Solutions for Community Wine Tasting Note Sites

In the last couple of months a number of wine related websites that bring a web 2.0 perspective (whatever that is) to the wine world has been launched. Among others Corkd, LogABottle, Winelog.Net, TastyDrop and OpenBottles.

Alder from Vinography has posted his view on Why Community Tasting Note Sites Will Fail. Alder considers that these websites all have the same fundamental problems and these will probably make them fail. In resume Alder points out that:

#1: In order to be really useful, you gotta have a hell of a lot of wines in the system
#2: We users are stupid and we don’t know how to write.
#3: There is not enough incentive or reason to use the system regularly
#4: There just aren’t enough wine lovers to go around

David Wheeler replies to Alder’s post and explains that in his view some sites might prevail but for different reasons.

I agree with David in the idea that Corkd has been developed mainly to allow people to share wine reviews and recommendation with their friends. Nevertheless, even if it solve some of Alder’s points, it’s not a good solution because is presents other problems.

I would like make my own view and I’ll use Alder’s points as a guideline.

1 – In order to be really useful, you gotta have a hell of a lot of wines in the system

I agree with Alder that a good wine database is a major starting point for any wine site. Users from wine sites can benefit from the fact that “Barca-Velha 1995″ or “Barca Velha 95″ means the same thing as “Barca Velha 1995″. Not just because of reviews (that are aggregated under the same wine) but because by refering to the same object other information can be agregated that might be useful. Think wine prices for example. Using corkd and the “Barca Velha” example, two friends could be reviewing the same wine and if introduced in the system diferently they would be considered two different wines.

David says that “it’s not a site that’s about reviewing wines, it’s about sharing with your friends.” I say that if Social Networking is about sharing objects (photos, books, wine), then users must clearly be addressing the same object for it to be shared.

Like Alder said, the answer to this problem (and also the one we’re developing on adegga) relies on a comprehensive database of wine for users to refer to. Even if, in the beginning, it contains some mistakes (and we’re making our best to avoid them). Asking users to report wine details errors (like name, region, grapes) and make sugestions on how to fix them is much easier than making them insert all the content from scratch.

2: We users are stupid and we don’t know how to write.

I agree with David in that Corkd users might only be interested in getting just their friends reviews and ratings. This is good for quality. The main audience of a review will only be the user’s friends. For example a review from a guy that I know in real life to be an excellent wine connoisseur saying just “I love this wine” might be much more valuable to me (that know him) than a fancy review from someone I’ve never met.

We’re all friends at adegga, so we know how much value is in a friend’s opinion wherever he may have said it. We’ll be addressing this problem using a special feature. We’ll talk about this one soon.

3: There is not enough incentive or reason to use the system regularly

Wines are not photos, they are more like books. Users upload pictures (lots of them) on a regular basis and check them even more regularly. All these because they want to share or manage their photos. Wines are not photos but I can think of a couple of reasons for users to comeback (even if less regularly) to a wine site. For example, user wants to know what his friends have been buying to keep track of new wines (social networking), user has bought a new wine bottle and wants to add it to his cellar (cellar managment) or user wants to buy a new bottle of wine (price and availability).

At adegga we have a focus on users so we’ll provide them with the tools that they need to accomplish their goals.

4: There just aren’t enough wine lovers to go around

There aren’t enough wine lovers to make a wine reviewing site a success because only a small portion of users will actually make reviews. But the value is not only on the reivew. I think there’s a lot more useful information than can help users get value from the site other than just reviews. There’s information that every type of wine lover can contribute much more easily that reviews. Think about tags ( drink, wait, sweet, chocolat, cheap, expensive) or ownership (if a friend owns a wine it means something).

Web Cellar Management
I agree with Alder and David that CellarTracker is one of the ugliest user interfaces I’ve seen. Nevertheless it solves some of the problems that Alder talks about by having and authoritative database and allowing users to suggest corrections. And being a cellar management software it gains from the fact that users return to it each time they buy a new bottle and want to update their cellar. Even with that UI, CellarTracker has around 16,500 registered users that I think are mainly heavy collectors of wine that manage many many bottles.

CellarTracker is big and for many people maybe a bit too big. We at adegga think that there’s space for a much simpler (and usable) alternative to cellar management.

At adegga we are buiding a place where users can share their passion for wine with friends. A place where conversation around wines can take place and where all users can take valuable information from that. Allowing them to learn and shop wine in a better way.

Stay tuned.

ps: I think that both posts from Alder and David (and their commnets) make for an interesting conversation around the subject of the new breed of wine sites. The feedback is priceless and I want to thank both of them for sharing their opinion.

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