Postcrossing turns 6 today!
Though it was actually still July 13 on this side of the pond when the anniversary hit, Postcrossing turns six today (July 14, officially when it turned the 14th in Portugal).
As an active Postcrosser, this is a really cool anniversary to see happen.
For those who don’t know what Postcrossing is, here’s a clip from the website’s “about” page:
The goal of this project is to allow people to receive postcards from all over the world, for free. Well, almost free. The main idea is that: if you send a postcard, you will receive at least one back from a random Postcrosser from somewhere in the world.
Basically, the idea is that you send one postcard to someone random and you get the same in response. The odds of getting a card from someone you sent one to is extremely rare. You could send a card to Finland, to get one in return from Taiwan.
It’s really quite wild.
How it works is simple. Sign up for the website. Request up to five addresses (each has a unique ID number that you need to place on the card somewhere). Fill out the cards and send them. (Some people make cards, some buy them… so the cost of the hobby is the cards and the stamps. In the US, to send inside the country is 44 cents (though I am checking on the US Postal Service’s website and it shows 29 cents for postcards, but I don’t send inside the country, so I’m not sure), to Canada or Mexico is 80 cents and to the rest of the world is 98 cents). I keep cards and stamps handy, so when I can send cards, I do it when I feel like filling out a card etc.
Once the person receives the card, he or she then logs it on the website using the unique ID. When that happens, you will get a notice that the card arrived and you’ll then be able to send another card.
You’ll also, at that point, be put in the list to be given your name and address to some random user. Soon after, you should also receive a card from someone in the world.
Now, that being said, it’s not always that fast. I’ve requested addresses, filled out the address and all on the card and then forgot to send for a week or two. It happens, unfortunately. So it could happen to you. If you are a regular user of the website, you’ll find that you’ll get cards regularly.
I found out about this hobby a couple years ago via Erika Jean’s blog. As a writer and a fan of snail mail still, it was intriguing. So I signed up and sent out five cards and waited anxiously for the cards to arrive back. It was a blast and I continued.
Now, I’m a casual member. There are times I am into it more than others, but it’s always a blast to do. Sometimes, I just don’t feel like writing postcards, which slows me down. Eventually I get back into it and get rolling again.
According to the website, I’ve been a member (as of today) for 818 days.
I’ve sent (well, of those logged as received) 106 cards and I’ve received 104. I currently have 10 traveling, however. And one is expired (which means it hasn’t been logged or never arrived). I recently re-sent that card in hopes that it will make it this time. If not, I’m giving up as I’ll believe that the person just isn’t logging it.
So where did Postcrossing come from?
According to Postcrossing’s website, the project was started by Portugal’s Paulo Magalhães. It was a project he did as a student. From the history part of the website:
Paulo loves to receive mail and postcards in particular; from friends, family or from anywhere in the globe. The more random the place and person, the better. He knew more people shared the same interest, but there was no good way yet to connect them across the planet.
So, Magalhães got the idea to set up an online presence for the hobby with the goal of connecting random people from throughout the world. After much work, the project was launched July 14, 2005.
The history page on Postcrossing’s website notes that many users signed up within days. The site has continued to grow and has been shown in the media throughout the world.
This truly is a worldwide project. So much so that two Postcrossers — an Australian man and a Finnish woman — met through the hobby and eventually were married.
The website and hobby has continued to grow. It reached 1,000,000 exchanged postcards in April 2008. Since then, the milestones piled up. The 2 million mark was reached in February 2009, 3 million in September 2009, 4 million in March 2010 and 5 million in August of 2010.
The project can be for more than fun, however.
It can be educational.
As many of my readers know, I worked as an adjunct instructor in English at a local state college. For a few semesters, I brought Postcrossing into the classroom, using it as a tool to show that one can write a lot in a small space. The younger generation (at least in the States) is so versed in technology that many of them have never written a letter or a postcard.
True story — a friend told me recently that he had to explain to someone of the younger generation how to address an envelope and where the stamp goes. That’s how connected to technology a lot of people are now.
So as someone teaching Freshman Composition, I wanted to find more fun ways to engage the students into realizing that writing is important. That using things like “U” “R” and other Internet shortcuts are not things that people should use, outside of maybe a text message or instant message.
The students had to sign up for the site, get five addresses, write the cards and have them all set. In the end, they needed to write a casual paper about their experiences and what they thought of the project.
As is with any group of students, some took it seriously, some didn’t take it seriously and some didn’t do it. Unfortunately, some didn’t log received cards, either, which screws up the other end of things. But, there were several who continued with the hobby. Some of the papers really showed that they understood the project and learned a lot of new things. Some just didn’t get it and took it as a joke. But that’s to be expected as not all students give their all for everything. That’s an unfortunate, but real, situation.
Should I ever do it again in a classroom, I’ll do a few things differently, such as keeping an eye on their accounts better to know they log things. I’ll grade all portions of the project to make sure they do each step well.
It’s my hope that those who gave it their all, however, learned something from it. Not just from a writing standpoint, but from what they received in return. About someone else’s home, country and life.
As with any hobby, there are goods and bads.
What I really love about the hobby is all the different things you can receive.
I’ve received so many types of postcards — from different shapes and sizes, to ad cards (which are kind of stinky), to multi views and many different things. Some people fill the back with so many words about their life, who they are, what they do and what they like. Some people just write “Happy Postcrossing” and sign their name.
Some people send the card in an envelope (which I personally dislike as I like to see the stamps on the card, the postmarks, the writing etc).
But it’s all different.
There are Postcrossing meetups. It seems that during these meetups, people do all sorts of different things, which includes actually filling out postcards. Then everyone signs the cards and they split them up. People then send them along, which is pretty cool. I recently received one of those and thought it was quite neat.
My only true complaint is the over abundance of getting postcards from dominant countries. I can choose not to send or receive from the US (which I chose to avoid sending/receiving from because I want to see stuff from the world), but you can’t do that with other countries. And while I understand that the countries that have more people participating are, of course, going to have more addresses, it still doesn’t mask the frustration that sometimes comes from getting so many or having to send so many to places like Finland or Germany.
For example, of the 106 I’ve sent that have been received, 16 have gone to Finland, 13 to Germany and 11 to the Netherlands. That’s 40 cards (38 percent) of the cards I’ve send to three countries. Add in China (8) and Taiwan (6) and that’s 50 percent to five countries within my top five sent cards. In the receiving end, Germany (15), Finland (14) and the Netherlands (12) again top my list. So of my 104 received, 41 (39 percent) are from three countries.
It can get annoying to see another card from one of these countries. I’d like to see it spread out a bit more, but not sure how it can be done. Either way, it’s still a fun project.
As like many hobbies, it’s done to each person’s ways of doing things.
My cards, for the most parts, are photos I’ve taken. I get those photos made into postcards through the Moo website. I recently have checked out another company as I’d like to see if I could get some of my cards sold, so I might mass-produce a few cards and keep some to send out.
I’ve had good feedback on my cards, so I’ll likely continue doing it (for as long as I can afford them)!
The Postcrossing website also celebrated its birthday. For today only, all current members can send six more cards — that’s on top of your allotted number! So, of course, I requested an extra six.
And it was a bit of a present to me, too.
The countries I got were China (repeated a bunch), Lithuania (which I’ve sent to a few times) and some new ones in Nicaragua, Brazil, and Singapore. I also got an address from Turkey. Very cool that I can send a few more, even if just for today. So I now have 16 out there traveling. I’ll look forward to getting more cards — hopefully from a few places I haven’t seen them from!
In a world where e-mail and electronic communications are steadily overtaking snail mail, Postcrossing is a refreshing change. It’s sixth birthday is a wonderful note to show that people will and still like to communicate in an old-fashioned way. One gets to learn a lot of things or see places they might not visit.
And you get to see so many words from different people from around the world. A slice of their life. A piece of their world.
There are so many people in this world and it’s all chance who you’ll see, meet or learn about. This just makes it a bit more interesting. For anyone who can sit down for a few moments and fill out a postcard, I’d highly encourage you to test out this hobby. It’s fun, educational and entertaining. And it’s not too expensive, which in this day and age, is a big plus.
Before I let this go, allow me to share a few of my favorites that I’ve received over the years.
Feel free to leave a comment, or e-mail P.J. at hoohaablog [at] gmail.com.