Showing posts with label metabitácora. Show all posts
Showing posts with label metabitácora. Show all posts

23 July 2020


Dear friends,

I have changed on a previous post the name of the virus for the scientific name SARS-CoV-2. These are the reasons behind the change.

It all started at the time of writing a text on pens, as I do not write about politics or religion or sports. Typing the draft on the computer I thought the ending would be better with a third reference to the current situation in a way that matched the title. So I added those two words now corrected.

Everything happened very quickly afterwards. I first received some comments demanding the change in the wording. My family background on journalism interpreted that as a form of censorship I could not tolerate. Then someone said I was a racist. Some screenshots of my comments were posted online inciting to keep on commenting. The messages went from demanding to punitive, and the name calling continued—racist and Asian hater. Really? I chose Tokyo as my home, and have been here for almost half my life!

I stopped replying to the comments and that would have been it. However, the situation became even more difficult. A big number of insulting messages from people I do not know arrived on my inbox as a result of the instigation on some platforms. And the campaign was reaching some friends I admire and love, pushing them to cut all contact with me. My efforts to explain my words and my situation had the opposite effect.

The following days were very hard. Is this what Social Media are about? That is not so different to an Inquisitorial process in the 1400s, with the additional element that everybody on Social Media can participate without any repercussion on themselves. Difficult and sleepless days these are.

I am changing those words for two reasons: For the sake of some people who are receiving an unjustifiable pressure because they have not cut ties with me; and to clarify that I never had any intention of slandering or blaming anybody, or hurting anyone’s feelings.

Finally, I want to express my wish that anybody who might be going through a similar experience on Social Media was as lucky as I am. A group of friends and family members have always been by my side. Their support was key to go through the situation. Thanks.

Bruno Taut
Nakano, July 23 2020
etiquetas: metabitácora

24 June 2020

Reliable Information.

Some years ago I wrote about a nominally Spanish pen brand by the name of Presidente. Then, a fellow stylophile in Greece contacted me apropos of a similar pen sold in the Greek market under the name Joker.

A fruitful conversation ensued, and we reached to a couple of tentative conclusions:
– Joker was presumably a Greek company, or based in Greece, as opposed to being Italian, as its advertisement in Greece had suggested.
Hifra, another brand marketing similar pens, was likely to be South African.

From top to bottom, a Joker, a Hifra, and a Presidente. But all of them are, actually, Platinum.

Now, how sure can we be of those conclusions? We can safely say that Presidente was Spanish because there are records fo such a brand registered in Madrid, Spain, in 1959; but we do not know of similar registries in Greece or in South Africa.

However, we have other information—Joker as a brand seems unknown outside Greece and, interestingly enough, in Italy, while there was some Joker ink in Greece as well. Hifra, on its side, seemed like a domestic name in some South African texts. Therefore, in absence of contradicting information I feel that those conclusions were reasonable.

Joker ink, in Greece. Photo by Kostas K.

The problem here is to decide which sources are reliable. And that in a field where most of us are aficionados with no pay, with other obligations, and with not many resources to do any research.

So, who is reliable and who is not?

We are not living in an academic environment and we do not have peer-reviewed journals to publish our findings. Consequently we must rely on the good or bad name each of us created along the years through our contributions to the community. And the rest is up to the receiver.

Some weeks ago, my friend Inky.Rocks published a video on the ink Pilot Blue-black, about which I had spoken on these pages. Inky.Rocks pointed out that this ink is water resistant by reacting with the cellulose in the paper. This claim was challenged on Reddit, and that was good. The problem was that the challenger did not offer any alternative to the behavior of the Pilot ink, nor any reason why Noodler's should be the only maker with cellulose-reacting inks.

What vintage do you prefer for your Blue-black?

Pilot Blue-black ink is water resistant. That I can prove. The sample was one full minute under running water. Some dyes were removed from the iron-gall inks. The modern formulation, cellulose reacting, is remarkably resistant to water.

At the end of the day, the facts are that Pilot Blue-black is a water resistant ink without being iron-gall or pigmented. And that a former Pilot worker, well respected in the Japanese pen community, explained the change in the formulation of the Pilot Blue-black ink in the 1990s to whoever wanted to listen.

Are those arguments conclusive? Certainly not. But they are better than nothing.

And that is why critical sense is so important.

Pilot Capless LS – Pilot Iroshizuku Yama-budo

Bruno Taut
Nakano, June 23rd, 2020
etiquetas: tinta, Presidente, Pilot, Joker, Hifra, Pilot, metabitácora, Platinum

20 April 2020

10 Years

Exactly 10 years ago, on April 20th 2010, I started this blog.

Along this time I have published 659 texts where I tried to describe some old pens and analyze some new ones. I also ranted now and then on the situation of the pen market. I plan to continue doing this—I still enjoy this activity.

A 10-Years nib by Platinum from the mid 1950s.

And I hope to keep on having some readers out there.

Thank you very much for your support over the years.

Pilot Capless 1998 – Akkerman #8 Diep Duinwaterblauw

Bruno Taut
Nakano, April 20th, 2020
etiquetas: metabitácora

28 January 2019

The IG Effect

Some of you might have seen that I have joined the ranks of Instagram (IG). That happened last October. Since then, I have published over 30 posts –30 pics-- with irregular reactions, and I have learned a couple of things.

IG creates a totally new context with new rules. Leigh Reyes made some very interesting remarks on her end-of-the-year recap, and I recommend reading them. I am more naïve, and more illiterate in all things Internet, but I cannot help offering my own observations.

With IG, the already volatile Internet is even more so. On one hand, the contents are not indexed and it is not possible to perform any real search within the IG world. Then comes the very short time during which contents are really active—that is, appearing on the feeds of other users.

My most successful post on IG.

The effect of this strategy, as Leigh Reyes pointed out, is that when we play the IG game we all become brands. The obvious consequence is the need to be present on the feeds and to be liked by others. To satisfy those we need to publish often even if we might publish essentially the same thing. And that because that is what the IG algorithm prioritizes.

Some more random posts of mine.

The lifetime of a post is about 48 hours. After that, it just rests confined to the list of your own posts. Therefore, it is not surprising that IG glorifies the image over the texts. Actually, it despises the texts—everything must be fast and easy to consume, and you consume all that on the go. So, the text editor is awful and the options for making later amendments, limited. But it does not matter—live fast, die young, leave a beautiful corpse...

Instagram works well for advertisement, but not for the calm consumption of information. In more than one sense, IG is incompatible with the slow life of a fountain pen. Incompatible with the way of the pen, the mannenhitsu-dô, 万年筆.

Pilot Petit-1, 1st generation – Pilot Brown

Bruno Taut
Chuo, Janaury 25th 2019
Etiquetas: redes sociales, metabitácora

23 July 2018

A Correction

Yes, a correction to a previous mistake.

On a recent Chronicle I mentioned that a pen decorated by Mr. Iwase had its body made by lathe master Yasuaki Momose. Well that is not correct.

As I have mentioned previously, Mr. Iwase perform his trade on two types of pens. On one hand he uses Western pens, mostly Pelikan and Montblanc, as canvases for his decorative overlays.

A Montblanc 149 and a Pelikan M1000 decorated by Mr. Iwase.

The other activity is more complex: Mr. Iwase gets old –and unfinished— pen bodies, finds the right nib and feed for them, and decorates it with raden (shells) and urushi. And most of those old pens had been made by Mr. Momose, the old master now retired.

The body of this pen is the work of Mr. Yasuaki Momose.

But not all of them. The case of the pen described on May 22nd 2018, the pen body belonged to an old batch of unfinished Yotsubishi pens, made by the company Ishi Shoten.

Let the mistake be corrected.

Kubo-Yotsubishi-Iwase – Platinum Black

Bruno Taut
Nakano, July 22nd 2018
etiquetas: Iwase, Yotsubishi, metabitácora, Momose Yasuaki, maki-e

07 August 2017


Over seven years of writing… I struggle to provide accurate and reliable information. Sometimes, of course, I have made mistakes and I have tried to mend them with additional texts and notes.

However, what is beyond my reach is how readers understand what I had written. I will mention two examples, often repeated:

-- Years ago I wrote about how it was possible to exchange the nib of a Twsbi Diamond 530 —Twsbi’s first model— with a size 5 nib by Pilot.

A Twsbi Diamond 530 with a size 5 music nib by Pilot. There is an obvious color mismatch between the trim of the [pen and the nib.

Another example, this time with an M point of a Pilot's size 5 nib. Other nibs are possible: Sailor, Pelikan,...

I think my words were very precise: Twsbi Diamond 530 and size 5 Pilot nib. But both in written –on some fora—and through conversations, some people have complained about the problems they had faced. Well, the whole problem was that they were using other nibs and, more often, other pens—the Diamond 540, for instance. But I had said nothing about the Diamond 540!

-- The second example is about the Pilot’s size 10 “falcon” (FA) nib. I published several texts on the deficient performance of that nib—size 10 “falcon” (FA) nib (::1::, ::2::, ::3::). Then, several people replied that they had had no problem with the “falcon” nib… in size 15! Actually, I had also said that I had had no problem with the the size 15 falcon nib on the Pilot Custom 743 (::1::, ::2::). Some others insisted in mixing up the falcon nib with the Falcon (Elabo in Japan) model by Pilot.

Pilot's "falcon" (FA) nibs on sizes 10 and 15. These "falcon" have nothing to do with the Falcon model (Elabo in Japan).

I am well aware, though, of how much louder those who misread the texts are. These people do need to raise the voice on their different experiences, whereas those who read correctly usually keep silent or, at most, write a “thank you” comment.

Much worse is someone taking a picture from the blog—and that is unavoidable— but unable to read what those pictures say. These people, at least, show that the mistake were theirs and not mine. And I am innocent.

This nib is, obviously, a Pilot. Not yet a Namiki.

The conclusion of all this is obvious—I am responsible for what I write, but not for what others read.

Romillo Nervión – Sailor Iron-blue (original ink)

Bruno Taut
Nakano, August 2nd 2017
etiquetas: Pilot, Twsbi, metabitácora

20 April 2017

Friend and Foe

Now and then I need to rant. Or reflect aloud.

Members of the stylophile community like to brag about how wonderful we are, about how we are willing to share information and resources. And there is some truth to it. However, it does not take much thinking to realize that your friend in the community is also a potential competitor in the market. And then the attitude changes—information then becomes precious and treasured, and even rationed. Few people reveal where they found their exotic pens, almost nobody speak of prices paid… All these gestures are rarely disruptive—a smile can do wonders when refusing to reveal those secrets. But the competition is real and can reach the point of plain rudeness when spotting an interesting pen—the basic politeness of “you saw it first” is not always honored.

Then, are we friends or are we foes? And what is the value of all the information the community as a whole continuously publish online? Sheldon Cooper quoted (The Big Bang Theory 3.15 The Large Hadron Collision) economist Fred Hirsch to explain the concept of “neener-neener”—a pen is valued by some because it is not possessed by others, and therefore the need to display it. That exposure does not come without consequences, both positive and negative: that display can trigger some additional interest in the market and generate some inflation. It can also appreciate the displayed pen when reselling was the goal.

And at the end, the guy with the thicker wallet wins.

Sailor Profit, Naginata Togi – Tomikei Blue

Bruno Taut
Nakano, April 18 2017
etiquetas: metabitácora, mercado, estilofilia

18 April 2016

Signs of Change

Along these past months there have been a number of events that might show something is changing in the stylographic scene. Isolated, these might be regarded as anecdotes, even if unpleasant at times. However, coincidence in time can be a sign of something more relevant.

These are the facts:

1. The Montblanc-Fountain Pen Network (FPN) controversy (::1::, ::2::). Back in January, some FPN members published pictures of the not yet released Montblanc William Shakespeare model. Apparently, those pictures had been leaked by some Montblanc shops. Anyway, Montblanc complained before the administrators of FPN, who decided to remove the related threads.

Some controversy (see ::1:: and ::2::, especially the comment sections), mostly outside the FPN, followed, but that is not the issue here. What matters now is that Montblanc felt the need to react instead of ignoring the whole issue or resolving it internally by disciplining those who leaked the information.

2. Brown and the trolls. Well-known blogger and pen connoisseur SBRE Brown complained on his blog about the personal attacks he had been receiving recently through the comment section of his videos in YouTube. Brown expressed his surprise for what he considered a change in the community that he had thought as exemplary.

Again, Brown’s and other’s (Armstrong of The Pen Habit, Deans of Fountain Pen Economics, thread on Reddit, thread on Fountain Pen Geeks forum, etc.) comments are secondary to this argument. The relevant detail is that now we see people who take time and effort to express their dislike about something pen related.

I understand this phenomenon as an indication of an increased popularity of those videos. More viewers mean more exposure also on those lists of suggested videos on YouTube. And more viewers imply more probabilities of undesired personalities, of trolls with nothing of interest to say. In any case, the bottom line is a larger number of people exposed to pens.

3. Delta and Marte Modena (The best summary I have found is this link by Pedro Haddock: Italian brand Delta has decided to market some of its products exclusively through an online retailer—Marte Modena. This decision has alienated the traditional retailers as Delta is focusing on online customers, usually more acquainted with their products than the occasional customer of a brick and mortar shop.

4. Two more details, even if minor to the whole picture. Ian Hedley, of Pen! Paper! Pencils!, took the effort of writing a letter to Pilot UK to ask about Pilot’s import and pricing policies, and Pilot responded with detailed information (or detailed excuses). And in an operation of public relations, Pilot USA invited the Goulets for a visit to their facilities in Florida in November of 2015.

Both cases illustrate the importance given by Pilot to the online scene. And this is a new development.

So, what do all those facts mean?

All in all, they could be interpreted along the line of the pen community becoming larger and stronger. I have always argued that we, stylophiles, were a small group, economically weak, almost irrelevant in the economic balance of pen makers when compared to the group of occasional pen buyers. In other words, no matter how many pens we stylophiles could buy, we were no match to the volume of new fountain pens acquired by those occasional consumers.

But that imbalance might be changing. We might have become more attractive to brands like Montblanc, Delta and Pilot in the examples here described.

If my interpretation was true, the consequences would be very interesting. The business model of pen makers would evolve to cater some of our obsessions and cravings. Our opinions on fountain pens would, in fact, matter. Maybe then, the general frustration about the limited availability of nib points of most brands could be solved, for instance.

But, of course, this could just be wishful thinking.

Daiso Chinese pen with Mochizuki cross nib – unknown blue ink

Bruno Taut
Nakano, April 15th 2016
etiquetas: Montblanc, Delta, Pilot, mercado, fora, metabitácora

11 March 2016

Side Effects

What is the value of writing a blog about fountain pens?

This blog is about to enter into its seventh year of existence. Along this time, it has slowly specialized on vintage Japanese pens. During the first years, I also spoke about contemporary models, but that aspect of the blog faded away as Japanese pens became better known and distributed overseas, and fora and other blogs were prompt to speak about them. Needless to say, I also digress now and then and I have also written about somehow exotic pens (North and South Koreans, Spanish, Czechoslovakian,…) or about stationery

At first I thought that writing on fountain pens had a positive effect—information added value to the good, and our pens became more appreciated. But that appreciation also plays against us as those old pens are now harder to find and buy.

Two overpriced Pilot pens: M90 on top, Myu-701 on bottom.

Case in point—the Pilot Myu-701 has steadily increased its price along the past 10 years. The American demand –wealthy and numerous—creates an inflationary process on any pen becoming fashionable. And the first step for anything to become so is to be known.

This inflationary effect also affects new pens. we all know how Nakaya –to name a Japanese brand— increased its prices around 2010 after months of hype on international fora. But very often, companies react slowly to these fashions. Pilot, for instance, has not changed the price of the highly praised Custom 823 in the last twenty-something years. So, this inflationary effect is less dramatic on contemporary pens.

A Custom 823 by Pilot. Its Japanese price, JPY 30000 plus tax, has not changed in over 20 years.

The conclusion of all this is that writing about pens and, particularly, about vintage pens is a bit like shooting ourselves on the foot. But somehow I enjoy it—the writing, not the bullet.

Pilot Murex – Pilot Black

Bruno Taut
Chuo (Tokyo), March 4th, 2016
etiquetas: mercado, metabitácora, fora, Pilot, Platinum

08 January 2016


Some housecleaning on recent posts:

-- I changed the out-of-focus pictures of the Chronicle “Combo”. Sometimes, life gives you a second chance and I could take more pics of that very special pen.

-- I have re-written the Chronicle formerly named “Polish Star”. Some of the details I included were not that clear and I felt the need to make some corrections. However, the main point of that text was the technical solution offered in that pen and not the particular origin of the brand.

Gama “The Wand" (my name) – Montblanc White Forest

Bruno Taut
Nakano, January 7th, 2016
etiquetas: Pilot, Astra. metabitácora

14 May 2015

Information Providers

This story is already old and well known, and many a commentator and stylophile have voiced their opinions and views. But I am slow and had to take some time.

Some months ago the very active website FPGeeks went blank and, in fact, it has not showed any activity since then. The team formed by Eric Schneider and Dan Smith seems to be broken beyond repair. And later on we learned that Dan Smith had joined the company Kenro Industries, distributor of Aurora, Omas, Montegrappa, Tibaldi, in the US, as Director of Social Media.

The devil is often hidden in the details, but in essence this issue seems to be yet another example of conflict between money and freedom. Or, in other words, how much does information cost?

The Internet is full of free information. Not always reliable, but certainly free. Blogs and fora and a number of websites cost nothing to the reader (save, that is, for the internet service to be paid to the provider), and we all have become too comfortable with this fact. But all of those sites rely on the work and time and resources of a number of people.

How sustainable is this system? So far, it seems to be doing very well. And the main reason might be a simple one—there is enough number of information providers, of people, willing to share their resources. Consequently, the total load of work per capita is acceptable. And when someone could not cope with that load, another aficionado will promptly fill the void.

The information thus offered could be considered free of economic bias. There are no obvious economic incentives and authors would, in principle, feel free to express any opinion, positive and negative, on products and services.

The problem arises when the information providers look for some compensation for their dedication and resources. Some websites have advertisements, some blog authors ask for donations, some fora restrict what could be said on them to avoid annoying some actual or potential sponsors (::1::, ::2::)…

How does all this money affect the ecosystem of information in the Net? Economic incentives often, if not always, introduce bias in the expressed opinions. An obvious example, and not an extreme case, is that of Dan Smith—working for Kenro Industries, he will hardly say anything negative about the pens this company distributes. He is still an information provider, but a biased one.

It is not easy to draw a line between what is an acceptable incentive and what becomes a source of unacceptable bias. It is, in fact, a lot worse—those lines are personal. And, probably, differences in opinion about that line caused the break up of the Dan and Eric team and the present disappearance of the FPGeeks site.

Platinum 3776 (1984) – Parker Quink Blue

Bruno Taut
Nakano, May 4th, 2015
etiquetas: metabitácora, fora

10 January 2015


Je suis Charlie.

I am Charlie. Soy Charlie. わたしはCharlieです。

Bruno Taut
Nakano, January 9th 2015
etiquetas: metabitácora

29 November 2014

The Pen Addict

Some weeks ago, Brad Dowdy of The Pen Addict contacted me to participate on his series “Three Questions with…” Needless to say, I was delighted and tried to reply as soon as possible despite my impending trip to Spain. And that shows on my poorly elaborated answers.

They were published on November 22nd. But you might also want to explore Dowdy’s immense blog full of interesting information.

Thanks, Brad!

Romillo Nervión Terracota – Pilot Blue

Bruno Taut
Madrid, November 26th 2014
etiquetas: metabitácora

11 October 2014

A Word of Thanks

I owe an explanation and a word of thanks to the readers of these texts and, more in particular, to those who took the effort to comment on my text entitled “Question”.

These are the reasons that triggered that text: I was going to be away from home and I wanted some Chronicles ready to be published easily. Then, it also happened that that “Question” text was my 400th Chronicle and the self-reflection on this effort was –still is— unavoidable. Finally, I discovered myself browsing over some blogs, including my own, without really reading any text in depth.

Therefore, once again, are these texts appreciated?

Thanks to those commenting I see now I have some actual readers, and I feel relieved. But the question was relevant—there are a number of people in the cyberspace trying to provide some relevant information on –re our context— fountain pens. And yet, too often, it is hard to avoid the feeling that no real impact they make. The information is out there, but many ignore it and do not make any effort to look for it. The impression –might be wrong, of course— is that little improvement is achieved on the general pen literacy. And then, the same questions arise once and again in fora and similar spaces. Never before information was more widespread and easy to find, but few seem ready to make the effort of finding it.

And if so, why bother writing anything?

Your comments meant a lot. This blog receives very few comments and therefore they are most valued.


Platinum pocket pen, music nib – B-Stock-Nakajima Sumire (Sailor)

Bruno Taut
Shinjuku, October 13rd 2014
etiquetas: metabitácora, fora

20 August 2014


Does anyone read my texts or looking at the pictures is mostly all we do when "reading" a blog, any blog?

Inoxcrom 77, steel nib - Platinum Black

Bruno Taut
Nakano, August 12th 2014
etiquetas: metabitácora

18 February 2014

Ferme (II)

When writing the Chronicle on the actual origins of the nibs of many pen manufacturers, my intention was only to provide an introduction for the following pen. But the text became long enough to be an independent blog entry, and in the meantime new pens and new information got in the way to add more value to it. For today, though, we will only speak of this pocket-size Ferme pen.

Japanese pocket pens are well known to the usual readers of these texts, and little else could be added. This Ferme, in particular, is a formal looking pen in black with golden accents—just as many others. Its originality lays on its brand –Ferme pens are hard to find— and on the authorship of the nib.

The engraving on the nib clearly reads Ferme, but there is also a number—3231. It corresponds to the Japan Industrial Standards registry of the company Ishikawa-Kinpen Seisakushô, lead by nibmeister Ishikawa Masatoshi. In this regard, Ferme belongs to the group of pen companies that declared the origin of its nibs, even if in a veiled manner. After all, few people might know about those numbers and their meaning.

This nib by Ishikawa-Kinpen is made of 18 K gold, and contrary to what Sunami and Lambrou say on Fountain Pens of Japan --“feather-like flexible nibs”--, this is fairly rigid. The feed, made of plastic, covers perfectly the modest demands of the nib, and the overall result is very pleasant.

As was the case of many Japanese pens in the 1960s and later on, this Ferme pen uses Platinum cartridges. No current converter fits in the barrel.

These are the dimensions of this pocket pen:
  • Length closed: 120 mm
  • Length open: 10.5 mm
  • Length posted: 147 mm
  • Diameter: 12 mm
  • Weight (dry): 12.0 g
  • Ink deposit: 1.1 ml (standard Platinum cartridge)

This pen was manufactured in the early 1970s.

My thanks to Mr. Furuya and Mr. Dorado.

Ferme pocket pen, Ishikawa-Kinpen 18 K nib – Sailor Yama-dori (山鳥)

Bruno Taut
Yokohama, Ferbruary 1st, 2014
etiquetas: Ferme, Ishikawa-Kinpen Seisakusho, Platinum, metabitácora

24 January 2014

A Project

Shortly, but without any fixed periodicity, I will be publishing a series of files to document all the Pilot Capless models released along its 50 years of history. Most, if not all, of these data have already been published on these Chronicles, but often in a fragmentary way, scattered among several entries.

The final destination of these files will be a separated website a fellow stylophile and I are now preparing.

Pilot Capless (1998 model), steel nib in M – Pilot Petit Black cartridge

Bruno Taut
Yokohama, January 24th, 2014
etiquetas: Pilot, Capless, metabitácora

22 October 2013

Context and Research

On these Chronicles I have extensively spoken about the Capless family of pens by Pilot. So much, in fact, that I ended up creating its own label to access all those texts easily. Some might say that this follows from a deep appreciation of these pens, but the actual reason is a lot more mundane—it is easy to speak about them because it is easy to provide a context for them as a whole, and for each of the models. And that makes a huge difference with respect to many other pens.

This picture alone provides most of the context we need to analyze any Capless model.

That is, in fact, a major advantage of the big three pen companies on this blog. Their history is relatively well known and available. What can we say, in contrast, about pen brands as Opal, North Star, Ramie, Tokyo, Asahi Tsubasa…? And this problem feeds back—known brands become better known while minor companies fall into oblivion.

Is there a way to revert the situation? The point is not about forgetting all we know about Pilot, Platinum and Sailor, but about how to increase our knowledge on all those minor brands that played some role, even if small, in the history of these tools. And there is only one way—research.

Then we encounter a discouraging situation. First is how reduced this world of fountain pens is. And most of the money in it is associated to new pens, on which some obvious companies have a clear interest. Their investment, needless to say, favors their own products.

Then we have the community of stylophiles—that is, collectors who are seldom satisfied with one single pen and who buy a number of pens just for the sake of owning them (even if under the excuse of thinking of themselves as users). But this community, even if very active and noisy, is small and divided. And little research they do other than satisfying their own curiosity. Some even publish their findings.

A third actor in this scenario are vintage pen traders. They might be very interested in adding value, that of the actual knowledge, on those unknown pens they need to sell. And in fact some traders do that and even publish their knowledge. But not much investment is done on this activity.

Two books with the same title: Fountain Pens of the World. By Nakazono and by Lambrou.

And now and then, some visionary entrepreneur thinks that publishing a book on pens might be a good idea. And they even publish it… Whether they make any money is yet to be seen.

And that is all we have. Those initiatives, mostly personal, might be fragmentary, and might be of good or of bad quality; but that is all we have. And the conclusion is that it is up to us, stylophiles, to improve this situation.

Sailor pocket pen, 18 K gold nib – Daiso red cartridge

Bruno Taut
Yokohama, October 2013
etiquetas: metabitácora, mercado, estilofilia, Capless

07 June 2013

Fora (II). Changes

I think I should start by apologizing before all those who read these texts and who do not care much about fountain pen fora, and for whom their recent crises is totally alien. My excuse is easy—I also live in the Internet space, I generate contents and I enjoy and suffer the changes in this environment. And I have learned a lot from those fora. Next Chronicle, I promise, will be about pens.

So, what is the problem right now? Fountain Pen Network (FPN), the biggest pen forum in the Internet, has recently changed its rules (Terms of Use) to restrict the possibility to link other websites from any particular post, including links to personal blogs written by the very same author as the post author. And it goes even further—to be allowed such a link to your own blog, you should purchase a premium FPN account. Other changes enforced the idea that the content of the post should be original and unique, and should not be available in other websites.

Well, this seems a perfect example of the idea of “give us contents, provide us with traffic, and let us cash the benefits”. As private entities, fora can very well set these and other rules, but these very restrictive Terms of Use (retrieved on June 7th, 2013) might be a very stupid way of shooting themselves on the foot.

In a forum, any forum, there are two types of traffic. The most evident is the internal traffic—forum members browsing around and, eventually, commenting on already published entries and writing new ones. This traffic might be big, but it is also limited as there are only that many forum members. It is entertaining, but it also generates a lot of noise—we all know, enjoy and suffer those messages simply stating “great pen!”, “I like it” or “another one on my list”.

The second type of traffic is the external traffic. Non-members might land on the forum searching for some information. This traffic might be small, but it is new. These visitors are, in fact, attracted with quality contents. They look for the signal, and some might even become new forum members.

Quality work, I content, increases the traffic and adds value to the forum. Quality content, therefore, should be encouraged and promoted. But why would anyone give his work for free to a forum that will take over its property? Promoting this quality might go through inviting knowledgeable authors to participate in fora. And even paid for their work. Their contributions would certainly improve the forum also in economic terms.

One final note: I am not such an knowledgeable expert, and I am not demanding any compensation for participating in any forum. But when someone changes the rules the arguments can go in either direction, for and against. Rules, let us remember, are to be challenged all the time.

I am not asking to be paid, but I will not pay either.

Pilot L, pocket pen – Pilot Blue

Bruno Taut
Shinjuku, May 28th, 2013
etiquetas: metabitácora, fora

24 May 2013


I have already spoken about fora and their problems on these Chronicles. Fora, I concluded, were not free. They do belong to some people who at the end of the day must pay for a number of items: hosting the information, the bandwidth to provide a reliable connection, maintenance, … And all that money should be generated by the forum itself, or, alternatively, someone should continuously cover those expenses.

Therefore, the whole operation could be summarized as follows: we, forum users, provide both the contents and the audience, and some third party cashes the benefits—if they existed, of course. However, those cashing the money do not need to provide any content but just the infrastructure for the information to flow among forum members.

Evaluating the quality of the contents is not an easy task. Fora are not scientific journals whose publishers, well aware of the size of their business, keep track of the citations each and every article received. At the end, this citation-based system, not free from controversy, works because scientific journal authors do need to raise funds for continuing their research and to keep on publishing. Fora are different--forum participants do it for free, not receiving anything in return save an eventual ego boost when some other member praised that entry. In fact, this scheme is not very different from most blogs.

But these two forms of communication in the Internet do differ: On fora, people ask questions and answer some others. On blogs, authors provide information. Of course, blog authors can also ask questions, but the audience of a blog can hardly compete with that of a forum, even if small.

Then, the success of a blog lies on the quality and on the interest of its entries. The success of a forum, on the other hand, lies on the sheer number of participants. Blogs are about the signal; fora, about the noise.

This might be schematic and oversimplifying, but it explains an obvious fact, the big turnover on forum participants. There are always many new members, but there are also many members who silently stop participating. The first are always voiced out, welcome and encouraged to participate. The second group is ignored, save for the very few occasions when they were missed.

The result is a feedback loop that enforces the mediocrity of most fora: The same questions are repeated over and over, and it is difficult to find well-researched texts because those who had learned through all those posts became bored and stopped participating. And the economy of fora favors this—the quantity is more important than the quality. The noise over the signal.

I detect, although I might be wrong, a decadence on fountain pen fora lately. Some of them are trying to cash down the benefits after years of hiding the economic interests of the managers. Other fora, in the meantime, seem stagnated—-not collapsing as they are initially cheap to maintain, but neither growing. The fact that there are more active fora, even if the activity were small, also shows some element of failure on those previously existing. The Spanish case is a clear example—a small community with four different fora. Maybe the old English sentence of “two Spaniards, three opinions” really applied in here, and the final result would be a couple of fora per each Spanish-speaking pen aficionado.

Is this the end of pen fora? Certainly not. Fora have its always changing cohorts of followers, and those with economic incentives on them will fight hard for their survival. But the time in which that relevant piece of information was to be found on fora is probably over.

The Internet, however, is long and wide, and new forms of interaction might be found any day soon. I will be patient.

Finally, and if only to say that I am not alone on my thoughts, I wanted to add a couple of links to texts by fellow bloggers reflecting on these same issues:
Peaceable Writer: Thoughts about Pen Forums,
and Goodwriterspen's Blog: Something is Rotten in the State of Denmark.

Pilot Custom Grandee, music nib – Gary’s yellow-black (iron-gall)

Bruno Taut
April 27th , 2013
etiquetas: fora, metabitácora