Simple time logging on top of git flow

My current team found out that we should have tracked some time over the last year. Extracting timelogs in retrosepct is not fun. Git helps a lot, combined with chat-logs from Slack, Google Calendars will give a good basis. A day of grep, sed, and awk, and you have some time-logs.

I decided that from now on, I want to track what I start and finish working on in a basic log. And I am using git with git-flow by Peter van der Does, which is what you get when you apt-get install git-flow. This allows special git-flow hooks.

I want this to write logs to a simple textfile. But have a place where I could call external APIs to insert some tracking data into external trackers, when my team uses these.

The result is certainly not a replacement for actual timetracking. But a log that will aide with answering "when did you work on what?".

[2016-04-06T06:43:13Z] /home/ber/Documenten/BLG_blog STARTED article-git-flow-logging
[2016-04-06T06:43:16Z] /home/ber/tmp/flowtest STARTED a-feature
[2016-04-06T06:43:47Z] /home/ber/tmp/flowtest STARTED another-feature
[2016-04-06T07:12:10Z] /home/ber/Documenten/BLG_blog FINISHED article-git-flow-logging
[2016-04-06T07:43:52Z] /home/ber/tmp/flowtest FINISHED another-feature

These will be written out when using

git flow feature start some-feature
git flow feature finish branch
## or the short alternative
git flow feature finish

It requires you to work with git-flow and use feature branches for everything. But you should use topic branches anyway.

Git-flow triggers its own hooks. So just create a simple utility script that is exectuable and logs an activity, or calls an external API or whatever you are using. Then call that script from the git-flow hooks.

Note that, as far as I can tell, the upsteam git-flow by nvie himself, does not have own git-hooks. Peter van der Does' fork has this. Which is also the source used for the Debian package (so also for Ubuntu).

#!/bin/bash
set -e

working_dir=$(pwd)
feature=$2
action=$1
now=$(date -u +"%Y-%m-%dT%H:%M:%SZ") # ISO8601

echo "[$now] $working_dir $action $feature" >> ~/.git-flow-feature.log

Write that to e.g. ~/bin/log-git-flow-feature and make executable with chmod +x ~/bin/log-git-flow-feature.

Note: when you create scripts with git-foo a subcommand git foo is made available. You probably don't want to name this script git-flow-log-feature or so, to prevent git flow log from becoming a command.

Now just add two hooks and make them exectuable. This will add hooks to a specific git repo:

echo 'log-git-flow-feature STARTED "$@"' >> /path/to/project/.git/hooks/pre-flow-feature-start
chmod +x /path/to/project/.git/hooks/pre-flow-feature-start
echo 'log-git-flow-feature FINISHED "$@"' >> /path/to/project/.git/hooks/pre-flow-feature-finish
chmod +x /path/to/project/.git/hooks/pre-flow-feature-finish

When I need to call an external time-tracker, the ~/bin/log-git-flow-feature script is the place to do this. An example:

#...
curl -X POST -D "{ 'note': '$feature in $working_dir' }" http://timetracker.io/api/entry

I've create a gist with the contents of the files so if you want to enhance it, feel free to fork it!

There is a lot of room for improvement:

  • make this work with "generic" git-hooks instead of relying on git-flow. Should probably match against patterns in branches that are created, merged, rebased etc.
  • map directories with projects, log name of the project.
  • don't use "pwd" but determine the actual working copy of git instead, to allow this to work with fancy setups or when working from within subdirectories.
  • log git flow feature checkout as well, to log switching between (long)running branches.
  • fall back on generic git-hooks
Woodcut from Doré. Purely illustrative
Doré Woodcut. Its only function is to make the layout look better. And these images are really nice themselves

About the author: Bèr Kessels is an experienced webdeveloper with a great passion for technology and Open Source. A golden combination to implement that technology in a good and efficient way. Follow @berkes on Twitter. Or read more about Bèr.

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