incowrimo 2016 – some final thoughts

SnailMailFor a number of reasons, I decided to stick to the official Incowrimo site this year even though there were other ‘hidden’ ways to participate in this project. The fact that I’m still seeing traffic, searches and enquiries from India, Europe, and Australia halfway through March tells me that there is some real interest in a month of International Letter Writing.

Apparently a quite a few people poked about here and at Incowrimo after searching for it. In they end they didn’t take part in this years Incowrimo thinking it was cancelled.  There were others who were inspired to write but left very little trace on the site. And there were a significant number of posts and links recommending Incowrimo 2016 but unable to provide reliable information. Information was scarce.

Personally, I think Incowrimo is one of the most rewarding projects I’ve ever participated in and it would be sad to see it slip away. This year, I tried to keep tabs on things in hopes we can make 2017 another successful year.

Last year, there were over 400 participants spread all over the world.

2015-incowrimo-map
Incowrimo 2015 participants

The first thing I noticed this year was the difference in participation. There were only 31 people who added their names to the Incowrimo site. This meant that very few letters were shared between participants. For the 40 odd letters I sent out only 6 came in; and not all of them from this years project.

In addition to several smaller individual projects, 2 online forums heartily supported Incowrimo 2016 with open invitations to participate. Many forum members involved in 2016  were already members, or had followed the project there from previous years. As a result it was pretty much hermetically sealed but yielded great results within.

Don’t get me wrong, both ‘Fountain Pen Geeks’ and ‘A World of Snailmail’ are fabulous forums for anyone interested in handwritten letters, writing and writing instruments. If you have even a passing interest in the subjects, I would highly recommend joining. But in the end neither is focused strictly on promoting Incowrimo, and quite rightly so.

There were 72 people who had clearly posted their addresses to other members on the 2 forums as was their preference. What I found really interesting was the fact that 80% of them were from the United States. This compares to 55% on the Incowrimo site. Given the additional number of people who popped in and left in confusion,frustration or dismay, it seems like the number of truly international participants would remain constant or drop slightly.

2016-incowrimo-summary-chart

One of the things I liked most about an International correspondence project is the International part. Personally I would like to see this flourish and grow even more. Writing to individuals by hand and online has shown me that there’s a distinct difference between the two and the humanity involved in sending a physical letter is no small thing.

Most disturbing this year, was the 75% drop in participation. Whether it was because the insanely great 2015 site had gone missing in action this year I’m not sure.  How or why it wasn’t updated remains a mystery, but I am committed to seeing that the project moves forward into 2017 with community support. I’m a big believer in Open Source and know it is a way of making amazing things possible.

To this end, I posted a survey about maintaining a list of addresses or database for Incowrimo. The results are interesting and I’m planning a separate post for them. If you haven’t taken the survey, I’d encourage you to take a minute or two now. It will be up til the end of the month. Meanwhile, thanks to everyone that made this year what it was!

incowrimo 2016 – address list

Incowrimo – feb 26

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There’s only a couple of days left and already a couple of letters have come back. Yes come back :(  So far this has been a rare occurance for me. Letters soaked and unreadable, lost and shredded in transit yes. But returned to sender without even leaving the country is more than disappointing. The really frustrating part is that I reposted them at the local letterbox and they were returned the very next day. The postal carrier refused to pick them up to be delivered, only one of them had any signs of the stamps being cancelled.

I don’t know why and am slightly disturbed. To make sending out mail easier this year I made up a whole batch of these and guess that I’ve sent out at least 25 or more by now. Some I know have arrived, but after 9 days of circulating without leaving the country these two came back at my expense. I hope they are the only ones.

 

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Incowrimo – feb 16 part 2

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If you’re Canadianfrom Winnipeg, Edmonton or anywhere outside of the GTA; a sight like this isn’t going to be special or even something to write home about. **

It means that although I did get to stick some new pins in the map; I didn’t get take as much time to write.

I grew up in what is known as a snow belt, so this snow isn’t a shocker by any means. But for people living in places like Singapore, Quezon City and Delray Beach this would be the picture to represent at least a couple of hundred words.

People have asked about winter, what it’s like and the snow, so I thought I would take time to share a brief post.

For the most part, winter can be like this. Large storm systems blowing in much like thunder or tropical storms. Today it began in the morning and this picture was taken at the end of the afternoon.  About 35cm fell by then (about 14″) and as it’s wrapping up to be a total of 50cm (or 19.5″) by the time it’s over tonight.

What this means is that in order to go to work, or even the store, you have consider that you have to shovel out. The car you parked outside work this morning, yes you’ll have to shovel it too because this is most likely what it’ll look like.  You never get used to it, you wont like it and it’s not something you ever look forward too. Especially if it’s bitterly cold. And dark.

In fact we’ve been pretty lucky today in that it’s been a very cold week. We woke up on Saturday to see our thermometer at -40C the magic number where farenheit and celsius meet. Cold weather like this is generally dry and makes the snow light and fluffy. Closer to freezing, it becomes waterlogged and heavy; weighs a ton and is real hard to move. The bright side is these storms rarely last long and the snowfall will end by tonite. That leaves only a relatively light shovelling tommorrow.

If you can imagine, there are winters and places in Canada that can get nearly this much snow every day. Say maybe 30cm (about 12″) for several days in a row. And occasionally this will go on for a week or two. It’s unusual for it to snow like this for more than three or four days a couple of times during the winter and would only be considered unusually heavy if a bunch of these storms followed one another for the better part of a month. One or two storms do not a bad winter make.

Lately the media in search of attention has made a great deal out of these storms. The fact is that municipalities in this country have relinquished their desire to clear snow.

As far as I know, Montreal and many parts of Quebec are the only places that still take clearing roads seriously. In Ottawa, a city with a moderate snow, plowing may not even start on many roads until 10cm (4″) or more has accumulated or 10-16 hours AFTER the storm has started depending on which one is worse. This can be read both ways and is, and the majority of roadways may not be plowed for 24-36 hours. It’s a bit of a disgrace, but makes great news. And everyone has something to twitter about.

I hope one day to post pictures of a heavy winter, but for now this snapshot will do. Sorry for those who find this pedestrian and boring. I’ve only become aware through corresponding this past year just how much daily life we take for granted. And how it could be fascinating for someone else. Meanwhile I hope it’s more pins and letters tomorrow and the postbox will be filled.

And in case no one has mentioned it, snow clearing in Montreal should be on everyone’s bucket list.  After a storm it’s all done in 36 hours.With regular swipes every couple of weeks.

The link below for those who are interested, is a residential street close to where I used to live. Filmed just 3 weeks ago. Although it’s longish and I didn’t add the commentary (bad language alert) it is worth watching to the end. Especially if you’ve never seen this kind of thing.

** (note)  I’m not being unkind to people west of the Rockies. It’s already complicated to explain Canada’s regions. That we’re so big and really diverse. It isn’t personal, and I don’t pretend to ignore you, it’s just you’re so different and I know you’re big kids and able to speak for yourself.

Incowrimo 2016: these 20 plus people would love to recieve your correspondence

SnailMail

I’ll be the first to admit, sometimes my brain is not the fastest thing on two wheels and some things can take time before properly muddling themselves out. But it still isn’t halfway through the month (barely) and this means it’s far from being too late.

I have added a link to the column to the right that redirects to both the official Incowrimo site (here) and one to the people who have signed up for this year. And get this – under the list left over from last year – which is I admit, a real vote of confidence and pretty tricky thing in itself.  (that would be here)

If you visit the second of these two links and scroll on down to the bottom..  just above the comments section is a ‘Sort by Best’ option that can be changed to ‘Newest’. Scroll down a ways and you will find the following post.

incowrimo-list

 

 

If you choose ‘see more’ at the bottom.. you’ll find the list of people signed up for this year.

Just above the comments it says, “If your name is not on the above list but you would also love to receive InCoWriMo 2015 correspondence, feel free to use the comment section below to add your name and mailing address (for all the world to see).”   Change this to 2016 and it means that if you too would like to recieve letters, putting your address in the comments will add it to this years list and you can get started on your own correspondence right away.

I know this is all pretty pedestrian, but it’s all there is, and until the site undergoes a revision so far it seems a reasonable and convivial way to make it work :)

incowrimo 2016 address list

Last year, when I first encountered Incowrimo in January 2015, I was worried about who I could write. I certainly couldn’t think of 28 addresses and the whole thing seemed a little bit much.

Oddly enough it turned out not to be a problem. There was this page where 29 people claimed they’d love to get my letters.  Great I thought, this makes it easy.

Below there seemed to be others who said they were happy to get my letters too. ( 1,176 comments )

In addition were plenty of addresses tucked firmly in the middle of comments, and in the replies to those comments, and the comments on the replies.

Daily I grew to love this page, and a year later I’m happy so see it continues to grow. For a month I checked it faithfully every morning and often checking again in later in the afternoon.

There was always lots of cheerful encouragement, banter and suggestions. And some interesting postal problems solved.

I looked forward to finding new contacts, copying down the addresses and sending out a letter. The result that many of them now are friends.

The context is helpful and useful, especially in writing to someone you don’t know.  But now I’m longing for a single page where I can easily cross check and update my address book as new entries continue to arrive.

As the comment page has grown longer, I find the addresses harder to track and manage, and I’m supposing I’m not alone. I keep hoping this dreamed up page will appear. But it’s looking more sensible to do it myself.

Before I recklessly plow on, I’ve put together a survey I hope you’ll take.

Based on the interest and results, I believe an “Incowrimo 2016 list of people who would like to receive your correspondence” could materialize with your go-ahead and help.

The link below opens in a new page,  I’ll post the results here very soon.

 

< Incowrimo 2016 address survey >

 

 

 

Postal Rates – letters are more expensive than out of season grapes.

I don’t know what led me to do this, mostly a suggestion on ‘A World of Snailmail’; but I’ve always wondered a little bit about what people around the world pay for postage compared to here in Canada.

When I saw that someone was paying 5 Rupees for Local and 25 Rupees for International letters in India and in Canada it’s closer to 40 and 120 Rupees for the same, it makes me wonder about a number of things. And that’s good.

There is something that has puzzled me over the years, and to which I have never heard a good answer. I can buy 450g of grapes this week for 2.50 Canadian dollars. This price includes the cost of growing, harvesting, packaging and shipping them 8,000km (roughly 6,000 miles), getting them to the store, stocking, advertising and selling them.

And yet if I were to write on a piece of paper, fold it in half and put it in an envelope, it would cost me the same to mail it anywhere outside the country. Even though it weighs less than 20g.

Anyway,  here’s an overview of what we are currently paying in CANADA in January 2016.

Domestic Rates

for letters less than 30g     .85 CAD   .56 Euro   .61 USD
for letters 30 – 50g   1.20 CAD   .78 Euro   .86 USD

to the United States

for letters less than 30g   1.20 CAD     .78 Euro     .86 USD
for letters 30 – 50g   1.80 CAD   1.18 Euro   1.28 USD

International

for letters less than 30g   2.50 CAD   1.63 Euro   1.78 USD
for letters 30 – 50g   3.60 CAD   2.35 Euro   2.55 USD

Below is a breakdown of what our rates here convert to in several other countries. I mostly chose places I recieve and send mail to regularly just to compare. Although it’s a bit much, personally I found it kind of interesting. (note: the two prices are for letters up to 30g and letters 30-50g)

Country                  Domestic
                        US             International
Australian Dollar       .85          1.20      1.20           1.80      2.51             3.62
Brazilian Real     2.45          3.46      3.46          5.20      7.21           10.38
Chinese Yuan     3.98          5.62      5.63          8.43     11.71           16.86
Indian Rupee   41.00        58.00    58.00        87.00   121.00         174.00
South Korean Won 730.00     1031.00 1031.00     1546.00 2147.00     3091.00
Malaysian Ringgit     2.50         3.54      3.54           5.31       7.38         10.62
Phillippine Peso   20.00        41.00    41.00         61.00     85.00       122.00
Russian Ruble   46.00       65.00    65.00        97.00    135.00       195.00
Singapore Dollar       .86          1.22      1.22            1.83       2.54           3.65