Zeitgeist User Survey 2011 Fall Results

Hello everyone,

As I announced earlier we had opened User Survey for Zeitgeist for general feedback and assessment of our own work. It was also to help us understand what are the user requirements.

After 5 days, we have received 261 responses. Instead of going in details and boring you, I would like to keep the post as short as possible and provide detailed analysis in the next post.

Our survey contained questions related to general Zeitgeist questions, Activity Journal, Activity Log Manager, Datasources and Community aspects. Users were also asked about their distro of choice and optional name, age and Country.

Distribution demographics

The biggest share of responders were using Ubuntu – 136. 30 of them were using derivatives. I am also happy to see Fedora and Gentoo in the list.

The other 10 distros included Mandriva, Chakra, Kubuntu (which could be part of Ubuntu and it’s derivatives)

How did you come to know about Zeitgeist

Online blog/news-outlet and Planet make up a huge percent of users. It is evident that people do follow these two very closely. Notice that total does not add up to 100% as just hearing the name might not be sufficient for someone to figure out what it is.

How much do you know about Zeitgeist

Pretty much obvious conclusion. The user know what it is but most of them are not geeky. Looks like those 6 “I hacked on the codebase” was selected by contributors.

Do you know what is Zeitgeist Datasources

One half of my brain says “Teach them what it is” and the other side says “No. Not everyone is very interested in being force taught”. Guess what? I take the central stand and will publish a short article on what all components of Zeitgeist do.

Which of these Datasources do you use?

This is a VERY VERY important chart. This tells us the adoption of datasources esp when datasources are not present in Ubuntu, Debian, Fedora and openSUSE (AFAIK for last two). I think they are present in Gentoo and Arch.

I am really humbled that so many people like Firefox datasource even though it had suffered so much with regular xulrunner API breakage. With our new datasource which uses js-ctypes, all the API headache is gone. Gedit. Banshee and Chrome too score pretty high

Which datasources would you like to see in the near future?

I never thought Thunderbird would come out as first. My expectations were with Gnome-0shell which is actually second.

Good news is that Thunderbird datasource is in progress. Mark Jtully is working on it. Gnome-shell would is also in progress.

Since other were 76, I would like to name a few, though I would prefer a separate post for this. The number 76 has led me to make up my mind for a special treatment.

Let me list a few:


Jason. Is that you? If yes, then contact me on IRC :)


Personally my favourite too


Work in progress


Telepathy plugin already present


Even I am excited about it


Work in progress. Stay tuned for the next blog post

Heard about Activity Log Manager

Activity Log Manager is Administrative tool for Zeitgeist. You can temporarily stop logging, blacklisting certain applications from logging information, blacklisting certain mimetypes, clearing all history between time range etc. It is a handy tool. A new version is going to be out soon.

It is really sad that half of the people never heard about it. Looks like we failed at spreading the word. By the way there has only been a single release.

How much are you involved with the community?

40% of the people are users. “Nor am I interested” is not a harsh phrase. It simply means “I use so many applications and it is not possible for me to be involved in each and every community”.

15% of the respondents are eager to join the community. Probably you all can help us in testing. This is where most of the manpower is needed.

In case you have problems, where do you ask your questions?

Two-third of the people do prefer forums. Mailing lists and IRC still trump over Q&A sites. I think many people have answered this not only for problems but also for general questions.

In case you are an Ubuntu user, you can ask your question on Ask Ubuntu and tag the question with zeitgeist tag.

Are your problems related to Zeitgeist solved?

Did I tell you that this chart has boosted my morale? 70% of the people didn’t have problems with Zeitgeist. I now really guess that these people were asking general questions or discussing about zeitgeist and replied to the above question.

Whatever be the case, we still have 10% unsatisfied users from the samplespace. 10% is a significant number. Hope we can bring it down by the next survey.

Few interesting comments we received

More focus on the related items of Zeitgeist

Looks like we really lacking here. Thanks for reminding

The ability to put zeitgeist in private-mode

It is already present in Activity Log Manager

I’m a software developer and do lots of testing every day. I need a way of blocking activity from my development/testing trees

There is a “Logging Active” toggle button in Activity Log Manager

 It[Activity Journal] needs to be abstracted into Unity

Isn’t it already? Probably the implementation is different. There is no journal view in Unity

It doesnt show all my files

You need more datasources. In other words we need to provide more datasources which you need to install.

It’s [Activity Journal] good, but shouldn’t we be providing this information through the UIs made available by the host OS?

It is somewhat done for Unity. Next up in Shell and Plasma. In any case none of them show the Journal view as Activity Journal

I really like being able to see what I did, and when I did it. The thumbnails for code snippets, videos, and pictures are also rather nice. Congrats on making a easy-to-use computer journal :)

All I can do is smile

Please integrate it into Gnome Shell if it light enough.

This is also my personal wish. It might take some time

It would be nice if these datsource plugins are included by default without the user having to do it manually. This way it just works.

This has to be done at distro level. This is something even I would love to see

A ppa would be nice.

A you wish, but remember there can be dragons

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24 thoughts on “Zeitgeist User Survey 2011 Fall Results

  1. When answering “which of these Datasources do you use?”, I simply ticked the applications that I use in that list. I don’t know whether I’ve installed the appropriate plug-ins for them or not.

  2. I am the “software developer” comment. Being able to turn the logging on and off is not what I want. I browse web sites, read email, IM, look at images etc while doing development and testing so an all on or all off setting won’t work. And then I’d have to keep remembering to toggle it many times a day.

    Quite simply I want a configuration rule that says if the event mentions a file below /space/dev then discard the event (ie don’t even put it in the database).

    • To me all these pieces are the same thing so I’m not clear what you are saying. At the time I tried zeitgeist there was no way of blacklisting various directories and I found that the existing databases were rather large and full of my testing stuff. I found many other posts asking for the same functionality but no solution. Consequently I removed all of it from my Ubuntu system.

      If there is one place I can blacklist directory and in the future web sites (internal IP/netmask/port numbers would probably be better) and as a consequence none of thus suite of programs and plumbing saves the data then I’d be happy.

        • Here are a bunch of words that I consider to be the same thing: Zeitgeist, Activity Log, Activitiy Log Manager, Activity Journal, Datasources etc. When I did the survey I answered a whole bunch of questions, hit next and the very next page had substantially the same questions but a different name at the top. It did that several times.

          On Ubuntu the code that was swelling a database had zeitgeist in the name and that is what I removed. You are now saying some random program making up the whole suite can blacklist folders after saying in the posting above that you could only toggle data recording on or off.

          When I looked at “zeitgeist” earlier this year I found no way of blacklisting folders, lots of online requests for the same thing and some very swollen databases on my system. Plus the gui (whatever it was called) was very slow due to the large databases. So I uninstalled it all.

          I’m still confused as to what you (plural) are trying to tell me:

          Does one program out of all the suite have a config to not show events involving certain folders even if they are recorded in the database?

          The same but something that applies to all programs?

          A setting that causes the events to not be logged in the first place in the database.

          • On Ubuntu the code that was swelling a database had zeitgeist in the name and that is what I removed.

            Zeitgeist records events and stores it in a database, so naturally the size of database will grow over time.

            You are now saying some random program making up the whole suite can blacklist folders after saying in the posting above that you could only toggle data recording on or off.

            That application Activity Log Manager can do many things. You can toggle logging On and Off. You can blacklist certain folders. You can blacklist files based on types – Video, Audio etc. You can delete all events logged in a specific duration too

            Does one program out of all the suite have a config to not show events involving certain folders even if they are recorded in the database?

            For that I need to know what kind of files you do not want to appear

            A setting that causes the events to not be logged in the first place in the database.

            That is what Activity Log Manager does

  3. I really like the idea of zeitgeist… have been using it since 10.10 … and 11.04, and now 11.10

    Activity Log Manager is useful for blacklisting certin paths/events, etc.

    Hopefully the following isn’t too far off topic…

    In my opinion, the biggest problem (other than the architecture of requiring each application to be a dataprovider to zeitgeist –versus– zeitgeist monitoring events, such as file access, log events, etc) is Activity Log Journal doesn’t have a way to usefully report time lines. The display is pretty. But it’s not useful to me. For example, I often review a day of work to better understand how my time was spent. The closest thing to what I need is timeline view… but even then, there are no sub-totals or totals. It’d be even better if I could group events in order to gain totals, because quite often I work on multiple files/conversations/things in order to complete a task.

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