Eric Johnson

Recent Posts by Eric Johnson

’Twas the Night Before Christmas and Santa’s Online

santa call

’Twas the night before Christmas,
And Santa’s online.
He’s emailing and calling,
And all just in time.
With holiday cheer,
And a techie assist,
He’s using the Web
To re-check his list.

It won’t fit under the Christmas tree, but there might be one last-minute gift to make the geekiest of little ones happy: A personalized email, video message or phone call from jolly old St. Nicholas.

Previously, parents had to take their children to the mall to meet Kris Kringle, but he’s updated his act with the times and across a long list of Web sites.

Here are just a couple:

  • My favorite of the bunch is Google’s “Santa Tracker,” which starts off by walking you through a surprisingly detailed faux-instant-message chat with Santa. After you say you’ve read and agreed to Santa’s Terms and Privacy Policy (no, really, but they are a lot better than Instagram’s), he interviews you about a friend, co-worker or loved one you want him to contact. Then he offers to give them a phone call (but only between 8 am and 9 pm), an email or a Google+ message. (I wonder if Santa puts the naughty and nice kids in different Circles on Google+.)
  • Portable North Pole (pictured at top) takes it one step further, letting you send a video message from Santa. And in PNP’s questionnaire, you can tell Santa to cater his message specifically to an adult, or to someone (adult or child) who shouldn’t be on the “nice” list. Since it’s a video call, Santa optionally asks for a photo of the recipient or of you that he can use, or you can just have him use a picture of a gift.
  • It’s just one of many, many similar smaller services, but Christmas Dialer layers a business on top of the Christmas-y concept. It gives you one free call from Santa, then charges at least 57 cents for each additional call to your eBay PayPal account. Unlike the other two listed above, though, it asks less information upfront and, as a result, offers far fewer choices of what sort of message the recipient will get.

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The problem with the Billionaire Savior phase of the newspaper collapse has always been that billionaires don’t tend to like the kind of authority-questioning journalism that upsets the status quo.

— Ryan Chittum, writing in the Columbia Journalism Review about the promise of Pierre Omidyar’s new media venture with Glenn Greenwald