Sending A Postcard Fun Again With New Smartphone App

sending a postcard

Sending a postcard when traveling was once a big part of the experience. Never mind that the traveler often made it home first. Bringing along stamps and an address book to enable sharing the places we visited was part of it all. That was then, this is now and the Canvas Art of Living app enables iPhone and Android users a chance to make their own digital postcard.

Partnering with Hyatt Hotels, Canvas Wines has hotel guests looking for a QR code on their drink coaster at restaurants, bars and lounges. After scanning the code with their phone, users are sent to the Canvas Wines website where the free app is available for download.

Users can select a pre-made postcard design, upload a photo from their smartphone or take a new photo. A hand-written note is not an option but including a personalized headline and custom message is.

Automatically saved to each user’s personal gallery, the digital postcards can be shared via email, text message or on Facebook. iPhone users can convert their digital postcard into a printed postcard to be printed and mailed.

Shiny and new, the Canvas Art of Living app is getting a lot of attention but surely not the only way to send a postcard, digitally or otherwise. A number of services including Zazzle, Hipster and others use location-based photo sharing technology to enable postcard making.

Looking for something to collect? Need a break from digital?

Postcard collecting might be just what you need. Collectors of postcards engage in Deltiology, the study and collection of postcards by specific artists and publishers, or by time and location.




[Photo Credit: Flickr user btwashburn]

Photographers Launch Postcards Across America Project

Going Nowhere postcards projectIf you think postcards are a lost art, you may want to follow a photography project covering America this summer. Starting tomorrow, two Brooklyn-based photographers will set off on a three-month road trip across the country, sending original postcards with their photographs from each state. Going Nowhere was originally a project to visit all 48 lower states, sharing their experiences via photographs and hand-made postcards.

Funded through Kickstarter, backers could pledge as little as $2 to cover the cost of printing and postage (the trip itself will be paid for by the photographers themselves), but after reaching their original $7,500 funding goal, they decided to hit up Hawaii and Alaska too. Original backers will receive a postcard created, self-printed, and mailed from each state, and box sets of 10-50 postcards will be available after they finish the trip in September.

Follow the journey and photo updates, or buy a box set of the postcards on Going Nowhere.

Somaliland: the country without mail

Somaliland
Today is World Post Day, celebrated every October 9 to mark the anniversary of the foundation of the Universal Postal Union in 1874. More than 150 countries celebrate this day honoring something that’s so vital to our lives but is generally taken for granted.

In Somaliland they aren’t celebrating, because they don’t have a postal system. No other country recognizes Somaliland as a nation and therefore it can’t get membership in the Universal Postal Union. Somaliland is the northern third of former Somalia and declared independence in 1991. After a bloody war of independence it developed a government, law enforcement, a viable economy, and infrastructure while neighboring Puntland became a haven for pirates and southern Somalia was torn apart by warlords and terrorists.

When I was traveling in Somaliland last year I was based in Hargeisa, the capital. Unlike much of the region, the lights stayed on around the clock, the streets were safe, and businesses were thriving. When I visited the central post office, however, I found an empty ruin.

SomalilandSo what does a country without mail do to get, um, mail? Courier services are widely used, and there’s broadband Internet in the capital. In fact, they had the fastest Internet connection I’ve ever seen in Africa! Some Somalis told me the lack of a postal system actually encouraged the development of Internet Service Providers.

Still, it would have been nice to have been able to send postcards to my friends from this nation that doesn’t officially exist. Of course I didn’t actually see any postcards for sale, because there was no way to send them. With the rest of the world recognizing the Transitional Federal Government in Mogadishu, which doesn’t even control all of Mogadishu, it doesn’t look like we’re going to be seeing any postcards from Somaliland anytime soon.

Ten (more) random observations about Ethiopia

Ethiopia, Harar

When writing last year’s Ethiopia travel series, I collected twelve random observations about Ethiopia. These were interesting bits of information that didn’t fit in any of my articles. While writing my Harar travel series, I collected ten more.

1. The standard traveler’s money belt that hangs from your neck and is tucked under your shirt is very amusing to Ethiopians because Oromo women wear them. You’ll often see them digging them out in the market to get change. The above photo shows them being made.

2. The banknotes smell spicy. This is because Ethiopians eat with their hands and then handle money in order to pay for their meal. A few years of this treatment makes Ethiopian money smell like a spice stall in the market. Crisp, odorless banknotes fresh from the bank don’t seem real!

3. The currency is called birr, which means “silver.” Before coins became common, people used more practical objects as currency, such as bullets and slabs of salt.

4. Ethiopians have a unique dance called the uuzkista in which you jiggle your shoulders back and forth. Check out the video to see how it’s done.

5. I noticed that many crosses people wear are all the same bright green color. I wondered about this until one night I was walking down a dark street with an Ethiopian friend and noticed her cross was glowing in the dark. Soon I was seeing glowing Crucifixions everywhere.

6. Since most streets lack lighting, many cell phones come equipped with a mini flashlight.

7. To get a waiter’s attention, snap your fingers or clap your hands. What’s rude in one culture is normal in another. I saw a guy get kicked out of a restaurant in New York for doing this because in the West it’s the ultimate in low-class boorishness. Here in Ethiopia it’s completely acceptable, but it took me a long time before I could bring myself to clap at a waiter.

8. There’s a shortage of postcards in Ethiopia. Ethiopians aren’t in the habit of sending postcards and the fledgling tourism industry hasn’t printed many. Some entrepreneurs have taken matters into their own hands. In Gondar a local photographer wanders around the castles selling images he’s taken. It isn’t a proper postcard, but the post office accepts them.

9. When Ethiopians shake hands, they bump each other’s shoulder. If your hand is dirty because you’ve been eating, keep your hand closed and your arm straight down to signal that you can’t shake hands. Instead the other person grabs the forearm and does the shoulder bump. If both people’s hands are dirty, you touch forearms and still do the shoulder bump. Don’t forget the shoulder bump!

10. Farmers often carry water in gourds. Now some entrepreneur has come up with the modern equivalent-plastic gourds in bright colors! Some fashionable farmers are carrying these instead of bothering to prepare their own natural gourds.

This wraps up my series Harar, Ethiopia: Two months in Africa’s city of Saints. Thanks for joining me on my adventure through the Horn of Africa!

Postagram app turns your Instagram photos into postcards

postagram instagram postcard app iphoneThe whole crew here at Gadling loves sending postcards. Heck, we love receiving them, too. Sadly, handwritten notes – including postcards – are nowhere near as popular as they used to be. Why send a postcard from the road when you can instantly Skype or IM with someone? Why send one stock photo when you can upload all of your own pictures? The answer to both questions is the same: sending someone a personalized, analog message shows that in that moment, at that place, you were thinking of them and wanted to put some effort into showing them just that. Thankfully, there’s a new iPhone app that combines the thoughtfulness of postcards with modern social networking. Postagram allows iPhone users to turn pictures from the Instagram app into real postcards.Our friends over at TechCrunch shared the info on Postagram earlier today. For just 99 cents, users can turn any one of their Instagram photos into a postcard, add a 140-character message and have it printed and in the recipient’s hand in 2-5 business days (longer for international shipping). Users can do everything from the Postagram iPhone app or on the Postagram website. The picture can even be popped out of the postcard if the recipient just wants the image without the message.

We think this is a great tool for sending postcards to friends, especially if you’re in a location where finding a post office is challenging. And the price is cheaper than the cost of buying a postcard and a stamp in many places.

Certainly there are downsides. The 140-character limit means that you can’t write much of a note to accompany the picture. Also, while it does save the addresses that you enter to mail Postagrams, we’d love to see it access your iPhone’s contacts to make selecting recipients and inputting their addresses that much quicker and easier. Lastly, since it won’t be mailed from your location, it lacks the mystique of postmarks from faraway lands.

That said, it’s still a unique image that you took and chose to share with someone. In that sense, it still maintains the personal feel of postcards.

Anyone who signs up today will receive their first Postagram for free, which is a nice way to try out the app and service. I just made my first Postagram (for free, since I signed up today) and it was quick and easy. Oddly, while their site says that the Postagram will arrive in 2-5 days, the app itself said that it would take 3-7 days. That’s certainly something to keep an eye on.

Postagram is free and available on the iPhone App Store.

[Via TechCrunch]