Help the nzsecretsanta elves plan Xmas 2014

We want to make NZ Secret Santa 2014 even better! We need your feedback on some suggested changes before we make any decisions.

During the fun and furor of last year’s NZ Secret Santa we received heaps of feedback about how things were going. Feedback also continued to pour in on Twitter after things were done and dusted (there were even some impromptu Twitter meetings). On top of this, to make sure we had the full picture, we ran a survey to find out what you thought flew – and what flunked.

elf-cartIt was great to hear that the changes we’d made (primarily around the creation of a Santa Storehouse) were very positively received. Based on this we are already busy ensuring we can roll with the same approach this year too. Hurray!

Our focus now is on digging into the gripes and seeing what other tweaks we can make, while still being super-careful not to undermine the ethos and spirit of what @websam created. So here are our thoughts for this year based on the feedback from last year

Bad Santasnogift

This is the loudest gripe, and it’s a tricky area… how do we handle those players who sign up, but then don’t follow through and send a gift? This group have become known as the Bad Santas.

Last year we managed to reward good behaviour by ensuring *everyone* who sent a gift, received a gift (thanks to generous nzsecretsanta sponsors – Mojo Coffee, Real Aotearoa, and NZ Post). And conversely, the Bad Santas were black-marked and the gift for them was forwarded on to our chosen charityWellington City Mission. Lots of loud claps from the audience for this. But we couldn’t do anything about the fact that the Bad Santas had spoiled the fun for the santa who had carefully tailored a gift for them.

There have been suggestions that we shouldn’t let Bad Santas play again – and even that we should “out” them!

However we found out that things aren’t quite that easy. While we have a great deal of sympathy for the Secret Santas who put a lot of effort into making their gift personal, only to find out later that it got sent on to Charity, we also heard some genuine reasons for some of the flails before the finish line as well. So this year, we are suggesting we take a middle ground approach.

Since we know who did and didn’t send a gift last year, we’re going to remind Bad Santas from last year of the impact of their actions – and warn them that this is their last chance. Bad Santas, take note, not only will you still get no gift, but fail to send a second time and you’ll be black-listed.

Which charity?

The silver lining to the Bad Santas problemmission-gifts2 is that Wellington City Mission – the recipient for the Bad Santa gifts – received a collection of well timed donations. They wrote us a very grateful letter thanking the #nzsecretsanta community. To be fair, it’s a fairly unique donation to receive – lots of very random items, ranging from musical coasters, to pop wall posters, dark chocolate, to novelty aprons, and more – yet the City Mission was able to use and re-home all of these. Now that’s a talent!

We would like to suggest we roll with a City Mission again for this very reason. There were a few suggestions that we could rotate around the regions for this. We think this is a great idea. How about we donate to Christchurch City Mission this year?

Corporate Santas

On the subject of generous gifts, last year we had a number of Corporates sign up, adding a lot of flair to the experience. But we understand there’s a flip-side to this as it is difficult to buy a gift for a Corporate entity. We’re keen to hear your thoughts about how best to handle this. Should we allow Corporates to opt-out of receiving for example?

Twitter newbies + locked/protected Twitter accounts

The final rumble from last year that we want to look at is, what happens if you end up being Secret Santa for a person who is new to Twitter. Or for someone who doesn’t tweet much – or even worse has a protected account? All of these make the personal gift giving a pretty frustrating exercise.

The simple option would be to look at restricting who can play. But, from everything we’ve seen, the nzsecretsanta community is an open and inclusive community. It’s very likely that there are going to be new players signing up this year as the fun and love of last year touched many people, and word has spread. So as not to diminish the experience for our veterans, nor alienate our newbies, we suggest we provide a bunch more prompts to this year’s participants to tweet more and unlock their accounts.

In addition – we’d also like to be able to point to blogs with cool stories and advice for playing nzsecretsanta, and perhaps tips on how to make this a fun experience for new and veterans alike. Any volunteers?

Going bigger

We’re keen to get the word out about nzsecretsanta – we loved watching the excitement last year – and we’d like to see if we can get even more people involved this year. We are wondering what you think about this.

If we decide to give it a push we have a number of options – but we’re thinking that the most effective way would be to encourage previous players to spread the word. Last year we got so into it that some of our team here at Post chalked #nzsecretsanta on the footpath in a few places. I’m sure there are a few more inventive approaches out there.

One idea we had was to see if we could convince those which hold the purse strings here at Post (or other sponsors) to donate $1500 to charity if we beat last years 1500 players, $5000 if we get to 5000 players, and $10000 if we get to 10,000. Does this idea have appeal? Again, let us know.

Feedback please!

These are our thoughts so far. We’d like to hear your thoughts, feedback, and concerns before we make any decisions. We remain very conscious that the game is owned by the community – we are just the current facilitators. 

Let us know what you think about our suggestions in the comments below – or of course on Twitter (@nzsecretsanta).

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34 Responses to Help the nzsecretsanta elves plan Xmas 2014

  1. Lena says:

    Both years I’ve had people who hardly ever tweet. One person had only done about 4 tweets which made it so hard – I had to just get a really generic “girl” gift for them. I’ve had great presents both years, so it’s been fun!

    • robholmesnz says:

      We’re thinking we’ll try a bit harder this year to encourage people to provide more for their santa to go on. You weren’t alone facing the challenge of buying for someone based on very little. Thanks for your feedback 🙂

  2. All of your thoughts sound great!! I’m on board 🙂 I think corporate entities opting out of receiving is a good idea as in my opinion the fun part is picking out the gift for someone, so as you said, it’s a bit impossible to do that when it’s a brand you’ve got to buy for. I’m a New Zealand YouTuber and blogger and I’d love to mention Nz Secret Santa on my channel and blog to spread the word!

    • robholmesnz says:

      Thanks for your feedback – and your offer to help get the word out there!

    • robholmesnz says:

      Just to let you know that we’ve published the #nzsecretsanta 2014 dates. There is only a week this year for people to register – so any help spreading the word would be awesome.

  3. Pixie says:

    Twitter secret Santa has definitely improved each year and last year for me was one of the ones I quite enjoyed as I knew my address etc was safe as things went to the Elves warehouse that for me was quite a bonus.

    I was however miffed that the person I was sending to never really tweeted and didn’t even tweet to say received etc which was a Lil sad as its always nice to know gifts are appreciated. I do wonder if stating maybe that participants need to be more active on twitter not just the few wks that SS is running etc? Could make things easier in some ways maybe?

    I love seeing the corporates getting involved as some are really creative! I don’t think sending then gifts is thst hard either as u can also get creative back…

    But there’s just my 2 cents on it 🙂

    • robholmesnz says:

      A very welcome 2 cents. Thanks for your input. I agree, part of the deal when you play is to at least acknowledge the gift you received – otherwise it all falls flat! I also think that the richer (and more genuine) the twitter activity of your recipient – the more fun the giving experience is (and it’s all about the giving!).

  4. I have a couple of ideas/suggestions, and I think I’ve given you at least one of them last year…

    1) For corporates, let non-corporates when they sign up opt-in or out of being open to sending to a corporate. And let corporates themselves opt-out of receiving if they wish, as you suggested.

    2) In general, I think broad “categories” for people might be good – self-selecting things like “animal”, “family”, “geek”, “pop music lover”, or something like that…One of the problems several of my friends had was that they were paired with someone so different to themselves that they struggled to find them a gift – this would help with the people with protected or barely active accounts. Then you can let people choose what categories they are interested in buying for. Or, if you don’t want to go that far, maybe let people have a one-word box to describe themselves or wish for something, with a disclaimer that they understand they won’t necessarily get what they want. I’m struggling to explain what I mean, sorry! But I hope that gives you an idea.

    • Another comment on corporates because a few people have said they shouldn’t be included by default – I had a corporate for my giftee last year and I didn’t mind at all, the nzsecretsanta elves did some digging for me to find out how many people were behind their team so I could make sure they all got something. That’s why I thought maybe people could choose if they are happy to gift to corporates or not. Remember that behind every corporate twitter account there’s a hard-working person or team who has possibly pulled a lot of strings to get to participate and give an awesome gift, so why shouldn’t they be rewarded for their hard work too?

  5. Amber says:

    I tweeted your account but figured I’d put some thoughts here.

    I think it’s a bit harsh to demand private accounts unlock their accounts during the xmas secret santa. Some people have their accounts locked because of privacy & security. To exclude them is sad and not inclusive. However, an idea would be to ask them to update their bio’s, update profile banner images with clues for others.

    On the topic of Corporate accounts participating, I have heard feedback from some people about – they’re signing up to Twitter Secret Santa and hope to get one of the telcos to get a free phone out of it. I just hope it’s not just a ‘lets see which corporate can outdo each other’ and is all about the spirit of giving and the fun of it.

  6. theoryofsaperky says:

    Naming and shaming bad santas’ has ethical issues, for example, Christmas is an expensive time of the year for a ton of people and someone might realize that they cannot afford it! – Also give the corporate accounts an option to send their gifts to charity perhaps instead of the not receiving option?

  7. Ben says:

    Locked Accounts – As someone who has had a locked account and participated for a number of years I find the idea of excluding locked accounts in direct conflict with the nature & intent of the event (obviously ;P).

    I usually unlock my account during the secret santa period however I have found that the person who has had me didn’t send anything or just picked generic items. I did once get a very appropiate gift which is great. Some people put effort in and comb past tweets for clues / hints. Others just don’t give a shit and are in it for pecuniary advantage.

    Amber’s idea is a good one. but then people could just take a punt. If they are truly in for the spirit of the event it wouldn’t be hard to derive an idea from a persons name, description etc. Even the background image they choose can give clues.

    Charities – Rotating the charities seems like a good idea also. Don’t forget ones like Wellington Rape Crisis which is chronically underfunded.

    Bad Santas – I still firmly believe that if people didn’t have a legitimate reason for not sending gifts then stand them down and highlight to the twitter community. Reminding them of thier bad behaviour, sure, but if they didn’t bother then why continue to let them detract from the fun?

  8. vivster81 says:

    I don’t think corporate entities should “opt out”, if you register as a corporate then you should automatically be excluded, but does that ruin your numbers? like how does that work?

    Also the fun part is when everyone that plays is part of the game. It really does ruin it when you don’t tweet much or have a protected account. I COMPLETELY understand if you have a protected account for personal security or whatever reason at all, but perhaps, you can’t play this very public game then? I mean the nature of this game is that it is very public and about drumming up goodwill nationwide and the suspense etc

    Anyway, those are my 2c, it was awesome last year and I’m definitely taking part, and will write a blog about it too!

    • robholmesnz says:

      Great feedback – thanks for this! Make sure you let us know when you get your blog post up.

  9. I am so excited that this has begun! Kinda hoped we’ll have an earlier start this year, to give more time to thinking about and maybe even purchasing gifts from abroad but it’s all good. 🙂

    I would suggest to maybe add a Wish List on the website profiles. Like, last year when you can see the status of your gift and recipient info, maybe have something this time in there too so that you can see their Wish List? It has to be maybe at least 10 items so it’s still kind of unpredictable. :p

    Will work great with corporates, too. They can ask for a bag of coffee to share among their Twitter admin team or something, nominate a charity to donate to, etc etc.

  10. With regard to the Bad Santas, forwarding the gifts meant for them to a charity works great for me. It does suck for their recipients and ruins the game a little bit, but it’s more about the giving supposedly? I mean, personally, it would be great to receive something back but there will always be disappointment if there’s expectation I think. I saw a lot of tweets last year that were almost complaining and comparing the gifts they sent out to that they got and they weren’t very happy and that ruined the game for me, too.

    I just remembered this awesome guy who received nail polish(!!!) and was stoked about it and even applied it on that was so great. 😀

    But yea, I think let’s just deal with the Bad Santas the same way and focus on the Good ones. 🙂

  11. The Sewphist says:

    I wouldn’t have a problem with sending to a corporate – part of the fun is the challenge of working out something neat that will be appreciated by the recipient(s).

    I think it might be good to have a reminder on the status page that just because the gift hasn’t arrived at the warehouse in the first couple of days doesn’t mean you have a bad santa, and that it might in fact mean that you’re in line for an extremely awesome present! I saw a lot of graceless tweets last year from people even a few days before the deadline booing because their present hadn’t arrived at the warehouse yet. I sent mine to arrive on time – but it took every spare moment in the ten days leading up to that getting it perfect, and I imagine that a lot of very thoughtful people were in the same boat.

    For the locked account people: maybe there could be an option as you sign up to provide more detail about yourself. These could be quite generic questions, but enough to give a little insight. Similar ones I’ve come across have things like favourite colour, favourite hobby, favourite music etc. Personally, I think a lot of the fun is in the sleuthing, but I can see how it would be very difficult to do for those who have protected accounts or don’t tweet very much.

    • robholmesnz says:

      Thanks for your comments. You’re not the only one to point out that time was tight between knowing who you’re sending to, and having to send!

  12. Sara says:

    Corporate – I like the ‘one way street’ idea!

    Private accounts – last year my SS unlocked their account for about a week and that was it, I never got to see what they thought of their gift 😦
    If you want to play your account has to be open!

  13. beezilbeard says:

    Cant wait for this year. I love the idea to donate to Christchurch City Mission this year. I also think we should keep the corporate Santas.I really like how it was run last year and it is more about the giving and the receiving bit is just a bonus. I had bad santa the year before and actually felt sorry for the person as they did not get nice feedback. For locked accounts and lurkers, they must follow @secretsanta so maybe special tweets with specail messages to them will encourage them to do more twets to help their santas

  14. I love Secret Santa and have had some great gifts (even better than those from work colleagues who should know me better)! Last year my giftee hadn’t tweeted (still hasn’t tweeted) had no profile and only followed celebrity accounts which did make it tough to by them a gift, but not impossible. A reminder or two from the Elves seems to have jollied people along with their tweeting to help out their gifters!

    I think that corporate teams participating should get gifts, because behind that corporate logo is someone (or a few someones) gathering intel on their giftee and sending something off.

    I found that the chatter around whether or not a gift had arrived at the warehouse a bit distracting and it did seem to cause a bit of darkness and changed the focus from giving to receiving (which is huge fun, but not what I see as the spirit of the season).

    Looking forward to another great Christmas! Thanks Santa’s Elves!

  15. robholmesnz says:

    Happy to do more jollying this year!

    Your comment about chatter around the Santa Storehouse dashboard is interesting. We saw a lot of positive excitement as people waited – but I know what you mean – there was some frustration too. Will see what we can do to remind people to focus on the part they can control (the giving!).

  16. sonyacole says:

    I have a couple of queries as last year was not one of my better years:

    I would like to know if it’s possible to have your assignee changed if there is an issue with their account. Last year one of my Twitter accounts was assigned a spammer and despite several messages asking for a new and worthy person to be assigned nothing was done. I had to send a gift in order to receive one but felt my money was wasted on someone who was clearly just a jerk.

    With regard to non-regular tweeters, perhaps you could consider a maximum time period since their last tweet? Another of my accounts was assigned someone who had about 4 tweets, and the most recent one was months earlier, from memory five or six months. This makes it hard to be enthusiastic about the recipient when they’re not really part of the community.

    • robholmesnz says:

      Last year we did handle “exceptions” (@websam told us to expect them). There were cases where people were assigned people they knew – and where real issues existed. There were other cases where people didn’t like who they were assigned. We had to try to do the right thing. In our view it is important that the allocation system is random – and (again in our opinion) part of the magic is you get insight into other lives which are outside your normal circle.

      I share your opinion of spammers – but the whole question of “worthy” is one we didn’t want to get involved in!

  17. MiramarMike says:

    Corporate players: these entities are just people banding together. How about they nominate a staff member in their team to be the reicioeint in behalf of the organisation.

    They could then make a big song and dance about it internally and externally. AND, the sender would have a real person to hear about and get personal with their gift.

  18. robholmesnz says:

    Are you trying to suggest that those that work in big organisations are actually people? 😛

    I like it.

  19. I have to say it was an awesome experience and I got my Secret Santa talking about a topic dear to me. I did find myself stressing though whether the gift for the person I got arrive though. Maybe it’s just out of practice at posting stuff though. 🙂

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