It’s easy to look at sites like Reddit, Digg, or any other substantially large web community, and view their aggregate userbase with a certain level of disdain — anonymity has the nasty habit of turning reasonable people into world-class jerks. But sometimes we come across stories that reaffirm that there are honest, kind people behind many of these avatars. One such case happened this holiday season on Reddit, where thousands of users have banded together to create what may have been the largest Secret Santa program of all time. And they managed to pull it off.
Reddit user Antonio Cangiano has written a long blog post detailing the program, and it’s really quite heartwarming. The whole thing started when a handful of Redditors decided amongst themselves that a Secret Santa program would be fun. User Dan McComas put together a site called Redditgifts to organize it, with a few restrictions in place to help cut down on trolls (you couldn’t join with a brand new account). After a registration period, the site automatically matched up users as Secret Santas, sharing address information so that they could send each other gifts but little in the way of personal information.
Over 4500 people signed up, and they shipped a total of 5,000 gifts (you could exchange more than one gift if you wanted). The vast majority of the users came through with their shipments, with only a few hundred stragglers. And even with those procrastinators, Cangiano writes that Reddit has far surpassed the former record holder for largest Secret Santa ever.
All in all, users spent more than $160,000 on the gifts and shipping fees.
Now that users are starting to receive their gifts, they’re uploading them to a special Gift Gallery. Most of the recipients seem to be quite pleased with their gifts, and the bulk of the gifts clearly had some thought put into them. Some Santas even cyberstalked their match to get something they’d love. Really, this is just awesome.
For another example of goodnatured geekdom, check out Penny Arcade’s Child’s Play charity which helps distribute books, video games, and toys to kids in childrens’ hospitals. The charity has raised over $5 million since its inception in 2003.