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Do you enjoy receiving mail? It's understandable that many people have ambivalent feelings about the post - in these wired days seeming exclusively a harbinger of unwanted (or at best irrelevant) missives such as bills, cease and desist notices, flyers and You May Already Have Won (a lifetime supply of misleading) sweepstakes. So let me redefine my terms.

Do you enjoy receiving mail from human beings? That is, from individual, autonomous people acting of their own initiative and not being paid by some frightening organization to lure you into a false sense of intimacy before hitting you with a hard sell? Even that can be a hard question to answer, many of us never really having experienced postal interactions on such a basis - or if so, only in the once-a-year Christmas card binges some anachronistic traditionalists still maintain.

Since this isn't a two-way forum, let me do away with the rhetorical questions. I enjoy receiving mail - in a way that an instant message or a /me fuzzles p_i somehow fails it makes me feel significant and worthwhile enough to have warranted, deserved and perhaps even earned 5 minutes of someone's time, 60 cents of their hard-earned postage and even a gentle dab of their saliva holding it all together with a stamp and an exotic postmark.

Facilitating the satisfaction of this unlikely need motivated me to initially propose the Everything Mailing Address Registry here we all know and love, thanks to which I can boast a wall full of postcards and envelopes (and mixes, packages, seashells etc.) from more continents than I've ever set foot on. But EMAR is not always enough - for I am sufficiently status-conscious to realise that not everyone here is fortunate enough to enjoy the small mail cult my minor internet celebrity here feeds. Supposing that, like some 98% of the userbase, you are neither among our most prolific, popular nor ubiquitous write-up contributors or catbox personalities. While some wonderful maniacs do what they can to ensure at least one missive to everyone investing a little bit of hope by signing up to the EMAR that someone might someday write them, really - how many years do you have to log here before being able to expect a regular flow of offline delights to your mailing address? (I still don't expect it - I just get pleasantly surprised on a regular basis that people I may never have met still have some interest in talking to me 8)

So picture this: an e2 consisting exclusively of synthesized homenode/EMAR information, the frontpage of which is an arbitrarily-plucked address, the insinuation being if you are in a mailing mood, if you have something to share - send something to this person. Link to a word in your blurb/address (even with our mad square-bracket style - but surpassing us in embracing the external link and image permission), click on the link and get shewn a list of the combined bios and mailing addresses of everyone else who mentions the word. Who are these people? They are total strangers interested in establishing some sort of connection of the old-fashioned style. The only thing you have in common with them is that presumably you both are interested in receiving mail.

The connection is of a glancing, superficial sort - as the name of the site (postcardX - bet you were wondering when I'd get to that?) suggests, this is a place to exchange index cards, cocktail napkin doodles and humble couple-dozen-word capacity postcards... no grand aspirations of regular pen-pal correspondance leading to literary proportions, as that's a kind of commitment many of us are not yet ready to make to complete strangers. This only guarantees you (guarantees? the cynical, weary and drained type unlikely to register for such a venture in the first place, the userbase as it is seems pleased to demonstrate the axiom that it is better to give than to receive) a piece of coloured cardboard from someone you've never met from a place you may well never have been... but it's a foot in the door. Write them back, if you like. Respond to the e-mail address they include on the card, if you prefer to follow 19th-century introductions with 21st-century interactions. Win friends. Influence people.

Nine days ago a human being wrote words on this piece of paper and put it in a box which went on a truck which went on a plane. Today another one picked the paper up from out of the box from out of the truck from out of the plane, and read the words. This sequence of events was inherently meaningless; however, the players are free to employ it as a framework and an excuse to construct some meaning out of their abstracted interaction. In these alienated times, any such excuse is a good one, and this one (in my estimation and experience) unusually so. You may have to try it out before you can agree.


Bonus! My PostcardX Quick Search in the Firefox browser. Not the most useful modification you can make to your computer (actually, that one's probably replacing IE with Firefox) but still handy under certain circumstances. This permits you to look up words in the PostcardX database from outside PostcardX (boogety boogety). Suppose I'm looking at a website about, say, collages. A light goes off in my head: hey, I wonder who on pX is also interested in collage? Maybe we could pass one along or something. Under the OLD system, this means you have to go to http://www.postcardx.net/, then put your search term into the text input box (replacing "meaning") and hit "search." But no longer! We cut out the middleman and eliminate that first step entirely! Now all I need to do is click in my URL bar (or hit CTRL-L), type in (minus quotes) "px collage", enter, and boom! there's my whole list of returns.

How do I do this? you say. Sounds tough. Bet it's expensive. But wait! There's more! Instructions!

    First, bookmark a page. Any page, doesn't matter -- you'll be filling in blanks with strings I provide here. Now go to your Bookmarks tab on the toolbar... Manage Bookmarks... and locate the "dummy" bookmark you just made in the Bookmarks Manager window. Right-click on it, and select "Properties". Now, fill in the blanks after me:
      Name: PostcardX quick search
      Location: http://postcardx.net:8080/search.py?q=%s
      Keyword: px
      Description: Type "px (search term)" in the address bar to research a keyword in the PostcardX.net database.
    Hit "OK". Close the window. Whammo! Magic! Now you can type "px anything you want" in your URL bar to look up "anything you want" in postcardx's database. (In case you didn't figure it out, whatever search terms you include after "px" just get thrown in in place of the "%s" in that beastly URL I gave you to fill in the Location field.)
Does it work in other browsers? Possibly. Can I tell you how to do it there? Not at present. One more reason, however slim, to make the switch to Firefox 8)

E2 editor's note: PostcardX has been defunct since late 2007.

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