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There’s a book coming out in December

posted by Jason Kottke   Sep 07, 2005

There’s a book coming out in December based on PostSecret, a web site that displays postcards with secrets written on them sent in by readers. I heard something long ago about the site not actually using reader submissions, at least in the beginning before it got popular enough to get the quality of entries that they post…did anyone actually verify or debunk that rumor?

Update: PostSecret proprietor Frank Warren responds and John Nick effectively explains how the site was bootstrapped from an offline event.

Reader comments

beerzieSep 07, 2005 at 3:13PM

Don’t know at all if it is true, but it would be somewhat of a disappointment if it was. Sort of speaks to the whole issue of how true what you read online is. I mean, how many bloggers warp the truth or just make up stuff? And how much does it matter?

staceySep 07, 2005 at 3:14PM

i’ve had the same wonderings myself - i check postsecret every week and, you know, some of them look like b.s… and they’re all so artistically rendered. i’m curious myself. can we have snopes check into this?

richSep 07, 2005 at 4:43PM

you know, some of them look like b.s… and they’re all so artistically rendered

But that kept consistent throughout. Two things come to mind: first, that many of them might very well be b.s., but come from contributors so their veracity cannot be determined, and second that they’re all so artistically rendered because the people maintaining the project don’t publish the boring ones. Newspapers and photo exhibitions also exhibit consistency in that regard but no-one suspects that the editors and gallery owners are making up all of the content themselves.

fangsSep 07, 2005 at 4:51PM

I heard something a while ago about JK being a rather large perl script. Can anyone confirm?

jakeSep 07, 2005 at 5:18PM

theres a music video on mtv that has all those post cards on them. maybe its some viral marketing or leftovers from the production? i wish i remembered the name of the video but i cant watch mtv for more than 10 seconds now in my old age. :-p

VaughnSep 07, 2005 at 5:23PM

I’m pretty sure it was the All American Rejects.

Donnie JeterSep 07, 2005 at 5:23PM

I mean, how many bloggers warp the truth or just make up stuff? And how much does it matter?

If bloggers were to consistently warp the truth, it would discredit them as a viable news source - I think as a whole, the blogosphere is pretty honest.

beerzieSep 07, 2005 at 5:29PM

I don’t know if there is anything there that can confirm or debunk PostSecret, but there was a NPR story about the site.

And Donnie, I agree. I guess I meant more “personal journal” type blogs, which are largely on the honor system, and whose facts are pretty unverifiable anyway.

Ben SpicerSep 07, 2005 at 5:35PM

Yes, it was the All American Rejects. The postcard was sold on ebay.

The money went to the Kristin Brooks Hope Center

Frank WarrenSep 07, 2005 at 7:08PM

Hi, I am Frank Warren the PostSecret blogger. I get about 350 postcards every week so what is posted is a very select few. Each card is authentic - true is for all of us to decide. Someone email me once saying, “Even if the sender does not know the secret is true - it is real”.

Thousands of the actual postcards will be on exhibit soon in Georgetown, New York and Toronto. Come look for yourself.

And if you are still skeptical, here is a challenge. Send me an email, come to my house, and look at my collection. If you are not convinced they are authentic I will give you $100.00. If you are convinced then you make a $100.00 donation to the Kritin Brooks Hope Center.

Be well,

LeighaSep 07, 2005 at 8:02PM

Real? Yeah, I buy into it for a few reasons: the site specifically asks people to “be creative” and let the postcard be their “canvas” (those wacky artists are pretty adept at sharing stuff and making it look good); and varied Levels of Secret are presented - from “I shave my face, and I’m a girl!” to “my mother killed my father long before he killed himself” - that speak to each individual’s take on reality and what, to them, constitutes a secret worth keeping.

Eric JSep 07, 2005 at 8:29PM

If they are real, and maybe they are, has anyone seen them anywhere else outside of the PostSecret site? If a postcard submission is made, it would seem logical that said submitter would be proud of that work and post it elsewhere, even anonymously. It wouldn’t be hard to start a similar site (anonymously) and post your own postcards, including the one(s) that got “approved” by Frank Warren.

Also, can anyone claim ownership (anonymously or not) of any of the featured postcards?

RachelSep 07, 2005 at 9:08PM

So why do so many of the cards have such suspiciously similar handwriting? Especially in the beginning?

jtntSep 07, 2005 at 11:09PM

I heard the guy get interviewed awhile ago on NPR, right after the site got popular, and he seemed pretty genuine about the whole deal. The beginnings of the site seemed pretty organic. And it’ not like he’s been running Google ads the whole time - or ever - to make money off of it. Hell, even if he is making money off it now, good for him. And even if he manufactured some of the first ones. It’s a lot better than many of the other blogs/sites that make money for their publisher.

John NickSep 08, 2005 at 10:01AM

Let’s answer Jason Kottke’s original rationale for skepticism:

“…before it got popular enough to get the quality of entries”

PostSecret began as an art installation at Artomatic in Washington DC. Artomatic is a huge every-couple-years exhibition that includes as many as 1000 different artists. It takes place in vacated office buildings and schools. Last year, the year PostSecret was featured, it was in an abandoned children’s museum.

The PostSecret installation had big stacks of blank postcards and people attending Artomatic (including the hundreds of artists prowling the place) were encouraged to submit.

I don’t know Frank Warren, but I was blown away by how many people I saw at his installation, submitting truly excellent work.

So, no. Since that’s where this project had its big debut (and Frank, please correct me if I’ve gotten any of this wrong), it’s COMPLETELY believeable that he was able to get off the ground with a big gorgeous bang.

jkottkeSep 08, 2005 at 10:58AM

PostSecret began as an art installation at Artomatic in Washington DC.

Aha! Ok, now it makes sense…I didn’t know the site was bootstrapped by an offline event. PostSecret is certainly popular enough now to maintain the high quality the entries have, but the quality of the early entries was puzzling.

AnnonymousSep 20, 2005 at 6:39PM

As far as them sounding like bs, that’s just for people who’ve never felt that way. I personally don’t share the sentiments that some of those postsecret contributors. But I do share a few of them. And I know a lot of people who share “secrets” that I don’t. I would be surprised if they weren’t real

AnonymousSep 25, 2005 at 4:55PM

I’ve had a postcard on it, but it’s not there anymore and I can’t find an old link =(

But it said, “I loved you more when I didn’t know you loved me.”

This thread is closed to new comments. Thanks to everyone who responded.