The Process

The process for the 2020-2021 season card is very similar to the previous season. It's tried and true.

  1. Taking photos throughout the year

    Taking pictures of Roxy the dog is the first step in the process. It happens all year. Getting Roxy to cooperate with all the photos, well, not so much.

  2. Getting the domain setup

    The physical card depends on the domain for the QR code printed on the card being setup, available and pretty much definitely set in stone.

  3. Getting the initial site up

    After the domain exists, it should have some landing content on it so that it is known to work on most systems and nothing broke. Sometimes those Let's Encrypt settings can throw you for a loop.

  4. Laying the photos out

    I use the Vistaprint 5x7 horizontal PSD template to initialize the card's design.

    In the past, I have used collage layout tools, but as I repeat below, there's no algorithm here, it's all hand crafted.

  5. Annotating the backs

    On the same physical cards, I have to add a small photo legend of Roxy the dog doing her daily dog activities. Likewise, I need to set up the QR code on the side and make sure everything looks fine when printed in black and white on the backside.

    Since I am a Creative Cloud pauper, I use Pixelmator Pro. Luckily, it can edit PSD files just fine. Part of the designing the fronts and backs are using dozens of guidelines to provide good looking and systematic spacing between elements. Nothing's done algorithmically here, it's all hand crafted.

  6. Submitting the order

    The validation of the cards is agony. I have to stare at the backs and fronts for many hours. Coming to terms with mistakes and omissions that are not even there. It's pretty difficult. Once the staring contest is completed, I am ready for find a couple to Vistaprint and place my order. These cards have been premium glossy on the fronts and grayscale on the backs.

  7. Writing the letter

    What you are reading here, now, with me today, is the letter. How many commas can someone stuff into a single sentence? At least three. Actually, this is a supplemental text that I wrote while procrastinating on writing the real letter. Not the letter itself.

    What I am supposed to do with this letter is write portions of it throughout the year. It might happen one of these years. More likely, I will run out of things to say and maybe we will need guest writers. What a thing.

    I usuaully draft the letter in Google Docs. This is nice because I write on multiple devices whenever I have some free time. It's also nice because I can rely on more advanced editing tools than markdown, highlighting, comments, and so on. Once it looks OK there, I begin taking portions and integrating them into the site. Then I make a bunch of edits for length, wording, brevity, long-windedness, and other such things. I review the myriad of jokes and decide if they're truly worthy of being shown off.

  8. Taking names

    In order for folks to get their cards, I need their names, addresses, passwords and other details to mail them. Usually I have a Google Form that allows for that collection.

  9. Mailing the cards

    Once it is sufficiently late into the month of December and the physical cards are ready and present, I begin the mailing process. I use the list of recipients and begin printing off address labels in bulk. Once the envelopes are stuffed and labels and stamps are on, they're ready to go in the mail.

  10. Final tweaks

    The best part of having the letter disjoint from the mailer is the ability to make tweaks. Someone could find a typo or a bug. I might realize Part 2 is too short and add some more content. You never know. But this is also the time to rejoice because this is finally done for another year.