Pre-production pencils

A fortunate side benefit of this blog has been an occasional request to evaluate pre-production pencils. I thought some readers might like to see a few genuine pre-production pencils:

Pre-production pencils

The pencils shown don’t have many distinguishing surface characteristics – because they are pre-production. No product name has yet been chosen, let alone a finish or design. That’s because at this stage, the company is seeking feedback from testers – they want to know about the pencil’s function in order to inform future development.

The pencils have some laboratory markings (there are more details and annotations on other sides) and are nowhere near being ready for sale – they are pre-production.

Pre-production pencils

The company behind the pencils shown here is doing fine. But why, oh why, would any another company intentionally mislead?

18 Replies to “Pre-production pencils”

  1. Those pencils look to have rather wide cores for HB. Could you tell us more about them?

    As far as the pre-production thing is involved…”pre-production” in the corner of the tech industry I was involved in was quite distinct from “prototype”. However, the impression given to most of the evaluators in the case in question seemed to be one of active participation in the development process, which was apparently not the company’s real intention. True community involvement is cropping up in places, but generally it’s happening with smaller businesses that lack the inertia of their traditional models and strategies. Companies like TWSBI have made pretty good use of their web communities for development, but how many large manufacturers are disclosing everything along the way? That’s not to say they *shouldn’t*, but they typically do not, for a variety of reasons.

    I think some companies, like the one this post indirectly refers to, are stuck somewhere in the transition; they know that the web community is a useful tool, but being unable to incorporate it into their development flow, they resign it to the task of promotion–particularly after the liberal showering of affection upon their previous high-end product. I like to think that the feedback solicited may in fact be used for later product variants rather than a ploy to encourage rapid press, but I have my doubts after reading their blog and the way they have reduced and dismissed a lot of constructive commentary while vindicating their decisions.

    One thing I consider interesting is that the finish and appearance of the pre-production product did not do anything to convince the evaluators that the pencil was finalized, and probably contributed quite a bit to the impression that it was still in development.

  2. My first impression, when I saw these pencils, was probably similar to Robert’s: The core looks rather wide for HB. It also doesn’t seem to be centred properly (Something I normally don’t come across, when sharpening my own pencils, but something I came across recently when a colleague asked me to sharpen his NoName pencil.)
    The core looks a bit like a Lamy lead, but their leads are centred and the numbers on the your pencil could not have been written by a German.
    I hope you’ll let us know what make these are, once the evaluation is over :)

  3. The first and third pencil from the bottom show an odd offset of the two wooden halves. Or am I imagining things?

    The fact that the samples give almost no indication of the finished product supports thorough assessment, just as a rough illustration, sketched by hand, is viewed differently and may get more valuable criticism than a CAD plot with the same content but looks finished.

    The way the company in question deals with critcism also puts off many future testers. My comment yesterday was deleted very quickly, and in view of the fact that they have asked for my feedback only two weeks ago this is very unfair (to put it mildly).

  4. The company in question seems to have a mixed attitude toward testers, acknowledging them as Blackwing fans and then dismissing their careful evaluations as merely persnickety. I’d say it’s comparable to asking oenophiles for their opinions of a wine and then complaining that everyday people would just drink the stuff.

    And that phrasing, “Understanding the Traditional Blackwing Fan” sounds too much like the title of a textbook in abnormal psychology. Poor us. :)

  5. All, thank you for the comments.

    The pencils shown are a range of grades, and the softer grade pencils do have wider cores. I’m probably not going to be told about any final product details (not even the name), so I don’t think there will be much that I can discuss. There may not even be a final product. The noted odd wood casing application may reflect a non-standard fabrication used for samples.

    Robert, I appreciate your knowledge of the marketing world. And it is quite interesting that the pencil’s rough appearance and lack of design did suggest to many of us that it was in a development phase.

    Gunther and Michael, I think you’ve both expressed very well some of the frustrations of this experience.

    I guess it is time to move on.

  6. Nice! So that’s how a pre- production pencil looks like. You lucky guy – being asked to test pencils. :-)

    Re the last comment: You’re right; it’s time to move on. But how? I must say, that I’m terribly disappointed by this modus operandi from a brand I consider one of the best. I would very much like Calcedar to have the benefit of the doubt here, but I can’t see how this was a mistake, a misunderstanding?
    At this time, I’m not sure I will be buying…

    Regards Henrik

  7. I’m sure the people in charge at CalCedar are extremely disappointed in themselves. I feel that everyone is allowed to make a mistake every once in a while; and afterall, they are just pencils in the big scheme of things. My past experiences with CalCedar has been great and I will continue to purchase from them because I know that they are a small company that truly cares about their customers. Mistakes happen, I am over it…

  8. This keeps getting worse. The comment by “Mark” comes from an IP address owned by CalCedar. The sentiment expressed is fine – so why pretend it comes from an outsider?

  9. Keen eye Stephen! I hadn’t expected they’d be drawing from the O’Bon marketing playbook.
    Fascinating how someone apparently thought that the best way to combat the perception of dishonesty is to be dishonest.

  10. 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 Orange Crate Art. 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 that 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 you believe me or not I just can’t control. Hopefully in time we’ll have a chance to earn back your trust.

  11. Gunther –
    I received a notification e-mail regarding your comment on my Timberlines blog to which you refer, but when I went to check the blog it was not there. I have not been moderating posts on Timberlines recently, so it’s not sitting in moderation, thus I really don’t know what happened there. I am sorry I did nto directly contact you at that time to acknowledge receipt, its been a very busy week. There was no reason for me to delete such a comment and the only time I’ve ever deleted any comment on my Blog is when it was clearly off topic spam. As mentioned above I can understand how the two subsequent e-mails you received in response to your questions could have been interpreted to reinforce a belief that there definitiely would be changes to the product before launch. At that point there still were no firm decisions and alot was under disccussion so in effect it was accurate at the time, but I can certainly see how it appears otherwise once our launch decision was communicated. The way I communicated that in the comments to Monday’s post probably didn’t help. Sorry about that.

  12. Woodchuck, I appreciate your writing this comment.

    Statements such as “Please feel free to be as honest as possible as these pencils are in the ‘pre-production’ phase,” and ” … if we can get all of the questionnaires in by the end of this week or early next week we can start making the production changes,” in email from your company, and especially the “pre-production” term all indicated that this product was subject to modification based on the solicited input of reviewers.

    I do accept that these email communications and the terminology usage were all errors that compounded, rather than any sort of malice or intentional misrepresentation.

    Good luck with the pencil launch. I think all pencil aficionados are delighted by the initiative, and sales will be strong.


  13. WoodChuck, thank you for commenting on the unpleasant aspects.

    Re my comment: After submitting it was visible on your blog but when I refreshed the page after a while it was gone so I couldn’t help but thinking that it had been deleted. If my comment was lost because of a technical problem I apologize for the allegation.

    Developing and marketing a new product, including dealing with OEMs, testing, setting up the marketing etc., is surely very heavy-going and doesn’t always run smoothly. I hope that the time will pour oil on troubled waters – good luck with the enterprise!

  14. As one of the critics, I too would like to thank Woodchuck for these clarifications. They saved my day. The “masquerade” stunt and the deletion of a critical comment was what bothered me the most. Thanks for clearing that up so fast.
    Good luck with the launch – I’ll be one of the buyers after all.
    Regards Henrik

  15. I appreciate your supportive comments and once again apologize for all aspects of my personal and other company employee communications that lead to this situation just becomming more and more frustrating for all of us. We at CalCedar are endeavoring to be wise and successful stewards of the Blackwing as we move forward.

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