last.fm for television

One of the social network sites I’ve been using the longest is last.fm.

(If you know what last.fm is, bear with me teaching you to suck eggs for a few paragraphs… it gets more interesting – honest!)

The idea of last.fm is that a background service captures (or “scrobbles“) the music that I listen to on my computer at home, on the mp3 player that I use in the car, and on my laptop in the office.

This means that I now have a large record detailing the music I’ve listened to over the last three years.

I do this for a few reasons, including:

  • The data is made available to me through a rich API, which means I’m free to play with it, as well as take advantage of the creations of others, such as the wonderful visualisations generated by lastgraph
  • I can see what my friends listen to, which is interesting, as well as being a good way to come across new music
  • last.fm use this detailed history of my music-listening tastes to make automated recommendations of other music that I might like

This is all a long-winded way of saying that I like last.fm. I find it useful and interesting, and want the same for all the media that I consume – not just music.

I went looking for an equivalent for the books that I read in August 2008, and started using goodreads.

But what about the television that I watch? Could I create a last.fm-style scrobbler to capture what I watch on television? And then try and come up with a few examples of how I could share and visualise the data?

This question is where I started at Christmas… and after a few evenings of hacking some Python together, I’ve come up with:

last.fm for television

Please go take a look. (needs Flash – sorry)

I’d love to know what you think. (Either here, or on the site itself – I’ve used disqus to add a threaded comments section to every set of graphs)

It’s still very rough-and-ready… think of it as a very early alpha, written in a hurry, by someone drinking too much beer.

And there is hardly any data in there yet because it hasn’t been running for long ehough yet. (I originally planned to leave it running for a few weeks before blogging about it, but it turns out I have the patience of a small child at Christmas. Sorry.).

But already you can see a few simple patterns emerging:

Time spent watching different programmesMy favouite programmes are House, Top Gear and Doctor Who

I spend too much time watching House on five USA

wordle from descriptions of programmes that I watchI watch a lot of comedy quizzes and panel shows – like Have I Got News For You, Mock The Week, etc.


Time spent watching different channelsI spend the most time watching programmes on BBC TWO

Time spent watching channels from different media companiesIn general, most of the time, we watch programmes from a BBC channel


In the mornings, we mainly…
Time spent watching live televisionWhere I watch television
watch live television

watch television in the dining room

My most watched live television programmesand of the live television we watch, most of it is News or breakfast news programmes


Where we watch TV in the eveningTelevision I watch in the eveningIn the evenings, we mainly…
watch recorded programmes

watch television in the sitting room


Television watching at the weekendAt the weekends, we…
Get up a little later than on weekdays.

And the TV is left on for a bit longer.


Lengths of programmes I watch on TVMost of the programmes that I watch are half an hour long
Time spent watching TV before I channel-hopBut on the whole, I tend to watch for 15 – 30 mins at a time before channel-hopping


You get the idea.

It’s a start… I’ve got a ton of ideas of how I’d like to extend this. But even now, it’s strangely compelling to see the different graphs build up.

As an added benefit, tinkering with this over Christmas also managed to remove any lingering doubts my family had as to just how geeky I really am :-)

Tags: , , , , ,

10 Responses to “last.fm for television”

  1. Trevor says:

    Dale, How do you capture this information? I’m in the Granada TV region and we’ve been switched over to digital losing all analogue signals. At this time my two PACE Twin Freeview harddisc records stopped working. I was therefore looking to replace them with a linux based system which I could configure. However I didn’t want one device per TV it seems wastefull. Do you have a central system to record and distribute media to all TV’s?

    On some of your graphs (ie when do I watch TV), I’d be tempted to split it between weekdays and weekends. You could have tabs down the side of the graph for ALL days and then each day of the week to see how your habits change.

    If you could catagories what you watch (ie comedy, chat, cars, sci-fi etc) then you maybe able to build your own EPG of recommended viewing.

    i must have a look at Python if you can knock something like this togther in a few minutes. I’m still trying to get my Currentcost up and running on my Slug!!

    Interesting topic – thanks

    Trev

  2. dale says:

    Trevor – I’ve put some basic info on how it was written up at http://dalelane.co.uk/tvscrobbling/credits.html but I’ll probably follow up with a post here soon explaining more detail.

    As for devices per TV… I do have a single central server that streams stuff to three places around the house. But you do need something running Linux to stream it to.

    I’ve managed to do it using bits and pieces around the house. For example, my old EEE PC (which was dropped last year and has sat in a cupboard with a cracked LCD) streams to my dining room TV.

    The Acer Aspire gives us a mobile screen too… useful for watching TV in bed. Also means that I can put a DVD in the central vdr server, and let it stream it to the netbook in bed (which obviously doesn’t have it’s own DVD drive). :-)

    As for splitting weekends/weekdays, I have done that in a few places – e.g. http://dalelane.co.uk/tvscrobbling/timeofday.html But yeh, there are lots more ways still to slice it

    As for categories… I’d love to do that, but there I haven’t found a source of category data to do it with. And I don’t fancy tagging them manually.

    Many thanks for the comment!

    Kind regards

    D

  3. [...] sure to also read his explanation of why he wanted this system, how it works, and future plans, which include thoughts on how to [...]

  4. Trevor says:

    Dale,

    Thanks for the reply. Could I ask you about your Asrock / media set-up?

    Can you manage the Asrock from any TV location or do you have to physically go back to it (ie to program a new recording or start play back)? If you can manage remotely do you need to be Linux / computer literate. In other words could a child or partner use this (does it pass the wife test!). I’ve had a quick look at the Asrock web site. What TV card did you add to it, that works with Linux?

    As you state each TV would require a local media convertor. I’ve been looking at the Asus O!Play. However I’m not sure if the Linux has been hacked yet.
    http://www.liliputing.com/2009/10/asus-launches-oplay-hd-media-player.html

    Freeview are about to introduce a new codec for HD named DVB-T2. So the idea of a linux box (Asrock) which you can add/replace cards has the added appeal of a normal appliance.

    Thanks
    Trevor

  5. dale says:

    Any of the vdr front-ends can control the back-end server. The on-screen menu is straightforward enough for most people.

    (Despite this, I also created a macro for one of the remote controls which starts vdr and switches the channel to CBeebies. This means the kids only have to press one button to get their programmes).

    Friends using MythTV tell me that they think Myth is easier to use. But I’ve only used vdr, so I can’t comment.

    Kind regards, D

  6. [...] last.fm for television « dale lane (tags: lastfm tv attention graphs visualization) [...]

  7. Dom says:

    Ignore anyone who tells you MythTV is easier to use than VDR :-)

  8. [...] this could be a useful extra context for your lifestream. If you’re inclined towards hacking, try hacking your PVR to do the same with your TV viewing.7. Track your computer use. RescueTime monitors what [...]

  9. [...] Scrobbling by Ben Hardill under MythTV, Projects Having seen Dale Lane’s work with VDR to build something similar to Last.FM for the TV he’s been watching, I’ve [...]

  10. [...] revisited the code behind my TV scrobbling this evening. When I first wrote it, I focused on graphs like bar graphs and pie [...]