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In Praise Of Boring Inks.


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124 replies to this topic

#121 arcfide

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Posted Yesterday, 03:54

 
Anyone (and I don't mean you specifically) who wants — and/or "request" — access to such a list or summary, in order to avoid the expense of time and effort but still hope to benefit from making smarter and informed purchase decisions with his/her budget, would have just about demonstrated they're "not like me" when it comes to this hobby; they're consumers first, not geeks first. That's perfectly fine as far as (mutual) respect as fellow members of this community goes, but who would (be motivated or obliged to) provide them with on-demand access to such distilled and desired information, if there isn't either room to profit from the sharing, or satisfaction from "winning"?
 

 

Interesting perspective. I don't know what your professional or hobbyist background is outside of fountain pens, so I'm not sure if you're in the same fields as I am, but it would be rarer for me to encounter that sort of antagonism to such an effort in my other fields of personal and professional study. More specifically, the *default* assumption in my other fields is that there is already someone, somewhere, who has made the information you are looking for or compiling available for wide consumption across the board. It's considered somewhat bad form and somewhat "ignorant" in my own field of high expertise to not have first conducted an extensive search for existing research sources before embarking on attempting to potentially replicate the research that someone else has already put into the public sphere. Indeed, putting out "duplicate" information that would already have been out there, especially without making any references to the history, background, and existing information already available and citing these sources meticulously, can be seen as skirting plagiarism and/or, at best, demonstrating a high degree of "ignorant newbie-ism" that might even be taken as rude, to say nothing of failing to contribute to the novel expansion of information/knowledge. Much of the existing information that is presumed to already be available would have been contributed in many cases by a large set of volunteers whose primary trade and capital in these other hobbies *is* their novel set of contributions to the information sphere, which is subsequently taken and used. I would not at all be surprised if much more than a few thousand dollars would have been spent in the pursuit of such contributions on individual levels. In many cases, it is the finding and recognizing of these contributions that is one of the main "kickbacks" that many people receive for this work, which of course can lead to other monetary gains. 

 

In such hobby and professional spheres, the assumption is that someone has already put together this information, and it would be rude and inconsiderate of them to not find and acknowledge their efforts. Therefore, the usual prescription is to first search for yourself to find out who has the information and where. Next, if you cannot find anything or even if you do, you would send out inquiries to the people who are involved in the space to see if they can recommend or point you to things that you would have missed. After that, you would examine the relevant data, and see whether you can make a novel or reasonable contribution to that space to improve things, or if your work would just be duplication (replication and duplication being two different things of different worth), and the usual assumption, as a hobbyist, is that you're going to publish this information for other hobbyists, rather than keep it to yourself. At least, that's the modus operandi in my other main professional and amateur field. 

 

Of course, the downside is that a lot of times people do take it for granted that information is around, and when it isn't, it's not viewed very favorably, and some people take this way too far and try to abuse this wealth. 

 

Anyways, given that the discussion is on boring inks, I suspect that one could narrow the range and discussion *way* down. That might even be something interesting to conduct myself, since I tend to be very interested in "boring" and workhorse type inks. I might even find "boring" inks more interesting than the "interesting" inks, which are "boring" for their lack of general utility relative to the boring ones. 



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#122 arcfide

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Posted Yesterday, 04:22

Thinking about this now, I kind of get a little excited by imagining what actually would constitute an acceptance criteria for such boring inks. Using the context of this thread, these are workhorse, dependable, reliable, well-behaved inks that emphasize usability and utility over flare and dynamics.

 

If I were working up an acceptance criteria for doing a widescale test across manufacturers to examine their "boring" inks, I'd probably start with:

 

* Blue, Black, or Blue Black in color

* Low maintenance dye or iron gall based (my personal experience is that iron gall is perceptibly easier to care for and maintain on a regular basis vs pigmented inks, though I imagine one could argue convincingly to allow pigmented inks in here provided they are the low maintenance variety)

* Well-behaved on a variety of paper: low(er) feather, bleed, dry time

* Controlled ink flow (making it suitable for a range of nib sizes and shapes, neither too dry nor too wet)

* Should have a meaningful degree of fade and water resistance, though it need not be perfect

 

Then I'd probably start narrowing down who I'd start with on ink manufacturers and limit them as follows:

 

* Strong preference for the manufacturer's "flagship" ink, if they have one. Some manufacturers clearly indicate their flagship ink, while others can be identified by statistics and context, while others might be a judgement call.

* No more than 2 - 3 inks per maker. I'd probably really try to find just a single ink if I could per maker

* Start with manufacturer's of both fountain pens and ink, the move on to other maker's based on their age (oldest first) as a likelihood of picking "boring" inks earliest

 

This wouldn't make the task a small one, but it would make it a doable one. That might reduce the total equation down from hundreds of potential inks to probably less than 50, and maybe even practically less than 25. Many of these inks are probably pretty well tested by various people, so one could start with gathering up all of the data on this set of inks and then doing an initial comparison, and then doing a more controlled replication of the results to see if your controlled experiment leads to the same general conclusions as the other reported data. 

 

Hrm, now that I look at this, this might be a lot of fun. ;-) 



#123 A Smug Dill

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Posted Yesterday, 08:12

More specifically, the *default* assumption in my other fields is that there is already someone, somewhere, who has made the information you are looking for or compiling available for wide consumption across the board. It's considered somewhat bad form and somewhat "ignorant" in my own field of high expertise to not have first conducted an extensive search for existing research sources before embarking on attempting to potentially replicate the research that someone else has already put into the public sphere.


I generally operate on the assumption that (quite probably a multitude of) someone has already looked into an area of interest or concern before me, and possibly invested significant effort and resources into research, analysis, experimentation and solution-finding.
 
However, the assumption to which I do not subscribe, and which I'm not at all keen to foster or support (Is that what you mean by "antagonism"?), is that such investment and endeavours, and the results and learnings arising from them, are by default public or "community" property and ought to be published or freely shared with one's fellows (who may also be competitors as peers in some arena).
 
The way I read your earlier question of, "Is there a list somewhere?" is the intellectual property contained therein would be available for everyone to freely access and use with (either implied or explicitly granted) licence, including but not limited to "fair use". I don't doubt someone else has been sufficiently interested and motivated to compile lists of such nature with limited scope (e.g. only for certain brands, or only for ink products at-or-below a certain price point). It is unlikely, however, that such lists would be built and published with the intent to cater to others broadly such that users could achieve "globally" optimal results (within their individual commercial reach and in accordance with their weighted preferences) with no other research effort required; some brands and inks (e.g. the more expensive Montblanc ink products) would be left off, and some areas of origin (e.g. Australia, China, India) will lack coverage.
 

Indeed, putting out "duplicate" information that would already have been out there, especially without making any references to the history, background, and existing information already available and citing these sources meticulously, can be seen as skirting plagiarism and/or, at best, demonstrating a high degree of "ignorant newbie-ism" that might even be taken as rude, to say nothing of failing to contribute to the novel expansion of information/knowledge.


Duplicated effort or cost is only a "waste" if it is all at the expense of the same singular entity (possibly a federation of members bound by formal compact), managing its collective resources in a considered and coordinated manner, for the benefit of itself and the stakeholders it has pledged to serve (by charter or otherwise).

In fact, on FPN, I believe it is encouraged to review (for example) inks that have already been reviewed, so that interested members of the community can benefit from multiple perspectives and data points, including where the reviews don't corroborate on particular views or observations as agreed "facts" or objective Truth™, but instead raise doubt in the reader.

Making and sharing observations on any particular commercially available ink can hardly be seen as novel expansion of information/knowledge anyway, when anyone can just order themselves a bottle (or sample) of that ink — at whatever personal expense and/or inconvenience — and make observations themselves first-hand. It's neither scientific inquiry nor advancement of civilisation that we're talking about; and we're just hobbyists spending discretionary consumer dollars, not trying to feed the nation on a limited budget.


As always:  1. Implicit in everything and every instance I write on FPN is the invitation for you to judge me as a peer in the community. I think it's only due respect to take each other's written word in online discussion seriously and apply critical judgment.  2. I do not presume to judge for you what is right, correct or valid. If I make a claim, or refute a statement in a thread, and link to references and other information in support, I beseech you to review and consider those, and judge for yourself. I may be wrong. My position or say-so carries no more weight than anyone else's here, and external parties can speak for themselves with what they have published.  3. I endeavour to be frank and truthful in what I write, show or otherwise present when I relate my first-hand experiences that are not independently verifiable. If it is something you can test for yourself and see the results, I entreat you to do so.


#124 AmandaW

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Posted Yesterday, 12:02

IIn fact, on FPN, I believe it is encouraged to review (for example) inks that have already been reviewed, so that interested members of the community can benefit from multiple perspectives and data points, including where the reviews don't corroborate on particular views or observations as agreed "facts" or objective Truth™, but instead raise doubt in the reader..

Having many sources is very useful when trying to get around the differences in monitors, cameras, scanners etc as well as opinions. It does help to see different inks together especially if a review shows an ink one is interested in alongside others one already has. Stumbling across an enthusiast who appears to have similar tastes is also helpful in the decision making.

 

Maybe having multiple opinions matters more here in Australia where the purchase of samples is so slow and costly to ship that it's often better to research more widely and carefully and commit to a full bottle without the benefit of samples. I have given away a lot of inks that didn't suit me.

 

I thought that is what forums are for: sharing information.


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#125 arcfide

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Posted Yesterday, 21:35

 

Duplicated effort or cost is only a "waste" if it is all at the expense of the same singular entity (possibly a federation of members bound by formal compact), managing its collective resources in a considered and coordinated manner, for the benefit of itself and the stakeholders it has pledged to serve (by charter or otherwise).

In fact, on FPN, I believe it is encouraged to review (for example) inks that have already been reviewed, so that interested members of the community can benefit from multiple perspectives and data points, including where the reviews don't corroborate on particular views or observations as agreed "facts" or objective Truth™, but instead raise doubt in the reader.

Making and sharing observations on any particular commercially available ink can hardly be seen as novel expansion of information/knowledge anyway, when anyone can just order themselves a bottle (or sample) of that ink — at whatever personal expense and/or inconvenience — and make observations themselves first-hand. It's neither scientific inquiry nor advancement of civilisation that we're talking about; and we're just hobbyists spending discretionary consumer dollars, not trying to feed the nation on a limited budget.

 

That's why I made the distinction between duplication and replication. Replication is valuable, duplication is not. True duplication is a waste of one's efforts, when such money and time could be spent on other things that are not duplication. Duplication doesn't actually result in any net gain. Repeating a test in your unique environment for the enjoyment factor is not a waste, but it is also not duplication, because the primary thing you're "paying for" is the enjoyment, not something else. In any distributed and decentralized system, some wasted effort is necessary as a cost of the distribution, of course. 

 

Multiple perspectives is not duplication, especially when there are few enough data points available publicly to construct statistically valid inference. 

 

The fact that commercially available ink is not associated with very clear information means that making and sharing observations on commercial inks in fact *is* relatively novel and represents a significant contribution, particularly in cases where it is possible to cross-sectionally analyze the inks in manners that others have not done before. First hand experience is often exceptionally and egregiously expensive, which is why scientific inquiry and scientific exploration has been so powerful as a means of leveraging collective knowledge and expanding it. It is simply impossible for one person to assimiliate and aggregate all of the information that we might want or need in our lifetimes from personal experience, so the most powerful mechanism for scaled learning is the effective means of assimilating abstracted knowledge from other's personal experiences. The efficiency with which humans are able to share and act on abstracted knowledge is one of our significant advantages as a species. 

 

While you would distance the hobby from scientific inquiry, I come at it from a rather close connection between scientific inquiry. In many ways, hobbies like this are very well matched to the traditional scientific community. Traditional science need not have any particularly noble goal in order to explore a particular direction (often, distance from any practical requirement can be a boon at early stages), scientists traditionally work on what they personally find interesting and fulfilling and what they are able to find the funds for, and they are a decentralized community that is at once competitive and communal where interactions are not driven by a global external governing body nor any collective mandate, and the exchange of information in a forum format is the primary currency. I consider that a close match to the way I view hobby communities in many ways. So, I tend to think, yes, I do approach this as a scientific style inquiry. :) 

 

As for feeding a nation, well...from a psychological standpoint, enriching the space of fountain pens could be argued to have a number of interesting qualities relating to life satisfaction, sense of community, mental and emotional engagement, to say nothing of the encouragement to write, which is in itself likely a positive thing, and being surprisingly accessible (versus some other hobbies). So, while the effects may be small, they're not nothing, in my estimation. Of course, that also depends on your level of agreement with Maslow's Hierarchy of Needs and whether you consider the underlying premise of a linear tower relating to need and the implications relating to value and importance to be valid or suspect. I for one fall into the camp of "suspect" as it relates to overall human good, and therefore might be willing to see something like a fountain pen hobby as having more personal value than others might. 

 

Naturally, that's how I personally approach things, and others approach it differently. 








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