Hello there! ^-^)/

My name is Maksim and I am the creator of GetAPenPal - a social network for finding penpals from around the world!:D

Link: www.getapenpal.netProof: https://imgur.com/a/zRnRJhO

======= A bit about why I started this project =========I have been writing letters to people from around the world ever since I can remember, and I love every aspect of it.

I get a kick out of checking my mailbox every day. That's because I know the letter I receive will be packed with insights about people's lives, languages and culture. That each letter is an opportunity to broaden my horizons.

Writing letters gives me time to re-think, organize, and structure my thoughts before laying them out on paper. This slower way of communicating is like an oasis in a desert of instant communication. Not getting interrupted gives people permission to open themselves up more and creates a more honest channel. The fact that someone had to invest time and energy into crafting and sending a letter makes me feel important and listened to.

I am naturally shy and introverted, but penpalling helped me get over my shyness and gave me a chance to meet people from around the world. People I would otherwise never cross paths with.

There is one friendship I am particularly proud of. One that goes two or three years back. One that lead to us meeting in person after so many years of exchanging letters ^-^

These letters & stamps are physical means of capturing that present moment, to which you can come back to and read years later.

This was my attempt to put in words what penpalling is for me.

I am so lucky to have had a chance to meet so many amazing people and form such strong bonds. But I would be even happier if more people could do so too. Since I am a programmer in love with penpalling, confined by quarantine, noticing the need for this all around me... I decided to put my projects on hold and to build a website where people can meet penpals easily all over the world. The website I still in active development and will be for a long time.

But most importantly, I built GetAPenPal with all these points in mind.

From the ground up, the website is made to facilitate thoughtful conversations and meaningful friendships.

Ask away!:D

============ UPDATE =============
This was an amazing experience! I did not expect it to blow up this much! Thank you all for trying it out!I just noticed that GMail locked my account since it sent so many notification emails and verification emails ahaha So I assume the registration won't work till the next day, not sure If I can really do anything about that! Just a heads up :P

Feel free to leave more questions I will try to respond to them still. I am still feeling a bit overwhelmed and I am trying to see if I can do anything about GMail.. :/

============ UPDATE #2 =============
Got GMail working again! It should all work now xD

Comments: 269 • Responses: 51  • Date: 

BETOSCORPION92246 karma

How secure is the page? Can you prevent an older person from interacting with a minor by having bad intentions?

maxhacker11228 karma

Right now we only have the option of a user manually blocking any account by visiting their profile and blocking them. We plan on adding options to block adults and countries.

amithien116 karma

That would be a great feature to roll out. I work at an American school in SA and pen-paling feels like a really great idea for our Humanities and English classes however I worry about security with the younger ones.

maxhacker1187 karma

At one point I wanted this to be only for schools, like a closed website. I might still consider adding like a safe/school zone or something. But I am not sure how that would work and how it would go with schools.
But If you have any ideas or are willing to maybe form a collaboration with you, your school and my website, I would love to hear about it!:D

eatgeeksleeprepeat10 karma

You could create an organizational structure where a teacher makes an account and then can provision student accounts. They would have access to read and oversee all student communications before they are sent or received. You could ensure that it's only for schools by requiring a ".edu" email for teacher accounts. I'm sure there are other sites that have other ways to ensure it's for education only so there are probably other ideas out there.

maxhacker1110 karma

I like this idea a lot! Will take it into consideration definitely:) But I do find it a bit ivasive if the teacher can read everything ?

dingleberry8572 karma

Love the idea. I keep trying to search for other woodworkers, but the filter doesn't pare anyone down, and nobody has woodworking listed. Every search gives me the same 4 or 5 people. Am I doing something wrong?

Edit: I think I may just be the first woodworker!

maxhacker1150 karma

It could be because there is a small number of users like botCloudfox said:P But I might have to look into that later, I feel a bit overwhelmed right now:P Did not expect this to blow up like this! haha I hope it can support all this traffic :PP Thanks for mentioning it! Will look into it asap.

dingleberry8513 karma

Not a problem at all. Keep up the good work. Hopefully we didn't give you the Reddit hug of death.

maxhacker115 karma

Well, it didn't die yet:P I guess all that hard work is useful to people here, glad people find value in my work!:D Makes me super happy to continue working:D

melbuddhi67 karma

What do you think about the app Slowly?

maxhacker1159 karma

It's a wonderful app!:D I used it for a while! The messaging system on my website works much the same way. We just have additional ways of interacting through forums, feeds and profiles. And instead of avatar here users upload profile pics:D

ajchann12357 karma

I met my SO through Slowly, and having over 100k words between each other before we even saw each others' faces was really the perfect way to meet someone IMO -- falling in love with the mind and heart before how they look and so on

maxhacker1120 karma

That's such a lovely story!:D So happy for you:D I completely agree with what you said here.

PluggedSG64 karma

What’s your difference with a site like interpals?

maxhacker1177 karma

Awesome question!:D
There are a few key differences:
-Our website is mobile-friendly
-We have forums and blogs
-We communicate via digital letters instead of instant chat:D
-We have a news feed, similar to Facebook

I hope I adequately answered your question:D

Red5point152 karma

aren't "digital letters" just emails?

maxhacker1185 karma

Yes! You could think of it that way but with delays:D So It takes the letter a while to travel from one location to the other, simulating the exchange of letters:D

ReactorOperator20 karma

I guess I'm failing to see the benefit. So it is just as personal as an email without any of the speed.

maxhacker1157 karma

My goal is not to be the next Facebook:P It's supposed to be more like a niche network, not everyone is supposed to like it:)

a32x1u42z818 karma

Is the time based on distance?

maxhacker1156 karma

Yes it is:D But on approximate distance. We calculate the distance based on the countries you input during registration:D And it also has a bit of a random factor to it.

aleu4453 karma

That actually sounds really nice! I take a while to reply to friends, having a little break in between messages would make it so I wouldn’t have to keep explaining why I don’t reply instantly

maxhacker1158 karma

Exactly! haha One of the reasons I built this! haha We live in an age where it all has to happen instantly otherwise people get offended :P

MrPotato275344 karma

I’m probably late to the party, but can American Sign Language be added to the language list?

maxhacker1135 karma

Will do!:D Thanks for the idea!

MrPotato27539 karma

Super cool idea for a website by the way! I signed up!

maxhacker1110 karma

Glad to have you on board!:D I hope you like it here!

Mr_Viper21 karma

The website is free. My immediate first reaction is, if you're not paying for a product, you ARE the product.

I work in ecommerce so I know how things go. Call me cynical, but there's no such thing anymore as making a website like this out of the goodness of your heart. I mean this could totally be a wonderful project you've worked on for a while, but it would be very surprising if you're doing this and not thinking at least a little bit about generating revenue.

And when it's not obvious how revenue is generated... It can make people uncomfortable.

No judgement at all BTW - this is just reality.

So, how are you monetizing this site? Do you sell user data? Or are you planning on having a paid model in the future?

maxhacker1124 karma

Ads. That's about it really. I don't have some huge plans honestly. If I can make enough with ads to pay the servers and maybe have some on the side, I am fine with that. Does this sound reasonable or am I missing something here?

yahel1420 karma

Asking as a teen, what stops a 40 year old from registering as a 15 year old for example?

maxhacker1127 karma

Valid concerns! Right now, not much really. But that will all change once we start rolling out identity verification:) I hope to minimize it, but honestly I don't think there is a single website out there that does that well, so please don't have high hopes:P The best thing we can do is to be careful with who we exchange information and how much! Also if you have any ideas or suggestions, I am more than happy to hear them out!:)

guyofearth17 karma

is there an android app?

maxhacker1124 karma

Hello!:D We don't have an android app yet, but we sure plan on making one soon if we see people are interested:)

MineGrayTV9 karma

I for one would be very interested, especially if it gets a lot of user retention before and after the apps release!!

maxhacker115 karma

That's good to hear!:D Will definitely keep that in mind! If we do make an app would you like to beta test it?:D

MineGrayTV3 karma

I would love to! I've got a decent phone if performance was an issue, being a Samsung Galaxy A20

maxhacker115 karma

That's super cool!:D Will keep that in mind, thanks:) Will write to you when the time comes haha

NightOperator12 karma

[removed]

maxhacker114 karma

Can someone elaborate on what makes this spam?:/ I thought I was following all the rules and stuff?

Biteysdad7 karma

Nobody has ever used an AMA for self promotion or to sell something. It's never happened.

Fuck these pedantic losers who think Reddit is what it was supposed to be 10 years ago. It's a commercial vessel and a business. It's almost like social media.

Carry on dude. Market yourself and don't worry about pissing off the haters. If they had a good idea they would be on here just as quick.

maxhacker114 karma

Thanks for the support, I really appreciate it!:)

kbaran01059 karma

What made you want to make this website/service?

maxhacker1116 karma

Thanks, great question!:D

I originaly had the idea about a year ago while I was working as a game developer. At the time I was using other websites but they lacked many things. They had old designs and were not mobile friendly and they had daily limits on messages, forcing people to buy premium.

I am also a fan of slower communication, and I thought it would be a cool idea to try and build such a system.

So during quarantine I thought it might be a good idea to give it a shot. It felt like people needed deep and meaningful connections now, more than ever.

By the way, the website you see here is my 7'th try, and it is still a work in progress. xD

I hope I adequately answered your question?:D

sevenspell5 karma

How did you go from conceptualizing your idea to executing it? Any lessons learnt there and is there anything you would have done differently in hindsight? What drives you everyday to push this forward? :)

maxhacker117 karma

Such good questions!:D

I think one of the main lessons learned is to not be afraid to ask for advice and to seek out mentors early on:) These people can help you accelerate both the development and growth of the things you're working on.
Another thing I did wrong, in the beginning, is that I wanted to build everything from scratch instead of leveraging tools and plugins:D
Also marketing is very important, you can have a great product, but If no one is there to use it, it is futile:D So don't be afraid to reach out to people and ask them to try it out:D
I literally messaged thousands of people on Instagram to try the website out:D
I also think being a perfectionist should be put aside from time to time, sometimes it's just important to push it out into the world and see if they like it:D

I hope you could pull some value from that:D If I come up with any more stuff I will reply:D Also feel free to ask me to elaborate on stuff if needed!

It can be hard at times to stay motivated, especially when I see all the stuff that needs to be fixed, improved and added!:P The feedback I get surely helps:D And I also have a world map where I plot all the new countries that the website is getting users from, it's fun to imagine that a programmer with a vision and a 100$ laptop can connect so many people:D

I hope I answered it well!:D

Heylo3334 karma

I wanted to sign up but putting in my birthdate is a process... why make it like this?

maxhacker113 karma

Can you please elaborate? I didn't quite understand the question?:P We ask for the birthday so that people can use it in the search filter, that's literally all it is:P

sorites3 karma

Do you like bolding things?

maxhacker112 karma

I wanted to bold out things I hoped people would resonate with:)

jaydashnine3 karma

Is there any difference between this and the Slowly app, aside from being a website vs an app?

maxhacker113 karma

Yes there are a few key differences: Forums, blogs, feed and profiles. I don't think slowly has those. Also letters take a bit less time to travel here, no more than maybe a day or so. I think I wrote a better answer somewhere else, my brain is dying right now:D

real_BernieSanders3 karma

I know I’m a little late to the party here, but I don’t quite understand. Is it all digital or is there also an option for physical paper letters? I recently started living on my own and it’s mildly disappointing to usually come home to an empty mailbox, so I’ve been thinking of using some service like this to find a pen pal. I think it would be fun to actually write letters to people. Thanks for doing this!

maxhacker114 karma

It is very much digital on my website, however nothing is stopping people from exchanging addresses and so on at some point. However please be careful about who you give that info to, get to know them well.

tactical_papaya3 karma

I've never had a penpal before. What do people usually talk about in their letters?

maxhacker113 karma

I actually have like a mini blog on the website, I have a few posts with ideas for letters:D Maybe it will help you out?

henryhooverville2 karma

This is a great idea! Do people ever complain about handwriting to you?

maxhacker112 karma

People tell me I have "printer handwriting" haha Don't know if that is good or not!

cayfifa36022 karma

Is there a way to receive notifications when I receive a letter?

maxhacker113 karma

Yes there is it should work by default.. however I am having difficulties with it since there are many people right now haha I did not expect this much traffic, expect it tomorrow to work, I am working on it all.

PrepShadowstep2 karma

First question that pops to mind is encryption: how safe is data transferred this way?

maxhacker112 karma

Everything is encrypted, except posts, since they are publicly visible. Letters, passwords and things of that nature are encrypted. That was one of my main goals with this, to make it as secure as possible. I am also using Laravel which has built in tools for these kinds of things. If you look at competitor websites, some don't even have a valid certificate, let alone something else.

dajna2 karma

It doesn't work for me, is the site down?

maxhacker111 karma

Not sure, seems to be working for me? I know I had some problems where certain countries were unable to access it, I don't know why that is. Can you DM me your country?

SuperSpaceFrog2 karma

Is the hobby list hard coded to the page, or are you pulling it from a DB?

maxhacker111 karma

It's pulled from a DB. Is there a problem with it? :/

codingUnit2 karma

Great idea, but what profit have you made from this? Also how do you plan to stay relevant after quarantine ends?

maxhacker113 karma

Thanks a lot!:D Very little, so far maybe a few bucks, since I added ads just yesterday, I don't expect much to be honest, maybe enough to pay the servers haha
I think it could continue after quarantine too if people like it. I guess only time will tell! Can't really say anything now haha

uwillnotseemeposting2 karma

Aya, I signed up! I'd like to know, will there be an Android app soon? Could be pretty dope y'know

uwillnotseemeposting2 karma

Oh and also, i'd like to know if you'll add the "science" interest soon? That would be nice, but it's not like it was urgent :)

maxhacker115 karma

Oh wow! I had no idea science was not on there, will need to fix that one asap!:P haha
Thanks for noticing that! About the app, If this goes well and I see a lot of interest, then yes, I will make an app pretty soon!:D

marg_armenta2 karma

Hi there! Not really a question but I just want to thank you for creating this platform. I've always wanted to experience having a penpal and just exchange letters with someone the old-fashioned way. The only problem was where to find one. It's fateful that I stumbled upon this AMA post, now I can actually have a pen pal albeit virtual. So thank you!

For the question: What keeps you busy during this quarantine period?

maxhacker111 karma

That's so awesome! So glad to hear that!:D It keeps me inspired!:) I hope this website helps you with that! If you ever have some feedback or ideas feel free to write to me!:D There is also a feedback button down the bottom:)

Well this website was the thing that kept me very busy:D Day and night, I stumbled across so many problems and difficulties trying to get it to work:D

MartyMcFly_jkr2 karma

Would you, any time in the future, consider adding a video or audio chat option if it already doesn't exist? I know you don't want this site to be turned into the next Omegle but I'm just asking.

Also: I just made an account.

maxhacker112 karma

I might, but I am not sure yet, will definitely have to think about it:P Thanks for the idea though!:D Awesome! Glad to have you on:D

yackofalltradescoach2 karma

Is most of your traffic just creepy old dudes?

maxhacker117 karma

Good question!:D hahaah

Actually thats one of my main concerns!

So far so good, I think a vast majority of users are legit. They are mostly handpicked for now. We are still quite small though, only about 350 members from over 70 countries.

I have in mind a verification system that I plan on inplementing soon, in order to minimize those kinds of things:D

So i guess the short answer is - not right now, and I hope not in the future either:D

I hope I adequately answered your question:D

Orcwin5 karma

What kind of verification have you considered, and what do you think would work and/or be practical to use? And what would you say doesn't work, or isn't practical?

I've wondered about these things myself, in the theoretical case that I'd ever get off my ass and build a service. I don't think I've really managed to find the ideal solution so far.

maxhacker111 karma

Your question requires a bit more thought:D And I am feeling a bit overwhelmed right now haha Will answer it soon!:D

Boron201 karma

[deleted]

maxhacker114 karma

I was waiting for this question!:D haha No in fact I am anything but a hacker. When i was 11 I had a youtube channel and that's what I called it, I wanted to sound cool haha It just stuck with me from then on, I use that username everywhere xD I know it's dumb and immature!:P

handyandyt1231 karma

Opinions on penpalworld?

maxhacker113 karma

It's a great website!:D I think it was the first website of this kind that I used, met a lot of interesting people over there:)

my_frog_bourns1 karma

Hey I am probably a little late to this but anyways. Could Manga and anime be addet as an interest?

maxhacker113 karma

Of course!:D That's a great idea!:D I actually love both haha Will add them soon:)

crank1off1 karma

[deleted]

maxhacker113 karma

No, it is completely free, the website earns from ads. What do you mean with the second question? I didnt quite understand it :P

cayfifa36021 karma

Why do letters take a few hours to arrive? Since I'm under the impression that emails are more or less instant (not sure if true or not).

maxhacker116 karma

The idea is to simulate letter exchanges and to promote slower communication, more thoughtful instead of instant messages.That was sort of the idea. I hope it makes sense:D