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Yes, I’m a Hack and Amateur

Yes, I’m a Hack and Amateur

by Tim Elliott on October 9, 2007

Every so often, a perfect storm of work, personal commitments and an occasional Ken Burns documentary keep me from posting here. Usually it’s just several days but in this case it’s been over two weeks. So forgive me if I post a bit more frequently over the next few days to catch up…

Besides not writing or podcasting I pretty much stopped my blog reading. As I returned to Google Reader last week, I had the maximum 1,000+ posts on each of my subscription categories. So I simply pressed the “Mark all as read” button on most categories except for wine blogs.

In my perusal of the past several days, a few posts stood out. But none of these got me thinking more about wine blogging than Jeff’s post over at Good Grape on how 98% of Wine Bloggers Are Hacks. When I saw Ryan’s post today asking the difference between amateur and professional wine writers, I started to think about my credentials, or lack thereof, for what I do here.

Jeff’s post highlights veteran wine writer Matt Kramer’s piece about how 10,000 hours of training is the minimum to attain expert status in any field. Said another way, that’s 3 hours a day for 10 years. It’s been 9,458 days since I turned 21 back in the early days of the first Reagan Administration. To be fair, my wine drinking started three years earlier due to the drinking age in New York being 18 at the time but I really didn’t get into wine until I transfered to a university in northern California in 1980. If I assume that I spent an hour each day studying wine since then, I’m nearly at that 10,000 hour mark now. But my daily consumption of wine didn’t really begin until the mid-80’s and tasting wine is not the same as reading about wine.

So I’m still very much a hack by this definition.

Ryan’s post this morning asked when a blogger crosses the threshold from amateur to professional status? Since by definition an amateur does not get paid for doing a particular task this seems like an easy question. But in this age of affiliate marketing and sponsorship most wine bloggers can earn some sort of income from blogging. But this is not yet enough to earn a living for any wine blogger I know so I guess most of us are still amateur wine writers (or critics, if you like).

But I don’t think this matters very much as wine bloggers are starting to be taken seriously by consumers. Expert or professional status might have been the hurdle for wine writers in the print era but in today’s low-cost, online personal publishing era this barrier has evaporated.

I’ll still working on getting my 10,000 hours in, anyway 😉

  • Einstein didn’t have 10,000 hours…

  • Neither did Newton…he INVENTED calculus in 18 days. Back in the good old days, before there were expert “scientists.”

    Welcome back.

  • Tim,

    Thanks for the reference.

    I’m a hack too, if it makes you feel any better.

    My overall point was that I think a lot of wine bloggers are quickly accruing their hours and won’t in be interesting when the people rise up and meet the wine media as peers.


  • I just had a ridiculously long comment here and decided to just scrap it and work on my own post on the subject (I’ll link back here!), so thanks for the inspiration.

    As a professional food writer who lives in wine country, I’ve been privy to countless discussions on what makes someone a “real” food writer or wine writer. The “writer” part is easy to discern–some people are better at it than others and some, quite frankly, are hacks (not you!). In my opinion, it’s the “food” and “wine” areas that get gray . . . especially when you’re talking reviews.

    Great blog! Glad I (re)found you!

  • Tim

    While it’s good to be thought of as the Newton or Einstein of wine, I’m happy to be just an avid amateur along with you Jeff.

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