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Blog > Postcrossing behind-the-scenes!

Ana + Paulo @

“So… what do you do for a living?”

We get this question a lot, Paulo and I, especially at Postcrossing meetups. When we explain that we both run Postcrossing full-time, people often seem surprised to find out that the website doesn’t work automatically by itself. :)

Of course, static pages can almost run on auto-pilot, but Postcrossing is not static and it is constantly growing. Every minute that goes by, the website is being used and changed simultaneously by thousands of you, with hundreds of new members joining every day! At this scale, even some of the simplest tasks can be greatly amplified. Take for example, answering emails, finding postcard IDs, validating all the addresses or moderating the forum – these are some tasks which gradually became time-consuming for our small team.

But there are other, less visible things that we do, that are no less important. For instance: servers are maintained to keep the website running snappy and safe, code is developed, updated or fixed and we regularly improve our address selection algorithm so everyone can have a better experience. On the less technical side of our days, we keep in touch with postal operators, answer media queries and create content for this blog, among other things. So, overall, there are many small (and some not so small) tasks that keep us busy running the site.

Since so many people are surprised when we mention our job descriptions, we thought it might be interesting to show you what it’s like to run Postcrossing – and what it looks like “behind the scenes”. The first post on the series will be about address validation, and it will be posted in a few days.

Meanwhile, we’re collecting ideas for future posts, so this is your chance to chime in! Is there any part of what we do at Postcrossing that you’d like to know more about?

72 comments so far

abbyaguas, Philippines

Oh, so that's how it is.

Great job Postcrossing Team! We appreciate your help,
and kudos to Postcrossers for sending postcards!

Hasip, Belgium

Nice one :)

fiddlesticks, Germany

I'm very interested in the technical side of things, the codebase, the servers, the site infrastructure, and I'd love to hear more about that.

I'm also interested in what it looked like in the past, what it looks like now, and how it has changed and evolved over time.

ChalkJunkie, Germany

I'm looking forward to this series of posts. Thanks for letting us in on the secrets of postcrossing ;-)
I would love to know more about the algorithm behind the selection process, because to me it always feels a bit like drawing a lottery ticket from a hat filled with a million paper snippets.

sandrapostcards, Spain

I'd love to hear about how you find missing ID's. The cases I have had were really not so easy and you found them very fast. I am wondering how you do it

CraigoSanDiego, United States of America

Good to know about your job descriptions
and other workings. Thank you all !
"ideas for futue posts"
you ask for more work, haha!
* to make LESS WORK for the team and moderators
Don't change your address/profile often because..?
You need to vaildate e-mails ?
* DELETE MEMBERS who are inactive for long time but not "inactive status". They cause disappointment and waste everyones effort and money. I have found that half of chinese i contacted are this way. After their 1st day sending 3 cards, they haven't check-in since
* Contribution$ is enough for your team's salary ? Full-time jobs, your daily life ?
* Amabassadors' benefits ?

bungaalangalang, Indonesia


YiliLoh, Malaysia

Thanx for sharing "behind the scenes"! Maybe you may include one more column for the date of birth for Search Users part. So that the postcrosser may find the otherpostcrossers for having the same birthdate! :p

Anyway, good job for the Postcrossing!!! Keep up the good work!!! :)

CatharinaG3, Netherlands

Thank you for sharing, I'm very interested in this post and the ones that will follow, looking forward to it!

Indeed I thought that e.g. finding a missing ID was done by the computer, it must be a huge work to do so 'by hand'. Yet the solution often comes very quickly! My compliments for that!

I found out about Postcrossing some 3 years ago, so like fiddlesticks, I too would like to know a bit more about how it looked like before and evolve.

Thank you for all your efforts and I hope Postcrossing may live and grow for many years to come!

Elisabeth_, Austria

This is very interesting - thank you for this post and the future ones about this topic!

ESD, United States of America

Thank you for all that you do!! It is very much appreciated! I'd love to learn more about your methods of marketing and promotion! :)

DianeM, United States of America

Thank you--this cat has been very curious about these things.

I would second the motion to have some way to delete people who have been inactive for years. Some of us want the postcrossing names they cling to!

BOOGIE_PIPPIN, United Kingdom

I think we all have different ideas on how Postcrossing is run, it's good to read this first post and I look forward to the future ones.
One thing that does annoy me and I know many other Postcrossers is the members who don't register the cards they receive. It doesn't take long and costs nothing, the sender has taken the trouble to choose a card, write it, pay the postage and then mail it only for it to be tossed away. It may be a good idea to delete those members.

jr11577, Ireland

Thank you for this information.

I would like to know what effect it would have, from every aspect, if you were to reduce the card expiry time from 60 days to 50 days.

aude259, France

thanks for the great job !!!

ains, United States of America

Thanks for the post guys! You're the best! Really enjoyed the recent TED talk. I look forward to seeing how Postcrossing operates! :)

redheadedknitter, United States of America

I am so excited to read these posts! Thanks so much for all that you do. I also would love to hear how you find the Missing Postcard IDs.

wayfaringwanderer, United States of America

Love to see behind-the-scenes!

siobhan, Germany

This is going to be great, I'm really looking forward to the following posts!

Like Elfenwesen, I'm most curious about the selection algorithm, especially now that the system is so out of balance with huge numbers participating from certain countries, and way fewer people from everywhere else. It seems like an impossible task to make everyone happy with preconditions like this.

danielc, United Kingdom

I'm curious to know more about the algorithm. I choose not to send more than one postcard at a time to a particular country and until recently it has always been like that. Then, even though I didn't change the settings, I suddenly started getting duplicate countries to send postcards to, I had 5 duplicate countries at one time. Was this due to some shortage of addressees or some other reason? I really don't mind some duplicate countries, my only concern is that I would end up with all of my traveling cards going to destinations that take several weeks.

Sprinkledonut, Canada

I would love to know about volunteers that help you with the project! : )
Great idea for a series!

Ah, for future p/c developments I would love to see the ability to tag images and be able to search. ie. cats, lighthouses, posters, art or place names Would be nice for people who like to collect specific types of cards and for making direct swaps!

startopia, Ireland

I've always wondering where the pictures of postcards come from when you register them sometimes?

isagv, Germany

I am looking forward to read more. :)

Nordbaer, Germany

Great idea! Abracos!

alison41, South Africa

You do a great job - I always enjoy reading the blog! Thanks for everything you do for us.

rosenbusch, Germany

I am looking forward to get the informations. Great!!!!

ned44440, Ireland

Wow, this is going to be a fasinating blog. I can't wait for future installments. A lot of the questions I'd like answers to have already been posted on this page - [1] What can be done about inactive Postcrossers? [2] I'd love to be able to tag cards into themes - ie animals, beach, writers etc. [3] How do you locate missing IDs with very vague information. Other things I'd like to know are [1] Why we have limits to the number of postcards we can send (although I have to admit, it is fun 'chasing' every 50 sent postcards to increase how many we can send). [2] Would it be possible for the sender to upload info about a sent card when they upload a scan of the card in the same way the receiver can?
I'm sure I'll think of more things to ask as time goes on.

nugget, United States of America

Can't wait to read more about how the site works. I'm also curious how you balance out the inequalities in numbers of members from the different countries. I chose my settings to allow multiple cards to a country and I've sent nearly all my cards to Russia this year. It's become a game for me to see how many I can send to Russia this year!! (over 40 so far!) I get cards from other countries so I don't mind but I am curious.

Samuraiko, Germany

I'd also like to know how you find missing ID's. I'm so glad that this service exists and it's a pity that not all users know about this possibility. I hope that will change in the future, so that more postcards can be registered. :)

GoCindy, United States of America

I am kind of curious myself why if I allow multiple cards to a country that a high percentage go to Russia. I wouldn't mind except the travel time is very long.

kirbird, United States of America

You guys are directly responsible for making my life happier: thank you.

Tetsuko, Germany

Wow great idea. Thank you for sharing about your daily work behind the scenes!

hmthompson, United States of America

While I appreciate all that you do, I cannot understand why the "participating" post crossers lists for each country have not been pruned for the very substantial number of persons who have been inactive for a year or longer. The statistics are misleading. It seems delusional to carry all these moribund names.

Knerq, United States of America

Thank you for everything you do and for sharing more about yourselves! Are you active on the forums? Are your family and friends on Postcrossing?

Lisa, Germany

Thank you for your work. I really appreciate it.

I usually scan all cards and sometimes I would like to give an explanation what is to see on the card because usually the person who receives the card does not do this.
I would like to see the most popular cards of each user not only my own.
I would like to search for birthdays too, especially the year.
I would like to search for penpals (new profile possibility).
I would remove users too who are not registering the cards.

ARenee, United States of America

very interesting . . . looking forward to hearing more :)

Thanks for all that you do!!

vosbourn, United States of America

I am so grateful to you, I love Postcrossing with all of my heart. Keep up the great work!

BrendaGracia, Indonesia

This is gonna be interesting. I am looking forward to the blogs because I am curious with what happens behind the curtain, like.. how do you do this postcrossing project while you have so many things to do? How do you arrange the schedule?

My mother and sister also join postcrossing and I just want to say thank you for this site because in my house, there is no single day ever passed without sharing about postcards we have received. So, thank you! You have no idea how you have brighten up our days with this project!

Anyway, I think we need the hashtag feature so every uploaded postcards can be hashtag-ed so it's easier if you go to the gallery to search the cards you are looking for.

AnneMarrit, Netherlands

Like Danielc, I am also curious to know more about the algorithm. I also found out recently, that when requesting addresses, I seem to “draw” 3 or 4 times the same country now e.g. 3 times Germany, 3 times USA when requesting for example 10 addresses.

As a rule I do not mind too much, but I do feel disappointed as post crossings claims that the goal of this project is to allow people to receive postcards from all over the world. I only seem to get cards from (and send away to) of a part of the world! Who gets the other part?

I have been a member for over 3 years now, sent 1,094 postcards and seem to receive from and send cards to always to same countries over and over again. What about those rare far-aways, countries? Who gets them? Do members in Europe only get a certain part of the world? And members in, for example, Asia, do they get other parts of the world? Does it depend on where you live? Sometimes I do feel as I am getting punished for the fact that I do send a lot of cards. I feel I have to do penance for those who send not so many cards.

I love to know more about behind-the-scenes.

teamug, Germany

I can agree with most of the other's: my life has certainly been enriched by the postcrossing experience.

@AnneMarrit: The rare countries are rare as their infrastructure is not the same as in Europe, parts of Asia or the US.
It is not a matter of fact that lots of people have access to internet, or that their postal service is as efficient as here.
So obviously if lees cards are sent from one of those cards, it is less likely that you receive an address from there.
Only once someone's card arrived, that person's address is being released to receive a card in return.

But generally: the most annoying thing is the huge amount of inactive users.
Most of my expired cards are of those, who since then did not log in.
Even sending messages often does not get a reply although I expect, they till have their email account.
Should we report those who do not answer any message after their cards expired?

Sending my best wishes to the PC-Team and Happy Postcrossing to all of you.

iphoto, Australia

I look forward to the series of blogs giving us a "birds-eye-view" to behind the scenes workings of Postcrossings! :D

Without doubt this is the most enjoyable hobby/craft/interaction with others in my 54 years of life!

I like the above comments would like to see a change to members accounts ... Perhaps if a members account has not been accessed in a 60 day period it could automatically be made inactive. As most of us would be aware that when you check the travelling time of a sent postcard there is nothing more disappointing to find the intended receiver has not been active on there account for over two months, sometimes more!

I do applaud you, Paulo and the amazing Postcrossing support team for all your time and efforts to keep the sm:)es on thousands of faces around the world ... For this I sincerely thank you :D

Bestgirl, Austria

I cannot imagine, how postcrossing starts running. How it was made known in so many countries ? tell us a little bit about

Sunneva12, Norway

I love this website and look forward to the next posts!
also I'm a bit curios about how you find missing IDs. I've recived several cards with wrong/missing ID and you always find them so fast!
I would love to hear how you got the idea of postcrossing, how it has been to run the site.

happy postcrossing!

Blogger, United States of America

I (along with everyone else :) totally appreciate all your hard work! ! !

luvwhidbeyisland, United States of America

Folks who are not in the IT field often do not appreciate how much work goes into establishing, maintaining and upgrading a complex web site like yours. I think this series of blog posts will do a lot to educate folks. Thanks for all your hard work. I love being a member of Postcrossing!

MiamMioum, Belgium

CONGRATULATIONS! You are doing a great job!
Like other postcrossers say, I would like to be able to tag the cards received by the postcrossers that I have to send a card by themes (animals or more specific cat or dog for example).
Keep calm and postcross on ;-)

Shelleh, United States of America

Thank you for bringing a smile to my face every time I see "Hurray!"

I echo everyone else in despising inactive members that don't register. I send second cards, I send messages, I beg, I plead and nothing.

But LOVE postcrossing so much! Thank you!!! and thank you to all the members that make it so much fun.

Luziaceleste, Brazil

During these years that I am here, I constantly noticed improvements and changes in the Postcrossing site. Someone must think on these improvements, right?
I would love to know whether you have conducted market research among postcrossers, or how do decide what is the best to do. (as a market researcher I am particularly curious)
Anyway, congrats for all your efforts!

Geminiscp, Portugal

Revealing the biggest of secrets...

... Postcrossing is THE BEST!!!! :)

Thank you Paulo & Ana for all these amazing years.

mfeda, United States of America

Thank you for the great service you provide! Both my wife and I love post crossing more every day.

Jcchit, Hong Kong

Interesting! Thanks!

Luluz, Finland

Thank You Postcrossing team for great job! I've spent many happy moments with this hobby!

You need to do something with... inactive members. They are many.
- More information how to avoid lost cards.
-Countries, who have difficulties to deliver mail.
-Members needto be prepared that 5% of your mail gets lost anyway.

Tellmewhat, Germany

Muito obrigado to you two!
Finland and the Netherlands have their own Postcrossing stamps and I am impressed by that. Is this due to your PR work or did the postal authorities themselves get the idea or was it a postcrossers' initiative? That's really a big thing considering what it takes to be on a stamp!!!!
All th best to you and the worldwide postcrossers' community.

Itsmemollycat, Ukraine

Wow, that will be very interiesting! I would love to read about how you find the wrong ID, And how you deal with people that are rude, send some bad things, etc.

betslets, United States of America

What a wonderful idea to invite us into the behind-the-scenes activity. I am among those that appreciates you, but takes your hard work for granted (because the site runs so smoothly). I especially appreciate prompt responses from the Postcrossing Team to my crazy inquiries.
I am also among those that would appreciate a "clean up" of those "invisible" members who haven't been seen, heard from or in the same place for months (sadly, some may have passed on?) Could these members be considered "on probation"?
And, I know of some folks with multiple profiles or frequent change of addresses...but, it isn't the Postcrossing Team's job to monitor individual responsibility of keeping uptodate.
I am very proud to be a Postcossing Supporter.

kamikazeherz, Germany

Great idea guys! :)
I like many ideas that have been named, but especially the one to have a profile option "Interested in pen pals". That would be nice. :)
Plus I'd like to find out about finding missing IDs and the algorythm. ;)

paraiha, Finland

Again such a good and interesting blog article - thank you for bringing so much joy into our lives :)

AnneMarrit, Netherlands

First of all: thank you Ana & Paulo for all the happiness Postcrosssing is bringing me.

What I like to change is the following: to be able to read senders profile before registering the card. And I tell you why: so every now and then I am not sure who is sending the card, an adult, a child or even a pet! In my “thank you” I am always addressing an adult but it sometimes happens that it turns out to be a child. Not that it matters all that much, I am polite anyhow, but I would write a different “thank you“ knowing it is a child (or a pet). And sometimes I just like to know beforehand who the sender is, just because. However, I am not quite sure it would spoil the expectations one has when receiving a card?

racheltheemuts, Netherlands

Thank you so much for postcrossing! Every card I receive is like a small gift! It makes my life so much happier, I can hardly explain it.

I read a lot in the comments about inactive users, I have found the same thing to be true, users who do not react to their direct mail also. The suggestion to be able to report that situation to you guys so you can check it out, is worth considering I think. Technically I am not sure if it's easy though :-).

Good luck to you, bye!

heubetti, Germany

I find it good to know that people are behind this! Much success you and us furthermore!

joyax, Singapore

I am curious to know how you decide which places the Little Mail Carriers visit :)

Thanks a lot for all your hard work on this site! :)

CatharinaG3, Netherlands

Yes, I also wondered how the Little Mail Carriers choose their next visit. ;)

CatharinaG3, Netherlands

I read someone would like to see the popular cards of other members too, but I don't think that's a good idea. People could get confused.

maroussia, China

To the post crossing team, a HUGE THANK YOU as a member for many years and a daily user! I have been particularly impressed by the help received in finding ID numbers of cards coming without it or with an unusable one.

I agree with all post crossers who are bored with sending cards that are never registered. Of course the person may have a crisis in her/his life and after I contacted again some persons who had not registered my card, I was aware of that in two cases. But most of the time, not only the card is not registered,even when one is sent again, but the postcrosser does not even answer the message (in one case, the user is still active and logs in daily....I sent the card twice....)

I have accepted to send repeatedly to the same country, so I often get addresses in Russia and Germany. The mail is very slow with Russia and some cards do get lost, but also many users do not register the cards they have most probably received.... To prevent the mail to Russia to be lost so often, one idea is that all Russian users also write their address in Cyrillic (to be copied and pasted by non-Russian speakers). After I started to write the addresses in Cyrillic, cards arrived more quickly and got lost less. But some users write a very unusable translation into "English" of their address, and I am not sure even the Russian employees who translate the addresses can know what is meant!

Well, you do a wonderful work and I am very appreciative and grateful, and will be looking forward to reading more about the workings of this complex site!

aberline, Australia

Thank you so much Ana and Paulo! Such a simple idea has become such a big thing to so many people! I would love to know if the algorithm is partitioned in that I found that postcrossing friends from my country who joined up the same time as me sent cards and received cards to the same people as me, but others in postcrossing longer than me seemed to be interacting with a different group of people.
Also I'd like to know how many active users there are.
I'd also like to see postcrossing HQ.
also how you choose spotlights.

aberline, Australia

Also also how expired cards have there been.
Top 100 cards of each country.
How many cards do you have to have travelling when you go from sending one card to each country to two, three etc

aberline, Australia

Oh and how many people sign up a day!

azalee09, Germany

First of all I am grateful for all your hard work. The site works always smoothful and I just love to check out new uploaded postcards.
I recommend an article about inactive members, too. The first card my husband sent was never registered, that was really disappointing. Sometimes I send a second postcard, but often I write a message before, just to know if the receiver is still active.

maroussia, China

On second thoughts, I would like to add something. Of course, private swaps are just a sideline in post crossing, but quite a few users are keen on them, I for example. I would suggest that users who mention they are interested in direct swaps would always ANSWER the requests, even to say no. I wrote to many and cannot know if the user actually received the message or was not interested.

When I receive a request that for some reason I cannot accept, I write a line to the person to apologize.

purpleferret, Canada

Hi maroussia. As I have selected No to swaps, I do not answer any emails about them. I still get the spammy complaining because I don't: my dog died, my grandmother is dying, etc., etc. I don't have time to answer them all, so I answer none.

CatharinaG3, Netherlands

My compliments for your searching skills! I'm astonished (and happy of course) that you can find a missing ID even if there is really very few info available!

pucky, Netherlands

a late reaction, as I have been thinking about what I'd like to change or know or whatever.
I can only say that I love postcrossing the way it is!
Of course it is a bit sad when a card expires and I see the receiver was not on the website all that time. But of course, unfortunately people can get ill, computers can break, whatever can happen. So it is all in the game. It is a low percentage of all the fun that comes from the registered ones!
I guess the swaps and penpals can be dealt with on the forum; it does not really belong to the postcrossing-part, in my opinion. It is always possible to contact a postcrosser through the site.
I do not understand anything from how it works, so I am looking forwards to all the information. It seems I never get a card from someone I did sent a card to. How do you manage that? For me the whole thing is a big miracle!
Thanks a lot for all the work!


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