The first UKFP fountain pen community survey

Designing a good survey is HARD. I have done enough market research theory and practice as part of my dayjob to respect those that do it really well, and I am sure beyond all doubt that I am merely an enthusiastic amateur.

I also know that market research as absolutely essential to keeping our world functioning. It’s the polling during an election. It’s the feedback survey after a terrible online purchase. A good survey, at the right time, can help change the conversation, providing data where before there was only opinion, and shining a light on long-held assumptions and prejudices.

So I’d like to ask you, dear reader, to invest maybe 10 minutes of your time to fill out this survey for me. There are 25 questions, most of them multiple choice. They cover some of the big topics that I write about here: what’s your collection like? How do you use your pens? What do you look for in a pen? How do you buy?

I hope to use the findings to write up a ‘state of the community’ post (or a series of posts) in the new year. With luck and encouragement, some of the brands and retailers you buy from will see it and get useful insight into what customers like you expect. If nothing else, it’ll be interesting to see how you compare to the other denizens of the blogs, forums and Instagram accounts that make up this rag-tag community. So please, share this post far and wide — every pen addict that completes this survey makes the results more and more robust.

In return for your time, I plan to run another giveaway at the start of January, drawing on the list of participants in this research. No further details yet, but I hope you know my word is good.

And one last point: normally market researchers develop a draft survey then pilot it with a small group to validate that the questions and response options make sense to the audience. I’m launching this straight from my brain to the world. If you think the survey is nonsense — for instance, if I’ve missed a whole set of answers — please leave a comment below explaining why. I may be able to fix it without invalidating the results!

(Survey not showing up? Your browser may be blocking it. Try the direct link here: https://eciton.survey.fm/the-great-ukfp-fountain-pen-survey-2020)

36 thoughts on “The first UKFP fountain pen community survey

  1. A few comments (I think you asked but I could be wrong! Feel free to delete me!) I couldn’t really answer a few questions – rating the brands for example. I’m not sure I’d consider the Pelikan 200 a tiny pen – unposted it’s longer than my Sailor Sapporo which feels too short to me. I don’t really like pocket pens because I don’t like using cartridges – not sure they were covered? A few of the questions I felt I was responding slightly negatively rather than being able to say I didn’t really care or don’t know (Montblanc for example). Thanks so much for doing this. Can’t wait to see the results. And thank you for the blog – enjoy a well deserved break!

    Liked by 1 person

  2. I otherwise responded to all questions but could not rank brands in order of preference (due to lack of functionality rather than inability to make choices.)

    Liked by 1 person

  3. Thanks for the survey, and the statistics that will come from it.
    I think I would have liked a question about my favourite 5 pens in my collection, because of the statistics. I would be curious about the most cited pens.

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    • Well and there I can help provide a little insight from my market research background — that kind of question is an absolute ballache to process. You can’t possibly list out all the pens in the world for people to choose from (and the interface for doing so could be complex), so you need to leave it as open text fields. “Please type your most favourite pen here”. And that means every conceivable way of someone writing “Visconti Homo Sapiens” will be entered: Homosapiens, HS, Bronze Age, Steel Age, misspellings… it’ll all be there. Someone will enter the nib width, someone else will enter the colour, or the year. Analysing that data is a pain, especially when you get to considering whether the special editions are separate pens (London Fog?) or just part of the “Visconti Homo Sapiens” category. If you want to do quantitative analysis, you really can’t use open questions.

      Liked by 1 person

    • Another insight into survey design: to avoid distorting results, the initial order of those brands is randomised. Where you see Parker in the list is not where the next person would! In any case, I’ve deleted that Q since it seems to be tripping people up…

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  4. I filled out your survey. One thing I want to add. I have a bunch of cheaper pens (Plaisirs and Eco-Ts) to fool around with inks I wouldn’t really use for writing, but for my writing I prefer pens that give me the optimal writing experience as well as an appreciation for the design, quality and workmanship involved. And even more than you, I’m very ambivalent about owning a bunch of fountain pens, because in reality one nice one could do the job and I don’t need the others.

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  5. I filled out your survey. One thing I want to add. I have a bunch of cheaper pens (Plaisirs and Eco-Ts) to fool around with inks I wouldn’t really use for writing, but for my writing I prefer pens that give me the optimal writing experience as well as an appreciation for the design, quality and workmanship involved. And even more than you, I’m very ambivalent about owning a bunch of fountain pens, because in reality one nice one could do the job and I don’t need the others.

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  6. Hi Anthony,

    I’ve thoroughly enjoyed your blog. Thank you for your interesting and informative posts.

    Regarding the survey, a technical issue: I reached page 3, filled it out, and pressed “back” to add something to what I wrote on p.2 – when I did that, most of my responses on p.2 were erased. I recreated p.3 and advanced again to p.3 – none of my original responses were kept. I recreated those as well. This might or might not be something to look into, but I thought I’d let you know.

    Like a previous commenter, I have a few cheap pens (a TWSBI Eco and a Lamy Safari) to use in my writing while I am slowly building my collection of more expensive and rare pens. It is important for me to be mindful about how I assemble the collection, and I find that having some cheaper pens helps prevent impulse buys. Eventually I hope to build a small but higher-quality collection — but I might still keep my TWSBI Eco.

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    • Thanks for the technical feedback. Alas I think that kind of bug is out of my hands to fix — this is a survey module product that I’m using ‘off the shelf’.

      Regarding the ‘big or small collection’ Q, I think you’ve answered it: small.

      Liked by 1 person

  7. Thank you for doing the survey. Looking forward to the results.

    I have a track pad on my laptop, and getting the cursor inside the very small circle was difficult.

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  8. Some of the questions have only three possible answers, which force a response that may not be as strong as the subject (us!) intends. Several of them could be expanded to four or five options to be less blunt and, hopefully, more informative. Your survey does have some like/dislike categories with more than three options and that is really the best way to go. It avoids the softer version of the “have you stopped beating your wife” dilemma.

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  9. I didn’t see a question that asked to rank different brands. Perhaps the survey has changed over time. Some of the questions were to my mind defective: for example, asking about the MB 146 and 149 don’t have one and don’t want one. But that leaves out, also sadly true of other questions, obvious other possibilities: would like old 146, not new 146, but wouldn’t buy either, being poor, already possess two miraculous MBs from the 1950s and that’s enough and to spare. I most like pens from 1950-1970 and I have them.

    Liked by 1 person

    • I removed the brand ranking Q. The one about the 146/149 was to test adoption of some of the usual ‘landmark pen’ recommendations. Regardless of whether you can afford it and what other pens you have, you either want one or you don’t, right?

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      • Actually “You either want one or you don’t, right?” is wrong. For me. I used to work in survey research when I was young and devising questionnaires is rather more demanding than it seems when you’re being spontaneous and intuitive and maybe not so patient and not so mentally resourceful. I don’t know what you mean by “want one” and I’m pretty sure it isn’t what I have in my mind. What I’m thinking is a lot more complicated than where you seem to be.

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      • “Not so mentally resourceful”? Ouch 😆. I wish you well in your complicated world, and do give me a shout when your survey is ready to go 👍

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  10. Very nice survey – well done! I know how much work these take too and am really looking forward to some of the results..

    And thanks for taking pity on us by including lots of higher price categories for most expensive pen – was relieved not to be in the top one!

    Liked by 1 person

  11. You didn’t ask literally so I will just add it here: would be cool if you’d occasionally discuss interesting vintage pens.

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    • In terms of the blog overall? I get asked that quite frequently. I have next to zero knowledge about vintage pens, and actually little interest in them either: I’m always scared about buying a dud, or breaking something precious, or them leaking on me. I also have no easy way to get hold of them (eg there are no brands out there that will send me one for free), and if I review an amazing vintage pen there’s likely no way for readers to go out and get one themselves, due to availability. Finally, there are plenty of incredibly deep resources eg about Parkers or Onotos that I simply couldn’t compete with even if I tried. So unless something radical changes, I’ll be sticking to the modern era 😄

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  12. Great idea! If my purchase habits answers seem odd it is because I only buy pens from brick and mortar stores. There is one only a 15 minutes walk from work. I have also gotten pens from the Fountain Pen Hospital in New York, and a Mont Blanc boutique in Las Vegas. Fountain pens seem just to personal to take a punt on them without holding them first.
    Thanks for the great blog.

    Liked by 1 person

  13. Much has been pointed out already above. Not much about pen reviews which we all depend on, right? What makes you read on/watch? What makes you switch off/ scroll away? How do you decide whom to trust? What made you come back or subscribe? It’s close to the bone, isn’t it, but without feedback no one can improve or keep doing it right.

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    • Oh, I only included that question as an afterthought — I wanted this to focus on the pens! There are lots of things I didn’t ask. How does your family react to your hobby? Do you feel it’s healthy? Which stores do you shop from? What’s your favourite ink colour? What’s your favourite ink brand? Do you use shimmer inks? Have you ever been scammed on eBay? And all the questions about vintage pens…

      Maybe I’ll do a follow-up survey. But I regularly ask for, and get, lots of feedback from readers, so I feel well taken care of from that side. And I’m not sure I want to be assuming the role of commenting on other bloggers and how they do their thing.

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  14. I have just finished this. (slightly buggy – had to go back and repeat a few questions but I think I got there in the end). Some thought provoking questions too. I realised I like pens from all sizes and weights so long as they are comfortable and write nicely but I get on best with large, MB146 size, like the Aurora 88 or Diplomat Excellence. Not so keen on skinny pens or slippery pens – especially if skinny AND slippery.
    I tolerate the uncomfortable ones sometimes if they write well (like the Safari with its faceted grip) but cannot cope with pens that slip around in my hand or which are horribly back heavy. I like my Pilot Capless but wish it did not have a clip. Being a lefty over-writer I tend to rotate my pens inwards which means that my grip is not symmetrical in relation to the nib. I have never counted my inks and do not know if it would be over or under 100 bottles but is probably around that figure. It is a a couple of drawers full and I will never need any more! After sales service and warranties are not of much importance to me as I have very seldom had to avail myself of them and the majority of my pens are in the under £100 bracket.

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