Secret Santa success caps banner year for Reddit

As 2010 comes to a close, social news aggregator Reddit.com is celebrating another success in what has been a year full of them.

A “secret santa” program created by Reddit users expanded to more than four times the size of what it started at last year. More than 17,000 Reddit users from 90 countries are exchanging gifts. That’s an example of how Reddit is flexible enough to allow users to expand and engage the community in surprising ways — a must for any social site that wants to remain at the top of the list for its users. Judging by its growing user numbers, Reddit is doing a great job at it.

Reddit community manager Erik Martin said,”Like it often does at Reddit, the idea came from a user. He’s a programmer in the Bay Area and he put the idea out there and got a really big response. He wrote redditgifts.com in one night.”

The service matches anyone interested in giving gifts with a random Reddit user. In many cases people have to figure out for themselves what to get their secret santa.

“What people really like about it I think is that it’s fun detective work to figure out what people would like,” Martin said. “When you sign up you can say what you like or don’t, but many people don’t say either way. So often you have to look at what their secret santa has commented in the past to get an idea of their interests and therefore what present they might like.”

The holiday program is an example of the explosion in popularity of Reddit in 2010. At the beginning of the year the site had roughly 32 million visits a month and more than 327 million page views. That skyrocketed to more than 62 million visits per month and more than 836 million page views by the end of November. Those may not even be the most impressive stats however. The time spent on the site per visit rose from roughly 13 minutes at the beginning of the year to 15:20 currently. It is almost unheard of for a mature site growing that rapidly to see increases in time spent per visit. “That’s something we’re really proud of because as more new people come in, you often see time spent on the site go down, but we’re seeing it go up. It means they are becoming part of the community.”

Reddit has struggled at times to handle the growth. Users have complained in recent months about being unable to access the site during the day at times. Server issues were the culprit. With so many comments, up votes, submissions and other data pouring in, it’s become a challenge to handle it all. “Running Reddit is a race between our systems and our traffic growth,” Reddit’s Mike Schiraldi said. “As long as we stay one step ahead of the traffic, it’s smooth sailing. But our traffic has surged to overtake us this winter, and so we’re dramatically increasing the size of our engineering team (by two). Of course, since it’s currently four people, that’s not saying much. Once the new guys are spun up, things should get better.”

Part of this growth is attributed to collapse of the community over at competitor site Digg.com. Fans of that news aggregator fled to Reddit in droves after Digg failed at its attempt to redesign the site and change the way users navigate it in late August. Digg eventually laid off more than 37 percent of its staff. Stories that hit the front page on Digg soon stopped bringing nearly as many referrals as they once did, according to many publishers that worked with the site. This lead to more buzz and additional advertising on Reddit.

“(Digg’s troubles) really helped us a lot in terms of perception,” Martin said. “It was a situation where media advertisers didn’t think of Reddit. They appreciated Reddit a lot more after the Digg decline. They use to kind of lump us in with all the others. Now not so much.”

Microsoft is one of the advertisers that came to Reddit and is now engaging in conversation with community members. In September, developers of Internet Explorer 9 discussed that new product. This month, Hotmail team members spoke to the community by posting an “ask-me-anything” thread, where users could come in and ask questions about the service and get feedback from the Hotmail team. Some Hotmail team members were even criticized by Reddit users for not speaking frankly about shortcomings of their product.

Meanwhile, a different advertiser, Opera, had a more positive interaction. “They spoke to Reddit users in their own language,” Martin said. “They ran an ad recently that had a nice luscious shot of some bacon. Opera saw some feedback from the vegan Reddit community. They were complaining. Within an hour they made a new version of an ad that had some really nice looking vegetables. That goes a long way because people, even if they don’t care one way or the other, notice that Opera was really listening and responsive. I wish that lesson was more widely adopted.”

Ads from big companies have appeared before on Reddit, usually in the form of broader campaigns for Cisco, Amazon.com and others sold by Condé Nast, the publishing giant that owns Reddit. Martin says the site also runs sponsored headlines which users themselves and companies can buy. “Many of the ads are in the same vernacular as the content, and people can comment on them. They give feedback and have suggestions. They give the advertisers a chance to respond. More traditional banner ads are there, but people can comment and respond to them too. With all the traffic growth and all the new things we’re doing it’s been a lot of work but it’s definitely a good year for us financially.”

The site also began its “Reddit Gold” program this year, which lets people who wish to donate to the site have a private “subreddit” to hang out in. Martin says the money from those donations has helped to pay for their two new engineering hires.

Another important reason for the rise of Reddit in 2010 was the growth in number and size of new communities on the site. “The ability for users to create new sections of the site allows both new and especially longtime redditors to experience something new,” said Martin. “Some of the bigger and more popular new groups include ‘iama,’ in which people talk about their jobs, ‘colbertrally,’ and the new ‘secretsanta.’ There is also one new community in which favors are done, such as when someone needs help proofreading a thesis, or Photoshop work.”

The growth of these communities has sparked a level of altruism that isn’t often seen on the Internet. Martin cites one instance in which military veteran William Lashua received hundreds of gifts from Reddit community members who were concerned he might not be receiving appreciation on his 90th birthday. “His grandson is actually a redditor,” Martin said. “He was very happy and said it was amazing. He also said that he wasn’t lonely and that he had lots of family with him. It became a very positive thing because it created an opportunity to tell people to go their local [Veterans Administration facility] and show appreciation to other veterans, which they then did.”

This type of thing had always been around on the Internet before, but perhaps had been more limited to message boards and individual communities. “Reddit is a collection of independent communities, so each one gets larger exposure,” Martin said. “It just shows how speed is a big part of it. These stories can grow really fast on Reddit, and with a larger audience this year, it makes it exciting for people to participate. That’s how it happened with the Colbert Rally. It’s all for its own reward, but since it’s happening in front of millions of people online it lets people not just help out for a good cause but to be part of something, be a part of the story.”

Reddit has about 10 employees. It has staff in San Francisco, New York, Salt Lake City and Los Angeles.

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  1. [...] is best known for organizing the world’s largest Secret Santa gift exchange and the mid-summer arbitrary gift giving event (appropriately named) Arbitrary Day. More recently, [...]

  2. [...] is healthier known for organizing the world’s largest Secret Santa gift exchange and the mid-summer arbitrary gift giving event (appropriately named) Arbitrary Day. More recently, [...]

  3. [...] We are excited to announce that reddit inc has acquired redditgifts.com and that Dan McComas (kickme444) and Jessica Moreno (5days) will now be able to work full time on redditgifts.com. Dan & Jessica started redditgifts in response to a community call for a massive gift exchange for the 2009 holiday season. Since then they’ve grown redditgifts into a way for subreddits to hold meet ups and gift exchanges like the Secret Santa exchange at any point in the year. To date, if you combine all the exchanges, 42,771 people in 106 countries have spent $1,458,891 on gifts! That is a lot of holiday cheer. We long admired what Dan & Jessica and the reddit community created with redditgifts, and we’ve supported it from the beginning with house ads, free server space, etc. However, when talking to them earlier this year it became clear that what had started as a fun project had mutated from a fun nights & weekends project into a demanding 24/7 project. 2011 Secret Santa is on pace to potentially have 30k+ participants, and there’s no way Dan & Jessica could continue to run redditgifts.com as a volunteer project. We wanted to see redditgifts grow, and we wanted Dan & Jessica to be able to invest even more time and energy into making redditgifts even better. So, we figured out a way to bring them inside the reddit family proper. Here’s Dan & Jessica’s take: We are really happy to be joining Reddit! The reddit team has been very supportive of us since the beginning so it feels like a natural progression. Being able to devote ourselves to redditgifts full time is an amazing opportunity that will allow us to do things we have wanted to do for years but not had the time for. We can’t wait to get to work! – read more on their blog In general, not much will change except that now Dan & Jessica will now be able to work on redditgifts.com full time. Like all things reddit, we try to be as open as possible, so here’s our plan of what will and what won’t change: What will change: – Dan & Jessica will have more time to devote to improving redditgifts.com and managing gift exchanges – Dan will now be the product manager of redditgifts.com and Jessica will be the community manager of redditgifts.com – Registering on redditgifts.com will be much easier (soon) – redditgifts.com will become open source (ASAP. no date set) – Eventually we may integrate redditgifts meetups into local subreddits, but no current plans What won’t change: – Dan & Jessica will remain in charge of redditgifts.com – redditgifts.com will remain a separate site, and Dan & Jessica will be focused on redditgifts.com and not working on reddit.com – Your profile on redditgifts won’t be linked from your reddit profile. We may change this in the future, but if so it will be optional and opt-out by default of course – redditgifts will remain free to use We are excited that we are able to support the growth of reddit gifts, and as with all things reddit, we wouldn’t be able to do this without you. Thank you for your support! Now that redditgifts is a part of reddit what would you like to see next from gift exchanges, meet ups, and Secret Santa? Relevant Links: For more information on reddit gifts and how the gift exchange works see redditgifts.com FAQ. For images of gift exchanges in all their glory go here reddit meetups See the redditgifts stats! Sign up for the next gift exchange here DailyBeast 12/2012 “The Biggest Secret Santa Gift Exchange in the World” VentureBeat 12/2010 “Secret Santa success caps banner year for Reddit” [...]

  4. [...] We are excited to announce that red­dit inc has acquired redditgifts.com and that Dan McCo­mas (kickme444) and Jes­sica Moreno (5days) will now be able to work full time on redditgifts.com. Dan & Jes­sica started red­dit­gifts in response to a com­mu­nity call for a mas­sive gift exchange for the 2009 hol­i­day sea­son. Since then they’ve grown red­dit­gifts into a way for sub­red­dits to hold meet ups and gift exchanges like the Secret Santa exchange at any point in the year. To date, if you com­bine all the exchanges, 42,771 peo­ple in 106 coun­tries have spent $1,458,891 on gifts! That is a lot of hol­i­day cheer. We long admired what Dan & Jes­sica and the red­dit com­mu­nity cre­ated with red­dit­gifts, and we’ve sup­ported it from the begin­ning with house ads, free server space, etc. How­ever, when talk­ing to them ear­lier this year it became clear that what had started as a fun project had mutated from a fun nights & week­ends project into a demand­ing 24/7 project. 2011 Secret Santa is on pace to poten­tially have 30k+ par­tic­i­pants, and there’s no way Dan & Jes­sica could con­tinue to run redditgifts.com as a vol­un­teer project. We wanted to see red­dit­gifts grow, and we wanted Dan & Jes­sica to be able to invest even more time and energy into mak­ing red­dit­gifts even bet­ter. So, we fig­ured out a way to bring them inside the red­dit fam­ily proper. Here’s Dan & Jessica’s take: We are really happy to be join­ing Red­dit! The red­dit team has been very sup­port­ive of us since the begin­ning so it feels like a natural pro­gres­sion. Being able to devote our­selves to red­dit­gifts full time is an amaz­ing oppor­tu­nity that will allow us to do things we have wanted to do for years but not had the time for. We can’t wait to get to work! – read more on their blog In gen­eral, not much will change except that now Dan & Jes­sica will now be able to work on redditgifts.com full time. Like all things red­dit, we try to be as open as pos­si­ble, so here’s our plan of what will and what won’t change: What will change: – Dan & Jes­sica will have more time to devote to improv­ing redditgifts.com and man­ag­ing gift exchanges – Dan will now be the prod­uct man­ager of redditgifts.com and Jes­sica will be the com­mu­nity man­ager of redditgifts.com – Reg­is­ter­ing on redditgifts.com will be much eas­ier (soon) – redditgifts.com will become open source (ASAP. no date set) – Even­tu­ally we may inte­grate red­dit­gifts mee­tups into local sub­red­dits, but no cur­rent plans What won’t change: – Dan & Jes­sica will remain in charge of redditgifts.com – redditgifts.com will remain a sep­a­rate site, and Dan & Jes­sica will be focused on redditgifts.com and not work­ing on reddit.com – Your pro­file on red­dit­gifts won’t be linked from your red­dit pro­file. We may change this in the future, but if so it will be optional and opt-out by default of course – red­dit­gifts will remain free to use We are excited that we are able to sup­port the growth of red­dit gifts, and as with all things red­dit, we wouldn’t be able to do this with­out you. Thank you for your support! Now that red­dit­gifts is a part of red­dit what would you like to see next from gift exchanges, meet ups, and Secret Santa? Rel­e­vant Links: For more infor­ma­tion on red­dit gifts and how the gift exchange works see redditgifts.com FAQ. For images of gift exchanges in all their glory go here red­dit meetups See the red­dit­gifts stats! Sign up for the next gift exchange here Dai­ly­Beast 12/2012 “The Biggest Secret Santa Gift Exchange in the World” Ven­ture­Beat 12/2010 “Secret Santa suc­cess caps ban­ner year for Reddit” [...]

  5. [...] amount in August 2011. Reddit Gifts is probably best known for its efforts in creating the largest Secret Santa exchange to date, but it’s also focused on smaller communities like craft making, book exchanges, and [...]

  6. [...] amount in August 2011. Reddit Gifts is probably best known for its efforts in creating the largest Secret Santa exchange to date, but it’s also focused on smaller communities like craft making, book exchanges, and a [...]

  7. [...] amount in August 2011. Reddit Gifts is probably best known for its efforts in creating the largest Secret Santa exchange to date, but it’s also focused on smaller communities like craft making, book exchanges, and [...]

  8. [...] volume in August 2011. Reddit Gifts is possibly finest identified for its efforts in creating the biggest Key Santa exchange to date, but it&#8217s also targeted on smaller communities like craft making, e-book exchanges, [...]

  9. [...] amount in August 2011. Reddit Gifts is probably best known for its efforts in creating the largest Secret Santa exchange to date, but it’s also focused on smaller communities like craft making, book exchanges, and [...]

  10. [...] amount in August 2011. Reddit Gifts is probably best known for its efforts in creating the largest Secret Santa exchange to date, but it’s also focused on smaller communities like craft making, book exchanges, and [...]

  11. [...] the biggest Secret Santa event ever! I guess my Secret Santa stalked me on Facebook and saw I like movies, Pulp Fiction [...]

  12. [...] with an increasing amount of social good done by the community, Redditors have grown far beyond the stereotypical male [...]

  13. [...] Blackout – happened after Cooper’s report, but I thought it worth mentioning – Reddit Secret Santa, Reddit Fundraising, and UC Davis Pepper Spray [...]

  14. Sunil Tripathi, no More | elcidharth says:

    [...] Boitnott, John (December 23, 2010). “Secret Santa success caps banner year for Reddit”. VentureBeat Interpreting Innovation. VentureBeat. Retrieved January 3, [...]