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Preemptively Save Christmas '08 with the Amazon Gift Organizer

Amazon.com : Amazon Gift Central

With the holidays' major combat operations now complete -- but while the trauma of bell fatigue and the stink of Orange Julius are still fresh in your mind -- I wanted to share a simple tip on something that was really useful to me this past Christmas and that might make your own life easier for next December or any other giftable event along the way.

So, you certainly know that you can create an Amazon Wish List to let people locate and purchase items you would enjoy having as gifts; that's been around forever (and most needy cam girls have the iPods and panties to prove it). And you may even have caught on that you can now have multiple Wish Lists (with differing privacy settings). And if you're a power user (read: "Amazon Prime dork"), you will surely be utilizing the very helpful Shopping List for finding and re-ordering repeat items like printer toner and blank CDs. But were you aware of the crazy-useful "Gift Organizer?" Well, okay, then.

Amazon has been smart about combining several pieces of existing functionality to create the Gift Organizer. For example, you'll probably start simply by identifying the wish list of a friend or family member. That's pretty useful, because you can see when birthdays and anniversaries are arriving in order to gift accordingly, plus, what's better than giving someone something they actually want? Quick win, there.

But then it gets better. Once the folks in your gifty circle are identified, you can also start bookmarking gift ideas that might be nice to give them in the future. So, as you surf Amazon and notice stuff that might be cool for Mom or Aunt Sue or that nice UPS man, just click "Add to Wish List" and select the person it's intended for. Into the hopper it goes. Ubiquitous capture. Swish.

Furthermore, as you purchase actual things for the people in your circle, Amazon lets you identify who the items were gifted to (you can even clean up your recent purchase history this way). That information gets stored in your per-gifted-person area where you can continue to add new ideas for future gifts from any Amazon item page (again, very much like adding to your own wish list, but for others). On top of it all, Amazon will then employ their awesome collaborative filtering to suggest more items that this person may like, and the music goes 'round.

Now, the cool part of all this -- even if you don't use Amazon very much -- is that Amazon.com is friggin huge. Which means that they (or their "Marketplace" partners) carry a ridiculously high percentage of the purchasable, shippable items available in the consumer universe. So, if you start using the Gift Organizer today -- even for stuff you have no intention of buying from Amazon -- your life is going to be much easier the next time a gift-giving occasion rolls around; you've capitalized on several months of passive, half-assed attention to actually do something useful.

Other ideas? One might be to create a few notional gift recipients to represent clients, co-workers, or the other compulsory gift recipients in your life; finding that clever, inexpensive gift at your leisure is a lot less stressful than having to tear ass on December 21st.

In an ideal world, giving gifts to your pals shouldn't feel like a stressful race. If your heart is willing but your tolerance for malls is weak, try giving the Gift Organizer a spin. You can always make your own Orange Julius.

About Merlin

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Merlin Mann is an independent writer, speaker, and broadcaster. He’s best known for being the guy who created the website you’re reading right now. He lives in San Francisco, does lots of public speaking, and helps make cool things like You Look Nice Today, Back to Work, and Kung Fu Grippe. Also? He’s writing this book, he lives with this face, he suffers from this hair, he answers these questions, and he’s had this life. So far.

Merlin’s favorite thing he’s written in the past few years is an essay entitled, “Cranking.”




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