Who says watching TV is anti-social? Add-ons can bring Facebook photos, live Tweets and more to your XBMC setup.
XBMC is a free media-center program that makes browsing your video collection from your couch simple, but it’s also compatible with a wide variety of add-ons. Here’s where to find them.
Like the idea of XBMC, but aren’t sure where to get started? Our beginner’s guide to XBMC is as good a place to begin as any.
Browse Facebook Photos and Videos
Looking at photos can be a social experience, if you do so with friends or family. Social networks have, somewhat ironically, eaten away at this: people look at photos on their own time, on their computer, without much conversation.
Facebook Media, an XBMC add-on, can make your social photos more… social. It displays your albums, or the albums of your friends, on your TV.
It’s not a perfect experience: there’s no way to browse the latest photos from all friends, meaning you’ll need to pull up a specific friend from a list if you want to see their albums. Still, if you know what you’re looking for, it’s a quick way to check out an album with your friends and family.
See Live Tweets As You Watch
Love it or hate it, live tweeting isn’t going away. If nothing else, it gives you something to do during commercials.
If you’d like to add tweets to your TV watching experience, without the need for a second screen, check out the Twitter feeds add-on. With it, you can get live updates overlaid on any video. It’s particularly fun for live events:
Be careful, though: if your stream is slow for any reason, spoilers will happen. There’s no need to sign in or even have a Twitter account. All you need to do is run a search.
Searching for a particular hashtag is effective, but you can also see only tweets from particular users. Obviously this works best when used with live broadcasts, but imaginative users may find all sorts of uses. Let me know if you think of any.
Browse Every Video Shared On Reddit
Reddit compiles the best of the web, on basically every topic – and that includes a lot of videos. Combine Reddit with XBMC and you’ve got something worth checking out every day.
You can add any subreddit you want to this add-on, meaning you can see videos on any subject. You can even watch every video shared to a particular subreddit, one after the other, without the need to click anything – just lean back and enjoy.
Share Videos to Facebook, Twitter or Evernote
If you find something cool on Reddit, or otherwise want to share what you’re watching, you’ve got options. You could get out another device, then try to find the video in question. Or you could share directly from XBMC, using Share Social. This plugin can connect to Facebook, Twitter and Evernote, and lets you share links to videos.
The add-on, which as of this writing doesn’t install on Gotham, uses the Facebook Media add-on for Facebook access, and offers its own Twitter sign-in.
Add Your Own RSS Feeds
This isn’t entirely social, but worth mentioning. You can customize the RSS feed XBMC displays on the main screen: you’ll find the option to do so in XBMC’s settings (you will be prompted to install an add-on). You could replace this with the latest headlines from your favourite site, or with a stock ticker. Myself, I prefer to see NHL scores:
Try Googling for RSS feeds of sports scores, however, and you won’t find any, but if you host a website you can create your own sports score RSS feed easily enough.
Q. Why is there no service that shows all the videos my friends share on Facebook and Twitter?
Good question. I suppose it’s because you haven’t made it yet, so get on that. Get in touch when it’s done, will you?
Q. Why isn’t the sharing function built into XBMC? Being able to share YouTube videos would be excellent…
XBMC developers are pretty hostile to the idea, actually. They don’t see such social sharing as a core function for a media player, and as such don’t want to build it into the program itself.
Q. Is there any way I can track, and share, everything I watch automatically?
I’ve no idea why you’d want to do this, but check out Trakt for XBMC. This plugin records everything you watch on Trakt.tv, a site the offers social re-sharing and a variety of other services. Look into it if you want a record of all the time you’ve invested watching television.
Q. I have another question…
Comments, below. Use them!