Posts filed under Guest Post

Currently Inked with Aeon Timeline

IMG_0176-1.jpg

The people are the best part of any pen show.

I talk about this all the time, and it is the truth. There were shining examples of amazing people in Washington D.C. from the moment I arrived until the moment I left.

Meeting Diane was a highlight for me, and what she has done here for all of us is nothing short of amazing. She showed me how she tracks her pen collection using a product called Aeon Timeline, and the results knocked my socks off. I asked if she would be interested in writing a guest post about her setup for The Pen Addict. Little did I know what would arrive in my inbox only days later.

Diane describes herself as "a renegade physicist, engineer, photographer and writer," and you can follow her on Twitter and Instagram. I describe her as amazing, and generous. So much so, that I am posting her article in it's full glory as a downloadable .pdf. The time and effort she put into this is unmatched, and I would hate to butcher it when reformatting for the blog.

Download Currently Inked with Aeon Timeline (4.4 MB .pdf)

I'm out of superlatives for what Diane has created here and shared with us all, so thank you Diane! If you find this useful, or end up creating your own Currently Inked database please let me know, and let Diane know how fantastic this information is.

Posted on August 20, 2018 and filed under Aeon Timeline, Guest Post.

Signal and Noise – on Trolling Pen Reviewers

(Dave Rea is an engineer and die-hard pen-thusiast from upstate NY, and the developer of @getindxd. His addiction dates back to middle-school quests for pens that could vanquish the dreaded lefty smudge-palm. He succumbed to fountain pens and Field Notes after discovering this blog in 2012; you can find him on Twitter @mtbkrdave.)

Trolling has become a bit of a trending topic in the online pen community of late. We’ve seen thoughtful, well-reasoned posts on the topic from a pair of PhDs: Stephen BRE Brown and Jonathon Deans. Brad discussed it with Azizah Asgarali on a recent PenAddict podcast episode. It also came up in the most recent episode of Dowdy and the Doctor – an excellent short(er)-form podcast for Pen Addict members.

There’s been a lot of talk about the sorts of trolling that pen reviewers experience. There’s been plenty of theories on why these commenters might be slinging their particular brand of vitriol. There’s no shortage of thoughts on how reviewers should respond. But for all this good discussion, there’s been precious little guidance for how we – the mostly-silent majority – ought to address trolling on our favorite pen blogs, YouTube channels, subreddits or forums.

I’ve got a proposal for us…

Signal-to-Noise Ratio

In electronics (my day job), we’ve got a term called signal-to-noise ratio, or SNR. If “noise” is all the random energy a circuit doesn’t care about, then “signal” is what it’s looking for. The “signal strength bars” on our cell phones are one familiar instance: More bars = Better SNR.

To the content creators of the pen community there’s plenty of “noise”, and precious little “signal”: those times when the audience actively engages. While “noise” can be just about anything unrelated, the “signal” is the feedback: comments, likes, favorites, thumbs (up or down), retweets, subtweets; the list goes on.

The problem, as The Oatmeal so wonderfully illustrated, is that negative feedback can be much a louder signal than supportive voices, and in a very noisy environment, the loudest signal might be the only one that makes an impression. Ever have a microwave oven blitz your WiFi connection? Then you’ve experienced this too.

Tipping the Scales

Let’s face it: trolling isn’t going away any time soon. So long as our favorite pen reviewers continue to work hard creating content for us, they’re likely to be on the receiving end of some occasional negative attention. We also know that troll-shaming doesn’t work, and in many cases even makes things worse. Even the most well-established platforms struggle, endlessly-controversially, with how to deal with harassment.

So what can we, as a community, do to change the balance of power? I believe the answer is to change the signal-to-noise ratio – to turn up the volume on the positive feedback, constructive criticism, and all-around support we send to those we follow. There’s almost zero downside to doing so. If not feeding the trolls is our status-quo, we need to drown them.

To do this requires a conscious shift from passive consumption of content to active engagement. Given our shared interest in “the analog tools we love so dearly”, reviews likely evoke some reaction in us – be it enthusiasm, desire, appreciation, wonder, zeal, or myriad others. We ought to share these reactions with the reviewers we follow! Even if our reaction to the product or the review is critical, it’s worth sharing in a constructive way – because even these additions to the conversation let the reviewer know you came, you saw, and you cared enough to react.

Case in Point

Let’s take a look at an example – a well-trafficked review of the TWSBI Vac Mini by Matt Armstrong on his Pen Habit YouTube channel this past January:

In about two months, Matt’s video has been viewed over eleven thousand times – but only about 2% of those viewers left a thumbs-up, and only six-tenths of a percent left a comment (supportive or otherwise). Of the comments, only 1 or 2 border on negativity. Yet Matt has been on the receiving end of enough trolling that he went on hiatus back in 2014 (the 173 supportive comments on that post aren’t lost on me, either!).

I hope that the the SNR of the feedback Matt receives has improved since he returned from that break; if this video’s comments are any indication, it has.

Still, the numbers leave plenty of room for improvement: as an audience bloc, we have the leverage to significantly increase the amount of appreciation our community’s content creators experience.

Remember Not to Hold Back

If you’re like me (and the vast majority of Internet consumers) you read posts, watch videos and listen to podcasts, and – absent a specific question, complaint or reaction – you probably don’t engage much. In light of the trolling we’ve been hearing about, I’ve been actively trying to hit the “thumbs-up” button and its siblings on various platforms more frequently. Even if I’m just one in eleven-thousand, I want to actively contribute to whatever small stream of thanks the audience provides for the hard work that invariably goes into creating good content.

I also believe in putting our money where our mouths are: the stationery community enjoys a nearly-endless stream of content, much of which discusses some pretty expensive products. If a review gives you the confidence to pull the trigger on a pen that costs $50, or $150, or $500, is contributing a relative pittance to the reviewer an undue burden? That’s up to each member of the audience to decide, and not all creators have the infrastructure in place for this, but it’s certainly another way to remind them that we appreciate their hard work.

Ultimately, though, changing the signal-to-noise ratio doesn’t have to cost a penny. Just remember to use whatever mechanisms a given platform offers to engage with the creators you follow. Whether you dole out subscriptions, likes, comments, faves or upvotes, don’t hold back. That small gesture, multiplied by the numbers our community wields, might just have the power to push trolling down into the noise.

Posted on May 2, 2016 and filed under Guest Post.

Left-handedness And The Greatest Insult Of All

(Michelle Guo is a self-diagnosed pen addict ever since she charmed the Faber Castell stand at a stationery fair with her metallic ocean-scape at 9 years old. She ended up leaving with all their paraphernalia and now probably needs Hermione Granger's Undetectable Extension Charm for her pencil case. You can find Michelle on Twitter @misheyxxxooo.)

When I was at high school, I decided to enter a spoken word poetry competition. I loved the construction of a good poem; where the right word appeared at the right time, creating a melody of sounds and silences that are the poet’s gift to their audience as they show a side of themselves that is so deeply tied in with their own identity and perception of the world. During the workshops that were held prior to the competition, I was told to write what I know. As a 15 year old, I didn’t think there was much to me that was profound enough to turn into a poem. Spoken word poems tend to be loud and passionate, as if the words had jumped off the page and demanded to be heard. A good spoken word poem is must be personal enough so that it is uniquely yours, but broad enough to immerse your audience. Remember, I was 15 at the time, and I don’t think I or any of my peers had enough life experience to really appreciate and understand a poem on love, loss, legacy, death, the transience of life; the more common ideas found in most poems.

So I wrote about being left-handed.

Don’t get me wrong, handedness may seem like a petty and insignificant thing to write an entire poem on, but as a left-hander I do believe that it has an affect on the way I live my life; the way I hold things, the way I position myself in relation to others, the way I learn various activities that are led by right handed teachers. Apparently, left-handers make up 10% of the population, and I think that it is time that the other 90% get to know more about us and the way this trait can affect our lives. So from me to you, dear pen addict, let me share with you a part of me that was also once the greatest insult of all.

The Greatest Insult of All

Insults have boiled down to very shallow things recently
People get offended when you call them stupid, ugly, weird
But out of all physical qualities existing,
There is one that was once the ultimate insult
Which I embody

I am left-handed
Etymology tells me that I am awkward, tactless, weak and evil
In history I am a stigma of degeneracy
A sign of neurosis
The twin that would die in the womb
Unlucky, gay
I have not done anything wrong but I would have been burnt at the stake
Mistaken for the witch
As soon as I picked up a pen
With a palm ridden with scars from a whip left over from countless beatings
And fingers with newly cut wounds
 
This cursed hand turns compliments into insults
Toasts into curses of evil
Stripped me of my rights because my left-handedism has left me to take stand on my own
Ambidexterity has become a goal that I can never achieve
I will never be ambidextrous
Because I will never be right-handed on both sides
 
You may try to tell me that it doesn't matter anymore
That we have climbed right over the hurdle of handedism
And left it in the past
But try telling that to the smudges that are left on my page
From dragging my hand along it
My wrist, tired from its right angled position it takes to elevate my hand away from the whiteboard
So that my hand doesn't wipe off everything I have written
To the menacing binder on the left hand side
The non-existent computer with a left-handed mouse
To my body that has to twist awkwardly to reach anything on the right hand side
To that pair of scissors  that have been tailor made for people like you
But end up being left to people like me
And hinder my every move
Try explaining to my PE teacher,
That swinging the bat with my left hand
The way you do with your right hand just doesn't feel right
In fact
Nothing feels right
When I am trying to do something that I wasn't born to do
I am the ultimate victim of modern society
The only spot where I belong on a row of tables is at the end
I am the odd one out
 
People say that right-handers are always right
However
keep in mind that our brains work opposite to our bodies
So the truth is
We
left handers
are the only ones
in our right mind

I’d love to hear from fellow pen addicts about their experiences with or as a left-hander and the kind of stationery they find themselves gravitating towards because of it. I am always on the lookout for nifty tools and gadgets to make my life easier, although I must say I have adapted a lot already in their absence.

Posted on February 15, 2016 and filed under Left-handed, Guest Post.