It is almost a sure bet no other Alamedans will be responsible for brightening the lives of so many this holiday season as Dan McComas and Jessica Moreno.
If all goes as expected, over 30,000 individuals from 112 countries will receive Secret Santa gifts thanks to the online efforts of the husband-and-wife team.
They are even poised to set a Guinness world’s record.
When Patch last checked in with the duo in 2010 (see that article ), they were spending their nights and weekends volunteering their time to administer RedditGifts, a sub-group they formed within the online Reddit community. RedditGifts is advertised as the world's biggest online gift exchange platform.
Earlier this year Reddit purchased RedditGifts from the pair and put them both to work full time. A few months ago they moved the operation out of their home and into office space near the Alameda Marina. The couple say they are busy beyond belief right now and bracing themselves for RedditGift's biggest Secret Santa gift exchange ever.
Although RedditGifts organizes online gift exchanges at various points during the year, its Secret Santa exchange has spread wildly around the globe.
The Guinness Book of World Records has created a new category this year called the “World’s Largest On-line Secret Santa Game,” according to McComas, and he said he thinks RedditGifts could very well win the distinction.
Sign-ups for this year’s Secret Santa exchange are concluding, but a similar gift exchange is organized by RedditGifts each year on June 25, which it has dubbed “Arbitrary Day.” You can read about other gift exchange programs also organized by the site here.
The Reddit community is close-knit and growing, according to McComas, who said Reddit users are referred to as Redditors. He said Reddit gets 30 million unique visitors to its site each month and he estimates there are thousands of Redditors living in the San Francisco Bay Area. Sometimes Bay Area Redditors meet en masse to get to know one another.
Keeping it even more local, McComas said he is hoping to have a RedditGifts entry in the 2012 Alameda Mayor’s Fourth of July Parade and invite Redditors from around the region to participate.
In addition to the gift exchanges, McComas said the couple are now also involved in helping Redditors connect in person via meet-up groups
While some other social media sites are focused on helping people connect and stay in contact with people they already know, McComas said, Reddit is promoting opportunities for people to schedule in-person meet-ups via its website between people who don’t yet know each other. Redditors meet up, he said, around shared interests or because they live close to one another.
On a recent trip to Salt Lake City, McComas tried out Reddit’s organizing potential by scheduling a meet-up at a local restaurant. Seventeen Redditors from age 18 to 40-something answered the invitation and showed up at the designated place and time.
McComas said he is convinced this is the new way people will choose to meet one another.
“Most people my age are on-line most of their waking hours," he said. "I am online 10 to 12 hours a day. It is only natural that arranging opportunities to meet up in this fashion is becoming the new norm.”
McComas said he cannot predict where the RedditGift site business will be next year - at the rate it is growing it's difficult to even hazard a guess. RedditGifts has up to now consisted of just McComas and Moreno in Alameda, but they now are assisted by an East Coast-based colleague focusing on how to expand the business and make it more successful.
“We are hoping they will post photos of the gifts they gave and received after the holidays,” he said.
What kinds of presents has McComas himself received playing the Secret Santa gift exchange game?
“Once I got a coat rack and another time a painting of my Reddit user name,” he said.
"The fun part of the game is to research information about the person whose name you have been assigned and select just the right gift for them," he added. He said you can do this by looking at their profile and comments they have made on social media sites.
Gifts exchanged by people have ranged from those costing thousands of dollars to small quirky presents.
McComas said in one exchange he received a handmade scarf fashioned to look like a strip of bacon.
"I loved it," he said, "I really did."