Any group can become insular and cliquey without outside ideas and influences.
I have seen it in all sorts of parts of my life, particularly in small businesses growing rapidly. At first the "entrepreneurs" just get on with the many tasks in hand, ploughing their own furrow. Eventually there is a social bond between the founders that keeps the business really successful, ... but it also difficult for newcomers to join the inner circle.
It isn't planned that way, but those who have been involved from the start have a shared history, language and experience (and in-jokes) that newcomers don't 'get', and so feel/are excluded.
With all the 'cooperation' activity going on, is it possible that wine blogging is heading the same way at the moment?
I really don't think so, but it is easy to fall into the trap of talking too much to each other and not to the average wine consumer/reader out there. It is certainly a charge levelled at us by some in the traditional Press, so we must address this in some way.
One problem is that it is in the nature of wine bloggers in particular to be cooperative, after all we are not competing for business, we are actually, really and willingly working together to "float all boats". Our readers can easily subscribe to a number of blogs as they only need to read one article per visit and then move away to the others, following links or some other RSS feeds.
We must remember that bloggers are as much consumers of information as producers. Most importantly, we don't need to keep readers trapped and clicking all around the place like certain sites.
Wine/Web 2.0 is supposed to be about interaction, two-way communication and conversations between publishers and readers, but, to coin a phrase, not all readers are created equal.
Bloggers read and link to each other a lot. It means we are very familiar with the personalities on these other blogs and also with the software, the etiquette and the writer's need for interaction, so it is actually bloggers that are the most frequent commenters on other blogs.
Once you add in social networking on facebook, Open Wine Consortium, Twitter, etc. we end up spending a great deal of time talking to each other. We even have shared activities such as Wine Blog Awards, Wine Blogging Wednesday and, dare I say it, Wine Conferences (and even wine blogging lampoons)
In themselves these are not bad things as there are lots of benefits to us cooperating and sharing best practice, technical and moral support and also growing the awareness of blogging. But wine bloggers need to ensure that the key audience, the blog reading consumer looking for information on what wines to buy, why and where, does not feel excluded.
Ryan at Catavino (see, I did it again!) recently pointed out that even well educated, well informed readers are uneasy and uncomfortable joining the conversation. We need to ask ourselves why?!
This blog is a major offender, but then my subject is to blog about things like blogging in wine after all rather than provide information on specific wines. I'd guess that the vast majority of my regular readers are bloggers themselves. I'd be glad to be proven wrong - if so, leave me a comment and let me know what brings you here.
So I have a suggestion and a request:
Bloggers, we must do more to incorporate comments into our posts. Many blog templates (including this one) relegate comments to secondary pages making a conversation very hard. Can anyone suggest a better way to do this?*
Readers; leave a comment! Anything will do. Any extra information you can provide is likely to be very gratefully received, but even a simple "thanks" or "that's not right" will do. Not only that, but suggestions and questions are the germs of ideas for future posts and discussions. If these are on things that matter to you the site will be even more interesting and valuable, and the gene pool of ideas will be that much more varied and healthy.
* I will be making changes to this blog very soon to try and put some of this into practice myself.