Merry Tweetmas from secret Santa

EXCHANGING CHRISTMAS CHEER: A group of nearly 300 New Zealanders, many of whom have never met face-to-face, are taking part in exchanging gifts through social networking site Twitter.
EXCHANGING CHRISTMAS CHEER: A group of nearly 300 New Zealanders, many of whom have never met face-to-face, are taking part in exchanging gifts through social networking site Twitter.
EXCHANGING CHRISTMAS CHEER: A group of nearly 300 New Zealanders, many of whom have never met face-to-face, are taking part in exchanging gifts through social networking site Twitter.
EXCHANGING CHRISTMAS CHEER: A group of nearly 300 New Zealanders, many of whom have never met face-to-face, are taking part in exchanging gifts through social networking site Twitter.
EXCHANGING CHRISTMAS CHEER: A group of nearly 300 New Zealanders, many of whom have never met face-to-face, are taking part in exchanging gifts through social networking site Twitter.
EXCHANGING CHRISTMAS CHEER: A group of nearly 300 New Zealanders, many of whom have never met face-to-face, are taking part in exchanging gifts through social networking site Twitter.
EXCHANGING CHRISTMAS CHEER: A group of nearly 300 New Zealanders, many of whom have never met face-to-face, are taking part in exchanging gifts through social networking site Twitter.
EXCHANGING CHRISTMAS CHEER: A group of nearly 300 New Zealanders, many of whom have never met face-to-face, are taking part in exchanging gifts through social networking site Twitter.
EXCHANGING CHRISTMAS CHEER: A group of nearly 300 New Zealanders, many of whom have never met face-to-face, are taking part in exchanging gifts through social networking site Twitter.
EXCHANGING CHRISTMAS CHEER: A group of nearly 300 New Zealanders, many of whom have never met face-to-face, are taking part in exchanging gifts through social networking site Twitter.
EXCHANGING CHRISTMAS CHEER: A group of nearly 300 New Zealanders, many of whom have never met face-to-face, are taking part in exchanging gifts through social networking site Twitter.
EXCHANGING CHRISTMAS CHEER: A group of nearly 300 New Zealanders, many of whom have never met face-to-face, are taking part in exchanging gifts through social networking site Twitter.

Santa's little helper is actually a storeman from Hamilton.

Holiday cheer has made it a very merry "tweetmas" for some this year as an online secret Santa project spreads around New Zealand through social media connections.

A group of nearly 300 New Zealanders, many of whom have never met face-to-face, are taking part in exchanging gifts through social networking site Twitter.

SANTA'S LITTLE HELPER: Hamilton storeman Sam Elton-Walters, otherwise known as @Websam, spread word of his online secret Santa project through Twitter.
SANTA'S LITTLE HELPER: Hamilton storeman Sam Elton-Walters, otherwise known as @Websam, spread word of his online secret Santa project through Twitter.

The project was started by storeman Sam Elton-Walters, otherwise known as @Websam.

The Hamilton-based 28-year-old said the whole thing "started with an idea and it was all set up in 10 minutes".

It snowballed, as social media memes tend to do, and eventually after a two-week sign up period, ended  with 292 participants across the country.

"Someone said I'm buying a gift for my secret Santa and I said what would be cool was if you could do it on Twitter."

He wrote a blog post about the idea which received more than 6000 hits.

About a third of the people involved are from Auckland, but in true new media style, the Twitter secret santa phenomena reached all corners of the country with gifts being sent to Clive, Kaiapoi, Raglan and Mosgiel.

The premise was simple: people sent Elton-Walters a private message or email with their address and they were placed on a spreadsheet.

Their secret Santa recipient was then randomly chosen and their details privately sent to the gift buyer.

A $5 limit was placed on the gifts, however from early on it was clear the generosity knew no financial limit.

“Some of the thought level has been massive. They’ve been calling it 'Twitstalking', there's definitely been some people that have been blown away.”

After the sign-up ended on December 1, participants began sending their gifts and recipients placed photos of what they received on an online photo album.

Presents have ranged from the practical (movie tickets to The Social Network, a book called The little book of Twitter) to more personal gifts reflecting what the gift giver has learned about that person through their tweets.

"Lovely hand made card, and a mini torch, Just what I needed!!!" wrote @tomgeeknz.

"My daughter loves the cool seashell towel from our secret santa," wrote Shane Roper.

Elton-Walters said he plans to arrange Twitter secret Santa again next year following this year's success.

"I was really surprised that no one had done this before. The reason this works is because it’s a really simple idea."

He said while some people were concerned about handing out their private address, most were trusting that he would do the right thing with their information.

"It was weird, some people were concerned about the other people having their address but they didn’t mind me having it and they didn’t even know me."

Many opted for gifts to be sent to workplaces or PO Box numbers instead.

"On a whole everyone’s really, really nice on Twitter. If it was an international one it would probably get a bit weird. Because we’re a small nation and we’re a tight-knit community – a lot of people know each other in real life."

Twitterers, including those not involved in the project, can follow the #nztwittersecretsanta hash tag which collates the online tweets about the topic.

Stuff