Shills?

Just last week, someone called this site a “shill” blog on a certain platform. I’m not sure why writing about things we like makes us shills. We could write a lot about what we don’t like, but I’d get bored doing that here. I’m negative enough in real life! Is there a sense that this blog’s opinions are paid for or less-than-honest because we don’t generally post negative reviews? (Yes, we’re really asking — use a fake name if you want.)

Edit: Thank you so much for the kind words! If folks have some…critical things to say, we’d like to hear that too!

46 thoughts on “Shills?”

  1. That鈥檚 ridiculous. They must be new to your site, or just want to hear themselves talk like a hero. You know yourself better than anyone, and you know you give your honest opinions about products. That is the most important thing. As long as you are true to yourself, their words lose all meaning. That won鈥檛 stop people from feeling self-important in taking shots at you, but when you are coming from the right place it makes them easy to ignore.

  2. The insecure rantings of somebody who is fine with OfficeMax house pencils are not worth your鈥攐r anybody else鈥檚鈥攖ime.

  3. I must admit that I have struggled with this very subject myself for a while now. I would be lying if I said my inner cynic has never picked up on a pattern of positivity when it comes to stationery review blogs. However, after further reflection, I’ve decided that sticking to a more positive point of view is not necessarily a bad thing. Goodness knows we have enough negativity in the world today. It’s nice to have an outlet. In fact, I look to stationery review blogs and the stationery community as a whole to take my mind off the world for a little bit. Besides, who would want to review something they didn’t like? Better yet, why would I want to read about someone’s negative experience with a product? Generally, I tend to steer clear of products that do not receive a lot of press about them with the assumption that they were not well received. In some cases, this has caused me to miss out on some really great products. That’s my own fault and not on the reviewers. After all, they can’t review everything. I said all of this to say that I hope to continue seeing the positive reviews regarding stationery products. Bottom line, I do not see this blog, nor any others, as a “shill.”

  4. I remember years ago when I worked retail it was commonly understood that the only people who leave comments are the ones who have a negative experience or view. I don鈥檛 know if that鈥檚 still the case but I imagine it is. I think that generally we as a society have gotten too accustomed to the purpose of comment or review being to find the negative or point out the faults. For some people, the joy of a hobby can mean that we can find positive in almost anything, even in a thing that we wouldn鈥檛 personally enjoy. I appreciate that as refreshing in an increasingly negative world and I hope you continue to maintain that positive tilt to your views.

  5. I鈥檝e bought A LOT of pencils because of you and your Erasable cohorts, but I wouldn鈥檛 call you a shill. I looked up the definition of shill, and to my knowledge, you weren鈥檛 鈥渁cting as an accomplice鈥 for any company or brand (although I wonder about the Wopex. LOL)…so, maybe a better title for you would be ambassador, or maven, or maybe passionate user :)

    Tell that person to go f**k themself and, while they鈥檙e at it, buy a dictionary.

  6. Some people mistake being negative about everything for having a nuanced taste in things, and they also have no respect for the amount of effort that goes in to the things that they run around trashing. Just look at all the reactions to popular culture in recent years where millions of dollars and years of people鈥檚 lives go in to a project, and then the internet seems to rise up with zero regard for any of that and trash the production for not being perfect.

    Focusing on things you like and finding the positive within an imperfect product is far more interesting, and ultimately better for all of us. I鈥檇 ignore the person accusing you of being a 鈥渟hill鈥? clearly they have some sort of inner turmoil they can鈥檛 handle that they are projecting out in to the world. It鈥檚 Holden Caulfield complaining about 鈥減honies鈥滬 for their sake I hope they grow up some day.

  7. Some people thrive on drama and negativity. Thats why “reality tv” is so popular (and also why I haven’t had cable in over 15 years). Social media is the worst! Im a VERY positive person irl. But even I get sucked into the negative spin cycle from time to time. Usually around the same time Blackwing releases a new Volume. lol. But seriously, pencils are supposed to be fun! Why waste what little time you have on products that don’t appeal to you? If anything, I think theres something to be said about you not reviewing products that you don’t like. The internet is already full of enough stuff that sucks. I use it to read about and watch stuff that I LIKE! Thanks for keeping it fun!

  8. Hi!
    I love Pencil Revolution! It is so nice to know there are others with a pencil obsession!
    And, admittedly, I am a bit of a pencil snob ~~ I do not feel there is any shill in your sharing
    about a passion for a simple, yet lovely tool for expression! Jot on darling!

  9. Johnny Mercer wrote these lyrics, published in 1944:

    鈥淵ou’ve got to accentuate the positive
    Eliminate the negative
    And latch on to the affirmative…
    You’ve got to spread joy up to the maximum
    Bring gloom down to the minimum
    Have faith or pandemonium’s
    Liable to walk upon the scene鈥滭/p>

    I have never thought that there was an 鈥渁genda鈥 for this blog. You鈥檙e just sharing your opinion. I鈥檓 sick and tired of killjoys. Isn鈥檛 this world messed up enough?

    I don鈥檛 care if this is a faux-aphorism, but it fits:

    鈥淣olite te bastardes carborundorum鈥滭/p>

  10. The always-good-reviews-you鈥檙e-a-shill thing has hit every niche interest of mine on every platform. In short, how many truly terrible products are out there that would warrant being reviewed? Review blogs are a filter by design; only decent stuff gets reviewed. I have no idea why that鈥檚 so hard for people to grasp.

    Keep doing what you鈥檙e doing!

  11. I read quite a few pen, pencil, and paper blogs and almost all of them I read for the middle content rather than the final conclusion. I read them for the photos and the descriptions which provide much more than just the pictures alone. By the time I get to the final conclusion of the author, I’ve already made up my mind about the product because I can tell if it will fit my personal preferences or not.

    I think people will come to conclusions about the authors integrity based on their own personal integrity and whether they could see themselves doing it or not and project that onto the author.

    I am fairly recent to your blog but it’s pretty clear that you speak your mind about the products you review. As a reviewer I think it’s important to try to find and point out both the good and bad aspects of every product because personal preferences will be different for every person and what you think is a bad thing someone else mind think is a good thing, so even if you don’t personally like a product discussing the details may inform someone enough to make their own decision.

    Your voice and all the other voices of the blogs are a very valuable resource to every interested party (consumers, retailers, manufacturers, and others) and it’s really helped to build the community and foster growth in the industry and hobby. You keep on doing you, we like it that way.

  12. There was a reviewer, the bum!
    Who acted like he was our chum.
    He seemed independent,
    But to my resentment
    Was working for *gasp* Chewlies Gum!

  13. You are not now, nor have you ever been a shill. I love this blog, I trust your reviews 100%, and I love your insights into the product that you use. If someone is trolling the internet looking for negativity for negativity’s sake, they can look elsewhere. Most of the products we buy are good, otherwise they wouldn’t be made, or we wouldn’t buy them. Even if there’s something you’re not in love with, there’s a good chance that someone else will, and you’ve been blogging and podcasting for long enough to know that.

  14. Ridiculous! I’ve been reading this blog since the start – positivity isn’t “shill” ( I had to look it up – I’m that old ). Just guessing, but if it is about Palomino/ Blackwing, there are a few hardcore angry people left out there. Forget them and keep up the good work!

  15. To play devil’s advocate a bit…There can be times when a reviewer closes in on the line between helpful review and shill. To be clear, I do not think Johnny is being a shill in the specific instance I’ll refer to below. I think he’s enthusiastic about a particularly brand but possibly in a way that open him up for criticism.

    In a recent review of Write Notepad 4th of July notebook Johnny included the following comment, “Jon and Chris and Co. kept this run to a small 243 packs, and they went fast. Make sure you鈥檙e on Write鈥檚 mailing list for the next surprise edition. And, remember, their summer release is yet to come.” This snippet suggests a fair amount of familiarity with the folks running Write Notepads (which is fine) but Johnny is doing more than just reviewing the current product by encouraging readers to sign up for the mailing list and indicating that more surprises are coming soon. If there is anything more than a blog reviewer and product creator relationship between Johnny and Write, the 4th of July review doesn’t mention it. So then, readers should simply read from Jonny’s comments about this product and about Write Notepads more generally that he finds their products worth keeping tabs on and he’s encouraging readers to do the same. He is going beyond the current product but not in a way that is too over the top. One the other hand, if there is something more than just a reviewer and product creator relationship between Johnny and Write Notepads and he did not disclose it in the post about the 4th of July notepads then there is something likely amiss.

    More generally, blog reviewers are certainly not breaking the bank doing what they do and we are all appreciative of the effort. But, reviewers need to constantly remind themselves that they might be receiving more than a small amount of products for free and that keeping this information above board at all times is an absolute must.

    1. It appears I was incorrect and did not scroll to the very bottom of a post as Johnny did place a disclaimer regarding his relationship with Write Notepads at the end of the 4th of July review. This fact doesn鈥檛 change my essential point as it is, in fact, more of a check in Johnny鈥檚 box since he did disclose his connection to Write Notepads so any recommendation by him to join their mailing list was done under full disclosure. Definitely no shilling there.

  16. Only when discussing WOPEX. :) Seriously, eff those that seek reinforcement of their negative views and piss on those with positive reviews. A shill? Seriously? Punch them in the nose. Or give them the pencil treatment ala John Wick…. <– Just a joke folks

  17. AHA I KNEW I WASN鈥橳 THE ONLY ONE! It鈥檚 obvious from your love of the waxy and weird Wopex that Big Pencil has you by the puppet strings!!

    It鈥檚 important to think critically and to question things on the Internet. But like…consider more than one possibility? Instead of coming to one extreme, conspiracy theory-laden conclusion? Consider the author鈥檚 view on keeping the blog positive because real life is a trash fire. Or look into the history of the pencil and note how the basic design hasn鈥檛 changed in roughly 100 years. Read the very beginning of 鈥淭he Pencil鈥 by Henry Petroski and look at the pencil鈥攖he length, the girth (heh), the wood type (hard enough to withstand everyday life but soft enough to sharpen), the graphite/clay mixture (must be dark, not too hard or soft, erasable, and long-lasting)鈥攔eally *look* at the pencil for what it is: an engineering marvel!

    TL;DR: Near-perfect design + the author鈥檚 general passion for pencils x the variety of pencils for different purposes = a lot of positive reviews.

  18. I never get that impression from your posts. You like some stuff, you don鈥檛 like some stuff. Not everyone likes or dislikes the same things. Keep doing you and &$%# the haters!

  19. maybe he simply wanted to troll you a bit, maybe he is new to the positive vibes of the stationery community. It’s an opinion so treat it as that. Think about it, if there is a grain of wisdom and proceed.

  20. I feel like you give honest reports of the things you try. If you happen to have an item that was gifted to you by the manufacturer, I trust that you鈥檙e honest about it. With all of the different preferences, what you tout as a great thing may be something I don鈥檛 care for 鈥 so we鈥檙e all learning from what you share. As I鈥檝e recently mentioned on the FB page, I DO think that there is at least one member who posts items that are merely for show in hopes that we鈥檒l go buy them. I don鈥檛 happen to like that 鈥 but it鈥檚 not hurting me in any way 鈥 but they鈥檙e the shill鈥 they鈥檙e not giving reviews 鈥 just dangling the expensive items out for all to see.

  21. It looks as though someone doesn鈥檛 understand the landscape of available media today. If your posts were on a mainstream, national news site, I might see the person鈥檚 point. But you are a website/blog with content made available to all 鈥 no firewall, no pretense of a third-party news, and clearly marked as an opinion. (Actually, you do such a good job of labeling that this content might even fit on a news site as there is a lot of labeled opinion on all news sites.)

    The readers, myself among them, are self-selecting. I choose to read about things that bring me joy (take THAT Ms. Kondo!) and seek out new information. If you don鈥檛 like a free website, blog post, podcast, radio show鈥ove on. Like is too short to care too much about others disagreeing with you.

    Additionally, shill implies that you are paid by someone to post (I know that you tell your readers about where, how, or when you got the goods you are reviewing) or that you never express any negatives, see People鈥檚 Exhibit No. 1, 鈥淲opex.鈥滭/p>

    It saddens me that we鈥檝e gotten to the point that now people will comment from the gut and assume it is their right to do so. Sure, you have the First Amendment, and it鈥檚 important (it IS first鈥?, but why would you waste it on saying something that adds nothing to the debate or the world at large.

  22. I don鈥檛 get that from your posts, although I mostly look at the pictures. If you鈥檙e receiving negative comments on your blog, block them and move on. They are not worth your time and energy.

  23. To quote Anton Ego from Ratatouille: 鈥淚n many ways, the work of a critic is easy. We risk very little, yet enjoy a position over those who offer up their work and their selves to our judgment. We thrive on negative criticism, which is fun to write and to read. But the bitter truth we critics must face, is that in the grand scheme of things, the average piece of junk is probably more meaningful than our criticism designating it so.鈥滭/p>

    I disagree with one point here: negative reviews are NOT fun to write.

    Life is too short to spend it hating things. We surround ourselves with the people and things we love. How miserable must a person be to surround themselves with things they disdain?

    This is not to say I haven鈥檛 written a negative review…oftentimes, a review is negative only because I had high hopes for something and it failed (for me) on many levels. But my negative reviews are only MY thoughts and MY reactions, through MY lens. I truly hope that I get that across to my readers. 鈥淵our mileage may vary鈥 and whatnot.

    Being a 鈥渟tationery blogger鈥 like you, I know the vast amount of things you鈥檝e purposefully chosen NOT to review…and likely because the product was utter crap and you didn鈥檛 want to waste your time and energy. I鈥檝e been there. No sense of taking the time to write about, photograph, and layout a post on the item. It鈥檚 hard to get excited about crappy products.

    It鈥檚 also important to note that it鈥檚 not like you鈥檙e a reviewer for the Baltimore Sun. You鈥檙e not getting all or even most of your products for free. You鈥檙e not on a deadline and might as well write a crappy review because you gotta write something. You鈥檙e looking for fun and cool things in the stationery world that get you excited enough to post about. It takes a lot to get these posts just right, and the last thing you want is to be dreading using and writing about something. It鈥檚 much easier when the product doesn鈥檛 suck.

    Don鈥檛 listen to the haters. If you were a shill, you鈥檇 have some more cash to throw around and you would鈥檝e made that Carbondale trip happen a long time ago. ;-)

  24. For some people, disdain is the defining trait of authenticity. If you don’t display sufficient contempt, specifically or generally, they will assume you are a sellout. Genuine positivity is an alien concept for some, and mockery passes for humor.

    For my part, I appreciate the fact that you have an emotional range consisting of more than three notes.

  25. I don鈥檛 think it鈥檚 鈥渟hilling鈥 to react to and write positively and passionately about things you dig. I like the way this blog posts about pencils, paper and the associated ephemera as it makes me eager to try things out. Keep on keepin鈥 on!

  26. Life is too damn short to use pencils you don’t enjoy, much less use one then take the time to blog about it. And who really wants to read about pencils not enjoyed?

  27. You write about what you are passionate about & like to share that passion with others, some people don’t get that. At the end of the day the only standards you need to live up are yours. There will always be those that feel the need to be disparaging over someone else’s opinions, like the guy with the pin that pops a child’s balloon. Pity them their lack of having anything to be enthused about & just get yourself a new ‘balloon’.

  28. I started reading this blog in January of 2017. You are not a shill. You give honest informed opinions, and you make it clear that it鈥檚 an opinion. No shilling.

  29. For years I was a book reviewer for print magazines and websites. I was (and, I guess, technically still am) a member of the National Book Critics Circle. Probably 95 percent of my book reviews could have been classified as 鈥減ositive.鈥 It鈥檚 not that I didn鈥檛 read books I didn鈥檛 like. It鈥檚 just that if I was going to take the time to write ABOUT a book, I decided I wanted to spend time writing about books I thought were worthwhile and wanted other people to try too. (I was still honest about what I thought didn鈥檛 work in a book.) Also, in my experience, it鈥檚 actually easier to write a negative review than a positive review.

  30. IDK man, I’ve been reading this blog since like 2005 or something and have never gotten that impression. You definitely give forgiving reviews sometimes that I dont end up agreeing with but I think that just comes from your absolute love of pencils in general and your taste being somewhat different than mine. Subjective stuff. I wouldnt have ever thought to call you a shill.

  31. I have a pencil problem, a paper problem, and a fountain pen problem. When I purchase something new and don鈥檛 love it, I don鈥檛 assume it鈥檚 because it鈥檚 fundamentally flawed. I鈥檝e been disappointed, for example, in a couple of $15.00 fountain pens. They鈥檙e not bad; the quality is simply limited by the price point. I like white paper because, as I age, I appreciate contrast. Cream and off-white papers are not for me, but that鈥檚 just taste. I don鈥檛 like hard it scratchy pencils. I crave smoothness, but that鈥檚 just me. I appreciate that some people value feedback. All of this to say that if I were a reviewer, I would take your approach. Some people, however, don鈥檛 trust things unless they find the critical mass of 鈥渃ons鈥 to suggest that the reviewer is not in the pocket of the manufacturer. It鈥檚 not you, it鈥檚 them.

  32. You don’t universally fawn over the products. You handle their imperfections with class, which is something so rare today in politics and society that it seems false to someone who doesn’t have it.

    Bless his little heart.

    “To disagree, one doesn’t have to be disagreeable.” Barry Goldwater

  33. You鈥檝e been at this for a while and yes sometimes reviews can be repetitive (blackening volumes, Lamy releases etc you know what I mean) BUT it鈥檚 all for the pure love of what you鈥檙e writing about and that鈥檚 delightful for those of us who share the same 鈥榓ddictions鈥 so to speak ; )
    You also happen to get access to newer stuffs or brands as you鈥檇 be more likely to be reached out to with your following and dedication to what you do. The newer stuff won鈥檛 be as often as the others but that鈥檚 because when you started I鈥檓 sure you would鈥檝e gone through the whole range of what was accessible then and more or less , in a sense, it would鈥檝e narrowed (sorry so negative sounding it that鈥檚 not the point I swear) viewpoint a little bit BUT that didn鈥檛 mean you narrowed your outlook 鈥 that鈥檚 what an addiction to stationery does : you can omit stuff you don鈥檛 like coz honestly why spend on things that you鈥檙e just not going to enjoy using. Which leads to : you鈥檙e more than happy to spend on those you love or enjoy using. Having this platform sharing that joy is wonderful and you鈥檙e right the real world is negative enough.
    Shill? Nah 鈥 if you鈥檙e getting paid or sponsored by this point in your blogging career 鈥 why the hell not? You鈥檝e put in the time the effort and the continued enthusiasm to do so 鈥 and it鈥檚 not a job if you鈥檙e doing what you love鈥 right ?
    It sucks that people take the time to be negative but honestly 鈥 there鈥檚 so many more of us out there who still continue to appreciate what you do and I鈥檓 sure by the time this comment reaches you 鈥 you鈥檇 know that even more so than you already did.
    All the same 鈥 I appreciate and enjoy what you put out and it鈥檚 obvious there are plenty of us out there. We support you : )

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