anniversary


500 14

This is Bleistift’s blog post number 500.

As usual with an anniversary blog post you’ll get some behind the scenes infos today.

Ranking

Well, 500 posts might sound a lot, but general stationery blogs produce a much higher number of blog posts and even when looking at pencil only blogs this number is not that high either (..plus more than 20 of my blog posts are about fountain pens, so they don’t  really count).

  • Lexikaliker is the #1 pencil blog (that’s a B outside the USA) with more than 1370 blog posts
  • Followed by the #2 (that’s HB), Pencil Talk with more than 620 blog posts.
  • Next, we got #2½ (that’s F), it’s Pencil Revolution with more than 560 blog posts.
  • #3 (H) is Dave’s Mechanical Pencils with more than 530 blog posts.
  • ..and #4 (2H) is Contrapuntalism. Already past the 420 mark, he’s getting close to 500. This is kind of unfair to Sean as he has distributed his pencil posts over different blogs (Blackwing Pages, Pencils and Music) so should actually rank much higher, but I’m not sure where exactly.

Some images from old blog posts to make this one less boring

A recent surprise

Recently Bleistift had the highest number of visitor’s on one single day in it’s more than seven years of existence. This was down to the well-appointed desk linking to my blog in a blog post collecting links. As my blog post was only one of more than twenty posts linked to I wonder how many visitors the well-appointed desk has. Is it even more than the Pen Addict’s a million a month?

Even a tweet/link from the official Terry Pratchett / Discworld Twitter account a few days earlier didn’t bring that many visitors.

The previous record for most visitors on one day was from 2015 when the Pen Addict podcast linked to Bleistift.

Some images from old blog posts to make this one less boring

Change in attitude

That brings to a recent change in my attitude. I used to think it would be nice if a large number of people read Bleistift’s blog posts (thinking it makes the time spend on writing them more worthwhile).  The number of blog posts on my to do list is huge, so huge that I don’t think I can ever write them all up, so in the past, I would pick blog posts from the to-do list that I think are of more interest to a wider audience.

After repeatedly coming across what happens to the makers of big stationery blogs (being verbally attacked and other things) I now think that it’s good Bleistift’s readership is fairly small. This changed attitude will probably result in me picking whichever blog post I want to write instead of trying to write up the ones interesting to a wider audience. This shift might also bring about some other changes, e.g. there might be more fountain pen blog posts. I have tried to keep the number of those down. Having stayed under 5% (p ≤ 0.05   8^D)  fountain pen posts on this blog this was successful, but in the future, this might change.

Some images from old blog posts to make this one less boring

Bleistifts new domain: https://bleistift.blog

Bleistift is the German word for pencil. It means ‘lead pen’, which is a name used for pencils in other languages as well, e.g. in Chinese (铅笔). So far bleistift was on a subdomain of a domain I bought in the 1990s. I should have bought my surname as a domain back then, but at the time I didn’t think the web would take off the way it did. I thought it will stay something geeky, like modems and BBS before the web.

Anyway, most (nearly all) stationery blogs, except some hosted on wordpress.com have their own domain, so I thought bleistift should have its own domain and I bought bleistift.blog. I actually pre-ordered pencil.blog in 2013, but I guess before the new .blog domains were released they run the domain names through a dictionary and didn’t release .blog domains representing common words, so I didn’t get my pre-ordered pencil.blog domain. It is now being sold by for a premium. I do actually prefer bleistift.blog, but pencil.blog would have been easier to spell for non-german speakers.

Some images from old blog posts to make this one less boring

A new SSL certificate and advertising

Some other recent changes you might have noticed is that addition of advertising to the blog. The idea was to use the advertising to pay for the new SSL certificate, which would have cost around £8, but a few things have changed now, partly because of the new domain. I won’t bore you with the details as explaining this would be boring to you and long wielded.

I also thought I could leave the advertising to pay for a month of Grammarly to go through the blog and fix all spelling mistakes etc, but the advertising I see here on bleistift is often quite odd and not topic related, so I will probably take the advertising down in a few days ..but out of interest I would like to know what kind of advertising you see on this blog, if you don’t mind telling me please write it in the comments.

 

 

 

 

 

 


Seven years, 23 YouTube subscribers and a giveaway 42

Well, time flies. It’s already seven years since Bleistift started with its first blog post.

As done in in previous recent anniversary posts here’s a quick behind the scenes look and some of my thoughts about the blog.

This time I will mainly focus on Bleistift’s YouTube videos1, the first one which first appeared just a bit more than a year ago, in September 2015.

 

Video Quality

The videos are easy in a sense that they don’t require as much background work as blog posts, but the video image quality isn’t very good, mainly because of the lack of space in our home and the lack of light (because the windows are quite small). I could set it up nicely somewhere on the floor in a corner, with some lights, but there’s usually not enough time for that. Blog posts on the other hand can be started and interrupted as often as I like, because there is no set up time, so it’s easier to find a few minutes here and there to work on a blog post. Plus you don’t notice our kid making noise in the background. Something you do notice this in the videos.

No wonder there’s no space in our home, have a look at new home sizes around the world2.

CountrySize in square metres
UK76
Germany109
Denmark137
USA201

Both issues, size and light, apply equally to taking photos, but with photos you can compensate for the poor light by exposing longer and the lack of space isn’t too bad as you can just put things on the window sill for close ups etc.

I hope to improve the quality of future videos. You might have noticed that for the last video (sharpening with a hard disk) I was wearing a coat. That was because I did that vide in the garage. Don’t expect too much though, for the foreseeable future there won’t be enough time to set the videos up nicely.

 

The most disliked Bleistift video so far: The Kuru Toga video

It seems as if the Kuru Toga is are always a source of controversy. The idea of rotating the lead wasn’t new, see Schmidt’s patent, and the implementation, i.e. Kuru Toga’s mechanism, doesn’t work for me, probably because I don’t use enough pressure when writing. This blog presents my personal opinion, but some people seem to get upset if you say that this pen doesn’t work for everyone as advertised.

The Kuru Toga Pipe Slide

The Kuru Toga Pipe Slide

Keeping this in mind it’s no wonder that my Kuru Toga video has twice as many dislikes as likes (2 dislikes, 1 like).

Well, I am sure it’s great if you write Kanjis, but they are officially selling the pen in the West, I am not importing a pen not to be sold in the west, so I think it’s only fair to point this out and to show what leads to the pen not performing as advertised. I’m not saying it’s a bad pen, I’m just disappointed that it doesn’t work for me. I don’t doubt it works well for others (unlike the uni-ball air. I have three of the broad type now, but with the best will: the uni-ball air doesn’t do what it’s supposed to do).

 

The most popular video: Refilling pencils? Why??

I also don’t get why some videos are popular while others aren’t.

The DelGuard pen force test, the first video and therefore online for the longest time, is not very popular (about 11 views per week overall), even though I find this test exciting. Also: getting the force to display correctly and in sync with the video wasn’t easy. I think the idea was good and the fact that a few weeks after my video Zebra, the company behind the DelGuard, made a Japanese video with similar elements shows that it’s useful in conveying how the pen works.

I guess I shouldn’t be surprised about the lack of interest though, because the blog post about the DelGuard only got one comment, despite the effort that went into trying to produce an accurate diagram that shows how much pressure can be applied before the lead breaks when extended how far.

What force is needed to break a lead of what length.

How much force is needed to break a lead extended a certain length in the DelGuard.

In comparison the refilling a mechanical pencil video is quite meaningless, but is much more popular (about 35 views per week overall).

The lesson here is that my audience doesn’t like complicated stuff. No point in writing things down that no one wants to read anyway. You might have noticed that I am now trying to keep blog posts simple. It doesn’t always work as blog posts tend to end up more complicated than first planned – but I’m working on it.

 

Using bloggers to sell products

Something else I noticed is that since I started seven years ago there are more and more companies that want their products being advertised by bloggers, but they don’t provide a sample (so small bloggers are supposed to basically just relay a marketing message for a product you don’t know).
I have linked to many Kickstarter projects I found interesting, even though I didn’t get anything free from these campaigns, on the contrary I spent money to buy/back the product. Bloggers do that because they get excited about these products. What has changed is that now companies just sent you their press releases without any additional information. Unlike them I don’t earn money from this, it costs me money, like it does for many other non-commercial blogs. I do get some benefits from this blog: The two most expensive things I got in these seven years was (Number 1) being invited to Insights X followed by (Number 2) a Lamy 2000 mechanical pencil, worth £46 (~$57; €53). I guess you could count these ‘benefits’ against he cost of the server, but there still wouldn’t be any money left.
Because of the non-commercial nature of this blog I am quite unhappy when companies misuse non-commercial blogs, e.g. like Book Block did. I found the idea great so there was no need to promise me anything to get me to post about it, so why tell me they’ll send a notebook and make me design it when they won’t send it, even after repeated email exchanges about this? This is even more frustrating as they did send samples to the big blogs, like Desk of Adam, Gentleman Stationer, Pentorium, Woodclinched (I think Andy said he got one), but small blogs get like mine get told they’ll send a sample, but then they can’t be bothered to keep their word.

Well, a while ago Paper Oh told me on Instagram they want to send me a notebook. Let’s see what will happen.

I know many other examples that shall not be named where other companies use bloggers not only for input, but to do important tasks that are part of product development or creation and after the work is done the bloggers then get ignored or don’t even get to see the final product, even though it is sold for a cheap price, i.e. is available. I have not been treated like this, but it is a shame that the small bloggers sometimes do get misused in this way.

It didn’t used to be like this and it is a shame that it is like this now.

Giveaway

Well, since this is an anniversary post there’s also a giveaway.

The winner will get a surprise package that contains at least one item from each of the following categories

  • wood cased pencils
  • mechanical pencils
  • sharpeners
  • erasers
  • fountain pen

I think it’s definitely worth taking part!

Why? Look at this previous giveaway: The pens from the previous giveaway are currently selling for £68 + £44 = £112 (~$139; €131), the RRP is even higher, but there were only 30 comments, so on average every commenter won more than £3 (even though that’s no consolidation for those who didn’t win).

…and the best things is that I don’t make you follow me on Facebook, Instagram or Twitter and don’t make you write a poem either. All you need to do is post a comment here. The giveaway will be open for one week, until Monday, 28 November 2016, 23:59:59 Zulu time (GMT). If you don’t know what to write, just write “I would like to win” or something like that…

 

  1. which have 23 YouTube subscribers by now, in case you wonder about the title of this blog post. []
  2. Figures taken from The Telegraph and ShrinkThatFootprint []

400 – behind the Scenes 12

Welcome to Bleistift’s 400th blog post.

As this is kind of an anniversary post I want to give you a quick behind the scenes look. The last post like this was 1½ years ago. It was the 5 years Bleistift – behind the scenes post.

Visitors (actually sessions) in the last year, by country.

Visitors (actually sessions) in the last year, by country. Can you see the smudging? That’s why I don’t like soft leads.

Statistics

The countries where the visitors come from (measured by Google Analytics) has hardly changed. Spain is not as strong anymore, but Australia is much stronger now.

Last time I looked at visitors, this time I want to look at page views (measured by WordPress). Bleistift gets around 6,000 – 9,000 page views a month. I am not sure how many of these are real, as I get around 20 spam comments a day – so I wouldn’t be surprised if the number of pageviews be real humans is a lot less per month. I guess you can deduct 1,000 for spam bots etc.

Sites that send most visitors to Bleistift are in a similar order than what you have seen last time, but Lexikaliker is now the strongest site, followed by Pencil Revolution and The Pen Addict – with all three sites sending nearly the same number of visitors to Bleistift – the difference is ~5%.

 

Size

How does this compare? Well I think it is safe to say that Bleistift is a tiny blog, based on the fact that in comparison the numbers are tiny and that Bleistift isn’t on the radar of many people in the stationery community, so you usually won’t find it on the list of pencil blogs, e.g. at The Well Appointed Desk, My Pencils Draw Worlds or on sites like Pennaquod.

The semi-professional blogs have huge numbers in comparison. Number 1 must be The Pen Addict, with over 1 million page views per month. Other geographically closer blogs from the UK, like Pens! Paper! Pencils! with more than 20 thousand page views per month are also several times Bleistift’s size.

 

Cost

Bleistift is an amateur blog, but nevertheless I am lucky enough to have received freebies for reviews in the past, mainly from The Pen Company, who have sent me four different mechanical pencils over the last years – in return for writing reviews of these pencils for their blog. They also gave me permission to post these reviews on my own blog as long as I use a special code in my post that will let search engines know that the review on their blog is the original and my blog post is the duplicate (This is common in Search Engine Optimisation). Well, keeping this in mind I have to say that value of the freebies I got (excluding swaps with friends) is even a bit higher than the cost of the web site1.

 

The past and the future

In my opinion the stationery blogging landscape has changed a lot since I started. My impression is that stationery blogs used to be more about presenting (objective) information. Today most blogs seem to be more about expressing individual (subjective) opinions without much reference to where the second hand information, that is being presented came from. Obviously the number of stationery blogs is huge, so every reader will sample a different subset of posts and will see different patterns emerge in what they read… Your experience might be quite different to my subjective experience.

In terms of Bleistift’s posts I have again noticed that short blog posts are much more popular than long blog posts, measured by the number of comments. I think the reason is that every one is busy and there’s not much time for reading, so ‘fast food’ is more welcome. Some of my more work intense blog posts2 got hardly any comments, but short blog posts seem to be much more popular, so I might focus on shorter blog posts in the future. I haven’t decided yet.

 

Top 5

Before I finish. Here’s the Top 5 of Bleistift’s most popular blog posts. These older blog posts get visited again and again.

  1. Atoma vs. M by Staples’ Arc (Twice as popular as number 2 in this list)
  2. Sharpeners (Actually a page, not a blog post)
  3. Deli pencil sharpener 0635 (My favourite sharpener)
  4. KUM Masterpiece (That’s a surprise, I didn’t spent much effort on this blog post)
  5. The Kuru Toga – a disappointment (Bleistift’s very first blog post)

 

Thanks

Thanks for visiting Bleistift over the last 400 blog posts and hope to see you again (and again) for the next 400.

 

 

  1. This cost is the pencil.land domain and a SSL certificate. I don’t include the web hosting itself as I had it since the 1990s, long before Bleistift. []
  2. like Pimp my Rotring rapid PRO 0.5Affordable pencils or Zebra DelGuard []

5 years Bleistift – behind the scenes 10

It’s been five years since Bleistift’s first blog post. Time flies.

Today: a little look behind the scenes – from a web point of view.

Comments and Spam

Visitor numbers have been fairly constant over the years. Bleistift gets about 100 to 150 visitors a day. My guess is that many of them are actually not people, but spam bots …but it’s difficult to say exactly how many are real, human visitors and how many are not. Many spam comments have been left, but over the years there have also been nearly 1500 real comments. WordPress’ Plugin ‘Akismet’ is pretty good at sorting out spam, which means that real comments don’t end up in the spam folder very often. The spam comments Bleistift gets often contain links to web sites selling fake watches or medicine, but some don’t seem to contain links at all or they contain links to unsuspicious looking web sites. I guess some of these comments that don’t make sense, but that don’t link to any medicine,fake watch, etc. websites are designed to probe the spam filter of blogs without giving away who sent them. I think Kevin’s guest review of the Dahle 133 is worth being mentioned here. It’s probably the blog post most ‘attacked’ by spam or the one where spam comments are most difficult to detect by the system – recently it received about 50 spam contents on that blog post that were so ‘good’ that the Akismet plugin didn’t recognise them as definite spam.

Visitors

The origin of the visitors hasn’t changed a lot over the years. You can see this in the table below, which contrasts where the visitors from the last month came from and how that compares to visitors overall since the start of the blog. This information is recorded using Google Analytics. This is a lazy solution and it would be better if I wouldn’t use a third party tool for that. Maybe one day I’ll switch. I probably don’t even have to mention that the best blog around, Lexikaliker, does this the way it should be done, i.e. without third party tools.

October 2014 All time 
United States30%United States33%
Germany12%Germany11%
United Kingdom10%United Kingdom11%
Canada5%Canada5%
France4%France4%
Australia3%Australia3%
South Korea3%Spain2%
Spain2%Italy2%
Italy2%South Korea2%
Netherlands2%India2%

When it come to the web sites that send visitors to Bleistift not too much has changed either. Pen Addict was always the site that refers most visitors. If there is ever a spike in visitor numbers I can be sure that this means the Pen Addict has included Bleistift in their Ink Links.

October 2014 All time 
The Pen Addict15%The Pen Addict24%
Pencil Revolution11%Pencil Revolution9%
Lexikaliker7%Pencil Talk9%
Contrapuntalism4%Lexikaliker5%
Pencil Case Blog3%Dave's Mechanical Pencils5%
Pencils and other things3%Contrapuntalism2%
Pencil Talk2%Stationery Traffic1%
Just another pen2%Notebook Stories1%
Scribomechanica2%Pencil Wrap (defunct)1%
Blackwing Pages1%Notebook loves pen (defunct)1%

 

WordPress

The blog software I’m using is WordPress. It’s quite nice, but some things are not as nice as with other blog software. One example: Another blog software shows links to other blogs by date of the last post and with the name of the latest article. I did install a plugin, so that WordPress behaves in a similar way, but this solution is not that elegant – it takes a very long time for this information to be displayed when you visit Bleistift.

Bleistift is hosted a server I rent. This means it does cost money and I have to update the software myself, but the advantage is that the visitors don’t have to see advertising. Speaking of updating, I should really get round to changing the template so that it’s responsive and looks good on a mobile device …but that’s probably not going to happen any time soon.


Two years 10

Unfortunately I’m still quite busy at work, but I am quite confident that I’ll be able to write new blog posts in the next few weeks.

Until then just two things I want to mention:

  • This blog is now two years old. I’m quite happy about this and hope that next year there’ll be many more blog posts. There are so many ideas I want to convert to blog posts… Some of them haven been in my hear for more than a year…
  • For anyone living in the UK: I noticed that Currys (at least in one of our Currys / PC World stores) started selling stationery. The items they sell are ridiculously cheap, e.g. Helix rulers for 7 pence (~ 11¢; 8c) or Stabilo GREENcolors sets, 12 FSC certified coloured pencils, for 80 pence (~ $1.26; 94c) – plus many more items.

 


Prices and exchange rates: November 2011