The TaskTracer project at Oregon State University has been developing fully-functional prototypes of new task-oriented personal computer environments that track a user’s interactions with all applications, automatically organize the user’s information naturally according to tasks, and intelligently leverage the collected data to make desktop applications more task-aware. TaskTracer not only improves personal productivity by reducing overhead interaction and cognitive costs, but also will support collaboration in workgroups by allowing the sharing of task profiles – records of how a user completed a task, incorporating both the resources used, and high level records of actions on those resources.
At the center of the TaskTracer project is the concept that almost all workers organize their work into discrete and describable units, such as projects, tasks or to-do items. Our approach will combine user input, creative user interfaces, and machine learning to assign each observed action (opening a file, saving a file, sending an email, cutting and pasting information, etc.) to such a task for which it is likely being performed.
Through this, we intend to support knowledge work, so that:
- All resources (email messages, documents, web bookmarks, contacts, pictures, etc) are automatically organized together for workers by their tasks (see figure on the right).
- Applications are aware of their current task, and adapt to support it, like knowing exactly where a worker might want to save a file.
- Tools are available to help workers better recover their context in a task after an interruption, showing them what they were working on before the interruption.
- Personal information management is supported better, automatically recording what workers did to complete a task, and helping them to reuse that process for future similar tasks.
- Workgroup information is available, enabling them to see how other members of their workgroup completed a task.
- Workflows are detected and analyzed, allowing for better understanding of organizational work processes.