The review forums within FPN are prized assets that provide plenty of useful information to the membership and browsing guests. Many pen purchases are influenced by what is read here and FPN continues to amass more pen related data every day. The reviews are one of the key factors that drives the growth of new subscribers, as people stumble upon postings here during Google searches (it's amazing how many of them attain top level hits in the search engines). So, I am honored to have the opportunity to oversee the reviews of pens and will strive to ensure that the quality and organization of content here is the best it can be with the time allotted.
Naturally, I want to encourage people to post reviews of their prized pen possessions once they feel they're ready to make a contribution. It's not something to be taken lightly, as this is content that many people will see and the quality of which becomes a reflection upon FPN and yourself. Accordingly, it's a good idea to follow the suggested guidelines provided below so you make the most of your efforts.
Also, remember that the more objective the review, the better. Embellish your descriptions of what you like and don't like about your pen and why. Subjectivity is normal, but justification enlightens. These details are essential, as the things that bother you might bother someone else and the things you love may attract others to buy the pen as well. A fountain pen is a very personal experience, as each person has their own hand characteristics, preferences and writing styles. It's all about finding what works best for you and embracing it. The reviews can be a key help in this.
In short, write as much as you wish and try to touch on the guideline points. Describe the appearance and functionality of your pen, along with dimensions, and provide your own personal images if possible (otherwise embed on-line images from reliable sources, credited of course). If you really want to use a different format that ultimately achieves the same objectives, so be it—whatever it takes to share your pen experience. Consistency is good, but so is variation. And last but not least, have fun doing it!
Posts containing just an external link to a review, no review content, will not be linked in the index. There are a number of reasons for this. But mainly the issue is reliability. Content hosted only externally is subject to the reliability of that host website. We have had a number of reviews where external links have become broken (a student leaves the university where the review was hosted, a website service changes the URL, a member ends up closing their account or it expires). Plus, members should only be subjected to the FPN servers while visiting. External links often present a degree of uncertainty (unknown sources, 3rd party links, cookies, ad-content, ad-ware, monitoring, viruses, etc).
One more thing: If after a reasonable search you are unable to find a review of a pen that interests you, please post a fountain pen review request in the Review Request thread. Keep in mind that is a purely voluntary submission forum and there's no guarantee that someone will respond with a review from your request. We're providing this communication channel as a courtesy, so that people don't post these requests in the main review section. Over time, stale requests will be purged to keep the thread from growing out of hand.
The general review format subdivides the content into six key sections and a conclusion part: First Impressions, Appearance and Design, Weight and Dimensions, Nib and Performance, Filling System, Cost and Value, and Conclusion. When you provide images, place them in the sections where they make sense (for example, nib shots should go in the "Nib" section; overall body shots should go in the "Appearance" section; a photo of the pen in the box might go in the "First Impressions" section). For each section, provide a point rating on a decimal scale from 1 (worst) to 10 (best). In the Conclusion, summarize the points divided by total number of sections (exclude the "Conclusion" section, of course) to arrive at a final point rating. For example, if each section scored a 10, then you'd have 60 divided by 6 sections, resulting in a 10). This is a suggested point system, as there have been a few different ones used in the past. Remember to be fair in your point scoring. I've seen so many reviews with 4.5 ratings on a 5 scale system, which makes them questionable about objectivity (I've been guilty of that too ). Few pens are perfect!
Below are detailed descriptions of each section. For your review, copy the template that is attached in the next posting and supply your own content accordingly.
INTRODUCTION: The moment you first take a pen in hand, or unveil it from the package/box it came in, an impression of it is made upon you. Describe that first feeling you get, what parts of the experience stand out most. Did the things that draw you to buying the pen become realized, exceeded, or a disappointment? Was there an interesting history or strong recommendation that drew you to it? Or perhaps it was an unexpected gift? What accessories came with the pen, if any? Things like a booklet, warranty card, bottle of ink, etc.
- Appearance & Design (1-10) – Every pen has an appearance/design theme. It might be conservative, avant-garde, ostentatious, subliminal, utilitarian, pure artwork, reminiscent of a particular era (Victorian, Bauhaus, modern, etc). How is the construction and quality? What is the finish like (matte, glossy, neutral color, bright color, etc)? What materials it is comprised of? Does the pen have an unusual design about it?
- Construction & Quality (1-10) – Aside from the visual appeal, how solid does the pen feel? Are there any manufacturing flaws or seams? Does it feel flimsy or rugged? Would you fear dropping it on a firm surface?
- Weight & Dimensions (1-10) – Aside from the numerical values of weight, length capped/uncapped/posted, width, and circumference, how do you relate to the dimensions of it? Is it large or small, but works well? Is it unsuitable for you, but could very well be fine for others? Does the cap post (affecting the size/weight option for writing)?
- Nib & Performance (1-10) – What is the nib size you chose? What other sizes were available? What's the nib made of (gold plated steel, plain steel, monotone gold, 2 tone rhodium plated gold nib, solid gold nib)? If made of gold, is the content, 12kt, 14kt, 18kt, 21kt, or higher? How does your particular nib write? Is it smooth, or has some tooth, or perhaps scratchy, firm, flexible, semi-flexible, etc? What kind of line does it put down? Is it dry, moderate, or wet? Does the line match your expectations for the size, or is it wider or thinner than it should be? Does it work well on a variety of papers and with a variety of inks? Is the nib of a special design or standard? Is it user serviceable, where it can be easily removed and replaced with a nib of a different size?
- Filling System & Maintenance (1-10) - What is the type of filling system on this pen? Is it an eyedropper, Vacumatic, Aerometric, Touchdown, Vacuum-Fil, snorkel, piston, cartridge, converter, button, crescent, lever filler, or some proprietary type? How much ink does it hold? If you're not sure of the quantity, compare it to other pens you know. How well does the filling system work? Is it easy, reasonable, messy, clean, or cumbersome? Does it fill completely on the first shot, or do you have to repeat the process? Is there any risk of leakage? How easy is it to maintain? Are parts easily disassembled, including the removal of the nib?
- Cost & Value (1-10) – Where did you buy the pen? Do you know what the MSRP or going rate for it is? If you don't mind stating, indicate how much you paid. Was it new, NOS (new old stock), or used? Do you think you got a good deal? Did you find a better or worse deal after purchase? Do you think it is a comparable value to other pens you have, worse value, or the best value you've seen so far?
- Conclusion (Final score, xx/6) - What are your overall feelings about this pen? Has it generally met your expectations? Summarize any specific details you mentioned before that has notably influenced your opinion. Would you buy the pen again (for yourself or a gift)? Will you use it as a daily writer, occasional writer, or collection piece? Or will you sell it in the near future? Whether you keep it or not, are there any merits to the pen that would cause you to recommend it to someone else?
ABOUT PHOTOGRAPHY: Please do make an effort to provide your own images if possible and don't let higher quality photos provided by other members dissuade you. Even if you don't have a light tent, you can still take some attractive photos. Macro photography is most appreciated as it can bring out some very useful detail. If you need some guidance on photography, there is a Pen and Photography sub forum dedicated to this. You'll find it quite useful and frequented by people eager to answer your questions (of course, search a little first before you ask something really obvious!). If you wish to use an existing photo from a third party website (such as a pen seller), be respectful of the copyright. At the very least, credit the photo with a link to the source. But it is proper protocol to request permission from the source. Photos not approved will have to be removed. Remember that there is always the danger of the link becoming invalid, and that the opportunity for correcting the review may be long past.
SIZING: The IP.Board software will auto-size images to fit within the screen view, but that does not mean it is OK to upload images of any size. Also, the browser resizing function isn't always optimal. For best results, please keep images sized no larger than ~300kb and no wider than 800 pixels in either direction. Use JPG or PNG format, but also use reasonable compression to keep the size down, as well as cropping the picture to eliminate content not relevant to the item. We have members all across the world with different degrees of Internet bandwidth, so the smaller the image size the better. You can still get good visual results with standard compression.
To add an image to your review, use the "Insert image" icon () on the toolbar. It pops up a dialog asking you for the URL (website address). Be sure it is a static reference to the image, and not a dynamic one (containing parameters, question mark, ampersands, etc). Most image sharing websites help you with the URL needed for reference. As for uploading images to postings as attachments, I discourage that because you have limited file space on FPN. If you think you'll end up posting just one or two reviews, then by all means use the image attachment function, but read up on the editor help on how to use it. In the Full Edit mode, you will see your images displayed. In the Quick Edit mode, you will just see the code references, like this: [ img ] http://www.fountainp...ogo11-133et.gif [ /img ]. You could add more images by just copying the line and changing the URL. You can also make your images linkable (for example, if you want to link to the company brand of the pen you're reviewing) by highlighting the image tag string and clicking on the URL icon ().
NOTE: If you use Flickr for hosting your website images, you must put a URL link back to the same image on every image you reference. Otherwise, the image won't appear. So, first use this icon to link to the image and before doing anything else click on the URL icon to create the link to the same image. Some photo sharing websites now provide you the code you'll need to link your photo (either BBS code tags or HTML).
Lastly, and I can't stress this enough, try to be impartial. Even if you can help being biased and love a pen more than any other you've ever owned, don't forget to give a full picture. The best way for you to do this is to ask yourself "if I was the pen designer, how could I make it better?" Everything has room for improvement. Even this guide!
Edited by MYU, 22 June 2009 - 18:36.