...where distraction is the main attraction.

Sunday, April 28, 2013

Why We Blog

Yesterday, David Driscoll -- one of my favorite spirits bloggers, K&L Wines spirits buyer, and Single Cask saint -- posted an entry entitled "The Future of Internet Whisky Blogging".  David isn't one to curtail his feelings and opinions, which is bold when one is doing business with the very companies one's critiquing.  He's been known to ruffle feathers and state unpopular opinions, so the K&L Spirits Journal can sometimes be a bracing read.

"The Future of Internet Whisky Blogging" ruffled my feathers gave me indigestion.  David was stating an opinion I not only didn't share, but I felt as if I was being called out.  Rather than using this site as a gripe machine, I decided to email him directly with my dissent.  He responded promptly via email, then posted a follow-up entry on the subject.

In the original post, David postulated that there are too many whisky blogs, with too much repetition, thus creating a staleness which was endangering the usefulness of whisky blogs.  He questioned the intent of whisky bloggers in general, issuing a challenge that we all must change or risk irrelevance.

Before continuing, I urge you to read the post here.  It's important to see the entire picture.

Here is my response (with links) :

Dear David,

I want to start by saying I have an enormous amount of respect for you.  The Single Cask work you and DO’G have done is incredibly generous.  In person, you are warm, brilliant, and honest.  Your blog entries are tremendous; in fact I am quite jealous of your well-written, educational, and candid posts.  But I disagree on a major theme in your recent post about whisky blogging.
Here’s the first paragraph that caught my attention:
Do we really need this much information about whisky, however? Is it filling a need? Why do so many people feel compelled to start a weblog about alcohol and share those opinions with the world? Most of it is pure ego, which is why I was ready to give it up a while back. My ego got me into this game and it was making me write things to boost its self-absorbed nature. Sure, K&L didn't have anyone writing about spirits so it did serve the customer base a purpose, but that wasn't what motivated me to do it. I wanted to create a reputation for myself and that seemed like a good way to do it. Anyone who writes a blog about whisky is in the same boat. Anyone who tells you they're not is lying.I'm not saying that blogs written by egoists aren't useful (because I think this blog can be useful at times), but I am saying that the rise of the ego is beginning to replace actual news and journalism. It's not much different than the twenty-hour news cycle – one hour of actual news, twenty-three hours of people talking about that one hour.
Let me introduce myself.  I am Michael Kravitz.  My blog Diving for Pearls is amongst that blur of names on Sku’s blog list.  I am a whisky blogger by accident.  My site was originally started in 2007 to keep my friends and family up to date when I was moving back to LA from the East Coast.  I posted mostly about personal stuff, film (my educational background), music (not my educational background), travel, and maybe a little bit about baseball.  Those posts drifted to a stop in 2008.

I restarted the blog in 2011 to chronicle my (then) new career as a full-time writer.  That career didn’t go as planned, so instead of complaining every day I went back to posting about the stuff I enjoyed (music, movies, sports, etc.).  The newest addition was The Single Malt Report.  I’ve loved whisk(e)y for some time and thought it would be a hoot to do little reviews once a week.  Somehow, through the miracle of Google algorithms, people started finding my site.  Many more people than I’d ever expected.  And they were coming for the whisky.

This was an unexpected joy.  People were reading my stuff!  So the whisky posts took over.  As a number of things went sour in my offline life, it was comforting to have folks from around the world regularly tuning in to read my generally unprofessional whisky musings.

Soon, the whisky blogging started to become more personal.  I started talking to readers, bloggers, and other malt geeks who were trying to break through the cold separation of the online life.  On Twitter some of these folks started a hashtag #WhiskyFabric.  On Facebook, the Whisky Bloggers group began.  We realize we all have so much to learn, so we share whisky news, knowledge, and samples.  Sometimes we talk about our families and work.  I’ve even gotten to meet people (in person) I would never have known had I not whisky blogged on Diving for Pearls.

Though I’d like to speak for everyone I’ve met, I shouldn’t, so I’ll speak for myself.  I’m not in it to build my brand.  I’m in it for the communication, people, and sensory exploration.  I know you truck on bigger roads than I do.  So perhaps you see things I don’t.  If some currency has evolved via Reputation, then that means there is a whisky blogging Scene.  I suppose I haven’t been invited to the Scene, which is okay with me.  I’ve found that most Scenes bring with them a sense of decay since the members of the Scene aren’t actually contributing anything.  Instead it’s a bunch of preening, rehashing, or oneupsmanship.

I can tell by your post you’re reaching a level of whisky-blog-reading burnout.  In the current whisky blogging world, there is certainly repetition in subject matter.  That’s one of the reasons I’ve resisted commenting on the big news stories.  People with better insight and deeper knowledge often beat me to it with better content.  And yes, sometimes there seems to be a bit of a glut in the number of sites.  I’ve stopped reading about half of my usual blog roll, specifically those blogs that seem to be industry-cuddle-happy.

But I still go to my usual blog haunts (your site is one of them) with the same joy as I had two years ago.  The Internet is an endless lifeless ocean, but great sites run by great people provide little islands of recreation.  Since I enjoy those little respites throughout my day, I will try to continue to run my own island to the best of my ability while working a 60-hour-a-week desk job.

Finally, per your paragraph:
Back in 2009, you couldn't be up to date with the whisky scene unless you were reading the whisky blogs. Nowadays, I'm not sure there's much more they can offer besides breaking news. The blogs have always been there to help educate newer consumers about the alcohol they're drinking, but there's so much information out there now that everything just seems like a rehash. We're recycling stories, travelogues, ideas, opinions, and rants like Lady Gaga recycles old Madonna schticks. There's nothing underground or cool about a whisky blog anymore because there's nothing underground about whisky. Whisky is the hottest thing out there. It's being pushed and sold at max capacity. It's so cool we can't get enough of it. You can't stay relevant, however, by following the current trend. You stay relevant by spotting the next one before it arrives.
What we can try to offer is the human experience.  Corporations can’t do this, no matter how much they pay for marketing.  Personal experience is relevant, chasing trends is not.  If a blogger does the latter, I promise you he’ll lose to someone doing the former.  And if many bloggers are really shedding their voices to grab for trends, then The Scene has begun and Whisky Blogging is indeed in decay. 

But I don’t see this in the blogs I read and I’m doing my best to keep my voice.  I have nothing to gain by building a whisky blogging reputation, so I’m not trying to.  You can call me a liar for MANY other things, but not for this.

Please continue sharing your voice on your spirits blog.  Reputation or no reputation, you’ve established something great there.

Michael Kravitz

And if you think that was long, you should have seen the first draft.  Okay, no you shouldn't.

If any of y'all think any element of my letter is untrue or exaggeration, please let me know.  I've been to known to get a little dramatic when arguing my side, and thus in the process choosing passion over facts.

David and I then traded a couple emails and with my permission he included my entire letter in his follow-up post, "Lighting a Fire".  I encourage you to read it, because (ignoring my letter) there's important stuff in there.

Ultimately, David and I agree.  If we whisky bloggers are abandoning the things we enjoy and instead writing what we think we're supposed to write, if we are chasing leads, if building our own brands becomes more important than who we actually are, then we have no future.  People, their lives, and their experiences are what's important.

I realize there are a lot of high-falutin' things in this post -- from the self-important title, to the posts referencing other posts referencing letters referencing posts -- but I'm only going there because I like whisky blogs.  I don't think we are in a state of decay, but I also want to make sure we never get to that point.

Thank you, David, for lighting a fire.