having clear data for our sprints, retrospectives and resource planning
  • Allocate Care hours in the governance model
  • Help you manage your time better
  • Help you fill in your Daily check-in

How we use Clockify

Suggested bookmark for BTBW: Clockify Tracker

While clockify has their own tutorial videos (see playlist above) we will concentrate on how we use it in GT.

Time tracking is essential for determining carework value (or care hours). We also use time tracking in the other three main areas - Love, Livelihood and Projects. The other three have peculiarities which we will explain below but, for now, we'll use the carework area as an example. To choose the work area you'll be time tracking, simply click on your username at the top of the left column and switch between areas:

Choosing workspaces in Clockify

Basic time tracking and choosing projects

As mentioned before, basic operation of Clockify is stupidly simple: you use the big red button to activate it and stop it. That's it. The necessary complexity comes with the fact that you have to determine what you're working on/time tracking exactly. This is done through something that Clockify calls "projects". Projects mainly correspond to existing Trello cards (and, depending on the project Loomio threads). Say for example that I'm going to work on Wiki content. There is an established Trello card with that name, so it follows that the Clockify project will be named identically. There are several ways to determine the project you're time tracking. The easiest by far is to use the Project Button to the right of the timer:

When you click it a search box will pop up. Following our example, you would type "Wiki" here and see what comes up:

As you can see from the image, this gives you all wiki related tasks, organized by subgroups. In this case, you'd choose wiki content .

Now that you've chosen the task, you can also describe what part of the task you're working on. As you will see below, a task on a Trello card is usually broken down by subtasks, so maybe, in Wiki Content you could be editing the Glossary. In that case you would write down Glossary in the area to the left of the project (Where it says "What's up", above). While we would like you to be very organized with the project you're choosing to time track, you can be more lax with the current-task description. It can still be very helpful though when seeing how long each subtask takes, so keep that in mind. Here is what that would look like:

Another way to start and stop the time is by simply hitting play on a recent entry. These are listed below the time. So in this case let's say I want to pick up again on one of the tasks I was doing yesterday - in this case our Quarterly Evaluation (Trello card here). I will search for it among the entries below and hit play:

This way of hitting play from the menu can help with what we refer to as "multitasking DJing". You start with one thing: hit play, switch to another, hit play on the second task, and so on.

Now that we've discussed choosing projects, let us highlight something very important: you're not time tracking projects for yourself, you're time tracking them for the group. This means that, for example, whenever anyone is working on "Wiki content", they will track using the same category. When we are all in a quarterly evaluation, we do the same and so on. This allows us to have team-wide data for each shared project, as we will explain below.

General projects

There are certain carework tasks which do not have their own Trello card. These are more general or "big picture" tasks. Within Clockify these exist as Gen projects. Say that you're chatting on Slack? Type "Gen" in the search field and choose "General Slack work" under Community. Say you're writing an email to a possible partner? Type Gen and choose "Gen External Comms/email" and so on. These Gen Projects are pretty self-explanatory, but when in doubt, ask your GT Buddy. Some of them like "Gen Trello work" mean that you're updating your tasks in Trello, etc. but, once you choose a task, hone down and start time tracking it by its specific name. It will help everyone.

Gen projects at the time of writing

The other notable exception to the Trello card/Clockify project binary is the Daily Check-in, which has its own project within carework. In fact, on the subject of the check-in: Clockify is the best way of seeing what you did yesterday. It's all right there!

Creating new projects

What if the task you're working on doesn't exist as a project? It may be a new project we've agreed on. What do you do? Creating new projects is easy: Go to "projects" on the left hand column. When the Projects page opens up, hit the big green "Create New Project" button on the top right.

There are, however, three very important considerations:

  1. When creating the project, the window will prompt you to make it a private or public project. Private is the default, but for GT all projects must be public. This cannot be overstated, tick the "public" box when creating projects.
  2. Don't create projects on your own. Always make sure that the task has been discussed and approved in Loomio or on a call. When in doubt, please consult with your GT buddy before creating any new project.
  3. Projects are categorized under the main subgroups we've discussed before. So, for example, when time tracking projects/tasks are related to fundraising, the projects have to exist within the "Sustainability" category. This is helpful for each particular work circle. To do this, click on "Select client" and choose the subgroup from the client dropdown.

To give an example, say that we've discussed creating a Newsletter. It's been agreed on in Loomio (see below) but the project doesn't exist for it yet in Clockify. So you go to Projects and add "Create New Project". In the pop up you'll write "Newsletter" as the project name, choose the colour of your liking and then, most importantly, click the "Public (visible to all workspace members)" bix and choose a subgroup/working circle under "Select client".

Double time tracking/credit allocation

This is extremely important, please read carefully:

Some timed-projects may overlap between the Carework and livelihood/love areas. In these cases you and the Community Circle stewards must determine whether your work is tracked on care hours or credits. What you must never do is time track and receive livelihood/love credits '''and '''Care hours for the same task.

For example, I'm interested in seeing how long it takes me to complete a translation. To do this I time track it by creating a project with the translation's name. However, this is just for info and does not count as care-hours. The probono translations (and pre and post production, copy editing and diffusion tasks) are measured in Love Credits, as explained earlier. Similarly, say that a client contacts us to subtitle a video. Whomever is communicating with the client and organizing the team tracks their time as carehours, but, as soon as they are actually performing the subtitling work, this is counted as Livelihood credits.

This leads to the somewhat confusing situation that within Love and Livelihood, where certain tasks are considered as carework and retributed in care hours (even if they're within other areas) while others are measured in credits. In fact, there may be tasks (as in the paid translation example above) where the same Clockify project will incorporate some work tracked in hours and other work tracked in credits. It's very important to know which is which and never track the same contributions under both systems.

The way to do this on Clockify is by labelling projects as "billable" or not. Billable projects are compensated in Care Hours, non-billable are tracked in either Love or Livelihood credits. This is very easy to do. Immediately to the left of the running time you will find an icon with a Dollar sign. When it's blue it means that time is being tracked as billable. When it's not it isn't and we know that that time is being tracked as credits. Within the carework area all work is billable (as there are no Love or Livelihood credits, just care hours). Only the Love, Livelihood and Project areas may present a combination of billable/non billable time entries.

So, like everything else to do with time tracking, the mechanics of this are very simple, but it's also very easy to make mistakes. This is the reason that we recommend that Dating members start time tracking with supervision during Stage One of the Dating Phase to familiarise themselves with Clockify's interface and these peculiarities. From Stage Two onward you should be able to time track mainly on your own, and this is important in relation to your Historical credits. As a team it is our shared responsibility to go through the hours on a weekly basis to make sure that no one has accidentally done something odd . Time entries can be edited easily, so that doesn't pose a problem. What would is having a wrong or double time entry go undetected.

If there is any confusion with this, please contact the community coordinators ASAP as we literally cannot afford to make mistakes with our credit/hours accounting.

To time track or NOT to time track, that is the question

One question that comes up often is the types of work you should be "clockifying". Some of these are clear cut, but it's important to minimise misunderstandings. The following list is open to discussion.

YES: you should be time-tracking:

  • Any work that can be found in our channels or is documented, whether in writing (Loomio, Slack - contributing on threads or conversation) or through tasks (Trello — Updates, card creation, ticking off items in checklists, etc)
  • Tasks with defined Loomio/Trello cards/threads and, most importantly, Clockify categories. (See list here).
  • Any online meetings with coop members or outside people (potential members, authors, partners etc)
  • Any GMC in-person meetings (except "events", see below)
  • Any correspondence pertaining to GMC (except anything considered as Lovework, such as pro-bono pre-production
  • Your Daily Check ins and all community rhythms
  • Mentoring (teaching)
  • Time spent organizing your work (ie, weekly organization)
  • Reading anything on Slack, Loomio, Trello
  • Mutual support [2]

NO: you shouldn't be time-tracking:

  • Reading books, articles etc. This can be reading a text pre-translation (like FFA) etc
  • Attendance at events [3]
  • Receiving mentoring (yes, you can time track this but it is not billable)
  • Thinking about GMC or its projects (We'd all be rich if we could afford to pay for this!)
  • Stop the clock if you begin to check social media, are getting distracted or stuck. Take a break and come back when you're focused and remember to check that you didn't leave the clock running in your absence (this has happened to everyone, it's your responsibility to fix it when you come back)

Why aren't some of these things time tracked? Put simply, we can't afford to pay for every single thing that has to do with the collective. So we time-track as "billable" the most highly-defined/clearly bounded items.

When in doubt, ASK YOUR MENTOR They will always have a clear idea of what "counts" and what doesn't.

Please refer to the section above regarding billable/non billable work tracking

Downtime Breaks

If you're following the Pomodoro technique (highly recommended), you can leave the time on for five minutes (if you're taking a break every 25 minutes) or ten (if you break every 50). We all need to stretch and take our mind off tasks regularly, and this is part of work too.

However, if you break is longer than five or ten minutes, do not time track. As a rule of thumb it's better to manually add the extra minutes in the timer field and end the task rather than leaving it running while you're stretching etc. This only applies when staying focused on one task for at least 25 minutes, not to multitasking. Finally, if you don't take a break after one hour, that's on you, don't give yourself any additional (or even proportional) downtime minutes.

Reports and visualizations

Clockify's powerful visualizations helps us discuss and distribute Carework thanks to its powerful visualizations. The simplest way to visualise your work (and that of the team) is by clicking on dashboard on the left hand menu. This brings you to a page where you can select to see what you've done on any given day/week/month, both the total amount of hours and what these have been subdivided by. To see what the team has been doing, activate the "team" button on the top left.

For a more detail overview of carehours, head on over to reports, also on the left hand menu. This allows to call up all kinds of filterable information. The default is "This week/all projects/all team members", but can determine the dates, users or projects you want to visualise in detail. Find out more about the various options of the reports function here.

Monitoring Clockify Regularly

To ensure we are on track, all full members check Clockify once a week through Clockify Friday. The procedure is as follows[4]:

  • Everyone checks their time tracking for the week, corrects errors etc (Click here for more info on how to do this).
  • Everyone checks the group's time tracking for the week, identifies other's possible errors and gets an overall sense of carework being done.
  • Each member reports their total hours/Billabe income in this Slack thread
  • Weekly results are then recorded in this Loomio thread .
  • We briefly discuss the results so these are balanced as possible ongoing (availability permitting).


So far we have been focused mainly on the Carework area and its corresponding workspace in Clockify. Workspaces are kept totally separate. Ie: projects, time entries, visualizations, etc. aren't visible from one space to another. We do this to help prevent confusion between carehours and love and livelihood credits. It also helps us keep track of the "exceptions" we mentioned above about billable carehours within the Love and Livelihood areas. The workspaces are like totally separate silos, but switching from one to other is extremely easy: Just click on your username on the left hand column and a pop-up menu lets you navigate the various workspaces:

You can find out more about how to use workspaces in this tutorial.

Additional Clockify Resources and Tutorials

Although we've explained the main features related to GT, a quick browse through Clockify's help page will give you another perspective and additional insights on how to best use the tool. Here are some selections below:

  1. But not Free Software
  2. This is currently under discussion
  3. This is because the amount of time everyone would time track would far exceed our ability to ever pay. Instead, during in-person meetings, there are sub-meetings which fall under the list above, like meeting to go over accounting, etc). Also, events are high cost items in our budgets, due to travel, meals and lodging. We can't *spend* on an event and *pay ourselves* to be there.
  4. This is copied straight from the Community Rhythms section linked above