Snooth Blog

Snooth User: Philip James

Self promotion

Posted by Philip James, Apr 24, 2008.

Tom Wark, over at Fermentation posted today over how people, usually wineries in his case, sometimes misuse the comments on his blog post to either get his attention or to sneakily collect a few back links to their own site. I'm still not sure if this is better or worse than real spam (of the cialis/viagra kind, although somehow snooth gets a lot of golf and scuba diving spam) as its done deliberately, by hand, whereas the average piece of spam is done via software code and the spammer realistically has no idea which sites they are posting comments to.

We see this on Snooth occasionally, a winery may create an account, then rush out and rate 5 or 10 of their own wines 5 snooth glasses.

In the short term these tactics probably work. Tom even, in a sardonic fashion, gave his spam commenter major exposure today by talking about them, and even posting their bottle label image (complete with naked woman), but over a longer term I think they are a bad idea:

1) the cost of being called out is greater than the benefit of gaming the system. To be totally accurate you need to factor in probabilities of each action, but even so I think its unwise.

2) in the same way that the captcha (type the words you see in this box to prove you are a human) trims out a lot of spam, we're looking at ways to strip out bogus ratings. We already allow people to vote on reviews, and we're getting closer to having a karma-esque rating for each user, which will help expose gamers.

I'm not saying wineries shouldnt comment on blogs, or review wines on Snooth, but making an effort to join in the online conversations that we are all having will be more rewarded than trying to hitch a free ride on everyone else's work.

Two perfect examples:

> HondaJohn works in the tasting room of Loxton Vineyards, and reviewed one of their wines very favorably , however, he discloses that he knows the winemaker.

> Jeff Stai of Twisted Oak Winery , through his total immersion in blogging and the online wine community has generated an enviable amount of goodwill and press.

I cant wait to try wines from either of the se two wineries, when in other circumstances I'd probably have never even have heard of them.


Reply by Mark Angelillo, Apr 24, 2008.

Good point about the value of joining the conversation. It all comes back to the amount of work you're willing to do and what you're willing to give. If you're looking for a cheap, quick way to grab a buck or a few extra eyes on your blog then you'll be pretty easily found/pointed out as being That Guy. Those that are here for the conversation and the long haul and that give something to the community are going to end up on top.

Blog comment by Ivan, Apr 25, 2008.

Would it be nice if a winery can post their wine, but not rate their own wine? Same goes for people who sell wine.
So owners en sellers can add as many wines as they want (this is good for Snooth!), but ask the community to rate their wines.
When somebody who makes or sells the wine does give a rating, they first get a warning, second is a ban and an ip-ban.

Maybe it is also good to give a rating from 1 till 10 instead of 1 till 5. Then it is easier to monitor the faske rating.


I sell wine and I would love to get a link to my shop when a visitor comes to "my wines". But I don't have the money to promote "my wines" on Snooth.
So this would be a good solution for me and I also think for Snooth.

Please comment!

Reply by John Andrews, Apr 25, 2008.

I admit, I do comment on rate wine at the winery I work at but I do try and be fair and clear. One of the reasons I work at the location I do is because I like the wines. I was a wine club member before I ever started working there. The style of wines from the winer appeal to my palate.

Oh yeah, you may find this interesting. The wine maker I work for doesn't actually drink his own wine a regular basis. He does this to keep perspective.

Reply by Philip James, Apr 25, 2008.

Ivan - We offer a 5 glasses scale with half glasses, so that gives us a 1-10 rating essentially.

The concept of not allowing stores or winery staff to rate their own wines is certainly pure, but I think people can rate their own products with a disclaimer. Gary V built his popularity, in part, by panning wines that wine library carry. There are of course inbuilt biases, but the reviewer can try to strip those out, the user can also strip those out too, and if its written well what you have left is a good review.

Blog comment by Ivan, Apr 26, 2008.

Philip- Oops my mistake, there is a 1- 10 rating, got mixed up with another website. Disclaimer? That is a good thing. I also rate wines on different website's, but I try to keep an objective prespective even when it is a wine I sell. But when I rate a wine very good and people know that I sell the wine, it is easy to get a mark that you are overating a wine. Maybe it is an idea to get more ratings:
1. The quality.
2. The taste.
3. How long can you store a wine.
4. Personal rating.

Let's take a Beaujolais Nouveau as an example:
1. Quality: 6 (also depends on the wine year)
2. Taste: 7 (also depends on the wine year)
3. Storage: 3 (Drink within the year!)
4. Personal: 8 (I love young wines or something)
Average: 6

This gives a better objective of the points..

I talked to a Dutch sommelier about rating a wine and he uses this system. Then again no system is full proof, but the average of 4 ratings is better then just 1 rating.

Reply by Philip James, Apr 26, 2008.

Ivan - I certainly feel you are correct and that, if anyone is worried about their impartiality, a way to reduce that is to follow a strict scoring system. Some stores for example will review a wine, but not provide a rating. The review adds valuable information to the wine and allows a user to make a choice, but avoids much of any self promotion issues.

Ultimately I think sites like ours, because we depend on multiple reviews, are harder to game.

Compare this to a french winery that gave some journalists $2,000 Cartier watches at a lunch recently:

How do you maintain objectivity after that?

Blog comment by Ivan, Apr 26, 2008.

Philip - thanx for the feedback and you are also right! No Cartier watches here so I hope the objectivity of Snooth stays.

Reply by oceank8, Apr 26, 2008.

I agree that if wineries have a brain, they will do it like HondaJohn. I am just an average consumer, but I would think that would be a good target audience. Because I come here and read so many of HondaJohn's posts, I feel as if I know him and that makes me want to try the wines from his winery!

As for bribes to critics, that's awful! I guess it can happen in any field. As for objectivity, I do buy the wines that are on display (which is often the higher rated wines), but I guess we all have to judge our own tastes. Luckily, I guess, there are only a few major critics that really make a difference in the industry and people rely on them and their taste enough that if would be pretty obvious if they were taking bribes.

Reply by Squirt, Apr 26, 2008.

We are so new at wine, in general, that we are still getting to know what we like and dislike. I spend very little time looking at ratings and reviews prior to a wine purchase. I spend more time getting to know the store where I am dealing and how they market their products. In general I've never had a bad recommendation from a store employee and had read a few reviews where I feel like I've been had. For a novice getting in to the wine culture, it can be a very intimidating process finding your way. One of the reasons I like Snooth is that I don't really feel intimidated here and can make a faux pau or 3 and no one will jump down my throat. That openness speaks more than ratings and reviews ever could.

There should be a way for you to correlate review numbers to forum post numbers and have a red flag go up somewhere if the numbers are out of whack.

Reply by John Andrews, Apr 27, 2008.

@oceank8 ... thanks for the kind words ... if you make it up to Sonoma let me know and I'd be happy to pour some our wines for you and give you my recommendations for other wineries.

@squirt ... the only thing that really matters when you are trying wine is this ... do you like it. It doesn't matter what anyone else says. If you like it that is all that should matter.

Reply by Philip James, Apr 27, 2008.

Squirt - I taste a lot of wine (being in the business and all), but still drink some 2 buck chuck, and am a big fan of the ravenswood merlot, which is $8. So, as Honda says, drink what you like. Its the biggest factor of all. Of course, maybe snooth can help you track down what you are looking for, or help you discover some new stuff you might like

Reply by Squirt, Apr 29, 2008.

HondaJohn-If we don't like it it's history. With whites we have decided that we like fruity and very aromatic wines with a bit of dryness on the finish. We've been experimenting with Chardonnay and Sauvignpn Blanc. RIght now we've accumulated almost 20 bottles, from California, Chile, Washington, etc. that we are working our way through. For Chardonnay we really like Francis Coppola Diamond Collection Gold Label Chardonnay 2006 Monterey County and for Sauvignon Blanc right now it's 4 Bears Dry Creek Valley 2005.

Reds are where we haven't had anything to reach out and touch us. We have several that we haven't started tasting yet. It's difficult to find the time and we are just about at the limit of our storage capability. We picked up a couple of Beaulieu Vineyards Napa Valley Cabernet 2004 yesterday for $13.00 a bottle and I'm still trying to find a cubby hole in the motorhome for them.

Reply by ryanopaz, Apr 30, 2008.

Why not allow producer accounts, where they can help add content to your site? Manage their wine's profiles, leading to more of their wines indexed, and offering a space for Winemaker notes. Then we can use these valuable tools to augment the rest of us fools, who think we know how to rate! :)

just a thought

Blog comment by Ivan, Apr 30, 2008.

@rcatavino I like it!!

Reply by Philip James, May 1, 2008.

Ryan - 100% agreed. We already have the space for winemakers notes on each wine, i think we have 30,000 or so winemakers notes so far, and we do work with wineries who submit data to us, however the process is far too manual. There needs to be a "claim your page" button, where a winery can claim their wines, fix and upload data easily and monitor reviews or comments and pageviews on their products.

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