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Naughty and nice holiday gift guide for developers

Sarah Schlothauer
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Need a perfect gift for a developer in your life? Don’t be caught making these gift faux pas. Whatever your reason for the season, here’s our 2018 guide for the best and worst holiday gift ideas for your favorite programmer!

It’s that time of year again, as the incessant carols and sales constantly remind us. Christmas, Hanukkah, Festivus, Candlenights – whatever name you celebrate under, a holiday is on its way and that means one thing: gift guides.

For the developer in your life, here’s our 2018 guide for the best and worst gift ideas.

The naughty: Overpriced gold-plated cables & underpriced phone chargers

Look, we all love practical gifts. A Christmas without socks or deodorant just isn’t Christmas. For your favorite tech junkie, don’t be swayed by marketing jargon when it comes to HDMI cables. When it comes to HDMI cables, there is either ‘working’ or ‘not working’. Either the cable is receiving a signal, or it’s not.

No amount of gold plating is going to make it better. Please, don’t spend $1,000 on a cable. At that price point, it better build a computer for you or at least make you dinner. (The Amazon reviews are hilarious though. And free.)

On the other hand, buying off-brand smartphone cables can result in some heartache. The dollar store isn’t the place to get a phone charger and cheap tech can even damage your phone’s battery. When in doubt, look for something that’s “MFi certified” when buying something for an iPhone.

SEE ALSO: Don’t forget your Neopet: How fan content taught a generation coding

The naughty: Useless IoT devices

Does your salt shaker really need to connect to the Internet?

Increasingly, plenty of bizarre Kickstarter-backed tech connects to the Internet just for the sake of conversation. Connect your dental floss to the web, connect your garbage can, connect your Big Mouth Billy Bass.

With security concerns about IoT devices, take these novelty devices with a grain of salt. They might be amusing, but they aren’t necessarily safe and aren’t worth the five minutes of amusement they provide. IoT security vulnerabilities are the last thing you want to ring in the New Year with, no matter how hilarious gifting someone IoT underwear might be.

When it comes to IoT devices, do your research on the device’s security before you buy.

The nice: Create your own project

If you’re buying for a programmer, how about a Raspberry Pi or an Arduino? They’re affordable and unlike the aforementioned IoT devices, they aren’t locked into one specific use.

Why buy an umbrella that connects to the internet when you give a gift with unlimited possibilities?

As for security concerns, Raspberry Pi showed off its merits when Spectre and Meltdown made headlines. These two security flaws affected a vulnerability in Intel processors. However, Raspberry Pi runs on an ARM Cortex-A53. It may be small, but it sure is mighty.

The nice: Little life level-ups

Here are just some of the things that make a programmer’s life better:

  • No one is immune the sounds of a mechanical keyboard. There’s something so satisfying about the sound and it makes writing coding feel like an event.
  • Upgrade your skeletal hardware. Save your gift recipient muscle aches and check out some ergonomic chairs, cushions, or a standing desk.
  • Sometimes a cosmetic change is just what a laptop needs. Browse clever programming stickers for your favorite developer.
  • Weapon of choice: Coffee, energy drinks, or tea? Make sure your programmer’s arsenal is stocked.
  • Have a subscription service in mind? Give the music lover in your life a few months of Spotify or Apple Music. If someone has a lengthy commute, how about gifting them some credits for audio books?
  • Support open source with a some gear from GitHub! (Personally, I’m waiting for that Octocat figurine to come back in stock.)

the Saint Nicktocat by Cameron McEfee © 2013 – 2018 GitHub, Inc. All rights reserved.

SEE ALSO: Steep learning curve or lack of commitment? Which are the most difficult programming languages to learn and why?

The nice: Leave the computers at work

While we have yet to run into a developer who doesn’t love buying gadgets for themselves, sometimes it’s good to take a break, especially during the gift-giving season. Maybe this year, leave the snarky T-shirts with programming jokes on them in the cart.

Buy your gift recipient something related to a hobby or take them out to dinner.

If you’re all out of ideas, you can always buy them a rubber duck to debug with.

Sarah Schlothauer

Sarah Schlothauer

All Posts by Sarah Schlothauer

Sarah Schlothauer is the editor for She received her Bachelor's degree from Monmouth University, West Long Branch, New Jersey. She currently lives in Frankfurt, Germany with her husband and cat where she enjoys reading, writing, and medieval reenactment. She is also the editor for Conditio Humana, an online magazine about ethics, AI, and technology.

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