Wednesday, September 15, 2010

Recently updated

The “pre-production” Blackwing pencil, it turns out, is the finished product. Huh? I’ve updated this post accordingly: The new Blackwing pencil.

Related reading
All Blackwing posts (via Pinboard)

[Note: The comments from “Mark” that follow are the work of an employee of California Cedar, maker of the new Blackwing.]

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April 10, 2012: Only in retrospect does it occur to me to wonder: out of all possible names to choose when leaving these phony comments, why did the Cal Cedar employee chose the name Mark? Was he hoping to earn the company some good will by giving the impression that he was the well-known Blackwing fan Mark Frauenfelder?

comments: 11

Mark said...

"The group that reviewed the pencils did a great job of communicating how the product could be improved and I absolutely intend to use their feedback when making design revisions for future production."
It sounds like they are going to make another model to me...is that what you've heard?

Michael Leddy said...

From the update I added to my review today:

“California Cedar has been, I think, misleading — at best — in describing these pencils as ‘pre-production’ samples. I evaluated the new Blackwing with the understanding that my comments (and those of other Blackwing fanciers) would help to shape the finished pencil. The very short turnaround time between the distribution of samples and the shipping of finished pencils to the States now makes clear that changes in design based on users’ evaluations were never in the offing. The ‘pre-production’ Blackwing, it turns out, is the new Blackwing.”

I have no idea what California Cedar is or isn’t planning now. But to my mind it strains plausibility to think that Cal Cedar was planning all along to follow this pencil with a more Blackwingish Blackwing. The pencils I received were described as “pre-production” samples. From an e-mail about the questionnaire that came with the pencils: “Please feel free to be as honest as possible as these pencils are in the ‘pre-production’ phase.” I was given the impression that I was evaluating a rough draft, so to speak, and that suggestions would be considered on the way to the final version. But the pencils now headed to the States are the same pencils everyone has just sampled! As I said in my update, I won’t be buying.

You can read comments from Lexikaliker and Pencil Talk (who also received these pencils) and draw your own conclusions.

Mark said...

Oh...well I will buy some of these and some of the next production batch if they are made...the more Blackwings the marrier!!!

Michael Leddy said...

A big if, I’d say.

Mark said...

How would you feel about the whole situation if they did make a new model? Is the current Palomino Blackwing a 'good pencil'?

Michael Leddy said...

I’ve really done all the thinking about Cal Cedar pencils that I want to do. :)

If you read my longish post, The new Blackwing pencil, you can see what I had to say.

Michael Leddy said...

Pencil Talk reports comments from one “Mark” as coming from an address owned by California Cedar. Nice, really nice.

WoodChuck said...

Michael -
I have been tied up in meetings this morning and have only just in the past hour been made aware of this new post and chain of comments here with "Mark" and similar strain over on Pencil Talk. I have now investigated and have unfortunately determined that an employee of CalCedar did indeed inappropriately masquerade as "Mark" on both blogs. While I believe this young, sometimes over enthusiastic individual who is in his first job out of University was well intentioned and merely trying to be loyal and supportive of the company, perhaps making his own effort at damage control, such masquerading behavior is clearly unacceptable. Appropriate discussion and disciplinary action that this will not be tolerated in the future has already been taken and hopefully this will simply now become a learning experience for this young gentleman.

Regarding the initial purpose of your post, I am disheartened that you continue to question our motivations relative to the consumer review process. However I understand how you and some others have come to your conclusions. Subsequently, I have also now learned that one or two follow-up e-mails to at least one of the survey respondents could have provided added reinforcement to the belief. These emanated from the same individual mentioned above. I was unaware of the content of such communication would not have been written in such a manner by me, even though they were technically accurate since we had not reached decisions on any potential product modification prior to product launch at that point and were still evaluating all feedback.

I have previously apologized elsewhere for my erroneous application of the term "pre-production" to these pencils. I would only ask that you re-read the questionnaire and the covering e-mail first inviting you to participate in that light. We asked if you'd be interested in sampling our product and providing feedback before we went to market. Nowhere did we state or indicate what decisions would be made relative to product design, marketing or any other area.

It's clear my post and follow up comments reporting our aggregate feedback from the "traditional" Blackwing fan seemed to touch some nerves. I am sorry if this is the case, it was not the intent. I honestly value the feedback received from all participants whether incorporated into product or marketing today or in the future. Whether you believe me or not I just can’t control. Hopefully in time we'll have a chance to earn back your trust.

Michael Leddy said...

Chuck, it seems absolutely crazy to me that what should be an occasion of great happiness for serious pencil users has turned into — well, whatever it has turned into. Something I added in a comment on my review: “That the new Blackwing is not a clone doesn’t bother me . . . . Nor would it bother me if a pencil were produced that did not take my suggestions (or someone else’s) into account. What bothers me is Cal Cedar’s representation of these pencils as ‘pre-production’ — it’s misleading, at best.” And there was, as I think your comment suggests, an e-mail to testers saying that changes could be made. It seems to me that that’s exactly why testers commented on color, font, and so on, all with the understanding that the design was subject to change. And I know that I read a caution somewhere that these were not the finished pencils, that they ought to be considered “pre-production,” a word I was careful to use in my review.

Maybe the real story here is about care and accuracy in language. I take you at your word that you didn’t mean to mislead. But referring to “pre-production pencils” ended up misleading a number of people. And you have been put in the position of having to defend design choices that seemed to be subject to change. I don’t envy you having to do that. I wish you the best though in bringing the new Blackwing to market, and I am glad, still, to have had a chance to try it in advance.

WoodChuck said...

Yes, this has been an interesting though painful lesson in semantics. I can see from your own posts and comments that you are a person that highly values precision in your writing and appreciate the feedback you have provided. While usually more precise myself, in this case I was clearly sloppy and it lead to a lot of unnecessary frustration for all of us. I will endeavor to improve in the future.

Michael Leddy said...

Also, when all’s said and done, a lesson in best business practices.