Christmas Gift Ideas – ChatGPT vs. Google
I just had the best Christmas shopping experience of my life thanks to ChatGPT.
Chloe typically has everything she needs or wants, because she is an expert at buying good things. When it's time to shop for gifts for her, my traditional process has been to brainstorm for a long time, browse Etsy, search Google for various flavors of holiday gift ideas, and eventually come up with a great gift idea–only to go look and realize that's what she already has on her desk, in her closet, in the kitchen, etc. Eventually I come through with something thoughtful that she'll like and she doesn't have, but it's not my favored activity.
But not this year! This time, having wanted to check out ChatGPT for something, not overthinking or expecting much, I typed in a prompt like "What are some unique gift ideas I can get for my wife for Christmas?", and BOOM, a bunch of ideas came out like "Plan a bed and breakfast or hotel staycation" and "A collection of unusual and exotic teas, or a set of unique tea infusers", followed by a generic "No matter what you choose, the most important thing is that the gift comes from the heart and shows how much you care about her." advice.
Curious, I then responded: "These are great. What about more ideas?" and "Awesome, what about some edible gift ideas?" and so on, and it kept going. And going. Within a few minutes, I had 150 gift ideas, 13 of which were strong contenders. I then rushed into shopping mode and actually made/bought things from five of the top categories. (I won't share what, because she doesn't know yet.)
So easy! It was only the next day that I realized just how bad the opposite experience is, of using Google to look for gift ideas lists (the pressures of SEO and advertising have turned these into a hopeless wasteland) or manually searching various subreddits or Etsy shops (ok when you know the idea category, but hard to come up with niche gift ideas from). I can imagine ChatGPT and other large language models actually replacing both Googling and a lot of this kind of ecommerce browsing for me, because it efficiently filters and customizes much better than the monstrosity that Google's search has become, and it has no distorted economic incentives pushing me towards specific product links. Plus, the information density is high.
Today I got to thinking that one could get really good at this, going beyond just lists of gift ideas and into very specific formatting. For example, imagine I was looking into mechanical keyboards. I could try to find an unbiased article on various mechanical keyboards, or read through the 5600-word guide on /r/MechanicalKeyboards, or search for a couple posts on top keyboard recommendations. Or I could ask ChatGPT, "What are the top ten best mechanical keyboards to buy as gifts, as recommended on the /r/MechanicalKeyboards subreddit? Please list specific product names and main advantages."
Note that if you say "reddit", it says it can't make specific product recommendations, but if you say "subreddit", it's like, "well here you go!" – seems like OpenAI has put in very crude content filtering keywords.
I just went shopping for humidifiers and took a while to figure out what was good. Does ChatGPT know?
Oh look, the top one is the one that we have three of after we researched this the old-fashioned way!
I don't think this particular search approach beats Google; after all, that humidifier is also one of the ones that shows up on a search, while scrolling through A ZILLION ADS:
But it's kind of fun, and so I imagine I will keep playing around with this whenever it's time to undertake the Dreaded Activity Known As Shopping.