Keeping tabs on contractors

I’d like to know when my contractors are using my web app. They do a pretty good job, and I’m not worried about being ripped off, but … they’re on the other side of the world, and I would like to have a better idea of when they’re actually on line, and how much time they’re spending on what tasks.

Any suggestions for an analytics thing that will do this? In particular, I also have some ajaxy single-page places, where tracking the time spent there would be handy.

I’m kind of thinking of hacking it together as a fun project, but I’m also trying to fight that urge :smile:


Hey David,

I am using for such behaviours and data validation!

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Hi David,

Are your contractors your customers, or are they people you’re paying to develop your web app?

If customers, see @Basilakis’s answer. If they’re your contractors developing the app let me know and I’ll follow up with some of the things I’ve learned running a software company.


They’re contractors working, via my web app/site, on actual customers projects. They do a pretty good job and finish their work, so that’s the most important thing. However, I’d like to get a better idea of when they’re active.

Well in that case you’ve got a couple of options.

You could use a platform such as and ask your team to complete timesheets. Even though my team are UK based I still get them to do this and it’s now just part of their workflow and doesn’t get in their way. The info Harvest gives us is invaluable when it comes to working out whether estimates were accurate, if certain tasks took longer than we anticipated and overall where we’re “losing” the most time in our development workflow.

Alternatively you could build something in to the app, Intercom is definitely a great solution but not sure if it can fulfil your exact needs here but I’d recommend pinging them an e-mail to see what they think if you’d prefer something in-app rather.

We’ll see how the intercom thing works out. Since everything my contractors do is via the web site, there’s no good reason to have them fill in forms anywhere. I don’t even need really precise numbers, I just want to get an idea of when they’re active and how much, and maybe spot it if they’ve skipped a big chunk of time.

I’m also kind of casting around for the ‘next thing’ after LiberWriter, but there are so many of these real time user experience things out there that could quite easily add what I want that I’m not sure it’s a very good market to be in.

I don’t know LiberWriter’s backend, but perhaps you could add a userid parameter to every web service call, log the time/user/URL, and optionally have a script which could parse the log.

I could think of a number of ways of doing it technically, but I’m trying to resist that urge to “hey, cool, let’s go hack something together!” if I can find something out there that does the job quickly and cheaply. I’m also kind of curious if it’s something I could sell, but like I wrote, I think it’s probably too close to too many existing businesses that already have all the infrastructure to easily add something like it.

Looks like doesn’t really do that. Nice product though, I was impressed.

I guess I’ll hack something up at this point.

I use oDesk to manage my contractors. The oDesk app regularly takes screenshots and keeps good logs of when people are and aren’t working.

Yes, I used that for a while and still do with some of my contractors, but decided to just pay several of the people directly. Like I said, they’re reliable and do a good job and I trust them, so this is not a big pain point, just a ‘nice to have’.

I ended up hacking something together. I wonder if I could polish it some more and do something with it commercially…

It’s not quite as in-your-face as the screenshot monitoring apps - like I said, I basically trust these guys. It does give me some accounting of when they’re on line, and which pages of my web app they’re using, which could be useful, as I could account for which projects are taking the most time.