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Machine Learning Authors: Elizabeth White, Yeshim Deniz, Liz McMillan, Pat Romanski, Ed Featherston

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Elves Blog on Northpole.com in Free Christmas Website’s 17th Year

Even the elves are blogging. Or so it seems on the Christmas website www.northpole.com which has added an “Elf Blog” and other creative content to its child-safe, family entertainment activities. In its seventeenth year, this free holiday website draws millions of visitors. Last year the site had more than 10.5 million visitors, with more than 4 million page views on Christmas Eve alone.

No naughty elves here—the Elf Blog spotlights crafts and gift ideas for both children and grownups and lets visitors post comments. In keeping with the times, social sharing links are on all pages, including the much-clicked Mrs. Claus’ Kitchen. Even a cyberspace kitchen gets remodeled—this year visitors enter a revamped Kitchen where more than a thousand recipes have been reorganized for easier and quicker access. In fact, you can make your own recipe box of favorites and the site stores it for you.

Northpole.com is among the longest-running Christmas web sites in the world, debuting in 1996 with a mission to provide a traditional Christmas site for children and their families to enjoy and to showcase it through technology. As a result, visitors enjoy animation using Adobe Flash, JavaScript, Webmail, and conversation simulators using artificial intelligence—all on web pages richly illustrated with hundreds of original, detailed, hand-drawn artwork.

“We’ve always had children’s crafts, but this is the first year we’ve had crafts for adults, and a blog format to let visitors have a conversation or post thoughts about the crafts and gift ideas,” said Becky Clutter, Head Creative Elf for the site. “Our crafts are awesome. They’re original, primarily low-cost to make, and offer different styles, from whimsical to elegant. And our gift ideas are perfect for anyone who wants to get something special for the people in their life but doesn’t have hours to spend scouring the Internet for unique gift ideas.” She also said the recipe pages were revamped with the ability for guests to leave reviews, upload their own recipe photos, print shopping lists, and create a collection of favorites that the site saves for them. Also, this year the site brought back the option for visitors to submit recipes. “We love it when people tell us they’re sharing a favorite recipe that they prepare for their family year after year,” she added. In fact, she said, it’s this sense of tradition that prevails throughout the site. “It’s really heart-warming to share the spirit and the joy of the season with both children and adults and to know that children have a safe, fun place to come with good, quality content.”

The site opens with a view of Santa’s Secret Village℠, the fanciful home of Santa and Mrs. Claus, the elves, and reindeer. By clicking on different buildings, visitors go to activities and stories in Santa’s Mailroom, the Workshop, Elf Clubhouse (the most visited section), the Reindeer Barn, Santa’s Den, Mrs. Claus’ Kitchen, North Pole Weather Station, Elf Pal Academy, and Toy Shop. There’s also Disco Dancing Santa, ElfChat℠, animated holiday postcards, and a Secret Santa Gift Exchange page.

Letters to Santa arrive by the thousands each day during the holiday season and are processed in Santa’s Mailroom. There, children have a quick, secure, and certain means to write Santa and get a keepsake-quality reply letter within days. Last year the site responded with close to 200,000 letters from Santa. (The majority are free, personalized, auto-generated Santa response letters, but the site also gives parents the option to completely customize their child’s letter from Santa.)

Santa’s Workshop and the Reindeer Barn have children’s stories about elves, toys, and Raymond the reindeer. All stories are original and include original illustrations. In Santa’s Den, children (or parents) can create personalized stories by answering a few questions. Those stories, featuring the child, can be printed as free keepsakes or gifts.

As the site proclaims, whether it’s tradition wrapped in technology or technology wrapped in tradition, a visit to northpole.com is a gift in itself.

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