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Gift Guide for Geeks Part 2 – Christmas Gift Suggestions from gifts.com

Posted in Geeking Out, Technology by engtech on November 21, 2006

(Continued from Gift Guide for Geeks Part 1 – Tis the Season for Receiving)

Gifts.com has lists of “great gift ideas” in various categories based on how you’d pigeon-hole your loved ones. (A list of questions will break them down for you if you’re having trouble). It isn’t the only gift suggestion website, but it has the best domain name. How good is it at suggesting gifts? Let’s see what it suggests for my stereotyped personality.

Gift Guide for Geeks


Six of the gifts.com stereotypes apply to me:

  1. gadget guru
  2. video gamer
  3. music lover
  4. movie buff
  5. book worm
  6. cat lover

Are these suggestions any good? Would I like any of these gifts? How good can a website be at suggesting gifts?

Read more as I go through the gifts.com suggestions and weed out the good gifts from the bad.

(photo (c) Yochin)

Gadget Guru – Good Gifts

  • Quirky glowing toys: the Mood Beams toys are really cute, I could see placing one on my computer desk.
  • USB thumb/flash drive: Every geek needs one, preferably 1 GB or higher.
  • Mimobot USB flash drive: The only thing better than a USB thumb drive is a thumb drive that looks like Darth Vader. More expensive, but wait til you see your geek’s smile.
  • Nerd novelty t-shirts: Always fun, but try to match your geek’s sense of humour. I recommend thinkgeek.com, threadless.com and tshirthell.com
  • Digital cameras: I highly recommend the Cannon A-series as a nice mid-range choice.
  • Digital picture frames: Very cool, but the price tag is too high.
  • Massaging recliner: This would be a “wow” high-ticket item. Get one that also massages the calves. Too expensive for most people.
  • Roomba robotic vacuum: Something you would love to have, but would never buy, makes for a good gift. Like the Roomba. Make sure it matches their hardwood/carpeting needs.
  • Multiple gadget charging station: Most gadget geeks would love it.
  • Ice bucket with thermometer: The booze related gifts always do well, and this is a winner if they don’t already have a wine fridge.

Gadget Guru – Bad Gifts

  • Nike+ Training System for Runners: The coolest way to get your geek exercising. This system is amazing, and the 45 minute mix by LCD Soundsystem only makes it better. The only problem is you *also* need the Nike+ runners and an iPod.
  • Wireless headphones for iPod: I’ve got a pair, and they’re HORRIBLE. Very cheaply made and they break in a million different ways. Review forthcoming.
  • Sci-fi faucet and nite-light: Gets an immediate reaction of “wow, cool!”, but would be tacky after the first week.
  • Abacus smart watch: Watches are dead, and modern geeks use their cell phone to tell time.
  • Scrolling message license plate: Obnoxious.
  • Novelty mouse: No one wants one of these. Ever. Not even with their favorite sports team, a Superman logo, etc. People want a mouse that *works*.
  • Remote controls: I’d never buy one for a geek because it’d be next to impossible to get the exact one they’d want. If you are going to get one, I recommend the Logitech Harmony.
  • Hottest new cell phones: A very personal choice, I’d wouldn’t buy one for someone who was tech savvy. I *don’t* recommend the Nokia 6682.
  • Radar detector: Nothing says “Seasons Greetings” like jail time.
  • Fun robotic pets: Because freaking out the furry pets is fun.
  • Handheld electronic sudoku: Real geeks play sudoku for free on their cellphone. Paper and pencil is better than most electronic versions.

(photo by skinny coder, CC licensed)

Video Gamer – Good Gifts

  • Video game consoles: You need to know your geek’s preference, but all of them are good and anyone who doesn’t appreciate one is an idiot. Nintendo Wii, Xbox 360, Playstation 3, or Nintendo DS… a lot of choice this year. Playstation 3’s are next to impossible to come by.
  • Subscription for online video game service: Xbox Live and similar services have monthly/yearly fees. You can buy subscription cards at local electronic stores as a gift.
  • Brain Age Game for Nintendo DS: Great game for adults.
  • Cool illuminated keyboard: I have a Logitech G15, and I love it.
  • Wireless controller: Having an extra wireless controller is always good for when friends come over.

Video Gamer – Bad Gifts

  • Star Wars light saber game: Games that you buy at the supermarket and attach to the TV are *crap*.
  • Video game accessories: Unless it’s something they specifically asked for, accessories are usually poorly made gimmicks. Much like iPod accessories.
  • Gamer chair: Pretty cool. You’re essentially sitting in a subwoofer. But it’s too much work to track down the right one and make sure it works with their game system and goes with the d�cor. (Good gift if they’ve mentioned a specific one)

  • Video games: It can be hard to pick the right game. Check the GameSpot rating first, and make sure the rating is an 8.5 or higher. Also check with your geek’s friends to see if a) he already has it, and b) if it’s the right genre. (Good gift if they’ve mentioned a specific one)
  • Portable games for travelers: These are so 1980s.
  • Electronic handheld crossword/scrabble/sudoku/etc: Waste of money.
  • Wired Magazine/Video Game Magazine subscription: Who reads print anymore? The news in magazines is always 3-6 months behind what he read on the Internet this morning.
  • Video Game strategy guides: Made obsolete by gamefaqs.org

(photo (c) Rune T)

Music Lover – Good Gifts

  • MP3 music player: Always appreciated, but hard to find the correct one. Is he into iPods? The Microsoft Zune? The Creative Zen? Find out.
  • iPod case: I *highly* recommend cases from Toronto-based iSkin. They are fantastic, and only slightly more expensive than much, much poor cases you’d find in Radio Shack, Future Shop or Best Buy.
  • iPod digital camera card reader: Backup photos on to your iPod while traveling.
  • High quality ear-bud headphones: People never shell out the extra bucks to get something much better than what comes with their portable player.
  • Noise canceling headphones: High-end headphones from Bose will always go over well. Too damned expensive though.
  • iTunes gift certificate card: Available at local electronic stores, they can be redeemed for whatever they want at the online iTunes store. Make sure your geek has an iPod, and not one of those other players otherwise they might not be able to play music from the iTunes store.
  • Wireless Outdoor Speakers: Assuming your geek likes to go outdoors and isn’t afraid of sunlight. Great for s-o-c-i-a-l-i-z-i-n-g with “friends”.
  • Men’s Shield iPod Jacket: I have a similar jacket from Lulumon and I love it.
  • CD Cover Art coffee table books: These are cool to have lying around the house. Why don’t doctor’s offices have these?
  • Strobe lights: Good for parties, and annoying epileptic cousins.
  • iPod iDog speakers: I thought these were stupid until I one in use. They light up and dance based on the ambient music. Neat.

Music Lover – Bad Gifts

  • iPod shower radio with fog free mirror: Having a radio player in the shower is a good idea, but not one you have to put attach your iPod to before every shower. No one wants to bring their iPod into the bathroom to dock before their first coffee.
  • iPod dock for bathroom toilet paper roll: Where do they come up with this shit? This is a horrible idea.
  • iPod alarm clock: Anything you have to dock your iPod into for it to work is a bad idea. Docking is a pain in the ass.
  • XXXX iPod XXXX Accessory: Most iPod accessories are crap. Apple also changes the interface every year so it’s almost impossible to match the accessory to the correct model of iPod.
  • XM Satellite Radio: Requires a subscription to use (usually $15/month). There’s something the guy at the electronics store forgot to tell you.
  • Books about music/bands: It’s called “the library”. It’s P2P for adults.
  • Desktop Music Composer: It looks like a kid’s toy, why would someone want to damage their desk feng shui?
  • CDs: The gift that says “I missed the turn of the millennium”.
  • Recycled LP Cover Bowls: Almost kitschy enough to get by, but not quite.
  • Vinyl record clock: Again with the assault on feng shui.
  • iPod Shuffle: A 2GB iPod Nano is a much better gift. The shuffle has no display and does not let you choose which song to play.
  • Convert Vinyl/Tape to CD: Frickin’ pain in the ass. Easier to download the music online or buy it from iTunes.
  • Blue Man Group musical instruments: This would be an awesome gift for a niece or nephew if you hated your sibling.
  • MP3 Sunglasses: So obnoxious.
  • Cool computer speakers: Do you know what they already have? Will it match their d�cor? Do you have any idea how to pick out good speakers? I need new speakers but I have no idea what to get. I couldn’t imagine trying to get some for someone else.
  • Tickets to concerts: Do they already have plans that night? Do they like the band? Could be a good gift if you get the right one, but very easy to screw up.
  • Jazzy wall art: The assault on the senses continues.
  • CD Holders: But the files are in the computer.
  • Retro styled CD & LP players: Soooo ugly.
  • Life-sized Elvis cardboard stand-ups: This would only be cool if you could get fat Elvis.
  • Eco-Friendly MUJI Cardboard Speakers: Only if they’re vegan.

(photo by monica, CC licensed)

Movie Buff – Good Gifts

  • DVD Player: On the off-chance they don’t already have one.
  • DVDs: Pick a movie they really loved that has just been released on DVD in Nov-Dec. Movie buffs have a bad tendency of wanting to own movies they like in the theatre even if they have no intention of ever watching it again.
  • Widescreen HD-TV: Nothing says “I’ve done something horrible and bribery is the only way to buy your affection this holiday season” like shelling out a couple of grand on an HD-TV setup.
  • Home theatre in a box: Only if you get a good quality system and they don’t already have one.
  • Tivo Digital Recorder: These things are amazing. Everyone who owns them loves them. Make sure he isn’t one of those weird no-cable TV people, though (like me).
  • Horrified B-Movie Victims Play Set: I want to take pictures of them running away from my cat.
  • AFI’s Top Movie Posters of all time: If they’re the type who’d put posters on the wall.
  • Movie director boxed set: Only if it actually is one of his favorite directors, and he doesn’t already own most of the movies. Boxed sets are usually over-priced if they’re any good.
  • Star Wars Life Sized Stand-ups: Elvis cardboard stand-ups are lame, but who wouldn’t want a life-sized Han Solo cardboard cut-out?
  • Thermal printer / label maker: 7 times out of 10, your movie geek is pirating films. Help him do it in style.
  • Favorite TV series on DVD: Get a series they’ve never seen, but you know they’re going to love, like The Office, Family Guy, Battlestar Galactica, South Park, or Buffy the Vampire Slayer.
  • Movie soundtracks: Sometimes better than the movie.
  • Theatre ticket gift certificates: Make sure you pick a theatre chain they go to! People always buy from the chain that’s convenient for the gift-giver, not the person who’s going to see the movie.
  • Books that were adapted to film: The book is usually better. If they like Blade Runner, A Scanner Darkly and Minority Report, then why not get them some Phillip K. Dick novels? Or a Harry Potter boxed set. You get the idea.

Movie Buff – Bad Gifts

  • Scene It DVD game: You’ll have exhausted the entire thing after two sessions of play. Horrible value.
  • Movie Guide books: Made obsolete by IMDB and Rotten Tomatoes.
  • Caddy Shack Dancing Gopher: Fun for five minutes, but ultimately too cheesy.
  • HD-DVD / Blu-ray player: Too expensive and one of these formats will eventually be obsolete (like VHS and Beta). Check back two years from now.
  • Star Wars light sabers: George Lucas killed the franchise. Let it go already.
  • Hand-held DVD Players: Movie buffs either have a home theatre, can play DVDs on their laptop, or their portable MP3 player / game system.
  • Remote control caddy: Ugly.
  • Oversized universal remote: Only if he’s mentally handicapped. Much better to have a remote with a “glow” button.
  • Movie action figures: Nobody wants these, at least, not after thinking about it for more than 5 minutes. Unless you’re planning to put them in sexy poses and take pictures to upload on the Internet.
  • DVD Player for the car: Good if they have children. But you’re better off getting the child a portable music/video player or portable video game system.
  • Comic and super-hero t-shirts: Comic books are in again, but not THAT in.
  • Talking dolls: Annoying.
  • Star Trek phaser: They’ll use it to shoot you. And the setting won’t be on stun.
  • Board games based on TV shows or movies: Usually horrible and will only get played once. Waste of money.
  • Narnia Replica Wands and Swords: You love them, right? Even if they want this, don’t give it to them.
  • Hollywood Celebrity coffee table books: Not that cool.
  • Video games based on movies: They all suck.

(photo by chotda, CC licensed)

Book Worm – Good Gifts

  • Relaxing and supportive bedrests (for reading in bed): Can be hard to find a good one, but if you do it’s gold.
  • Bookends: There are some cool ones out there, but most suck. (Picture shows example of suckage)
  • Book – PostSecret: Easily the best site on the internet, makes for a great read.
  • Book – The Zombie Survival Guide
  • Book – Urban Dictionary: For light bathroom reading.
  • Book – Digital Photography Tips: I have no idea which specific book to get, but digital photography is very popular and most people don’t know the basic tips: look for good lighting, and have steady hands.

Book Worm – Bad Gifts

  • Book – Family Guy, Stewie’s Guide to World Domination: Maybe it’s awesome, but I was burned so bad by the Stewie movie that I’m not going near it.
  • Sudoku toilet paper: Ewww. Wrong on so many levels.
  • Recommended Books: The ones gifts.com mention are very so-so. Go for stuff by your geek’s favorite authors. Or cult classics like Good Omens or anything by Terry Pratchett.
  • Literary board games: No one will want to play it will them.
  • Self-help books: Insulting, when you think about it.
  • Books about one of their favorite hobbies: Nothing says “I kind of know you” like getting them a poorly written book about one of their obvious interests.
  • Books about computers: These are ESPECIALLY bad as they are out of date before they are printed. I’m still trying to convince my dad to get rid of his Windows 95 and Netscape 4x books he’s never opened.

(photo (c) pixel bettie)

Cat Lover – Good Gifts

  • Well-made cat beds: Preferably the beds with real sheepskin, my cats love these.
  • Stuff On My Cat web calendar: Do they have a sense of humour or are they part of PETA?
  • Self-cleaning litter box: Very expensive, but it’s supposed to work very well.
  • Kitty condos: Over-priced, but the cats love them.
  • Cat nip toys: Oh my god, I’m sooooooo stoned right now. Meow.

Cat Lover – Bad Gifts

  • Everything else, especially the Murphy Beds for pets.

(photo by bulldog1, CC licensed)

What do I think of gifts.com?

The website layout is good, but not great. It doesn’t have any obvious problems but it isn’t going to win any usability awards — especially for a first time user. The navigation can be annoying because as you browse through one of the stereotypes you have to go all the way back to the beginning to select another one.

Gifts.com can be a good way to get your family members to create a wish list, but Amazon.com has much better wish list features. I found it very difficult to pick out specific books, DVDs and video games to add to my list on gifts.com. It was also missing recommendations of other things based on what I’ve already liked. Shipping from Amazon is easy and painless, where as gifts.com will only direct you to other stores.

As far as the “suggested” stereotypes on gifts.com, I only liked 10-20% of what they suggested based on my stereotypes. That is a very low success rate. They have a “gift guru picks” section that should list “the best” choices, but instead listed some of the stupidest, and most useless gifts as well (like the iPod toilet paper dock). Compare this to the Amazon Gift Central suggestions for geek. Out of 50 items I liked 29 of them. I understand why the results are so bad, after staring at gift suggestions for long enough stupid things start to look really good only because they’re so much better than some of the worst things out there.

But it’s easy to complain. What would I suggest in their place?

Related Posts

  1. Introduction – Some personal stories of what the holiday experience is usually like for me.
  2. Gifts.com – I go through one of those gift suggestion websites and try to pick out the good from the bad. TIP: these sites suck.
  3. Gamers – A list of what I think is good for the Xbox 360, Nintendo DS and PC video gamers.
  4. Comic Books – My favorite comic books available in trade paperbacks.
  5. Programming/Tech Books – Top ten recommended books for programmers, managers and anyone working in high tech.
  6. Books – 45 of my favorite books (non-fiction, fiction, sci-fi, fantasy, humour).
  7. Movies – 81 of the best DVD recommendations.
  8. TV series on DVD – some shows I like.
  9. T-shirts – 100+ geek t-shirts that I like.
  10. Last Minute Suggestions – waited to long and need a gift in a hurry? Try these.

22 Responses

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  1. […] //engtech Presents: Gift Guide for Geeks Keep watching //engtech for my guide on how to shop online from Canada. […]

  2. Austin said, on November 21, 2006 at 11:57 pm

    I had a question about your comment on the car GPS gift — what did you mean by “requires a subscription?” Most GPS receivers don’t require a subscription (including the Garmin StreetPilot in Gifts.com’s list) unless you want updated maps every year, or they’re providing some additional features like stocks or traffic.

  3. engtech said, on November 22, 2006 at 12:33 am

    You’re right. Most of them have no subscription. And if they do have a subscription, it’s probably for advanced features like XM radio.

    I didn’t do enough research, my bad.

  4. timethief said, on November 22, 2006 at 2:47 am

    Okay, I admit I’m a country girl so I was overwhelmed by the array of stuff – so much stuff! Anyway here is a question for you ‘O technical guru.

    If you are a girl buying a gift for a guy (whom you hope will be able to impregnate you one day) what kind of a gift would you recommend that would get that spontaneously combustible sperm killing laptop off his … ahem … private area?

  5. familiaroddities said, on November 22, 2006 at 2:48 am

    Wow! Amazing list! Thanks for many great ideas this holiday season :D

  6. Christmas Gift Ideas said, on November 22, 2006 at 9:02 am

    Ha ha I like the sudoku toilet paper. I just found a site to buy it from..it’s $16..perfect gift for my darling geeky husband

  7. engtech said, on November 22, 2006 at 8:38 pm


    #1: silk boxers.
    #2: wine.
    #3: install a virus on his laptop. :D

    On a more serious note, they make laptop cooler devices. You may have to match it to the specific brand/model of laptop.

    Getting him a proper computer desk so that he doesn’t put his laptop on his lap could help as well. Although if he’s into using it while watching TV or in bed then good luck getting him to use a desk.

    I have the Ikea Jerker (nice name) computer desk in black. It’s pretty good. http://www.ikea.com/webapp/wcs/stores/servlet/ProductDisplay?topcategoryId=15600&catalogId=10103&storeId=3&productId=25905&langId=-15&categoryId=16131&chosenPartNumber=90030564

  8. timethief said, on November 23, 2006 at 5:07 am

    This was a great great blog post. I appreciate all the work that went into it although my comment may have made you think otherwise.
    A desk is out as this laptop is only used in the truck. I was thinking that even an little wooden table thingee like bed ridden people use over their knees might be cool.
    hmmm … that made me think about hospitals … i wonder what the x-ray technicians do with used x-ray aprons …
    No need to reply the Antek cooler looks like a winner. ;)

  9. Lord Chatterly said, on November 23, 2006 at 8:31 am

    Excellent post. How did you stumble onto gifts.com?

  10. engtech said, on November 23, 2006 at 8:53 am

    @lc: my dad sent it to me in a link.

  11. […] (Continued from Gift Guide for Geeks Part 2 – Christmas Gift Suggestions from gifts.com) (Start at Gift Guide for Geeks Part 1 – Tis the Season for Receiving) […]

  12. Katie said, on December 02, 2006 at 7:07 pm

    Wow. I can imagine my dog getting himelf trapped in the murphy bed. Another bad gift for pet lovers is the flea plush toy I saw on another website. Who would even think about buying that for somebody?

  13. engtech said, on December 03, 2006 at 2:14 am

    It’s amazing the crap they have there.

    What’s more amazing is that a website dedicated to “gift suggestions” would suggest them.

  14. moonablaze said, on December 03, 2006 at 12:53 pm

    radar detectors are perfectly legal in most states. http://www.afn.org/~afn09444/scanlaws/radar4.html

  15. engtech said, on December 03, 2006 at 8:52 pm

    Thanks for the link, moonablaze.

    Unfortunately, they’re illegal where I live. But that explains why they had them on gifts.com

  16. sophia said, on December 12, 2006 at 10:46 am

    GIFTS.COM sucks
    They don’t understand that people cannot be put into their catagories, just as gifts themselves. If you dont have an idea about what the person you are gifting likes, then you shouldn’t be giving them a gift at all.

  17. NYCityPets.com » Gift Guides Gallore said, on December 12, 2006 at 7:17 pm

    […] The Gift Guide for Cat-Loving Geeks (see last section of article) […]

  18. engtech said, on December 12, 2006 at 7:17 pm

    Yeah, for a site devoted to gift suggestions I would have thought they’d have good suggestions.

    Not so.

  19. Fish said, on December 19, 2006 at 2:36 am

    Responding to timethief I found this http://justoutsideboston.wordpress.com/2006/12/18/laptop-desk-for-my-car/ as a do-it-yourself option for the laptop of your lap in the car.

  20. Sangz said, on February 08, 2007 at 4:21 am


  21. […] Gifts.com – I go through one of those gift suggestion websites and try to pick out the good from the bad. TIP: these sites suck. […]

  22. […] Gifts.com – I go through one of those gift suggestion websites and try to pick out the good from the bad. TIP: these sites suck. […]

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