BY DON FLUCKINGER • I just got done writing an article for Paul Erano’s quarterly newsletter on Web resources for collectors, praising the virtues of Fountain Pen Network’s message boards, and of course the old warhorse Zoss email list, where a collector can still get patient, one-on-one attention from tried-and-true experts, like David Nishimura, who tirelessly answer questions about identifying, care, and feeding of vintage fountain pens.
|Most collectors know the basics about getting around the Web, but are seeking deeper, more granular information on particular pens.
Most collectors know the basics about getting around the Web, but are seeking deeper, more granular information on particular pens. The Zoss list and Fountain Pen Networks of the world are great places to hang out and get such info — I make them regular spots myself.
Now there’s more: Web 2.0 and social networking. In a nutshell, it’s a whole new set of tools that make putting a collection, an experience, a pen show find up on the Web, fast. It makes it easy (at least in theory) to find fellow collectors and get chatting at the water cooler, faster than ever. It makes people who couldn’t code an HTML page to save their lives — or begin to map out a plan for a Web site — able to publish an update about their collecting activity as quickly as programming geeks. Just go to MySpace or FaceBook (or who knows what sites will crop up in the near future more finely focused to collectors) and subscribe to a blog, or join a network. If you’re really smart, you’ll subscribe to the RSS feeds that your favorite sites offer and keep tabs on the most interesting stuff that way.
The problem with Web 2.0 and social networking is this: No one knows what good they really are. Just because you can do something, is it worth the time and effort? If you build it, will they come? Maybe these sites can help people find work, but can they help build connections in a hobby such as fountain pen collecting?
Richard and I are going to see what happens. This week, he launched his blog, which is accessible through the link in the column to the left. Doing it really seemed to make sense to him: He gets to share what he’s working on at the moment, and give his customers and fellow collectors a peek into his studio, a place where few people besides me can physically hang out. Before the blog, manually building the pages for such simple day-to-day stuff was just too time-consuming to even think about. Best part is, it’s interactive: Readers are invited to comment on his entries. And believe me, I take advantage of that capability built into this Web 2.0 thing — as a lot of you know, I use every chance I can to rib him about everything.
Another new thing to do, if you’re on FaceBook, is join my Vintage Pen Collecting group. As I write this, we still have open slots for group leaders, we’re so small. But hey, it’s a place where people can talk about the pens they’re finding, why they like particular models and makes and colors, and not get into the commercial stuff (please keep the buying and selling to back-channel communication). If you look at all the different and varied FaceBook groups you could join, such as the Himalayan Hangnail Prevention Society (OK, I make that up, but you get what I mean), clearly one on vintage fountain pen collecting is the most attuned to your interests, especially if you’ve read this article thus far.
I can’t tell you if these new venues will replace the message boards or email lists or snail mail or playing poker with Erano on Saturday night at a pen show, any more than I could have told you 10 years ago that eBay would sieve 95% of the good pens out of the antique stores and flea markets in the United States. But I can tell you that anything that promotes better, faster communication among pen collectors — and opens up the Web world to more non-programmer types — has to be good. A lot of you have something to say, but just didn’t know how to get the word out. Check out MySpace and FaceBook; blogging and networking your way around is easier than, say, writing an eBay auction listing.
If you’re one of these people already on FaceBook or MySpace rolling your eyes and muttering “what took this guy so long to get with the program?” you might as well drop on by, say hello, and let’s add each other to our friend lists. Because if you’re a fountain pen collector, you’re a friend of mine, even if we haven’t met in real life. If you’ve got a cool story or interesting blog you got going yourself, drop me a line, I’ll write about it and help you get the word out.
|Freelance writer Don Fluckinger lives in Nashua, New Hampshire, and is the son-in-law of Richard Binder. His articles have been published in Antiques Roadshow Insider, The Boston Globe, and on the Biddersedge.com collectibles Web site. Please note: Any opinions stated in this column are Don’s alone and do not necessarily reflect those of Richard Binder or this Web site.