This will come as a shock to you folks, but I rarely read other people’s fountain pen reviews. The formatting most reviewers seem to strive for is one of professional consistency, which I always found quite jarring, as it’s hardly pertinent to the why of the purchase.
Humans: We buy pens cos they real pretty. That’s the bias, and yet there is this push for structural data within a hobby that is chaotic and soul driven.
It’s fucking weird.
The odd thing is, this professional/clean cut format doesn’t garner much of a response for people. Much like reading a standard auto magazine, it leaves you feeling merely thankful for whatever new tidbit of info you learnt as opposed to the visceral response Top Gear induces in its viewers. It’s a messy clusterfuck of fuckery and people like it, but more importantly, I am 100% sure the presenters of Top Gear have more fun doing reviews compared to the industry standard of algorithmic performance numbers + relative cost = value out of 5 stars crap.
I want to be excited to see pretty photographs and have a mishmash of opinions thrown at me. Contrarian biases are inherently healthy because they force you to see a subject in a different light.
This is a good thing.
This is why I really dig Leigh Reyes’ stylish lack of style. She just doodles, takes pretty photographs, and forces her personality through her work with the subtlety of a sledgehammer to the face. Judging by the reception it gets, clearly it resonates with people.
I think this aspect of communication (being honest about our biases and lack of consistency) is inherently more healthy, both for the reader and the reviewer. I scribbled a few reviews over the past 2 months, but due to formed habits (habits are the worst) I followed a format(ish) which left me feeling ambivalent towards my own blog.
One should never feel “eugh” about writing online.
I absolutely despise enumerating statistics to my fellow scribblers (this pen has a diameter of 0.482 mm and blah blah blah) because, frankly, beyond big or small I just don’t give a shit. Ergonomics with pens fall under comfy and not comfy, and I list *my* reasons why.
From there, it’s the readers prerogative to superimpose their own biases on my thoughts.
On another note, I don’t want to use the Hobonichi as the reference paper for fountain pen reviews anymore, because I don’t like that planner and using it offends me. So from now on its the Midori.
Until I change my mind to something else.
I don’t want to be cautious about my opinions. Sometimes I change my mind and sometimes I stick to my guns. I don’t use passive language because I am not a passive person – especially when talking about the shiny things I love.
If I think a pen is fucking garbage then I think a pen is fucking garbage.
But too often people mute their own opinions and feelings because they are worried about the repercussions, especially as more people read and mayhaps disagree. There is a sense that the fountain pen hive mind must be adhered to – Noodler’s can do no wrong, Nemosine is good value (lol) and Modern Chinese pens have consistency issues (fully automated manufacturing has poor consistency? OK mate, enjoy your KoolAid).
And folks, it’s totally fine to disagree, but as for me – I will write more and actively fight against my own impulses concerning social cohesion and formatting.
Because adherence and repetition makes me miserable.
I know this is a super opinionated point of view and I am sure for every messy person like me, there are at least a dozen scribblers who like a very clean format.
But like, whatever man. That’s just your opinion.
Back in the day when there were actual paper computer magazines, I was a contributing editor to several of them, and wrote for a few more. The rule was to never publish a negative review. If the product sucked, we just ignored it (although I got paid for the evaluation). There was the memorable monitor that only worked when it faced west, the keyboard that killed every PC it was attached to…the reviews never made it into print.
I suspect that a similar set of circumstances applies to most of the professional pen blogs, that is, the blogs where the reviewer is sent stuff to talk about. I don’t put much faith in these reviews. As you said, the pen either writes well or it doesn’t, and it’s physical appeal is totally subjective. I buy pens based on personal experience, although it’s fun to read how other people react to a particular pen or ink.
In any case, I frankly loved this, um, rant?, and agree 100% with your sentiments.
Thomas Xavier says
My trust in paper mags is shattered 😉 thanks for sharing that Vorpal, very interesting. I wonder if this is like an “unspoken arrangement” between manufacturers and the scribblers or if they have contracts set up?
I was under contract with two magazines, but there was a spoken rule about negative reviews. Computer Shopper, for example, just didn’t do them. In those days, we had editors who reviewed, critiqued, rewrote, and, well, acted as editors. Bloggers don’t have editors, so they can set their own rules.
The Economical Penster says
And you didn’t even mention the fact that most pen bloggers are getting paid to write their “unbiased” reviews whether they realize it or not. The reason why you never see a “this pen is fucking garbage” review is because no one’s going to bite the hand that feeds them.
Thomas Xavier says
Interesting, I haven’t noticed any “sponsored” posts but then again I don’t scrutinise other people’s blogs- certainly if they are being paid from a manufacturer for a post- they should disclose it.
Even if they maintain that they (try to) keep objectivity.
The lack of criticism in the community is frankly bizarre- I have handled maybe around 50’ish Jinhao nibs and they were always consistently smooth out of the box and yet sometimes you read about someone getting a $100+ pen that “needs adjustment” and magically that isn’t a big deal. What the fuck.
Thanks for dropping by mate, I always appreciate it.