Postcrossing Blog

News, updates, and all kinds of goodies and stories from the postal world!

The writing prompts invite postcrossers to write about a different topic on their postcards’ messages every month. These are just suggestions though — if you already know what you want to write about, or the recipient gives you some pointers, that’s great too!

This month, we chose one of Eva (aka lauranalanthalasa)'s prompts to spark conversations on postcards, which goes nicely with February’s theme of writing about comfort food. Eva suggested people talk about what they do for self-care or to treat themselves. It’s always important to do that when you can!

In April, write about what you do to cheer yourself up!
Photo of a park with streams

As usual, I’ll go first! For me, it depends on my mood. If I’ve just been stressed out and I need to wind down, then I’ll grab a book and either cuddle up in bed under my weighted blanket, or run a nice hot bath with some nice bubbles or a bath bomb. I have some favourite series which I reread when I really need a pick-me-up: I’ve talked about my love for Dorothy L. Sayers on the blog before, for instance!

Sometimes I need something a bit more active, though. Going for walks is nice, especially if I can get out somewhere where there are trees, streams, and birds/animals running around! The picture in this post is from a walk I went on earlier this month: it’s a little wintery, but I saw some squirrels and a pair of robins. It’s always nice to get moving, and to watch other little lives going on around you.

So how about you? Do you have special little rituals when you’re upset, or little routines you use to help you unwind? Feel free to share them with us here, and use this as a prompt for what to write on your postcards this month!

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It’s now been almost two weeks since the recent Russian invasion of Ukraine started, and the sadness and worry that we feel has only increased. Every day since, we’ve replied to dozens of your messages, filled with just as much concern as our own for the people living through this nightmare.

We’ve written about this on the monthly stats emails last week and also on the forum, but we realize our message might not have reached everyone, or been clear enough. So let us be 100% clear: we strongly condemn this war, and are against any wars. Every human life is precious, so every single life lost to a war is a tragedy, not to speak of all the destruction and suffering. What is happening in Ukraine is heartbreaking, and we hope the thousands of postcrossers there and their loved ones are all safe.

Some of you have been asking Postcrossing to block postcrossers in Russia and Belarus, as a way to protest the war. We understand the feeling of helplessness and the will to do something. But the same way we believe people of all ages, genders, religions or other beliefs have a place in Postcrossing, we don’t think people’s nationality or what their governments are doing should be used as a reason for excluding them from the project. Postcrossing is about regular people, and not their governments, politicians or generals. If you feel strongly that you do not want to send postcards to postcrossers in a certain country, we respect that — but in that case, please don’t request any addresses on the website for now.

It is precisely during the hard times that connection and communication are needed the most, that they are the most precious. Platforms for intercultural dialogue are valuable tools to help bring more understanding, empathy and peace to the world, and we believe this to be an important part of Postcrossing’s mission.

In the past 16.5 years, Postcrossing has been about connecting the world without any discrimination. Postcrossers everywhere are people just like us. Parents and children. Supermarket cashiers and medical staff. Scientists, train drivers, students, birdwatchers, cooks, mail carriers… all human. With every postcard we send, we help create more awareness about our world and make tiny steps towards a more humane and sustainable future, even when all we do is ramble about our breakfast, or complain about the gloomy weather.

Many of you have been reaching out also to ask whether it is still possible to send mail to these countries. This information is in the Postal Monitor and we’re doing our best to keep it up to date, so that we don’t select addresses in countries where you cannot send postcards to at the moment. If the information on the Postal Monitor is not current, you can help by reporting news from your postal operator here.

As we are writing this, two million people have already fled Ukraine in search of safety, and millions more are suffering and fearing for their lives, including postcrossers. We’re thinking of them, and have donated all of our February AdSense revenue (from the Google Ads you see on the website) to the UN Refugee Agency and to UNICEF who are both on the ground helping those affected. We hope you will consider joining us in supporting these or other organizations that are offering humanitarian help, in whichever way or amount you can.

We stand with all those calling for peace, and hope peace can return to Ukraine very soon.

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Time to wrap up this edition of our Cards for Literacy campaign with Deutsche Post, and finally reveal the results from 2021. It was a great year for the campaign, so let’s just jump straight into it:

Postcrossers in Germany sent a total of 137,299 postcards during December, raising €13,729.90 for Stiftung Lesen!
Illustration of girl bringing a letter to a blue/grey mailbox in a snowy forest

Once more, a record shattering campaign, and an amazing performance by all our German members! We’re so, so proud of you — what a brilliant effort and result. And naturally, even if you’re not in Germany, if you received some postcards from there in the past few months, then it’s likely that you too have taken part in this campaign and contributed to this achievement — well done!

Our heartfelt thank you to Deutsche Post as well, for renewing this collaboration and supporting this good cause. We’re sure their support to Stiftung Lesen’s and their literacy efforts are going to improve many people’s lives.

So, all that is left to do now is for Paulo to run his script to choose the winners of this year’s prizes. If you’re in Germany and participated in this campaign in December, keep an eye on your email — you might be the lucky winner of a voucher to make some custom stamps, or one of their cool footballs.

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Eager for more statistics? Here we go, for part 2 of the census analysis! There’s actually only a couple of things left we’d like to go over in this post, so let’s dive straight into it.

First up, let’s talk about blog content — what are postcrossers’ favorite topics to read about here?

A bar chart showing members favourite blog topics. Postal history and interesting facts: 52%, Statistics: 42%, Friendship stories: 32%, Writing prompts: 21%, Little Mail Carriers: 17.9%, Book reviews: 18.8%, Giveaways: 16.1%, Stationery reviews: 15.8%, Spotlight interviews: 13.7%

This was a multiple choice question, and of the people who replied, most like to read about postal history and interesting postal facts… which is great, because so do we! 😊 Statistics and friendship stories are also popular, with the rest of the choices being a little more evenly distributed. There’s definitely something for everyone! This blog is actually a part of the website we’re rather proud of, as there has been an average of one post per week here for the last 14 years, if you can believe it! Looking back at the long archive of posts is really gratifying.

Moving on to the big questions… what do people like or dislike the most about Postcrossing? Let’s look at the things that annoy us all first:

What do members dislike about Postcrossing? Expired/lost postcards: 12494, Always the same countries: 9938, Demanding profiles: 6912, Inactive accounts: 5306, No app / Website is not mobile-friendly: 2468

Keep in mind that this was a multiple answer question, so people could pick up to 3 replies or write a different one. This was an open question in the previous census, so the answers were a bit all over the place… 😅 We tried to condense the main replies we saw, so we could get a better idea of their distribution.

Clearly, expired or lost postcards are a big source of frustration with this hobby, as no one likes to send a postcard that ends up not being acknowledged. Over the years, the Postcrossing system has been improved to include several automated rules and triggers focused on reducing this issue, including setting accounts to inactive, sending reminders, and blocking or closing accounts. Because of these automations, the percentage of postcards that goes unregistered has been steadily decreasing over the years (*), and we’ll continue to do our best to further minimize it. We know that this percentage will never be zero, but we still have a few different ideas that we’re planning to test throughout the year that will hopefully further lower these numbers.

Other annoying things include the lack of geographical diversity, demanding profiles and the fact that the website isn’t very mobile-friendly yet… all things we’ve been addressing and tweaking in different ways, and which continue to be on the top of on our long to-do list. Beyond these big ones, some postcrossers also remarked on empty registration messages, postcards with short messages, empty profiles or those written in languages other than English, or receiving too many postcards at once, among other issues. We think these are fair grievances, and having a clear ranking of their “annoyingness level” helps us prioritize how we tackle them.

And, last but not least, what do people like best about Postcrossing?

What do members like best about Postcrossing? Contacting with people all over the world: 63%, The surprise and randomness: 57%, Learning about other countries and their cultures: 54%, Being able to make other people happy: 50%, I feel part of a friendly community: 27%, It's a creative outlet: 18%

We purposely didn’t include sending and receiving postcards as an option, as we assume everyone likes those parts (and there was a separate question about that). Beside those, contacting with people all over the world seems to be the #1 thing members like about Postcrossing, but its a tight margin separating that answer from others like the surprise and randomness, learning about other countries and cultures, or being able to make others happy. Less people highlight being part of a community or the creative aspect of the hobby, which we definitely understand, as those are not for everyone.

And that’s a wrap on this year’s census analysis! We haven’t yet finished going through all the feedback on the last question of the census, in which we asked you to give us ideas of things to improve or just share your thoughts about Postcrossing — the number of comments is a bit overwhelming, in a very nice way. 😊 A big thank you to all of you who took the time to fill out the census, for your kind words and for the many ideas of things to improve and think about!


(*) There are two notable hiccups in the expiration rates lowering trend over the years, which we monitor closely as we know these are important to Postcrossing. Mid-2017, Russian Post had an issue that caused lots of mail to be stuck somewhere for a few months, causing the postcards to expire before being delivered later in the year. Also, in the beginning of the pandemic in 2020, when flights started being cancelled and there were no alternative routes in place, a lot of mail got stuck for a long time. Both these incidents have been resolved (through improvements to the mail service, and with the help of the Postal Monitor), and the overall trend continues to slope downwards, towards a lower expiration rate.

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We’ve finally completed the analysis the 2021's census results, so here we are to report back and do some introspection! 🤓

This time around, we’ve greatly simplified some of the answers so that we could streamline the analysis, and also created a separate form for our members in China, who couldn’t access Google Forms last year. In total, 23,329 postcrossers replied the census, and here we have to make the usual caveat to point out that while this is a decent sized sample, we can’t quite extrapolate that this sample portrays all postcrossers. For instance, some people may be less likely to reply to questionnaires (maybe they struggle with English), which might skew the results. So, please take the results with a grain of salt!

The basic demographics haven’t changed much from 2020, so we’ll skip that overview this year but feel free to have a look at last year’s post for the rundown. One question we did tweak was the one about where people live, to give it more granularity beyond the rural/urban divide. Here are the replies:

Where do postcrossers live? Rural area (11.9%), Suburb near a large city (18%), Small city or town (34.6%), Large city (35.5%)

Last year’s results were 75% urban and 25% rural, and this year we see these numbers subdivide into smaller categories. It would perhaps be relevant to know how most people define large vs small cities or towns though, as this definition is likely to vary from country to country. Maybe this could be something to further improve next year.

Another new question for 2021's census was proficiency in the English language:

How fluent are postcrossers in English? Fluent/native (49.2%), English is ok (31.7%), Can understand basic sentences, and use a translator occasionally (17.3%), Don't understand English or  know just a few words (1.9%)

I guess there’s not much of a surprise here: most postcrossers are either fluent or relatively comfortable using English to communicate, but 1.9% mentions not being able to communicate at all in that language… This percentage is likely to be even higher, as we imagine long surveys are a challenge for someone that struggles with the language. One advantage that postcards have over letters is that they are smaller, and thus less daunting for non-native speakers. We know many members use Postcrossing to improve and gain confidence in their foreign language skills, and we hope the project can continue to be a good tool for this purpose.

I don’t think we showed this graph last year, so here it is: where did people hear about Postcrossing?

How did you hear about Postcrossing? Friend or relative (30%), Internet search (16.7%), Social media (16.1%), Offline media (13.3%), Don't remember (12%), Other (4.9%), Penpal (3%)

The biggest slice on that pie is still through friends or relatives, which is really cool — it’s great to know that you guys enjoy Postcrossing so much that you brag about it to your loved ones! 💙 Many of you simply stumble on the project while searching online or browsing social media, and a smaller slice learned about it on offline media (like radio or newspapers). Good to know!

Next, what is everyone’s favorite part of the core Postcrossing activity, sending or receiving postcards?

What do you like best in Postcrossing, sending or receiving? Both equally (74.4%), Sending (11.5%), Receiving (14.2%)

Turns out, both — which is brilliant! The percentage of people who reply “both” has even increased since the last time we did a similar poll back in 2017.

We also asked how easy the Postcrossing website is to use, and most people (63%) replied it was super easy, 29% chose easy, 6% picked the middle of the scale option and around 1.3% picked one of the last 2 options, indicating they have some or a lot of trouble using the website. Some of these issues were pointed out in the disability question of the census, giving us good tips of things to improve.

And last but not least, let’s look at friendships! Have you become friends with other postcrossers?

Have you become friends with other postcrossers? Not yet (62.8%), Yes but only online (26.4%), Yes and we have met (10.8%)

As expected in a project that is mostly about sending postcards to strangers across the world, the majority of people who replied to this question have not made friends through Postcrossing. Despite this, a significant amount of you mention having made friends — mostly online friends, but 10% have also met their new friends in person. It’s really cool to think that postcards and serendipity were the starting point of these connections!

There’s a lot more to unpack in the census, especially what people like/dislike about Postcrossing… so we’re saving that for a second post. Stay tuned for more insights soon!

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