A Year of Unexpected Defense December 14, 2022

It's been an unexpectedly interesting holiday season for the Family Gift Registry.

This year, our seventeenth year running publicly, the amount of activity by bad actors trying to misuse this site had a big uptick. No private data has been leaked or anything like that, but I have seen a lot of suspicious accounts and accounts created by bots.

Fortunately there are a number of tools out there to handle these kinds of issues. Most of my efforts should be more or less invisible to users of this site. And we're in a good way! While I expect to see more of this activity as the site continues to grow and be a thing on the internet it has been possible to meet and mitigate every one discovered so far, along with lots of new effort aimed at prevention. Rest assured any private data entered into the Family Gift Registry remains private forever (not just to hackers but folks who would want to buy it legitimately as well) and efforts are constantly underway to maintain that.

Even on top of that I have managed to push through a few more handy features this year:

  • Ability to make suggested gifts private (useful for adding gifts only you know about to other wish lists to see them in your shopping list)
  • Family Managers are clearly labeled so all users know who to ask for family-level changes
  • Profile gender can now be empty, male, female, or any custom value
  • Improved email delivery rates (hardly anything should get caught in spam filters anymore)

There's always something in the pipeline as well. As usual if you have any ideas or feedback of any kind I enjoy hearing from you, so please contact me!

Sweet 16 December 11, 2021

Here's some new features to kick off this new holiday season:

  • Gift description editing now has tools for formatting descriptions and adding links
  • When inviting new family members you can now include an optional message to appear in the invite email well as the usual rounds of stability improvements under the hood.

This year marks 16 years that the Family Gift Registry has been open to the public (and 17 years since its inception). These blog posts also go out as optional once-a-year emails to the entire user base, and have since the early days when it was only a few dozen families. Now it goes to thousands.

While writing this my son, who is now almost five, was asking me what I was doing. My description of writing a message that will go out to thousands of people was met with an open-mouthed expression of awe. And I too feel that awe as we continue to do this, year over year, and I engage with folks who reach out to ask questions, give suggestions, or express appreciation.

My sincerest thanks goes out to everyone who enjoys using the Family Gift Registry. And I owe a special gratitude to those among them who have also donated to help keep this site running. I wish you all a wonderful holiday season and happy new year!

Features for Multiples and FGR Turns 15 November 24, 2020

This year there are some new features to help when there's more than one of something:

  • Managed wish lists (a.k.a. child wish lists) can now be sorted by parents
  • Belong to more than one family? Set a Primary Family in your profile. This will be the first one you see every time you log in.
  • If a gift allows more than one claim than you can now claim it as many times as you like, not just once.

I've also started to change up the name of "Child Wish Lists" to "Managed Wish Lists". They work exactly the same, of course. But as I've learned they're being used for not only children and pets but any family member who needs their list managed for a whole host of different reasons. More to come on that.

What else can you say about 2020? What a year.

This year the Family Gift Registry turns 15 years old. It's been a tough year for my family and I know it's probably been for yours too. But I feel fortunate to have had some terrific bright spots this year too. One of the bright spots I always look forward to comes around this time of year when I get emails from Family Gift Registry users. So often in addition to reporting a bug or asking for help accessing an account I'm met with warm messages expressing appreciation for this site. It's a simple thing we're doing here but we're doing it together, everyone wins, and that's what it's all about!

From my family to yours, I sincerely hope you have had and will continue find such bright spots through the rest of this year and for many beyond.

Quick 2020 Update September 25, 2020

Time for a quick update ahead of the approaching 2020 holiday season.

Activity for the season on the Family Gift Registry is already picking up. Every year this site sees more active families and this year is no exception, though the growth seems to be picking up a little extra steam this year. Nothing to report about new features at this time but there has been some behind-the-scenes maintenance to keep things running smoothly.

Having opened to the public around this time in 2005 the Family Gift Registry is now officially turning 15! It's hard to remember what life (and the internet) was even like way back then. Fortunately much of what has pervaded the modern internet (ads, harvesting and selling user data) has been easy to keep out of this website.

It's been made even easier through the handful of generous donations some users have provided to keep things going here. To all those who have donated, thank you! And a warm thank you to all the users and families that continue to use the Family Gift Registry. My biggest reward is seeing this site get use by more people every year and getting warm emails from folks expressing their appreciation. May we all have a safe, peaceful, and happy rest of 2020.

New Tools for Charity Families November 27, 2018

Welcome to the 2018 holiday season! As this year has begun most new features on the Family Gift Registry are centered around organized charity families.

Over the years I've had a few folks contact me about issues they're running into trying to use the Family Gift Registry to organize a charitable gift giving event for a needy family or families. Since this wasn't the original intent of the site, and most families are giving to each other among family members, the experience can have some rough edges. Typically an event like this would be set up by the organizer creating the family, sending invitations to join to folks who will give gifts, and creating child wish lists for the members of the recipient families (who presumably do not log into the family, just as child accounts can't log in directly).

I love hearing about novel uses of the site like this, especially when the ones who benefit most are families in need. So this year I've started to look at ways to make that process smoother. But these features may be useful to other families too!

  • Family Messages - Family Admins can now add a message for all family members to see on the home page (e.g. charity giving instructions).
  • Family Member Visibility Controls - Family Admins can now toggle whether a given family member is visible. Invisible family members can still make claims and suggest gifts but do not show to other family members (ideal for folks that are "only giving").
  • Shareable Links - Everyone (not just family admins) can now generate a shareable link for their list or any of their child wish lists. Shareable links will provide read-only access to see the list details, including member info like clothing sizes, without having to be logged in.

Are you using the Family Gift Registry in a novel way? Contact me to tell me about it! Maybe I can make your experience just a little bit better.

Co-Parents November 17, 2017

Happy 2017 holiday season! The first feature out of the gate this year is co-parents.

While child wish lists are certainly nothing new, for years it's only been possible for one account to be parent to a child wish list. Now in a Child's profile you can designate other family members as parents too. Co-parents have all the abilities of original parents:

  • Manage the child profile (birthday, clothing sizes)
  • Manage the child wish list
  • Release the child (let the child take over the account)
  • Designate other parents

There's no limit to the number of parents a child list can have.

The first thing I did when this feature went live is asked my wife to make me co-parent on all the child lists... the baby... the dog... and yes, both the cats. They share a list.

2016 Update - Growing Families December 27, 2016

Hello everyone, and happy 2016 holiday season!

It's been an eventful year and I haven't been able to get a new blog post written here until Christmas has already come and gone. This month was extra-hectic as our first child arrived on December 20th, about two and a half weeks early:

Yours truly (Chris), my wife Amanda, and our son Cameron
Yours truly (Chris), my wife Amanda, and our son Cameron

Aside from all the joys and struggles of being a new parent it was certainly fun to use the longstanding Child Wish List feature of this site to create a list for our new little guy.

As far as other updates go, this year saw the introduction of messages on wish lists - places to write general notes that are not claimable gifts - as well as a donate page. Some folks had been asking for a way to donate to show appreciation for this site for many years so I finally got around to setting that up. Thank you to everyone who's chosen to show their gratitude, be it with a contribution or just a "thank-you" email. For over twelve years this site has been a fun hobby that thousands of people around the world have used for holidays and birthdays, and it continues to be a source of joy to keep it going!

Cheers to you and your family and I wish everyone a very happy 2017!

Sortable Wish Lists and a Tricky Bug Fix December 03, 2015

Hello, and happy 2015 holiday season! Here's a recap of some of the changes to the Family Gift Registry so far this year.

Fixed a Tricky Bug

A bug has been poking around for at least a year where, gone unchecked, it could lead to multiple claims on gifts that should have only one claim. This totally defeats the purpose of the site!

What you should do

Please check your wish lists (and the wish lists of any child accounts you have) and pay attention to the number of claims allowed on each gift. This information is now much more prominent. If you see a gift that says "Max: unlimited" where you really only want/need one, then edit the gift and change the quantity from 0 to 1. Unfortunately I can't clean up this automatically for all users as I have no way of knowing the intentional unlimited-claim gifts from the accidental ones. So it's up to you!

You may also want to check your shopping list and look for any gifts that have more than one claim on them. If you see two or more claims listed above "Claimed by You" then you and someone else have both claimed that gift. Does the recipient really want two or unlimited quantities of that thing? If that seems unlikely then that gift may have been one of the affected ones, and you may want to coordinate with your family before duplicate gifts are acquired.

Please note that only gift quantities were affected by this bug, and for each affected gift the intended quantity of 1 got recorded as a 0 (which means unlimited). Read below for more details.

How it happened

This bug can be chalked up to bad QA in my part and some bad luck. I'm very sorry if it's affected your family! By default the add gift form sets the quantity to 1, and you can change it at any time. A quantity of 0 means "unlimited". The bug struck when a user would load their wish list, add a gift, and then add a second/third/etc. gift without leaving their wish list. The first gift would always work, on the second and beyond were affected. Anyone who's added multiple gifts in one sitting would potentially have gifts with an unintentional maximum quantity.

This bug has been present for at least a year, as some families may remember duplicate gifts sneaking in from last year. Please accept my apologies if it's affected your family! Fortunately many of the Family Gift Registry users have always been a vocal bunch and with the help of several of you we were able to reproduce the bug, find its root cause, and fix it, together. =)

New feature: Sortable Wish Lists!

This has been one of the more popular requests for a while now and I finally got a working version built and rolled out. Just look for the up/down arrow buttons on your wish list and sort away. Parents: child wish lists are not sortable just yet. Please note that I tested this heavily but there are always edge cases, so if you spot something not working quite right then please contact me!

Annual Update for 2014 - General Security Updates November 22, 2014

Hello everyone, and welcome to another holiday season. As per usual the Family Gift Registry is waking up from a year of moderate usage and heading into the busy holiday season where site traffic increases by an order of magnitude.

So far this year the list of new features is short but important:

  1. There's now a feature to delete your account if you wish to do so. It's an obvious scary red button on your profile page. Be careful, it can't be undone!
  2. The Family Gift Registry is now 100% HTTPS throughout. HTTPS is what you use to encrypt data traveling between users and websites. It's absolutely essential for shopping or banking online and now everything you do on is protected just as much.

I have a few other new features in the works that will appear throughout the coming weeks, but hopefully these two speak to how committed I am to your right to privacy and security. For ten years now this site has existed ad-free, spam-free, and free to use. So many sites today give you something free so they can sell the data you give to them, but this site has never and will never sell your data. It will stay safe, secure, and private as you use the site until you decide you're done, and then you can remove it permanently - simple as that.

That's all for now. I'll be posting new features on this blog as I get time to build them this year. In the mean time, please enjoy using the Family Gift Registry, feel free to tell others about it, and contact me if you have any questions or feedback.

Responsive, part 2 November 10, 2013

I've now pushed the responsive/mobile stuff a bit deeper into the site. All wish lists and your shopping list should now be 100% set up to look good on a mobile device and don't require reloading the whole page to save changes. This should also make things generally faster.

Porting everything to work like this has been a lot of work but also a lot of fun. The frameworks are fun to play with and in the process I get to clean up a lot of older code. Since this site is 9 years old now there are still bits of code that stretch back that far. As anyone who codes will tell you, there's nothing more hideous and loathsome than your own code produced years ago. There's a lot left still to clean up and modernize, but every year it gets a bit better.

Responsive Look September 30, 2013

After growing feedback over the years asking for a mobile app, or something to improve the mobile experience for the site, I've finally ported everything to a new CSS framework! In doing so I changed up the layout slightly on many pages. Adding gifts no longer uses a popup window (blech! popups!) and the home page layout should more effectively use space, for both authenticated and unauthenticated users.

The best part is that the site is now starting to become responsive. This is a terrific concept - that your browser knows the size of your view port and moves things around accordingly. It's still a bit rough around the edges, but everything works. If you have comments please don't hesitate to reach out to me! I'll be continuing to tweak things for the best layout and performance as we head deeper into the fall of 2013.

Starting Year 8 November 13, 2012

The Family Gift Registry is embarking on its eighth holiday season now as 2012 draws to a close!

Family Admins: you can now deactivate whole families. Folks have been asking for this feature for a while. Just be careful and make sure any other members of the to-be-deactivated family are okay with it!

Kicking off this year we now have just over 2,500 users. More updates soon to come...

The KISS Principle December 04, 2011

I've spent over a decade writing code and building websites by now. One thing that has always stuck with me and grown truer over time is the KISS principle: Keep It Simple, Stupid.

The Family Gift Registry just got a major simplicity patch! Without getting too deep into the gory details, joining existing families is now done by just visiting a link rather than juggling a family name and family password. Also, you can now log in using your user name or your email address. Ultimately I'll be phasing out user names (the name you use to log in - not your display name!) so that all logging in is done with an email address and a password.

Did you send out invitations in the past few weeks? Have some of those recipients not yet joined the site but you expect them to? Consider sending out those invitations again. The newer, faster, easier method of joining families is different enough that those old invitations will not work.

This set of changes may be confusing to those used to the old way and may still have some minor bugs to iron out. Please contact me with any questions!

If you love them, set them free... November 18, 2011

A few years back I added the ability to Create a new Child Wish List. Basically if you have a young child or an animal or something else that needs its own wish list you can create it for them, fill out their profile and add gifts, the whole works.

Today there are over 500 child accounts! Wow! Talk about a feature that got some mileage. Recently, though, a new problem came up. Here I am with my child list that I created a few years back but now this child isn't so much of a child anymore. They have their own email address and know how to work a keyboard. They should be able to manage their account on their own. What can I do?

Well, now you have the ability to Release your child! It's a big step, I know. Just provide their email address and let them take it from there. Kids grow up so fast.

One Child, Many Families November 06, 2011

Hello everyone! With the year drawing to a close I'm seeing the usual bump in site usage, and with that comes the usual bump in questions and comments from users. It always makes me very happy to know that there are still hundreds of folks out there using the Family Gift Registry!

Today I've just rolled out a new feature for all of you parents... If you have a child wish list and you belong to more than one family you might have noticed that your child list only shows up in one family. Now if you visit your child's profile (through their wish list) you can choose which families in which they appear. This was a necessary step for my wife and I because our new puppy Freckle (who has a pretty impressive list at this point) was only visible for half the family.

As usual please do not hesitate to email me with any questions, comments or concerns. Cheers!

Another holiday season approacheth... November 11, 2010

Wow. I blink and it's almost 2011.

I hope everyone has had a banner year! Not much to speak of has changed here at the FGR. I have a short list of features that I may be working on in between writing thank-yous (did I mention I married a beautiful, loving woman?) and projects around the home (did I mention I also bought a house?).

Otherwise I can see that many folks who let their accounts gather dust through the year are slowly returning. The FGR remains always ready! Everything is stable and humming along and your old wish lists are ready to be updated.

That said, please do not hesitate to email me with any issues, questions, concerns, or if you just want to say hi. And, as always, thanks for using this little website I built for my family... what was it, five years ago? Yeesh. Time flies. Regardless, it's your website now too. =)

Milestones December 16, 2009

The Family Gift Registry now has over 1000 users and 5000 gifts!

I'd also like to welcome our members from Australia, Canada, the United Kingdom, Columbia, the Philippines, Indonesia, Turkey, Hungary, India, and Dominica. Things are truly going international these days!

I've gotten many great ideas from users for new features to add. At this point, being so close to the new year, it's unlikely many new features will be seen in 2009, but I'll be tackling that list with gusto in 2010. By all means, keep those ideas coming!

Secret Santa October 28, 2009

Hey Family Admins! A new feature has just been added. Secret Santa!

For those unfamiliar with it, secret santa is where a group of people give one gift and receive one gift and nobody knows who they're getting a gift from, only who they're giving to. It's a great way for families or friends to do a gift exchange without breaking the bank.

To do secret santa for your family it is up to the Family Admin(s) to decide who gets to be Secret Santa Admin (set this on the Manage My Family page). Secret Santa Admins are the ones that get to manage the list of players. Secret Santa Admins, just go to the Manage Secret Santa link to get started.

As always, please email me with any questions. Enjoy!

Spookyvision October 01, 2009

It's October! And that means the best holiday of the year is right around the corner.

Normally by today I'd have my costume already planned and in development. This is not a holiday I take lightly. Here I am with my lovely girl Amanda in 2007 as StrongBad, and here I am in 2008 as Morbo. Mandy's there too, under the Nibbler costume, and that's my brother Matt and his wife Laura as Trogdor and the fishbowl. Last year I learned a lot about making giant plaster heads!

This year it is bittersweet. I will build no such grand costume. I have a good reason though - I'm buying my first home and closing on the 15th! Mandy and I are very excited and little nervous. This is the kind of house where an awesome Halloween party can certainly transpire... next year.

In the meantime I was able to put together a new skin for the FGR to pay homage to the funnest, happiest, most candy-filled holiday of all time. I wish everyone a spooktacular time!

Say Cheese June 27, 2009

Welcome, wedding folks! Please feel free to use all aspects of the Family Gift Registry to the fullest, not just the My Images area. And please, email me if you have any questions.

For those not in the know, I built an Image Gallery website some time ago and just finished merging it with the Family Gift Registry as a bit of a gift for my brother and new sister in law who just tied the knot.

This new feature is on an invitation-only basis for the time being because of space restrictions. However, after some time tightening up, testing, and streamlining, the system may be opened up for more general use. If you are curious about it and are an FGR member feel free to email me and we may be able to work out a sneak peek. Otherwise, stay tuned!

Spiffy New Looks April 03, 2009

Like the new look of the site? I've started putting together some other themes because the green/red Christmas theme is good but a few months of the year. It will be back come November, but now is the time for sun, green grass, and birthdays!

Speaking of which, today is my 27th. Much thanks to the friends and family who have extended warm birthday wishes today!

Otherwise, I returned from Africa back in February in one piece and with lots and lots of images to process (over 3500!). Check out some of the best stuff here. Cheers!

Wrapping Things Up December 22, 2008

Everybody about done shopping?

I hope so! As the season winds down and everyone heads home to be with family, so slows the boom of new families and users we've had here this year. I've never advertised for the Family Gift Registry but this year we quadrupled in size thanks to all of you telling friends and family about us. You rock!

Now, as I jet off to be with family myself, I'm hanging it up on the FGR for a couple months. In January I'll be photographing the great migration in Tanzania to kick off the new year in style!

And just because I'm not around doesn't mean the FGR stops. This site is going nowhere! Please continue to use it for birthdays or for just giving stuff to each other. I'll always be available via feedback, so don't hesitate to write.

Merry Christmas, and happy new year!

Suggestions December 10, 2008

I've added a new feature (requested by many) that will let you suggest gifts on anybody's wish list. So, if your sister really needs a new toothbrush but hasn't put it on her list and you're already giving her something else, suggest it and the rest of the family will be in the know. Your sister will be the only one out of the loop, until she's enjoying her new clean teeth, of course.

Come to think of it, maybe you shouldn't hold out until the 25th to give her that toothbrush.

More ideas December 02, 2008

Today Stephanie asked me for a way of getting notifications when a list is updated, so I just put that together for everyone. Just check the box on any list you want to receive updates to, simple as that. Thanks for the great idea, Stephanie!

And also, I must say, I'm absolutely floored at how many new people have come to this site. Not two weeks ago I posted about our 300th user, now we're nearing 450! It's all you guys spreading the word, so again, much thanks!

Numbers and such November 20, 2008

The Family Gift Registry has welcomed its 300th user! If your name is Louise and you just created an account, that's you. You're awesome.

Here's a breakdown of where the FGR is right now:

  • 85 families
  • Over 300 user accounts
  • Over 1300 gifts
Considering that I've never done any advertising (and don't really plan to), I owe it all to you gents and ladies, the wonderful users of this site. You've helped the FGR grow through word of mouth alone and things are looking great. So... thank you for being here!

Quit poking me November 16, 2008

In a move sure to annoy many many people, I added a new feature that let's you harass lazy family members who never update their lists. It's called "poke" and looks like this: .

Go ahead. Try poking someone who needs poking. See what reaction you get. I felt it was necessary because I'm sure every family has that one member who never touches their list *cough*mom*cough*

Something for the kids November 13, 2008

So this has been going on for a few weeks:

Q: How do I create an account for my son/daughter/pet/imaginary friend who has no email address/can't type/doesn't technically exist?
A: Um... you can't. Sorry.
Until now! All users can now create child wish lists and all you need to do is supply a name (all the same clothing size options are available too). This feature was long overdue for a site geared toward presents presents presents.

Also, I must give a huge shout out to Erik. Erik works with me at SparkFun Electronics and wrote the amazing SparkDBI class that this site is now using to drive the database. If that's just jargon to you, basically it makes things run cleaner, faster, and lets me build new features at warp speed! Well, a whole lot faster at least. Erik is a rock star.

Another year gone by October 10, 2008

2008 is almost behind us. Crazy. So it should be evident by now that I only seem to be posting to this blog at the end of the year. Truth is that the site pretty much runs itself and I tend to forget about it after a certain green and red holiday has passed. However, I recently started receiving messages from users with feedback and requesting various tools, so I guess the season is once again soon upon us! Hooray!

For you family admins, you have a new toy to play with. Under My Stuff you'll see the link that will take you to a tool for sending invitations to new family members. If you've long forgotten your family login information, this is the tool to use. A big thanks to Monica for requesting that one.

Thanks to Eric too for sending me some good suggestions (hopefully one of which I can have put together soon). Now my ears are most definitely pricked up, so if anyone else has feedback, now's the time to let me know. I'll probably be developing some new stuff between now and January, so don't hesitate to contact me. Cheers!

Back in Business October 12, 2007

Happy October everybody! The Family Gift Registry has completely migrated to this new location with the snappy domain name.

If you were here last year you can still find all of your old lists just the way you left them. Feel free to get back into the swing of things. There may be some tweaks over the next couple months but I'll try and make them as unobtrusive as possible.

Here's to a fantastic 2007 holiday season!

Your Shopping List Has Changed December 15, 2006

Hey all! I reformatted the Shopping Lists to include Clothing Sizes for everybody. This shows up on the printable version too, so that should make for easier clothes shopping.

One thing I forgot to mention about about the Public Comments feature... There's a checkbox labelled Anonymous that can be checked to hide your name. The comment will still show up but your name will not be on it, in case you need to comment on Secret Santa gifts or you're just shy.

New Features! December 12, 2006

One problem that some families have encountered involves somebody adding a gift to their wish list that is really a list of several gifts that have something in common, like a list of DVDs. If you want to claim one DVD off that list, how do you let others know which one you're getting?

To help with this we now have a Public Comments system. When you make a claim you can add any necessary comments to help other family members know what's going on. Public Comments are invisible to the owner of the wish list, just like claims themselves already are.

Along with this I've also added Private Notes, which you enter for gifts on your shopping list and can only be seen by you. I'm sure somebody will find this handy.

That's all for now. More to come soon!

Welcome! December 11, 2006

Hello All!

Welcome to the Family Gift Registry's second year in existence. I'd like to especially welcome families that are new this year. The feedback I've been getting from everyone has been great and I've got plenty of new features in the works to make using this site much easier.

Beginnings 2004-2005 began in 2004 as private for one and only one family: mine. It worked pretty well, so in the fall of 2005 it was opened to the public.

The blog was added in 2006.