Thursday, December 9, 2010

Geography: Postcrossing!

Almost everyone has heard about penpals or has had one, this is fairly common place. And even postcard trading is familiar to most. However, have you heard of post crossing?

While checking out some other blogs, I came across Make Geography Come Alive with Wall Maps! by OMSH. I love maps. My son loves maps. So I read it with interest as she explained how her family used the new maps they bought. If you check it out, you'll see how they've put the maps onto cork boards in order to use pins and string to connect photos with places. I'd love to do this, but I need to find some cork boards first  ;-)

As November was Geography Month, OMSH solicited readers to post comments of how they explore the subject of geography with their children. It was within these comment posts that the mystery of Postcrossing was revealed to me.

Postcrossing, the postcard crossing project: "send a postcard and receive a postcard back from a random person somewhere in the world!"

Really, it's that simple. And free to sign up.
A well organised website,, details all the FAQ.

But it's just trading postcards, right?

Postcards From Russia
Although you can login to the forum, separate from the official sight, and participate in all kinds of trading and tagging (themed trades whereby you tag the person who posted before you and then wait to be tagged), the official site is not about trading at all.

The official site is not a typical trading site. Here's how it works...

1)  You sign up for free, set your preferences, and create a profile to whatever extent you wish. Part of this set up is providing the site with your mailing address, but it is not displayed publicly.

2) You "request" an address and postcard ID! The site will give you an address, an ID for that postcard, and the profile information of the person you are sending the card to. You can read the profile and get a sense of the kinds of postcards the person likes. You may choose to send a postcard that they would prefer, but you may send whatever you have. However! The whole point here is to make sure you write the postcard ID on it. I always write the ID in two different place to be sure it doesn't get obscured or misread. The recipient will register receiving the card using this ID. Only once your postcard has been received can you start expecting a postcard in return!
Add caption

3) Receive a postcard. Once the website has confirmed that your postcard has been received and registered, your profile name and address goes to the top of the list! But your address is still not publicly displayed; this "list" is not something everybody can see. Now, someone will "request" an address and it will be yours. This means you are not receiving a postcard from the person you originally sent a card to. You are going to receive a random card from some random person who will be given your mailing address when they request an address. I love this randomness!

4) Register the postcard received. Admire your new postcard sent by some stranger miles away, read any messages written, enjoy the foreign stamps, then hop online, log in, and register the postcard as received. Write a thank you, short or long. And you're done!

5) Repeat! Request another address, write on the postcard, include the ID, and send. It gets addictive actually, before you know it, you're broke ;-)  In the beginning, you are restricted to five address requests; you can have up to five postcards travelling at any given time. The more you send and prove your participation (your postcards do get received and registered), the more you are permitted to have travelling.

Our Geography Wall!
From Russia
See, the beauty of this whole project, beyond the obvious objectives, is that you are ultimately in control over how much and when. There is no obligation or commitment! I love that! I'm a terrible correspondent; I'll always come through in the end, but that end might be a year later. If I have time and the postcard/stamps, I can send a card and then eventually receive one back (theoretically, barring postal mishaps). Furthermore, I do not have to respond to any of the postcards I receive as I've already sent out my postcard! The only thing I'm obligated to do is to register receiving the postcard with the ID on the card. I do however write a comment of thanks to the sender (done as part of the registering of the postcard).

Some other aspects to this game...

This Was From Lithuania
Often people scan the postcards. They collect them in reality and virtually. I haven't bothered to do this yet and may never take the time to do it. However, I still have scanned postcards on my "postcard wall!" Some are the scanned postcards that were sent to me-- if someone scans their card and sends it by mail, when I register it with the ID, it virtually becomes mine too. Also, several people have scanned the postcards we've sent them as I can now see them on my postcard wall under "sent" postcards, lol.

Our Latest Addition Is From Luxemburg
Map Another function is the global map that will document all that you successfully send and receive with little flags indicating the locations with lines from your city to theirs. The global map is interactive and you can zoom in and out of it. The little flags are click-able and will reveal such details as location and the profile link to that sender/recipient.

Stats A stats page exhibits your activity in graph form, pie chart, and a table. How much you've sent and received, to or from which countries, and how long the postcard travelled are a few of the items displayed here.

Forum There is a forum you can sign up for too and it is somewhat separate from the official website. In here you can organise and participate in all kinds of discussions and other forms of trade, even trading items other than postcards.

What a fun way to learn about other cultures and geography!

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