2017 Holidays Giveaway

I told the internet I’d buy books and stuff for people, and you won’t believe what happened next!

45 people got books and stuff.



I wrote this on both mastodon and twitter:

Let’s try some “we’ll probably make it through 2017” gifts. Do you need a book, a course, an app, a workshop, github, hosting, or something else that would help you? Something in $50-$100 range; ping me and I’ll try to do it!

Why? Dunno, sounded like that would be a nice thing to do. And then I got two requests, which I fulfilled, and then… nothing. However, I repeated the same thing the next day, during a more US-friendly hour, and then the requests started flowing in.


This being the internet, I expected totally random and weird things. A million requests, a bunch of trolls, a bunch of nonsense, etc.

I’m happy to report that the internet managed to pleasantly surprise me in how well it behaved in this particular occasion!


In the end I gave gifts to 45 strangers on the internet before calling it a day, and here’s what they turned out to be.

Unsurprisingly enough, majority were something about computers.

  • 13 books: 11 on programming, 2 on art/design.
  • 5 courses or tutorials: 3 on programming, 2 on art.
  • 9 items of physical hardware: a couple of Raspberry Pi 3s, leapmotion, 360 camera, daydream VR viewer etc.
  • 4 software licenses: Git Tower (twice), Gamemaker Studio 2, ArtStation Pro.

Of course, the most interesting requests are those that are not computer related :)

Was really surprised by amount of people saying “I don’t need anything myself, but if you could donate to charity/nonprofit X that would be great”. 13% of all requests being of that kind is pretty sweet! For some of the requests I decided to go for a larger than $50-$100 contribution. Here’s what people asked to donate to:

And of course, “everything else” is where it was fairly random. I bought tree saplings, socks, room heater, covered an electricity bill, vet expenses and so on. Very interesting!

Tips and Findings

  • Buying stuff for strangers on the internet is easiest via Amazon wishlists. I pretty much got this ready-to-paste for inquiries: “Can you create a wishlist on Amazon, add the item to it, setup a shipping address and give me the link?” One big advantage – it does not disclose actual address, phone or other personal details to me; and overall it’s way easier than filling in whole shipping forms.
  • Keep on mind though that for each and every new shipping address, Amazon will ask you to re-enter your credit card details. This makes sense for security purposes, but in this particular scenario it means re-entering them each.and.every.time. Your own Amazon UI for shipping address choices will become a mess in the end as well, and will need some cleanup.
  • Shipping costs are very real! Both you & me probably have a “oh yeah, a book is like $50” mental image, but depending on where it needs to be shipped that can end up anywhere in $50 to $100 for the same book.
  • Time investment wise, I probably have spent 15-20 hours on all this, during evenings over a few days. With some people it took quite a few roundtrips of back & forth messaging until I got a concrete actionable thing (URL of a thing: actionable, “I want a book I saw last week”: not so much :)). Maybe next time it would be easier, given that now I know I should just tell people “yo, gimmeh your amazon wishlist” fast-track.

It was quite a lot of fun and felt good! If you have money to spare, I can definitely recommend.