Jump to content
Classifieds is broken, please do not submit any new ads ×

Crud!

  • entries
    2
  • comments
    56
  • views
    517

My thoughts on sharing ink samples by post


A Smug Dill

1,221 views

(This is mainly in response to @Daneaxeat Amber's bidding)

 

“It won't be easy; you'll think it strange

When I try to explain how I feel…”

 

So you're concerned that there is a noticeable gap in what is available the fellow hobbyists in your neck of the woods, and other seemingly more fortunate — or perhaps just more organised — hobbyist communities elsewhere have in train only make the disparity all the more conspicuous and perturbing. You're motivated to do something to remedy the situation, assuage the feeling of being left out, and make a contribution to the community within your sphere. There are seemingly successful examples from which you can just copy certain elements; and the upfront investment required looks minor enough to be affordable and acceptable to you.

 

Yes, I've been there (and, yes, I have an unhealthy predisposition towards excessive use of adverbs 🤔 ).

 

It's easy and tempting to jump straight into solution mode, without first clarifying and articulating the problem and/or your goals. After all, nobody would deny that there is a gap; and anything to help fill it is better than nothing, surely?

 

I'm going to leave that thought with you for a bit, and talk about what I have learnt or realised, particularly around the logistics and operational costs of sharing initiatives, since I started the pens, inks and samples pass-around initiative in Australia in 2018.

 

Sharing ink samples, by way of a collection that travels ad hoc from point to point, by post is challenging for many reasons; and I suspect foremost is the cost of participation. Unlike (mobile or immobile) centralised infrastructure that can serve multiple users — who presumably will visit at their own travel expense, but also their own convenience, without booking appointments and/or long wait times — in situ, the non-trivial cost of shipping the entire collection may well exceed the value to a (most likely) single beneficiary at its next stop, irrespective of which party on either end of that leg of travel pays for it. The shipping cost is wholly expended, irrespective of in what proportion of the collection the next participant may be interested. If you want the sharing initiative to be ongoing in that format, instead of being a disjointed series of transactions each with one requestor and one giver who are clear, specific and in agreement on what is wanted and what is sent, then the collection ought to be larger and broader than all that the immediate next participant wants; and that means all passage of all those ‘uninteresting’ surplus ink samples has to be paid for, each step along the way. If someone is only interested in 7 out of 40 ink samples in the collection, he cannot simply elect to pay for shipping of the 7 samples, or even the 8 of his own he intends to contribute to the sharing initiative; depending on the agreed terms of participation, he would be up for the cost of at least shipping 33 remaining ink samples to the next participant downstream.

 

Then, there are postal regulations and packaging requirements around sending liquids by post — be it in proper parcels or, if allowed, in flat ‘large letter’ mail articles — and they add again to both packing effort, and shipping and packaging/handling costs, from which some would-be participants may argue that nobody benefits from except the postal service operator, as if protection from leakage and loss of ink in transit has no inherent value. There are all sorts of implications and/or limitations that may be put on the format of how the collection is sent, what type of sample containers you use and how they're to be sealed for secure shipping.

 

In the case of the pass-around initiative I started, the two concerns above are mitigated by letting the travelling ink sample collection piggyback on a box of surplus or no longer wanted, new or mostly unused fountain pens and retail bottles of ink available for the taking. The shipping cost for the whole box, ink samples and all, is less than the price of even just one bottle of Noodler's Ink, Rubinato, Robert Oster or Pelikan Edelstein ink of interest locally; and I reckon people are generally more prepared to part with almost-full bottles of ink they bought but don't like, and in doing so top up the potential value of the box for someone downstream, than to pay $10 to send ink samples on if they don't think the postage offers good value for money. The box physically has sufficient space to house sample vials of different sizes, although I prefer to use 1.8ml vials for a number of reasons, and have hundreds of them to spare.

 

Unlike a library of information, books or some other asset type, the resources contained in a collection of ink samples are by nature consumable but not inherently renewable; a sample is consumed, more likely in whole than in part, upon being selected for testing or use by a participant. If you only put one sample of whichever inks you want to share into the collection, then unless it is an unusually plentiful sample from which multiple users can draw a ‘reasonable’ volume each, a given sample will benefit one recipient only — and that sample's contribution to the overall attractiveness of the collection to prospective downstream participants is thus extinguished. (If you include a 1.8ml sample of an ink, and someone draws the equivalent of an ‘international standard’ short cartridge's worth — about 0.7ml — of it in a single fill, but then decides he doesn't like it, how likely would he want to forward the 1.1ml remaining in the meagre-looking, half-filled vial at his expense to someone downstream?) This is especially relevant if you include samples of some ‘premium’ or ‘unobtainium’ inks as headline items to bolster the initiative. Yet, if you include multiple vials (or otherwise individually contained single servings) of a rare and/or highly sought after ink, there is nothing you can do to prevent a participant from taking multiple servings. Once you've read enough posts on FPN, you'll see that some sample-loving folk just about demand outright that ink samples are to be of at least 4ml if not 5ml in volume, and sneer at smaller samples or treat those as an affront; so if you include three 1.8ml samples of an ink that one such fellow hobbyist likes, what do you think he (or she) would likely do?

 

At this point, you might want to have a clear idea of for what purposes you want the ink samples you offer to avail fellow hobbyists. Do you want to give them (just) enough to get some first-hand experience with using an ink in their pen(s) of choice on the paper(s) of their choice, and assess whether it is suitable for their particular use cases for an ink of that colour, so as to decide whether to order whole retail bottles? Do you want to give them the opportunity to swatch the colour, produce a writing sample, or perhaps a more substantial ink review which may then be shared, such that you're supplying the raw material while they provide the skill and effort, in a collaborative endeavour to churn out information about the ink that is then published for the benefit of the broader hobbyist community? Do you want to give them enough for a week's worth of writing, so that they may be sated by the experience and move on to the next ink sample, without feeling the need to buy a whole bottle unless it extraordinarily surpasses all the other inks they have already bought or sampled? Most importantly, if they're not the type of fountain pen user you consider like-minded with yourself, would you want to the sharing initiative of your design and instigation to nevertheless accommodate their wants?

 

So, let's circle back to the earlier question of which problem you want to solve, or what gap you're trying to close. If it's a matter of, there is no easy and economical way for you, and like-minded local hobbyists, to seek and obtain ink samples and broaden your (collective) exposure to different inks and brands, a travelling collection for sharing is a cost-inefficient way to address it, to say the least; and it doesn't accommodate the request-fulfilment (or client-server) paradigm that is actually desired. In what way(s) is this a better model for your intended beneficiaries than for a giver — or any number of givers in the community, by agreement or otherwise — to accept requests for samples of inks he or she has and is prepared to spare/share?

 

If you want to build up stronger networking and encourage more interactions between local hobbyists, and foster more of a community spirit that is perhaps somewhat below your fondest expectations at present, an unmanaged travelling collection has an uncertain future for two reasons; you may not have gauged the level of interest among others to carry it forward one step at a time, and it only takes a single point of failure to extinguish the initiative. If it is to be managed to a plan, or at least tracked in its travels, you should have an idea of how that is to be done, and who will provide the management effort overhead.

 

Consider upfront also whether you want this to be (at least partly) in your control going forward as the project starter and/or sponsor, or cede control of it to the community altogether having seeded the initiative and done your bit.

17 Comments


Recommended Comments

I hadn't considered it before, but your post makes me think one option for a localized community who lack (affordable) commercial ink sampling options would be to do like the "request an ink review" thread - where folks who are interested in an ink simply ask for a sample, and others within the defined region can decide whether or not to offer it in response.  One problem I see with that is the modern human tendency not to read - e.g. even though the thread is titled "Kenyan Ink Sharing Thread" and half the posts are in Swahili, someone from Hoboken, New Jersey will still post asking for some ink sample (of that ink made by someone in Kenya). :rolleyes:  Could get tedious telling all the non-Kenyans to shoo.  Obviously, there are plenty of other potential issues, but if someone in the community feels strongly, I'd think it would be worth at least starting a thread intended to attract others in their region to gauge interest...

 

It also occurs to me that starting an online group of localized members - an asynchronous, virtual FP users group - would be a way to establish familiarity and trust before starting the "pass around" package traveling, potentially reducing the risk of that single point of failure where one person receives the package but never sends it on.  I never considered it before, but I see no reason the current "Clubs, Meetings and Events" sub-forum1 couldn't be used to create a thread which constitutes a virtual, asynchronous club, meeting, and event.  In the age of Zoom, it seems like it would be easy for many such groups to occasionally gather synchronously as well.  And this could eventually lead to occasional in-person gatherings.  Honestly, I'm sorta, kinda, but not really surprised I haven't seen this before - it seems like a good idea to me.

 

1Am I the only one bothered by the missing "Oxford" comma?  (Maybe I should start the official "Oxford Comma and Fountain Pen Users Group"...)

Link to comment
mizgeorge

Posted

Can I join the OCAFPUG please?

Link to comment
A Smug Dill

Posted

On 5/28/2021 at 11:58 PM, Daneaxe said:

I would like to start a thread about sharing ink samples in Sweden, which might develop into Nordics / EU / all of Europe.

8 hours ago, LizEF said:

I hadn't considered it before, but your post makes me think one option for a localized community who lack (affordable) commercial ink sampling options would be to do like the "request an ink review" thread - where folks who are interested in an ink simply ask for a sample, and others within the defined region can decide whether or not to offer it in response.

 

That is more in line with what Henrik originally had in mind, I suspect. A travelling collection model, which I've tried, is a bad alternative solution, so I'm a bit wary seeing my implementation being suggested as a working example, and I felt compelled to say something about it.

Link to comment
1 hour ago, mizgeorge said:

Can I join the OCAFPUG please?

:lol: Of course!  Welcome to our group of two.  Hmm.  Actually, we may need three of us before we can actually form our group, otherwise, there's no place for our OC...

Link to comment
34 minutes ago, A Smug Dill said:

A travelling collection model, which I've tried, is a bad alternative solution

.... only because we're human. :) I take it the traveling collection didn't last long / go well?  (I didn't follow the thread, just knew it was out there.)

Link to comment
A Smug Dill

Posted

3 minutes ago, LizEF said:

I take it the traveling collection didn't last long / go well?

 

Surprisingly, it's still sorta going, having made about eight stops in two-and-a-half years; it moves on once every three to four months on average. I sorta know where it is, in spite of it having disappeared off the radar for months at a time. On that account, the initiative has lasted longer and been more ‘successful’ than I'd anticipated; but I think it benefitted from the inclusion of several retail bottles of ink, as opposed to just sample vials. Some bottles have been taken and others added in exchange; some had been rebottled when a participant wanted half, or two-thirds, of the remaining volume but didn't want to take it all (and/or they wanted to keep the original container from the manufacturer), and some have been sampled and then left alone. Sending on its way 30ml of ink one doesn't want, after having taken and tried 0.7ml of it, is a different proposition from (seemingly) niggardly forwarding 1.1ml remaining in a 1.8ml vial which just looks like scraps. It'd even come full circle back to me once — which I was neither planning on nor expected at the outset — and I got a couple of bottles of new or almost-full inks and some other goodies (with thanks to @AmandaW!) out of it; and I'm glad other participants have also been able to pick up pens and bottled inks for which they have a use when the original owner doesn't.

 

However, that convinced me more than ever that an ink samples only collection wouldn't and won't work in that exchange model, without something of more substantial value to carry it. As it is, the level of interest among the hobbyist community here in the unmanaged pass-around is quite low. In some instances, a participant (who didn't just walked away from FPN without signing on for months on end) is ready and keen to send the box on, but is nevertheless left holding it for a long time waiting for someone else to put their hand up to be the next stop. That has been happening even long before the pandemic, lockdowns and disruptions to postal services have thrown another spanner in the works. It took me many weeks to get the show on the road, having started that discussion thread to propose the initiative, describe the model, and gauge interest in it; the community response was lukewarm at best.

 

As you know, I've also put up a number of ink sample giveaways, ‘PIF’ style (but, gosh, I hate that expression and that framing), including some specifically for Aussies only, in the past and so I've seen the difference in the level of interest. Not that I intend on doing another one of those; I've come to think that kind of giving is counterproductive to increasing continued engagement among local hobbyists. However, if someone is of a mind to share, i.e. give away, ink samples with no strings attached, the disjointed transactional nature of such makes it easier (or more acceptable) for recipients to disconnect afterwards, and I suspect that makes for keener responses in some instances.

Link to comment
19 minutes ago, A Smug Dill said:

However, that convinced me more than ever that an ink samples only collection wouldn't and won't work in that exchange model, without something of more substantial value to carry it.

Yes, the more I think about it, the more this makes sense.  Except for people who just want to pursue variety, without the continual addition of new FP users, interest in samples would peter out....

 

19 minutes ago, A Smug Dill said:

As it is, the level of interest among the hobbyist community here in the unmanaged pass-around is quite low.

...And this is what I hadn't considered originally.  Really, such a think helps out new users and those who can't afford to indulge much in the hobby.  And unless all current users are actively and successfully recruiting new users, eventually the user base will be sated.  (And even with recruitment, eventually folks will run out of interested parties - baffling as that may seem to us fanatics. :D )

 

19 minutes ago, A Smug Dill said:

easier (or more acceptable) for recipients to disconnect afterwards, and I suspect that makes for keener responses in some instances.

Yeah, for all our claims otherwise, humans sure like disconnecting from each other.  All the potential of technology for connection and it seems like we use it more to avoid connection...  But that's a whole 'nother discussion. :)

 

Thanks for sharing your thoughts and experiences.  It really helps to clarify the potential and the reality of such an undertaking.

Link to comment
Frank C

Posted

10 hours ago, LizEF said:

1Am I the only one bothered by the missing "Oxford" comma?  (Maybe I should start the official "Oxford Comma and Fountain Pen Users Group"...)

I am always bothered by missing Oxford commas. The absence of this one didn't bother me until you pointed it out. 

 

I like the concept of a traveling ink show. I have the advantage of living in Las Vegas, Nevada, USA. I can always travel to amberleadavis' law office if I am interested in a new, interesting, unusual, or different ink. Amberlea has been thinning the herd recently and she might be interested in collaborating on something. With USPS flat rate postage, It could be mailed for a reasonable price. 

Link to comment
A Smug Dill

Posted

43 minutes ago, LizEF said:

It really helps to clarify the potential and the reality of such an undertaking.

 

It's certainly been a learning experience for me, and part of a larger eye-opening exploration of the hobby over the past three years. It is now much clearer and more definite in my mind what I believe are the value and purpose of (acquiring and/or giving away) ink samples, and accordingly I can concentrate any future ‘investment’ in such activity.

 

11 hours ago, LizEF said:

(Maybe I should start the official "Oxford Comma and Fountain Pen Users Group"...)

 

Every time I look at that, I think to myself, “Oxford, Comma, and Fountain Pen Users Group” must be the secret handshake, the passphrase to gain admission.

Link to comment
49 minutes ago, Frank C said:

I am always bothered by missing Oxford commas. The absence of this one didn't bother me until you pointed it out.

Sorry. :blush:

 

50 minutes ago, Frank C said:

I like the concept of a traveling ink show. I have the advantage of living in Las Vegas, Nevada, USA. I can always travel to amberleadavis' law office if I am interested in a new, interesting, unusual, or different ink. Amberlea has been thinning the herd recently and she might be interested in collaborating on something. With USPS flat rate postage, It could be mailed for a reasonable price. 

I'd argue folks in the US already have the easiest time getting ink samples - at least based on what I hear about other places.  Within the US, I personally prefer something that will enable and encourage newbies - I likely wouldn't ever have become an ink variety nut, or ink reviewer!, had it not been for the first person here who generously sent me ~15 ink samples.

 

Of course, if a bunch of folk wanted to put together a traveling ink show, I wouldn't discourage them from it!  The more, the merrier!  And with Dill's experience to take into consideration, it might stand the chance of success. :)

Link to comment
22 minutes ago, A Smug Dill said:

Every time I look at that, I think to myself, “Oxford, Comma, and Fountain Pen Users Group” must be the secret handshake, the passphrase to gain admission.

:lticaptd: In addition to offering the "comma handshake", one must speak the passphrase thusly: "Oxford comma Comma comma and Fountain Pen Users Group".  Failure to include excessive "commas" will result in immediate expulsion!  We will have shoots and leaves for snacks at our next meeting.

Link to comment
Daneaxe

Posted

Hi all, 

I am overwhelmed by this plethora of opinions! Who woulda thunk that my humble suggestion could spur such a lengthy post, with plenty of responses, tangents, weird acronyms, and getting back on track...?

 

Well, easiest part first: I use the situational comma, which clarifies intent & meaning - dunno if you call that something else in your neck o' the woods.

 

As for the method, delivery and upkeep of ink sharing... Well, yes, hmm, you see... it's complicated.

Will take me a week to read all these intelligent comments, form a half-decent response and get to actually *making* the actual ink sharing post. Then we'll see what happens.

 

So thanks everybody. Something will happen, soon.

Daneaxe

Link to comment
Daneaxe

Posted

First thought on the method/system of ink sharing:

Think the best way, to begin with, is to follow the way of the US thread: offer up a (small) list of inks you are willing to PIF, to whoever expresses interest. Write clearly in the "mission statement" how it works, with a tiny "quid pro quo" that even a struggling student can comply with, i.e. post your opinion and a writing sample, with option of a full review if desired.

 

So yours truly might say: "I'm offering up samples of Diamine Ancient Copper and Pelikan Brilliant Brown - if interested, send me a PM".  Same way for anybody who posts in the thread: if you do, you're offering up ink to PIF.

 

This way, it is manageable, not too expensive in postage and will hopefully inspire folks to try some new ink.

 

thoughts, comments, suggestions?

(oops, now I've done it. Shouldn't have said that...)

 

Stay safe,

Daneaxe

Link to comment
A Smug Dill

Posted

2 hours ago, Daneaxe said:

This way, it is manageable, not too expensive in postage and will hopefully inspire folks to try some new ink.

 

thoughts, comments, suggestions?

 

I read your idea as getting willing givers to publicly register as members of a set of heterogenous servers, in a system in which a client would explicitly select an available server from a list, to which he/she will then send a request privately and asynchronously. Request handling in the system is unmanaged, and individual requests are handled by the targeted servers completely independently on each other. I think the model is fine, although there are some operational concerns you may want to think about:

  • Would you be happy to entertain five (distinct, independent, and non-duplicated) requests for only a sample of Diamine Ancient Copper each, such that:
    • the cost of encapsulation (i.e. packaging material), processing and transport — especially if they are to be borne by the giver in the proposed model — would be significant compared to, or even exceed, the value of the payload of the article sent in fulfilment of each request; and
    • the draw on what you are prepared to give away is imbalanced?
  • The volume of any particular ink you are prepared to give away is finite, inherently constrained by how much you have on hand, and (most likely) additionally limited by what proportion you are prepared to spare and/or how much you want to keep for your own use. Will you be setting the limits, by volume or by number of separate samples, for the inks on offer and publishing them upfront, and request or require that other givers do the same? Given that requests are sent in private, and requestors cannot see what others may be doing, how will you handle a race condition when you receive N separate requests almost simultaneously, but only M samples (or equivalent volume) remain to be given away, where M<N? Take a first-come, first-served approach and simply reject the requests that were received the latest; or feel obliged to abandon the preset limit and fulfil all received requests, before taking that ink off the list of what is on offer? You may of course choose to deal with the situation if and when it happens; from a system design perspective, it's something I'd advocate considering upfront.
  • Managing the published list of givers, and inks (and number of separate samples or servings of each one) on offer using a thread can be problematic, because the window in which you can edit a post expires fairly quickly (between 24 and 96 hours, depending of the author's grade of forum membership), especially when you need to allow for certain inks being depleted after receiving a number of private requests or just withdrawn, and/or the number of available servings being decremented; and, most importantly, registered givers' freedom to withdraw at any time. To arrive at an up-to-date list of who is offering what that is still available to be requested or claimed, effectively one has to recreate it by treating the posts in the thread as sequential journaled transactions updating a database.

 

Link to comment
Arkanabar

Posted

I suppose the update issue could be mitigated.  One would post a link in signature, to the particular part of your profile where you list the inks that you're willing to post samples to others, gratis.  But looking at profiles, I suspect that would require an edit to the board's software, potentially a nontrivial task.

Link to comment
17 minutes ago, Arkanabar said:

I suppose the update issue could be mitigated.  One would post a link in signature, to the particular part of your profile where you list the inks that you're willing to post samples to others, gratis.  But looking at profiles, I suspect that would require an edit to the board's software, potentially a nontrivial task.

If one wanted to do this, one could just use the "About Me" field which appears to be unlimited in size.  And if a bunch of people wanted to cooperate, the Member Title field (or signature) could be used to this end - "Ink Giver" (or some such) could be used by those with inks to give...  No software edits required.

Link to comment
A Smug Dill

Posted

Even so, you'd end up with a fragmented list, and it becomes an O() process for each prospective requestor to check what is available: effectively recreate the list of currently active servers (without any reliable up-to-date info upfront about the inks and number of samples on offer in the thread) from the sequential list of posts, which may be spread over two or even more pages, and then query each server independently to check what is currently on offer.

 

It comes down to not having a hosted shared list or database for which each registered participant is given perpetual edit privileges for (only?) his/her own entries, cf. Google Sheets spreadsheet and/or whatever is the equivalent database application, and not having a central management function maintaining a single combined list (with or without coordinating servers and/or request fulfilment).

 

If a database facility hosted elsewhere is to be used, such that registered givers are able to self-manage their entries of what is on offer for the asking, while the platform will provide a consolidated, up-to-date list on demand to prospective requestors, the request process then becomes:

  1. visit FPN discussion thread of obtain link to the external facility;
  2. retrieve list of current givers and offers from external facility for review; then
  3. return to FPN to use the platform's private messaging functionality to send request,

which is doable and not overly onerous, but probably a little less straightforward and integrated than what someone may have envisioned.

Link to comment

Create an account or sign in to comment

You need to be a member in order to leave a comment

Create an account

Sign up for a new account in our community. It's easy!

Register a new account

Sign in

Already have an account? Sign in here.

Sign In Now





×
×
  • Create New...