Wednesday, February 10, 2010

Wine Social Media: Backlash or Enhancement?

As always, there are two sides to everything so allow me to rant a bit and tell you my side.

Steve Heimoff did it again. Once again, he has poked a stick at the wine bloggers and got us all riled up. Steve is pretty good at it. Let it be known that Steve has never been a fan of social media and especially wine blogging. But oh my, how he has one of the most visible and well-read wine blogs in the industry.

I like Steve. Steve Heimoff is an American wine writer and a California wine expert. He has been the West Coast Editor for Wine Enthusiast Magazine since 1994 and he is also an author: A Wine Journey along the Russian River. I like the fact that Steve has a way of motivating us to speak up and bring our opinions to the surface. He gives us food for thought and gives us leverage to stack soap boxes and be heard.

On yesterday’s, Steve Heimoff wine blog, not only does he speak out about not being a fan of social media and wine blogging, but he also claims that technology has hurt traditional social structures and he doesn’t see any benefit.

I will agree with Steve about cell phone usage being intrusive. As I have always said about the cell phone user in a wine tasting room who insists on breaking up the relaxed ambiance with their loud voices and obnoxious cheap ring tones, “Are you really that important to conduct incessant blabbing on your phone and if you are that important to our world, perhaps your Secret Service people or your Chief of British Parliament Security can answer your calls?"

Sure, I can agree with Steve about how technology has affected us in a negative sense, but those people who use technology in offensive and selfish ways (It’s all about me!) more than likely possess no social refinement and skills to begin with. Social media only intensifies their ill-mannered ways. But this is where I have to stop and disagree with Steve Heimoff - - social media has enhanced my life:

Let’s start with my wine blogging. Well, what else is there to say? Here’s the proof, you’re reading it. Five years of wine blogging and I have created a network of wineries, other wine bloggers and readers who, are not only my colleagues, but my friends. This form of social network has given me a new career. I now write for other lifestyle and food and wine publications. Without this form of social media, wine blogging, Walla Walla and the Washington State Wine Commission wouldn’t be hosting 300 wine bloggers from all over the United States in June 2010. This new group of wine lovers gets to see first hand what our wonderful city and our wine country is all about.

Facebook and Twitter has also enhanced my life, not only professionally as a wine blogger but also with my family. As a youngster, I spent a lot of time playing with my cousins as our families gathered for weekends, vacations and large reunions. In the past years, our only link has been the yearly Christmas letter. Now we can keep in touch with each other through Facebook, almost daily and plan a new generation of reunions.

And it was just yesterday, I went to a wine industry party and what a great example it was of how Facebook and other forms of social media has enhanced wine lover’s lives – and of course, my own. There were many people attending that I knew of in the Walla Walla wine industry, but my only connection with them was through Facebook. I was finally able to put real faces to their Facebook photos and instead of having to introduce myself to a “stranger,” instead I was able to reach out to an “old friend” and immediately resume conversations.

Now Steve, how can you argue with that? I don't think you can, but thanks for giving me the idea to speak up about how social media, especially in the wine world, has enhanced my life.


Dr. Debs said...

Thanks for this post, Catie. As with every form of interaction, there are folks who mishandle social media, those who handle it well, and everything in between. Today I saw someone texting while driving on a busy LA freeway--not good! I also saw someone putting on mascara while driving on a busy LA freeway--also not good. Bad behavior is everywhere.

Also, for what it is worth, as a historian I can say that this is exactly the kind of hysteria that surrounded the printing press back when it was invented in 1450 and for a surprisingly long time after that date. If I ever get the time, I'll blog about it but don't hold your breath!

Anonymous said...

While @Oenophilus has never met @Catie in person, I count her a friend - someone with whom I laugh, snarl, giggle, and curse. I look forward to the day when I see her across a crowded wine tasting and can run up to her and give a good buddy a hug. Would any of this have been possible without the cold, artificial rudeness of social media. Nope. Cheers, WWWW! You ROCK!

wild walla walla wine woman said...

Dr. Debs! Patrick! Thanks for checking in!

Deb, I totally agree with you that bad behavior is everywhere and it has always been there even before technology and social media.

If it wasn't for blogging and social media, I would have never met Deb and sat with her on a bus, breathing in exhaust fumes and traveling on the winding roads in Napa. We also sat with each other at the CIA at Greystone and were together at Staglin Vineyards. Ahhh...memories!

Patrick I am looking forward to seeing you so we can laugh, snarl, curse and drink wine together.

Cheers my friends!

Ben said...

One of my favorite writers, Neil Postman, was fond of saying that, "Technology giveth and technology taketh away, and not always in equal measure." I think the key thing is just to examine the positives and the negatives and figure out where the balance is.

Clearly there are people who abuse these technologies, and I can even admit that I have done so on occasion. Still, I think that the point that you make in this article is spot on. There are a lot of opportunities that are available to people like us that never would have been available before the advent of blogs, Twitter, and other tools like them. Great post!

wild walla walla wine woman said...

Hi Ben,

Thanks for checking in and for the nice comments. And by the way, I like the quote and oh how it rings true.


Anonymous said...

It's good to see other bloggers getting riled up about crap in the wine industry. I was writing about this on another site lately and again on my own blog about wine in BC. It started out as a question about honest reviewing of wines within the Canadian and BC wine media (mainstream print media mostly) but through the discussion, it becamse clear that there was a real divide between writers who contribute to mainstream media and people who are exclusive to blogging/social media. For myself as a relative newcomer to blogging and not from a writing background (I'm a recovering musician), this division was something that I wasn't expecting to be as pronounced as it is.

Unknown said...

Love your post Catie, as a member of this exploding industry, I am excited by the potential of social media. It's like a great equalizer, no need for huge PR budget anymore to convince a few powerful writers, now it is everybody's turn to share their likes, dislikes and opinions. makes it a bit confusing maybe but much more approachable and entertaining...

wild walla walla wine woman said...

Hey Marie-Eve!

Nice surprise and thanks for checking in!

You are absolutely right about huge PR budgets, good point! I know for a fact you are a busy winemaker and manager with a busy family. It's great to see how you have taken the time to embrace social media for Forgeron Cellars.


denise said...

Great post Catie - Personally I am thrilled to have this opportunity to engage and exchange with so many interesting people - some of whom may actually buy my wine! But for the most part - I dont even care about that. I'm having a hell of a good time sharing my passions (I have more than one!) and doing it in a way that's not so insular - hence I'm exposed to broader points of view. I can filter and weed out the good from the bad, but at least it's on my own terms and it's not being done for me - like what we experience with one-way, old- school media outlets.

Although I have to say I find the whole debate over whether or not social media is good, bad or whatever to be a tad bit "over" at this point. I mean, what is Steve H. goaning about? Dr. Debs nailed with the point about bad behavior.
I agree with Ben too that we will be finding the balance as we all become more comfortable with new communication options.

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