With Christmas just around the corner, we’re happy to share with you one of the most festive data applications we can think of- New Zealand Secret Santa.
Just in case any of you are unfamiliar with the concept of a secret santa- everybody involved pools their names. Every participant receives a randomised name from the pool, and secretly buys that person a Christmas gift. Everyone receives their gifts from their “secret santas”, usually on an allocated date. Most of the time- but not always- the secret santas reveal themselves to their random gift recipient.
The concept is simple enough- but the stakes get a little higher when you stretch a Secret Santa beyond your close group of friends. The New Zealand Secret Santa team organised a gift syndicate of almost 2,618 strangers, dispersed across the whole of New Zealand, in one month- and they did it all without disclosing any personal addresses. According to their website, here’s their method:

“Stage One is Signing Up”


To sign up, you link your Twitter account to a New Zealand Post Online account. This meant whilst the postal service behind NZ Secret Santa know your address, all your Secret Santa needs to know is your Twitter handle.

“Stage Two is Twitter Sleuthing”


Participants can then go find the Twitter accounts of their gift recipient, and use their Twitter timeline to deduce their interests, likes and dislikes. Based on this rudimentary social media analysis, secret santas gather enough information to buy their recipient a thoughtful, personalised gift- gift price is suggested around the $10 mark.

“Stage Three is Sending Your Gift to the Santa Storehouse”


All of the gifts are sent to “Santa’s Storehouse”, where the postal team dispatch the gifts to their intended addresses- meaning no personal addresses are ever given out. To make matters more intricate, the gift someone has given you is not dispatched until you post a gift first. If you forget or decide not to participate, no pressies for you.
Participants can also track the parcel they sent and the parcel they’ll receive using the Secret Santa dashboard.

“Stage Four Is Receiving Your Gift”


Once the gifts are received, participants are encourage to tweet about the present- meaning their Secret Santa can find out when it’s arrived, and if they bought the perfect gift. They’re also encouraged to use the hashtag #nzsecretsanta– it’s definitely worth checking out this hashtag if you’re in need of some Christmas cheer. Here are some more of our favourite #nzsecretsanta tweets from the naughty participants who opened their presents before Christmas:

What started as a one-man project in 2010 has grown into a slick logisitical operation, involving thousands of people across a nation. We’d love to see lateral thinkers in other countries implement this kind of festive data application.

(Image credit: New Zealand Secret Santa)

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