secret quonsar 2012 planning time November 5, 2012 5:25 AM   Subscribe

secret quonsar swap time is fast approaching! Last year, we had hundreds of participants from locations around the world. It was fun. But before we can get to swapping this year, we have a few preliminary things to resolve. Fa la la la la. La.

The secret quonsar swap is - for the uninitiated - our holiday-adjacent wintery gift exchange.

1. I need at least one more volunteer to help manage the swap and the followup. Many thanks to Crunchland and PhunnieMee for volunteering last year. We manage the swap using a shared gmail account and google drive spreadsheets and scripts. If you are good-natured, vaguely organized, and/or like making things work, this may be up your alley. Drop me a memail for more info or to volunteer.

2. Participants can select a region to swap in. My proposed list:
International (Ship Anywhere, Receive from Anywhere)
US Only
UK Only
Canada Only
Australia Only

Do we need other regions? Do these regions suit our needs?

3. We will recruit second chancers (people who step in in cases of giftus interruptus) once the swap gets going.

4. Last year we had a $15 spending limit. Do we want to keep it at $15?

Look for signups to go live on (next) Monday, November 12, 2012 (12 November 2012 in some locales). Signups will be open for 1 week. There will be a metatalk post outlining the hows and whyfors at that time.

If you are concerned you might miss the announcement (due to exams, holiday stress, record-breaking pie-making attempts, work demands, or possible alien abductions), you can sign up for the Signups-Are-Open Notification Mailing List. When the signups go live, you will get an email letting you know.

Finally a heart-felt Thank You. Because I am an idiot, I didn't realize the box of awesomeness I got last year in February was an unnecessary but much appreciated thank you gift for doing sq stuff, or I would have thanked you guys way back when. The box was full of continuing delight and usefulness, and filled with awesome things.
posted by julen to MetaFilter-Related at 5:25 AM (63 comments total) 9 users marked this as a favorite

Yay! I LOVE the two Dr Who posters I got from my SQ last year, and it was a real SQ miracle what with the hassles of China Post. Count me in.
posted by arcticseal at 5:28 AM on November 5, 2012

How'bout adding Asia as another category and linking NZ to Australia?
posted by carmicha at 5:35 AM on November 5, 2012 [1 favorite]

For those wanting to volunteer, what sort of time commitment would we be looking at on a daily/weekly basis?
posted by deezil at 5:36 AM on November 5, 2012

First, thanks so much for spearheading this again, arcticseal!

1. I should have the time and would love to help! I might need some guidance on spreadsheets and scripts and such.

2. I think these make sense. Might want to set an earlier deadline for those who sign up for the international swaps, to give them plenty of time to get those packages out.

3. Much love for the second-chancers! A second-chance angel gifted me when my quonsar swap match quit the site before Christmas.

4. I would like to make the $15 more of a guideline than a limit. Some of us can afford more than others, and who those people are can change at the drop of the hat, for all sorts of reasons, from layoffs to graduations to natural disasters.

Plus, some Mefites are wondrously crafty, and can spend a little to make a lot. So, yeah, guideline, not set in stone.

posted by misha at 5:37 AM on November 5, 2012

So exciting! I've done SQ twice and been just thrilled each time with wonderful MeFite surprises.

The $15 level seems to work. I've been able to find good gifts (I think anyway) and receive them without raising the limit. I guess I am resistant to escalate it just for the sake of doing so, and have never felt too constrained, so I'll all for keeping it more affordable. Having an agreed limit makes it feel more of a level playing field for everyone, no guilt at not going overboard. It's already an expensive time of year. If anything, small cash makes you get more creative.
posted by Miko at 5:37 AM on November 5, 2012

Misha, I think you want to thank Julen! Although I am up to help organize this year.
posted by arcticseal at 5:55 AM on November 5, 2012

Europe only? How big is 'Europe'?
posted by the man of twists and turns at 6:00 AM on November 5, 2012

An area about the size of Wales.
posted by griphus at 6:26 AM on November 5, 2012 [2 favorites]

Asia would be a nice add, but I loved the awesome stuff I got last year, and don't mind the international thing. Besides, what could compare with secret family recipe spice mix for Italian sausage? Secret Quonsar, you're the best.
posted by Ghidorah at 6:31 AM on November 5, 2012

posted by misha at 6:31 AM on November 5, 2012

Thank you for organizing this! I love this thing.

Also, I wouldn't mind the limit being raised to $20. My default gift tends to be a t-shirt ("default" as in "this awesome t-shirt would be appreciated a lot more than any other stupid idea I've had") and $20 opens the t-shirt world up a bit more than $15.
posted by griphus at 6:54 AM on November 5, 2012 [4 favorites]

Asia should definitely be on the list (it's on the form - I just forgot to copy it over!). If there aren't enough signups for a region to be successful, I'll contact the folks who did sign up to see what they want to do.

Europe includes Iceland, Scandinavia, the UK, Ireland, mainland Europe, Istanbul, and parts of Russia to my mind. I'll sanity check the regions before the swap to make sure nothing too mistaken gets by (e.g. someone with a Canadian address opting for Europe Only).


Most of what folks will do is read mail, answer mail, send mail, and look things up on a google drive spreadsheet. Oh! And adding status to a column on the spreadsheet.

Generally, you should log in at least once a day and triage the email (it helps if it's twice a day, or more if you are super dedicated). Some days you may get upticks of more mail to triage (when we send out the status checkup requests; if I am on the road at a client site and can't login at lunch or during the day, which may happen once or twice during the sq period).

I'll start contacting volunteers tomorrow to provide more info and talk about timeframes - SQ stuff usually stretches out well into February (and later), so I like to split up that time amongst folks so they don't get burned out. The way I see it there's several different timeframes: Just swapped/information gathering season; prime mailing/delivery season; whoops, it's late! season; oh, yeah, uh, right, secret quonsar, um, ok, well, ok yeah season. Last year Phunniemee helped with the first two and Crunchland with the second two and then when it tapered off, it was just me.

They each spent about a month (chronologically) helping out, and it made everything so much easier.
posted by julen at 7:03 AM on November 5, 2012 was fun last year.
posted by lampshade at 7:19 AM on November 5, 2012

*starts planning on how to mail an intact snowball to Asia*
posted by arcticseal at 7:21 AM on November 5, 2012 [2 favorites]

I always see this every year and get jealous. I think Im actually gonna do it this year.
Surprise boxes in the mail are always surprising!
posted by ShawnString at 7:23 AM on November 5, 2012

God now I am trying to recall that old Robin Williams routine about getting a box in the mail labeled DEFINITELY DOES NOT CONTAIN PENIS CREAM.
posted by griphus at 7:26 AM on November 5, 2012 [3 favorites]

If you're short on volunteers I can probably step up a bit to do maintenance type tasks via Google Drive as well as the next person. Let me know.
posted by RolandOfEld at 7:50 AM on November 5, 2012

Hey, guys! I'm so excited. I volunteered last year to help julen with the swap, and I'm totes doing it again this year. It was a lovely chance to take part in some allthetime schmoopy at a time when my life was kind of sucky, and it was awesome. You people are all wonderful.

For those of you who may be interested in volunteering this year/in the future, julen asked me to give a rough estimate of how much time I spent on this last year. I checked in on your emails every day, and spent maybe (? it's hard to remember) about a half hour a day average reading/looking up/responding. Sometimes a little more, sometimes a little less. I tried to sign in pretty often to make sure people got quick responses and answers.

Basically: not much work, a whole lotta upside.

Thanks for organizing it again this year, julen! You're my hero!
posted by phunniemee at 7:53 AM on November 5, 2012 [1 favorite]

Yay quonsar!

I second raising the limit to $20. Honestly, with shipping I've always sent gifts that were at least that much--and this is in light of trying to go cheap.
posted by PhoBWanKenobi at 7:54 AM on November 5, 2012 [1 favorite]

I'm willing to try again!

julen, I can offer bandwidth and time to help out between the 10th of Dec through to and including over Christmas days, though I'll be in a timezone on the other side of the planet.
posted by infini at 8:21 AM on November 5, 2012

*starts planning on how to mail an intact snowball to Asia*

WANT from tropical Singapore!!
posted by infini at 8:23 AM on November 5, 2012

Europe only? How big is 'Europe'?

About 2/5 the size of North America.
posted by Sys Rq at 8:25 AM on November 5, 2012

*starts planning on how to mail an intact snowball to Asia*

WANT from tropical Singapore!!
posted by infini at 9:23 on November 5 [+] [!]

Will swap for the equally impossible task of mailing a durian.
posted by arcticseal at 8:29 AM on November 5, 2012 [2 favorites]

Will swap for the equally impossible task of mailing a durian.

Deal!! (or some dodol at least)
posted by infini at 8:31 AM on November 5, 2012

I want to do this now for the sole purpose of labeling everyone's packages as PENIS CREAM.
posted by elizardbits at 8:51 AM on November 5, 2012 [6 favorites]

Yay! Secret Quonsar is one of my favorite things. I got great gifts last year.
posted by ocherdraco at 9:00 AM on November 5, 2012

Why wait for secret quonsar to add that label to your mail? Start with any utility bills that are due.
posted by not_on_display at 9:01 AM on November 5, 2012 [1 favorite]

My roommate in college did that with the check for his share of the rent. Each check made payable to me would have in the note section For a sweet, baby pig.
posted by RolandOfEld at 9:01 AM on November 5, 2012 [2 favorites]

Would US/Canada be reasonable as an additional region option, instead of having to choose only one of the two if you don't want to choose "International?"

I am in Canada, but I think I could probably swing shipping something to the US as well as within Canada. (Not 100% sure I'm going to participate yet, but I figured I'd toss this suggestion out there.)
posted by asnider at 9:12 AM on November 5, 2012 [3 favorites]

Thanks so much for facilitating this again.
posted by jasper411 at 10:12 AM on November 5, 2012

Secret Quonsar (and Mefighters) is my favorite part of the holidays.

I'd be happy to send an extra package or two as a Second Chancer! Picking awesome presents for random strangers is one of my core competencies.
posted by Freyja at 10:17 AM on November 5, 2012 [1 favorite]

I love how just enough time passed for me to have forgotten about Secret Quonsar in order to now be happily surprised and excited that it's that time again! *pokes brain with pencil in ear*

The questionnaire was well-written last year, and that really helped. Thanks for that.

Also, I like $15 as a guideline, and would just as happily do $20 - though I'm the type to go just a bit over if I find the right thing/s anyway.

My only regret is that Canada Post well and truly sucks and my poor recipient probably thought I was a jerk, and thus our lousy mail system will be keeping me from offering to swap internationally this year. But, if possible, since I have both a US and a Canadian address, I freely admit I'm greedy and would happily participate twice, or will be a second chancer.

Thank you so much for doing this. I wish I could help, but I know I'm not the right person for it.
posted by peagood at 10:50 AM on November 5, 2012

Flat rate shipping from the USPS rocks. But it seriously jumps for Canadian addresses. Really, I can mail something to Alaska for less than Canada. It's a bit crazy.
posted by theichibun at 11:03 AM on November 5, 2012

Honestly, with shipping I've always sent gifts that were at least that much-

Oh me too, but I have not been including shipping costs in the cost of the actual gift. I've been treating $15 as gift price - and shipping honestly can almost double that, depending.
posted by Miko at 11:52 AM on November 5, 2012

I was in New York last week eating at a diner on Amsterdam Ave with my best pal from high school. I was telling him about how we did the secret quonsar and how I wasn't sure what to give my quonsee so I'd Google street-viewed the building to try and get a sense of what my recipient would like and that I was sure they lived close to my friend. (I ended up sending him a pair of marshmallow guns, marshmallows and hot chocolate.)

and then I looked out the window... and there was my secret quonsee's building with its distinctive gate!

posted by vespabelle at 11:53 AM on November 5, 2012 [4 favorites]

I've always been keen to do this in the past, but got stuffed the last couple of years, so I don't want to participate directly this time round, but would like to be a second chancer.
posted by paduasoy at 12:56 PM on November 5, 2012

It's a lot of fun to get a present from a seekrit Internet friend. Julen, thank you for putting in so much work.
posted by theora55 at 1:44 PM on November 5, 2012

Love SQ!! Thanks for the reminder email list. That is very thoughtful and helpful.
posted by jeoc at 2:03 PM on November 5, 2012

Thanks for setting up a reminder mail! And for setting this up in general! How 'bout we say $15 is a guideline, not a rule? (I just moved to the kokopelli center of the universe and boy howdy my quonsee this year is in for a TREAT.)
posted by mochapickle at 2:23 PM on November 5, 2012

This is so very cool. Thank you for putting in the time and effort to organize it!
posted by sheprime at 4:21 PM on November 5, 2012

God now I am trying to recall that old Robin Williams routine about getting a box in the mail labeled DEFINITELY DOES NOT CONTAIN PENIS CREAM.

griphus, I think that was Steve Martin peddling the cream in an old SNL sketch -- it's included in his new "t.v. stuff" DVD.
posted by Iris Gambol at 4:28 PM on November 5, 2012

Oh fabulous, I was really looking forward to this again - especially after my secret Quonsar BLEW ME AWAY with her magnificence, I felt that my own meagre gift was appalling, and have resolved to try and equal what I received last year, this year.
posted by smoke at 4:38 PM on November 5, 2012 [1 favorite]

1. I would love to volunteer, to help as many people get the warm'n'fuzzy secret quonsar joy, but with three jobs, trying to start a fourth, and moving house, I don't know that I could commit this year. (Maybe next year, though. I could take an other-side-of-the-planet shift so y'all don't wake up to a bunch of stuff to do.)

2. I'm in Australia but still happy to go international. The cost of postage usually far exceeds the cost of the gift, but I'm very okay with that. And I love getting stuff from overseas, as my poor overworked mailman will agree.

3. I haven't had a drama with the last two years, so second-chancing is something about which I know nuffink.

4. I've gone a bit over $15 both years but I figure when postage costs even more than that, an extra few bucks on the gift itself doesn't matter.

One last thing: Julen is an absolute gem, and her helpers are equally magnificent.

And I have just had the BEST idea for a gift. Why I didn't think of it in previous years, I'll never know, but now I am just busting to do it.

posted by malibustacey9999 at 4:43 PM on November 5, 2012

Quonsar! Yay!

I could be in for Australia only, but only because the international stuff costs so damn much.
posted by His thoughts were red thoughts at 7:07 PM on November 5, 2012

Definitely in the pot for Quonsar. My Quonsar gift last year was soooo awesome and appeared on a day that I really needed something awesome, it's my favorite memory of last holiday season.

I'm a little fuzzy on details, but I remember last year we also bought gifts for some needy children (??). I just remember ordering something on amazon and having it shipped to a Mefite. I hope there's something like that again this year.
posted by SweetTeaAndABiscuit at 7:38 PM on November 5, 2012 [1 favorite]

Secret Quonsar, yes! This time I'll even put my address in the form correctly...
posted by (Over) Thinking at 8:12 PM on November 5, 2012

If I (an Aussie) select International, does that mean my gift giver is likely also international? Or will they be more likely to be from the Australia only pool?
I ask, because part of the fun for me is giving and receiving cross borders.
posted by bystander at 2:20 AM on November 6, 2012 [1 favorite]

Just curious, if you were to buy a middle-aged man's worn boxers from a kinky vending machine, how much would it be? Maybe, say, $15? Again, just curious.

Looking forward to participating again this year, I already have a gift in mind!
posted by maxwelton at 2:37 AM on November 6, 2012

Finally participating this year, after ALWAYS missing registrations. I've signed up to the notification email thing, so it should really happen this year.

How do people in the Euro and GBP zone interpret the $15 limit? I'm in the UK where $15 is worth less than £10, but items cost the about same "number" as in the US. (A $15 object in the US costs £15 in a British store. Give or take.) Do you go with the actual exchange rate, or with the "what would this cost in the US" exchange value? I'm tempted to go with the 1:1 exchange, and aim for £15 rather than <£10...
posted by easternblot at 3:43 AM on November 6, 2012

I'd also like to volunteer to help! And I think I'm going to do this for this year, because I can't find the holiday cards I had bought in advance for the MeCha holiday card exchange. Buying and sending a gift for one person is more manageable for me this year than writing and sending cards for 20 people.

Also, I'm good to increase it to $20.
posted by TrishaLynn at 4:20 AM on November 6, 2012

Yay SQ!

Having just broken out my beautiful quonsar scarf for the first time this winter yesterday, I'm freshly reminded of how awesome it was to receive it. I'd definitely like to take part again this year and promise I won't miss the deadline this time.
posted by greenish at 5:51 AM on November 6, 2012

Wow, I have lots of volunteers! More than I expected or can use. You guys are awesome! I will get back to folks tomorrow instead of today. I'm going to think best about how I can use folks.

bystander: "If I (an Aussie) select International, does that mean my gift giver is likely also international? Or will they be more likely to be from the Australia only pool?

I ask, because part of the fun for me is giving and receiving cross borders.

If you choose international, you could get a gift sent from anywhere. It could come from someone in your own country. That said, being in Australia (or Europe), your chances for getting an international gift is higher than if you were an American or Canadian simply because there are traditionally a lot more Americans and Canadians who participate.

If you choose [locale] Only, you will only be eligible for gifts from that locale. You will draw someone from that locale. There's no intermixing of swap regions.
posted by julen at 7:10 AM on November 6, 2012

I've been cranky about the winter holiday creep pretty much every year, but I have to say that this particular earliness is making me happy. Yay for SQ creep. Looking forward to shopping and sending.
posted by sciencegeek at 8:05 AM on November 6, 2012

Hooray for Quonsmas! I vote for increasing to $20 too.
posted by MsMolly at 8:32 AM on November 7, 2012

Is there an old thread somewhere that describes the gift criteria and stuff, or is it as free-form as it looks?
posted by wenestvedt at 12:11 PM on November 7, 2012

When signups go live next week, I'll post a new MeTa with detailed directions and exhortations. If anything is unclear, people ask questions or comment on the process or make recommendations.

But this is last year's signups thread. Some details will change this year. We learned from last year's experience.
posted by julen at 12:34 PM on November 7, 2012 [2 favorites]

Everybody must be richer than me. Or just more generous.

I just really don't want to make it harder for anyone to participate. But if it's $20, it's $20. Maybe we could say it's a range, $15-20?
posted by Miko at 1:46 PM on November 7, 2012

Everybody must be richer than me. Or just more generous.

As someone who last year at this time was so broke that I was about a month's worth of dollars away from having to either move back in with my parents or go alley shopping for comfortable-looking boxes, I am not in favor of upping the gift price to $20.

The way I've always seen these things, and perhaps others read this differently, the price target is just a rough guideline. Something to say that you shouldn't go too crazy, but also something to say that you should do a bit better than shipping off a pack of gum. If you find something that's $20 with a $15 limit, and you think it's perfect and you can afford it, then by all means get that thing. If you find something that's $10 and you think it's perfect, don't worry that you're skimping because you're under the $15 mark. This isn't a numbers game. This is a fun little game of Quonsmas cheer.

So, I vote for leaving it as it is, and making it clear that it's just a rough approximation, not some hard-and-fast rule.

I am much less broke now, thankfully. But it was close there for a while. Whee!
posted by phunniemee at 2:10 PM on November 7, 2012 [7 favorites]

I liked the ~$15 limit. It's not too little and not too much. I think those who want to spend more, will.
I'm happy to help out, please let me know what is needed.
Yay secret quonsar! Thanks julen!
posted by xiaolongbao at 5:19 PM on November 7, 2012 [1 favorite]

SweetTeaAndABiscuit: "I'm a little fuzzy on details, but I remember last year we also bought gifts for some needy children (??)."

I believe The Pink Superhero ran that. Don't know if she'll do it this year - she has a new baby to care for. I'll ping her to this thread, though.

As a former SQ organizer and possible future one, ya'll are awesome (and a little nuts) for taking this on. :D It's so much fun!
posted by IndigoRain at 12:50 AM on November 8, 2012

I'm making my way through the list of volunteers! You guys are all awesome and plentiful. We should have folks in place in the next few days. Very excited.
posted by julen at 5:33 AM on November 8, 2012

Another thank you to julen and phunniemee for last year, especially as I had some extraordinary circumstances and had to send late. You guys are awesome, as was my quonsee.

This year looks to be much more "normal" and I'm looking forward to actually sending on time!

I'd also be okay with $20 being the limit.

Yay quonsmas!
posted by guster4lovers at 7:36 AM on November 8, 2012

Indeed, I hope to have details on a gift drive soon! Stay tuned,
posted by ThePinkSuperhero at 7:51 PM on November 8, 2012 [2 favorites]

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