jamie goode's wine blog: On blogging

Thursday, June 21, 2007

On blogging

Some late-night thoughts on blogging. I've been reading a lot of blogs recently. It seems that every website now *has* to have a blog, whether it's a winery, a magazine, a merchant or an agent. Somebody gets lumped with the job of blogging, or more commonly a team of people are required to provide the content. While I'm fully convinced about the effectiveness of the blog as a communication medium, I'm frequently underwhelmed by the blogs out there. Most of them just don't work. Why?

1. A blog has to have a voice. Multi-author blogs frequently lack this.
2. Content: what is written has to be interesting. It has to engage the reader. For this to happen, a blogger has to have something to say, which means that the blogger in question has to be a bit of a thinker.
3. Style: for a blog to be interesting, it has to be well written. Most people can't write. Writing can't really be taught, although people who can write can be trained to write better. Remember: just because you are smart, or because you are important, it doesn't mean you can write.
4. Conversation: blogs are about conversations with the readers. Most blogs from companies fail here: the authors are writing largely for their employers, not for their readers. There's a lack of genuine communication.
5. Disclosure: your readers need to get to know you. I guess this overlaps with (1). I'm probably not so good with this one. I'd like to disclose more about who I am and what makes me tick, but it feels a bit risky on a publically visible platform such as this.

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At 1:28 AM, Anonymous Dave said...

All good points Jamie, and I agree mostly. I'm not a big fan of Big company blogs, they might as well be a static page that gets updated every now and then.

Small vineyard/winery blogs can be great when they are done by the people doing the work...

BTW I think yours is fairly personal and you do put a bit of yourself out there. Its not a good idea to be too out there IMHO.

At 3:36 AM, Blogger winehiker said...

I haven't weighed in here in a while, Jamie, but you've got a good post here that hits the mark well.

To my mind, a person who chooses to improve at writing will become interesting and develop a style too. Essayist Edward Abbey once said that he forced himself to write 1000 words a day. For many bloggers, I think that threshold is well within our abilities - but only if we care to reach deeply enough within ourselves to develop this passion which is, in the final tally, our voice. And wine helps! :)

At 8:29 AM, Blogger Robert McIntosh said...

Good points Jamie.

Having a blog is a good thing if you have something to say, but the problem with company blogs is that they are usually unsure what that should be beyond marketing the company itself. They are no longer conversing with or educating their readers.

I would take issue with the quality of writing comment though.

Firstly, I read a number of blogs where the blogger has trouble writing clearly, but the passion for their subject and the relationship they create with readers is very important.

Secondly, most people need to learn (or re-learn) how to write. You are correct that even smart and driven people may not be able to write well, but for many people the entire experience of "writing" is limited to emails and memos. How often do most people get to be creative writers?

This point is painfully obvious to those (including me) who take up studying after having worked for a number of years.

Blogging is not the same as authoring a book, or even a journalistic article, but it is an important way for anyone to try and systemise their thoughts and communicate them in writing

... and that takes practice, something a blog is well suited to.

At 1:35 PM, Blogger Derrick said...

I'm going to join the comments about "Writing can't really be taught." I used to be a mediocre writer at best, but by now I've had some editors in my professional writing who inspired me to improve my craft. I'm still not as good as I'd like, but I'm a lot better than I used to be--I can't even read my earliest blog posts, and most of my clients barely touch my submissions now. My favorite editors still do, though I've noticed the amount declining, so I keep learning.

I might agree that the upper echelons of writing ability, the true artists, have something I never will. But I believe people can be taught to write well if they're willing to learn.

At 3:54 PM, Anonymous DB said...

Interesting topic. In the whole nurture vs. nature in writing debate, I think there's a bit of truth in both arguments. Passion and voice are the essential ingredients to any blog, and these are un-teachable intangibles. The mechanics of writing can certainly be taught, though, and daily practice will create improvement. But if there's no investment of earnest enthusiasm and a storyteller's voice, it won't be worth reading.

Corporate blogs are manufactured items and completely lacking in both passion and voice, as are most group blogs even when the group is made up of knowledgeable and talented individuals.

Writing is largely a solitary pursuit, and it fares best as a solo act. Some creative pursuits fare better in committee, like feature films or the collaborative songwriting of some good bands. But whenever you see two names on the cover of a novel, for example, you immediately know that it'll be rubbish. Novels, essays, feature stories and blogs seem like they'll safely remain the pursuit of individuals.

The nice thing about blogs, though, is how comments allow a sort of community dialog (like this) to grow up around them. It's adding something new alotogether to a solitary literary endeavor. It will be interesting to see where the genre leads.

Perhaps this whole discussion might best take place seated around a table filled with Riedel glasses and empty bottles of some of Jamie's picks. I'll have to gather some writer friends and try. Cheers!

At 7:00 PM, Anonymous Alex Lake said...

...although other brands will suffice ;-)

At 3:03 PM, Blogger Xu said...

Has anyone taken any classes with the International Sommelier Guild? I'm considering taking there level 1/2 course.

At 6:04 PM, Blogger Xu said...

I there Xu? (not sure if I got your name right). I have taken all of their courses in VA and loved them. Also as far as I know they are also licensed by the state board of education so you know they are legit.

Hope that helps,


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