Pulling off a surprise party in this day and age

Pulling off a surprise birthday party in this day and age isn’t as easy as it seems, especially when the subject of a surprise (Andy Baio in this case) is totally plugged in with the technology world. Every movement and moment in our digital lives can leave a trace. Think about all the status updates, phone photos, and check-ins that 25 people can produce, and now think about how hard it is to hide all that from someone that is connected to all those 25 people. It’s not easy, but it is possible. Here are some things that made one party a success:

  • I live outside of Portland and once every month or two I meet up with Andy when I head into town. Andy’s wife came up with the idea I could lure him pretty much anywhere if I just said “oh hey, I’m nearby, want to meet up at this nearby location?”
  • She created a private event Facebook group of everyone but Andy, and it actually worked. No accidental leaks into his friend timeline, everyone got status updates, calendar reminders, and could see the guest list. I’m kind of surprised this part worked, about the only hard part was stealth inviting everyone we could think of (did our Facebook friends overlap with enough/all of his?)
  • When he asked about throwing a party for his birthday, Andy’s wife lied to him saying she was too busy this weekend and maybe they could plan something a week after.
  • A couple hours before the party I faked a Foursquare check-in at the OMSI museum (I was actually driving into Portland at the time), knowing Andy might see it and think I was nearby (at the party Andy said yeah, he saw it and completely believed it).
  • At a precise time in the afternoon I sent a text that I was leaving the museum with my family, we were thinking of grabbing a beer at a pub by his house, and if he wasn’t doing anything, to drop by.
  • Andy’s wife was stalling him all day, he was dying to go out and get some fresh air and said yes immediately, and they showed up 15min later.
  • He didn’t realize it was a huge surprise until the last possible second when he walked in and saw everyone waiting for him. We even had the proverbial out-of-state friend to seal the deal and make it a really great surprise party.

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