Logging complete browser activity
January 23, 2011 8:09 PM   Subscribe

I'm digital arts student who wants to visualize internet addiction. How do I log browser activity: not just history...but back, forward, scrolling, and the seconds between each action?

I have a little coding experience but know nothing about how browsers/operating systems work and where I would get started trying to get this to happen. I'm in school and can get people to help me, and I want to learn about this stuff. I am more concerned with "how?" than "how difficult?" .

I would first like to get this working on my machine, but am interested in what roadblocks there would be to wrapping this up in an app/plugin that people can use to visualize their own use as well.

(The most accessible thing would be if one could just open a webpage, press a record button, and as long as that is open your activity will be recorded. Then when you're done, whatever processing functions I've created spit out the visualization. Common sense tells me that browsers have security measures against that type of thing, if it's even possible to code.)
posted by victory_laser to Computers & Internet (6 answers total) 10 users marked this as a favorite
I'm not sure exactly how to do this, but my first instinct is to look into a Firefox plugin. DejaClick probably uses similar hooks that you would want with your application, although it serves a different purpose.
posted by demiurge at 8:13 PM on January 23, 2011

Well you could use Screencasting software to make a recording of the actual browser window being used.

If you wanted a list of links that a person went to in a more parsable format, a tool like Fiddler will record and save all the URLs of the pages (and images and javascripts, etc.) that you visit during a browsing session. The one thing that it won't record is scrolling behavior in a web page. That will require deeper integration in the browser and thus the hardest one to to pull off.
posted by mmascolino at 8:19 PM on January 23, 2011

You might take a look at Mozilla Test Pilot. You might be able to use this directly, or learn something from how it's done.
Once you install the Test Pilot add-on, you will automatically receive notifications on studies that are about to start and just finish. You have the full control on your participation:

* You choose if you want to participate in a particular study
* You can see what data has been collected from you in real time
I haven't looked around too much, but I think you can find quite a bit of data that has been collected for the test cases.
posted by -jf- at 8:54 PM on January 23, 2011

This doesn't exactly do what you want, but it's the first thing my mind sprung to and I think it makes some beautiful organized-chaos images. IOGraph shows your mouse movement and clicks, ending up with something like this.
posted by ejfox at 10:45 PM on January 23, 2011

I think RescueTime keeps very detailed logs of web use.
posted by tempythethird at 5:11 AM on January 24, 2011

Slife is another app that can do most of what you're describing, though it doesn't get all the way down to the level of tracking page scrolls and individual mouseclicks -- it can log every web page visited and the time and duration it was open (and is smart enough to deal with multiple tabs; it considers only the frontmost tab to be "open".) Mac only.
posted by ook at 9:05 AM on January 24, 2011

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