Listology Secret Santa 2003


Listology's first annual Secret Santa is underway! Here's the way it works...

  1. You e-mail me that you want to participate at
  2. I will collect all the addresses between now and 11:59 PM 11/26 (see "extension" note below)
  3. I will e-mail all participants my snail mail address.
  4. You make a music mix on CD. Mixes should be WAV files rather than MP3s so you don't need an MP3-capable CD player to participate (it's true you'll need a player that can handle CD-Rs, but many can, even those that don't explicitly advertise being able to). Do not say who the mix is from (unless you really want to).
  5. Bring the mix and two mailers to the post office (or you can buy mailers at the post office). One mailer is self-addressed, the other is addressed to me. You put the CD in the self-addressed mailer, but don't seal it, and get the right postage on it. Then you put the CD and SASE mailer in the mailer addressed to me, and send it off.

Note that nobody but me will see your address, or even know you are participating (unless you include identifying information on the mix you create). Also, you don't have to worry about somebody not sending a CD because they have to send me one to forward on in order to get one!

This scheme works if non-US folks want to participate too. You'll just need to put enough postage on your SASE to get it (and the enclosed CD) from the US back to wherever you live (and enough postage to get it to me in the first place).

The downside is that everybody pays a bit more because you have to pay for two mailers and two postal trips instead of one, but I think the pros outweigh the cons.

I can provide some technical help for anybody that doesn't know how to rip tracks off of CDs they own, or how to burn a CD. Of course, you'll need to own or have access to a CD burner, but they're pretty cheap (I think I got mine for $40). And I'm sure there are plenty of folks here that are better at this than I am.

Finally, if you want to do a cassette intstead of the CD, go ahead an e-mail me, but tell me that's what you want to do. If two or more people go that route, great. Otherwise I'll let you know you're out of luck.

So whadda y'all think? Perhaps a little holiday cheer is in order around here?

Come to think of it, there's no reason why we have to limit this to folks with CD-burning capabilities. If you're still making mixes on cassette, that works too (although I don't own a car cassette player anymore, and I'm probably not unique, so maybe folks could state their media preferences if/when they e-mail me).

Who counts as a stranger?

If you are often mistaken for Albert Camus, you might be a stranger.

I'll know 'em when I see 'em.

:-) Seriously, good question. I was basically thinking anybody that contributes to Listology and keeps returning to visit regularly is eligible. Since such users have a bit of a vested interest in the site, I figure cheating is unlikely. Furthermore, I'll have everybody's address, so I'll know who's naughty and who's nice.

I don't consider you to be a stranger, for example. Nor do I consider our newer members to be strangers. "blunder", on the other hand, is a stranger.

Jim, how do we address the envelope if we don't get the person's name? I guess we could put something Listology-related on it? Just wondering if you had thought about this at all.

Hmm, I was thinking you could just put the person's address on there without putting on a name and the post office would still deliver it. Kinda like I get marketing mail addressed to "current resident".

Of course, folks could specify that they are willing to have their Listology ID passed along with their address, but I was thinking folks might want to their online identity here associated with an actual physical location. At least not one so specific.

I hear ya, but if I was going to get mine sent here the central mail place for the college wouldn't know if they should tell me or my roommate that there was a package to pick up. I guess I could just send my home address to avoid the confusion.

Well, you could give me your real name or a nickname. Nobody here would necessary be able to associate your real name with your Listology handle (although some detective work might be able to make the link). Of course, I'd want folks to explicitly tell me which information it's okay to give out.

I'm open to ideas!

Jim-What if everyone sends self-addressed, stamped mailers to you along with the CD we are giving out. I know it puts the onus on you to mail everything out, but it also ensures privacy, as you are the only one who knows everyone's real name and addresses.

That sounds like a great idea, thanks pivvclam! So you'd bring your CD and two mailers to the post office. One mailer is self-addressed, the other is addressed to me. You put the CD in the self-addressed mailer, don't seal it, and get the right postage on it. Then you put the CD and SASE mailer in the mailer addressed to me, and send it off. I get everything, shuffle the CDs/SASEs around, and send them back out. Seems like a great plan. Fraud becomes impossible, and nobody sees your address (or even that you're participating) except me. Having fraud-proofed it, and provided anonymity, we can now drop the "no strangers" clause. Anybody can join the holiday cheer!

Only gotcha I see is that folks will probably have to do CDs and not cassettes, which I had originally suggested might be acceptable. You can still e-mail me that you want to do a cassette, and if there are other such participants I'll match you up.

Of course, we'll need some participants. :-) While we've had some discussion here, so far only a *very* small number of people have e-mailed me at to join the fun. So e-mail me if you want in, folks! Nobody will see your address but me. Of course, if you don't trust me that's another matter, but I'm a pretty easy person to find, and you know I'm not just going to disappear from Listology. :-)

Excellent, another new Santa signed on with the announcement of the improved mechanics! Thanks again pivvclam! Keep those calls and letters coming in...

I moved the deadline up from Friday to tomorrow, figuring lots of folks won't be around or online the day after Turkey Day (well, we U.S.terners, anyway). The deadline is actually semi-flexible, since to play you just have to get me your mix and mailers by December 10th or so (I'll be picking a deadline when I send out e-mails to the folks that RSVP). But I have to know your mix is coming in case there are any postal mishaps, so drop me a line if you want in!

Jim, if you're willing to share the info I'd be curious to know approximately how many respondents you've had. Are we still in the single digits?

Oh sure, you had to ask. With all this anonymity I could have pretended hundreds signed up!


So far, including me, 8 people have signed up, so we're almost out of the single digits. It's actually more than I was expecting, and there are even a couple folks missing that I thought would sign up! Not bad, and certainly enough people that I'll try and make this an annual tradition.

How many people ended up participating in the final disc swap?

7 CD participants, 2 cassette participants.

Hey! On a related note. I use Winamp to listen to MP3s because it has a small footprint. I use Nero (or sometimes Musicmatch Jukebox) to burn CDs. I've noticed that a lot of MP3s (especially those ripped off of older CDs) are quieter than MP3s ripped off more recent CDs. Does anyone know a good way that I can normalize the sound levels of a bunch of MP3s? Do I have to do it during the burning phase? Or can I take a source MP3 and normalize and output it to a brand new MP3?

MP3Gain is the tool for you. It's fantastic!

See now, I'm hoping one of my not-so-secret Santas will get me a CD burner, so I can make mixes like these!

Although the music industry may be deliberately conspiring to keep burners away from me personally. I'd be dangerous...

Shalom, y'all!

L. Bangs

Well I hope so too, so you can join in the fun next year!

Yay!! I got my mix in the mail--actually I got two. Was I just lucky, Jim or was there an error in the exchange?

Let me know if you need me to send one back... (she says, reluctantly.) Thanks again for all your efforts!

:-) You're welcome! What a ton of fun. We'll definitely have to do this again next year!

I got 2 also. Jim, did you send your mix to everyone?

Also - one of my CDs doesn't have a track list. If it's not too much trouble (and you still remember what's on the mix), could the person who sent a CD called "Wish List Mix" with a red insert with stars on it e-mail me a track list? I would really appreciate it. You can e-mail from my Listology profile. Thanks! :-)

Do you know any of the songs on it?
I don't even remember what I named mine and I might not be the only one who can't remember. I also don't remember what kind of insert it was was I talking about again?
Oh yeah, if you would post a song title from the CD that you know, it would probably help narrow it down.

Actually, Taryn already emailed me and gave me a track list. Thanks, though! :-)

Ya got me, I sent my mix to everyone. I figured since I got to listen to all the mixes (just in the interest of making sure they all worked! really!), it was only fair. :-)

I'll send a final wrap-up e-mail to all the participants shortly (tonight, hopefully).

Happy holidays everybody!

Jim, I just wanted to thank you publicly for pulling this together. I think it was a great success--especially managing to get them all exchanged before christmas!

i appreciated the bonus mix and a special thanks to the person behind "i can't stand what you do but i'm in love with your eyes." highly entertaining!

hope we're able to do it again next year!

:-) You're most welcome! Thanks for joining in the fun! I'm definitely going to make this an annual thing.

So, Jim which mix was yours?

Mine was the one in the envelope (trying to keep the shipping down, since everyone had put the appropriate postage for one disc onto their return mailers). First track was "Open up Wide", which is a good opening track in so many ways. :-) You opened your mix with a catchy intrumental too, I noted. I really liked that song but didn't remember until doing further research that it was from a movie. I think I recall happening upon one other soundtrack song on your mix - were there more there that I didn't notice? Was it a theme of the mix, or did I just happen upon the only couple?

I've been listening to and enjoying both of my gift mixes ever since they were received. One mix was made by someone who seems to have a penchant for the British pop charts. The other was a very electic mix of some jazzy, some twangy, some instrumental, some heartfelt, some world, some acoustic, etc. music. Both discs are completely unlike the other and I'm enjoying them both.

I'm curious to know if anyone out there got my disc. I didn't include a song list and the disc was in a slim plastic case probably blue or orange.

Just curious to know if the recipient enjoyed it. I had a heck of a good time making it.

I'm not sure I'm recalling correctly, but I think your mix had the farthest to travel, so it might not have arrived yet. I just sent an e-mail to everybody asking them to tell me if they haven't gotten their mix yet.

I'm happy to hear you liked the ones you got! While I'm sure you'd like to hear from your real recipient, I can tell you that I thought your mix was fantastic. I particularly dug The Waters of March, which I'd never heard before. If I had to pick a favorite song from your mix that would probably be it, but there were lots of contenders. I'd post a favorite song from each of the mixes, but there were two I didn't really get to listen to except for a quick scan to make sure the first few seconds of all the tracks played. I was very rushed, having gotten several of the mixes on Monday, and having to leave for business on Tuesday. Alas!

I think our first annual Secret Santa was a success! I hope all the CD folks have gotten their mixes (cassette swap is still in progress). We had seven CD participants, and two cassette participants, which puts us in a great position to break double-digits next year. :-)

I had a couple (probably crackpot) ideas for next year, and I'd love to hear your thoughts:

[1] Since I check all the mixes anyway before sending them back out, I could create a "greatest hits" mix to send to all participants. I might not be able to do this if we have lots of participants.

[2] It might be possible to devise an approach where if you want to get multiple mixes you can send in multiple copies of your own mix, but I'm having a hard time making the math work.

[3] Both ideas above, but particularly #2, might compromise the benign "Secret Santa" nature of the idea and make it more of a bulk music sharing kinda thing, which isn't really my intent, but it's an idea that occurred to me nonetheless, so I post it for feedback.

I'd love to hear any suggestings for next year, including "don't change a thing."

Happy holidays!

I really wish whoever received my Listology Secret Santa CD would make some sort of comment about it. I think it's one of the best mixes I've ever made but I have no idea what the recipient of the mix thinks. If you hated or if you liked it just please say something. I feel like my creative juices have just been flung into limbo. I guess next year I'll have to make a copy for everyone ala Jim. Believe it or not I considered doing it this year because I was so pleased with my mix but I didn't want to unbalance anyone's postage.

I'd love for more feedback too, but it was a *Secret* Santa, so I figure I can't beg too hard. :-)

Next year we'll have to figure out a way for folks to send more than one copy out into the void. One way I thought of was for everybody to send a book of stamps with their return mailer. I put on however many stamps are necessary to send you the CDs, and return the remaining stamps to along with your CDs.

I would have to say that I enjoyed the whole process and would do it again, but I must add that I enjoyed your CD more than the Santa one I received. I don't want to hurt any feelings; the Santa one I received was fine, it just didn't jibe as much with my musical tastes. That said, I still appreciated getting both CD's and sincerely thank the both of you, Jim and "Santa".

Glad to hear you liked the mix! I had lots of fun putting it together. I'm also psyched to hear you'd be game for next year. Believe or not, I'm already looking forward to it. know everybody has a birthday at least once a year, even Listology. Maybe, in celebration of the anniversary of Listology, Abe Lincoln, Salvodor Dali, the Dali Lama, Lorenzo Lamas, Lorenzo's Oil, Olive Oyl, Tony Oliva, Tony Orlando...well you get the picture...everyday is a special day for someone; who says the "holidays" are the only time to anonomously distribute music to total strangers? In fact, pick a date, declare it "World Music Day" and let the good times roll! Stranger things have happened.

:-) An excellent idea. As much as I'd like to do this weekly though, I think I'm going to stick to administering one a year.

I case anyone is interested, I listed the tracks from my CD here.

Are there any plans for a 2004 Secret Santa? How successful was the first one (how many people participated)?

About 10 people participated last year, so I'm planning on doing it again.


Yep.. I'm up for it this time, I think!