The marketing firms of the world are keenly interested in your leisure habits but this kind of data can be useful to you on a personal level as well: Find out what you were listening to, reading or watching this time last year; get recommendations about what you might enjoy next; and spot patterns in your behavior (whether positive or negative). It’s like fitness tracking for your entertainment activities, and to help we’ve rounded up some of the best apps for the job.
The forerunner here—as it has been for some time—is Last.fm. The platform plugs straight into Spotify, Rdio and a host of other services and can also track (or “scrobble”) your listening across other apps on desktop and mobile. You can break down your music habits by week or by month and see which artist, album or song you were particularly keen on at any point in history.
There’s also a busy community surrounding Last.fm and you can head to individual artist or song pages on the main website to shoot the breeze with other people who share your tastes or to debate the merits of the newest single from the latest band of the week. Recommendations are a strong feature of Last.fm too, and once it’s built up a picture of your listening history it can point you towards some other artists you might like. In many ways Last.fm is what Apple was aiming for with Ping (remember Ping?).
If Last.fm doesn’t grab you then there aren’t many alternatives around. A bunch of apps will recommend new music for you, but in terms of actually logging your listening history you’re stuck with whatever app you spend most time in (be it iTunes or Spotify). Listenlist lets you keep track of what you’ve heard and what you’d like to hear, but it’s very much a manual process—you might as well use something like Evernote for the same job.
In terms of features, options and widespread availability across web and mobile it’s difficult to look past GoodReads for tracking your reading—that must be why Amazon bought it last year and thanks to that acquisition you can use it very neatly with your Kindle ereader. Even if you don’t own a Kindle and still love the feel of proper paper books, GoodReads is a great way of logging what you’ve read.
You can manually log your progress through your books, keep track of when you started and finished each one, and then share your reviews and thoughts with other members of the community. As with Last.fm, you can build up a list of recommendations based on what you’ve previous enjoyed, and there is the optional to compile a wish list of literature you want to get around to reading. The website layout is a little Amazon-esque in its clunkiness but it gets the job done and mobile apps are available.
Other alternatives for keeping tabs on your reading with the minimum of fuss include LibraryThing, where you can catalog everything you’ve read and want to read through an interface similar to GoodReads, while Shelfari lets you create virtual shelves in the same sort of way (and is also owned by Amazon).
Netflix, iTunes, iPlayer, Hulu, YouTube... all these platforms keep a detailed list of what you’ve watched, but there’s not much in the way of communication between them. How do you build up a picture of your movie and television watching across multiple services and multiple devices? At the moment one of the best options is Trakt, which can work automatically on top of Plex and Apple TV and manually on top of everything else.
You can monitor how many hours you’re spending in front of a screen, get personalized recommendations, share your views over social media, build up a list of what you want to watch next, and much more besides. There’s deep integration with sites like IMDB and Rotten Tomatoes as well. Pay $15 a year and you can remove the ads and get a bunch of additional features such as IFTTT integration support.
Tvtag (previously known as GetGlue) is another good option and has a bit more of a social feel to it. The idea here is that you tag into movies and television shows in the same way as places on Foursquare. Also worth a look is Letterboxd, which focuses exclusively on films and lets you keep a diary of the movies you’ve watched as well as get recommendations for the future.