Social Media Just For ‘Geeks’?

by Tim Elliott on November 13, 2006

Over the weekend, Andrew, from the fine Spittoon wine blog, responded in the comments to my Scurgy post with an opposing viewpoint:

“I am yet to be convinced that any of these sites have a future – I just dont think all this social networking malarky is going to catch on outside the geek community…”

What? How could he say such a thing? He’s even a post-Cluetrain blogger and doesn’t “get it”? ;-)

I have to say that Andrew does bring up a good point; in fact, one I’ve been concerned with in the past. Are all these Wine 2.0 sites doomed to be used by just us technology geeks? Will any of them find an audience outside the blogosphere? Am I just chasing windmills with these posts?

All good questions that are very difficult to answer right now. But let me present a quick case study here to try to illustrate why I think some of these Wine 2.0 site will catch on…

A couple years back there was this guy in the “fly-over States” who heard about podcasting on an online message board. Intrigued by the name, he did a Google search and found an example to listen to (this was back when a search on “podcast” returned only a few hundred results; today it’s about 226,000,000). From listening to his first podcast, he found another one, then one more when the light bulb went off. He should start his own podcast. Since there were none devoted to wine, this was the subject and he started in December of 2004. This chain of events would never had taken place if not for social media; first via a message board and later, a podcast (or three). One thing led to another and a couple years later there are thousands listening to this podcast and reading this blog. Not all of these people are “geeks” and I would speculate that not all of the 15,000 people who listen to Grape Radio are not geeks either (at least technology geeks).

So this is a long way of saying that I think some of these sites have a good chance to build an audience outside of tech geeks. It will just take some time. Let’s check back in a few months from now and revisit these questions.

OK, I admit it; I’m both a wine and technology geek, so filter my musings through this disclaimer :-)

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  • http://www.winelifetoday.com Joel

    I would say that the macro “Web 2.0″ is barely adopted. How long did it take for “non-techies” to shop online? Or to use e-mail? How about IM? MP3 players?

    Early adopters are an important part of the technology adoption life cycle. And to “cross the chasm”, technology has to find a niche that makes its use clearly understood. I submit that a very useful Wine 2.0 site, the right site, has a greater potential to catch on with non-geeks then a general, all encompassing, horizontal site. Its up to the early users to test out the viable technologies and creatively apply them to real situations…

    Its WAAAYYYY too early to close the door on this. Its going to take the “techie”est of us to sort through the hype and reality and find a useful way to apply this technology to our mutual passion – wine.

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  • http://www.spittoon.biz Andrew

    It is not the technology aspect of these sites that bothers me or the Web2.0 style/facilities; they are different to audiocasts. Audiocasts are just another way to receive information from a site you like. These voting sites rely on people to vote – who is that interested in wine to vote for a particular post?

    If you look at them as aggregators of news – does not an RSS reader do the same thing but enables you to limit your read list to just those sites you like? What is the point of signing up to a site and then do the self same thing that you can do in your own RSS reader? (And how many users actually know what RSS is yet?)

    I look at these sites, for eg vinolin, and think – oh yes very clever, very cool looking but I cant see much that will build a lasting and big readership. Wine is too niche a topic. And thats from someone who is also a wine and technology geek ;-)

  • http://www.winelifetoday.com Joel

    Thats an interesting point of view, certainly. I even use Google Reader as my RSS b/c its incorporated into my Google homepage. But in there I have your blog, winecast, fermentations, and a couple others and already there are repeated stories and too many entries to read at-a-glance. An aggregator? Doesn’t make sense to me without the community of users voting so that I have a summary page on what’s most popular and/or what is the “buzz” today.

    So I definitely think that a niche site with community editorial power has potential but what Tim and I have been bantering about is that in and of itself it may not be “it”. Supplement a concept like WLT with the right complimentary social tools and you can be on to something. I think its a matter of those of us who understand the tools (vinotechs? Tech-moliers? we should come up with a term) to experiment and find the right combination. You may not feel like it Andrew, but the fact that you (and I and others) have been doing the blog/RSS/social networking thing for 2+ years actually makes us innovators in techno-wine-ification (buddy told me that, not patting myself on the back)…we don’t have Alder’s reading audience or influence or the programming saavy of the guys doing Cork’d, but for wine tools this is cutting edge stuff. Look at Tim’s case study – he’s right!

    The beauty of Internet and Web 2.0 and open source, etc… is that it makes finding the right combination and “prototyping” exceptionally cheap (basically have to pay hosting fees and find some motivated programming friends).

    So I close with this – you’re counter-points are keeping everyone from drinking their own Kool-Aid so keep experimenting and keep criticizing (and keep everyone honest and focused). That is critical. But don’t write off Wine 2.0 as a vinotechnical fantasy either!

  • http://winecast.net Tim

    Great points, guys. I’ve been struggling with the same issue, Andrew, as I have been reading exclusively from Vinolin and Scrugy feeds for the past week or so. It’s been an interesting test, but I can’t say I won’t go back to hand selecting my reading list after a few more days. I like the serendipity of finding a new blog through these services but various technical issues (delay in polling, mostly) make this not the best solution for me.

    However for the masses, these aggregator sites will work great and expose the non-geek to a new way of getting wine information and recommendations. So I’m not so sure these Wine 2.0 sites are meant for us geeks who know what an RSS aggregator is. I also agree with Joel that we have not hit upon the right combination of features yet in any of the Wine 2.0 sites currently out there.

  • http://www.spittoon.biz Andrew

    What I can see though is, like the forums of old (some are still going I gather), these sites will become dominated by a handful of active regulars, who impart such a closed community (despite what they say) that ‘outsiders’ are excluded… that is what I would like to avoid – domination by a few to the exclusion of others. It is hard to break into a ready formed community especially one dominated by ‘experts’.

    I like the thought of being an ‘innovator in techno-wine-ification’ – marvelous.

  • http://www.spittoon.biz Andrew

    I should also add that I haven’t written wine 2.0 off,( I couldn’t call myself a geek if I did), I just haven’t seen much that I believe will attract and keep an audience of non-wine geeks. An audience that doesn’t feel excluded due to lack of wine knowledge or lack of internet/geeky knowledge.

  • http://winecast.net Tim

    I don’t think Wine 2.0 will be like online forums which haven’t really changed much since the 1980′s (OK, they have more features and are faster, but the participation is about the same). Wine 2.0 is about aggregation of content and a community who rank the content so I have a better way to filter the bits I want to consume based upon my preferences. The consumption model is different, too; I can take blog posts with me on my handheld and respond unconnected to the internet and sync at a later time. I can also read blogs on my mobile phone and respond immediately. I don’t know how I would do the same with something like eBob (I know you can scan the posts in your aggregator, but responding and syncing is not easy).

    So I think forums are more like live chats and virtual worlds, where Wine 2.0 is more about filtering attention, content and capturing buying intentions. The site that makes it easy to complete the purchase from any device (PC, mobile phone, game console, etc.) will make a lot of money.

    Great discussion; thanks for keeping the opposing view alive here, Andrew!

  • http://www.register-domainname.in domain name registration

    Nice argument. I am also read that issue. I feel that, social networking is very important for business. It is beneficial.

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