December 02, 2008

Ex-Googler Chris Wetherell Launches Secret Santa App

Chris Wetherell, the talented coder and Web developer best known for his work on Google Reader, most recently part of the successful Obama campaign in Florida, has taken on the upcoming Christmas holiday in an attempt to keep his programming skills sharp, and to give us a fun Web tool that will aid in setting up Secret Santa lists, especially between those separated by geography. The simple Web app, found at, is also a good test case for what he calls "shibboleth" services, requiring a password, but not a centralized user name and profile.

Santas! awaits your list of names...

The list grows, as does the anticipation...

The application, titled as "Santas!" starts with your entering each individual in the Secret Santa pool, and clicking "Add this person to your list". Your list will grow increasingly long until you've exhausted all your names, at which point, you can click "Santa-fy!", and Chris' code goes to work, shuffling the results in the background and ensuring nobody gets themselves. (Always a good thing)

The pairs are made, with links and passwords.

Assuming the person entering the names is part of the gift exchange, the Secret Santa assignments are made hidden, but each participant is given their own unique link and password pair, which you would theoretically e-mail out, giving everybody a page that reveals the person for whom they get to buy gifts.

You can reveal the matches if you wish.

Should you want to be an administrator, and know how folks are linked, Chris even provides a helpful "Show recipients" button. Amusingly, in the test I did, with six people, all three pairs were given each other as Secret Santa partners. In a separate test, the pairings were not identical, but were better shuffled, so I would assume this is the exception rather than the rule.

Logging into Santas! to find my match.

Michael Fruchter looks to be the lucky one.

A recipient who goes to their dedicated URL simply needs to enter their Santa password and click "Show your gift recipient", which reveals the name, and reminds people not to show the link to anyone. Then the hard part begins... actually finding a gift. Later this week, here on, we'll talk about how to find gifts, but, until then, Chris leaves that to you.

Check Santas! out at