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idle query - Laura Wise

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September 29th, 2009

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08:36 am - idle query
Hullo, hullo, I wave at you as I dash by...

But I also have a question for you all. (It's prompted by this post on the Dr Vino wine-blog, which further references Mike Steingarten's overview of a current kerfuffle amongst wine critics. I found this fascinating, since my next Big Project will feature a wine-critic hero...)

One of the points of argument is that because of the Internet (which would include expert bloggers, discussion boards, private blogs, and the equivalent of Trip Advisor in several fields), 'official' critics are on their way out; the idea is that it goes beyond wine into areas like food, film, etc etc.

Do you read 'official' critics -- in any field, be it food and restaurants, clothes, film, stage, music, fiction, even wine?

Do you read Internet critics in any field? If so, do you read bloggers (expert or amateur), discussion boards, or the online ratings?

Do you write your own criticism?

I didn't make this a poll, because although I put these as yes/no questions, I suspect it's all more complicated. I'm just curious.... :-)

May your day be sunshiny and filled with rave reviews!

(13 comments | Leave a comment)


Date:September 29th, 2009 01:07 pm (UTC)
I do read official critics - they tend to give reliable "meta" details, for instance - location of the vineyard, grapes produced, typical wines made from those grapes, where this wine rates in that field, comparisons to other well known wines. - When the movie was made, where it was filmed, other actors considered for the roles, how movie fits into genre, etc..

The actual "opinion" I don't necessarily care about. Everyone's got different taste. However, a review with meta often has enough info to allow me to see if something fits into my likes or dislikes.

I read internet critic almost exclusively. I read expert and amateur bloggers, discussion boards and online ratings. Amazon.com is an interesting case study. The rating system is useful if there is a lot of input - 3 ratings, not good; 100 ratings, tells you something.

The 5 and 1 star reviews are often useless - people not giving any useful experience or complaining about things that have nothing to do with the product or worse, complaining that it was something they knew they would hate and, guess what, they hated it. The middle reviews tend to have more information of the specifics that the buy liked and disliked. Again, this specific meta allows me to judge if it will suit my needs if the strong factors are things I care about and the shortcomings are things that don't matter as much.

I do write my own criticism sometimes - but as an amateur, I don't often include all the meta that I expect from pro-reviews.


You might want to check out Wine Woot -- Wine Woot and it's variations, Daily Woot, Shirt Woot, etc... have one lot of product that they sell for 24 hours, often at a discounted price. The discussion board for Wine Woot has input from amateurs that have tasted the wine, links to pro-reviews, pricing analysis, discussions of the "genre" of the wine and what people like or don't like about a region or a grape.

To me, this is one of the great things about the internet, having all of that information in one place and easily accessible. If there was a pro or amateur critic that I agreed with some high percentage of time, I would always seek that out. I find the set-up for Wine Woot to be a close second.

[User Picture]
Date:September 29th, 2009 01:30 pm (UTC)
That's a fabulous and detailed answer, JH, thank you!

(I tend to discount most discussion-boards and ratings boards, to be honest, and that includes Amazon reviews unless they're meta-heavy. Too much noise, not enough signal for me.)

Thanks for the link to Wine Woot. That's an example of the discussion-board approach I *might* like. Maybe. Possibly.

Thanks and a happy Tuesday!
Date:September 30th, 2009 04:05 am (UTC)
I should clarify that a lot of ratings/discussion boards aren't worth the trouble. When I mentioned Amazon, I was thinking about non-book products - like DVD players. Books, music, and other art comes with too much fannish devotion and the results there are usually skewed.

But I do think that a relatively small group of enthusiasts like Wine Woot could contain a lot of good info. And in that way, much like LJ.
[User Picture]
Date:September 29th, 2009 02:24 pm (UTC)
I do, even excluding rozk's pro-crit.
[User Picture]
Date:September 29th, 2009 03:52 pm (UTC)
Cool! :-)

(And, hi hi, L! I saw that it was warm today where you are, and I hope you got to get out a bit. :-))
Date:September 29th, 2009 06:34 pm (UTC)
I think the line between official and non-official (whatever that even means) criticism is pretty blurry now, which is fine by me. For example, daytimeconfidential.com started out as a tiny little podcast and message board, and now it's one of the most authoratative sources for soap opera news (and one of its bloggers wound up on the panel of critics on the Daytime Emmy pre-show).

[User Picture]
Date:September 29th, 2009 07:00 pm (UTC)
I should have clarified my terms, alack! But you're right about the blurry line.

Mike Steingarten's Slate story was about wine journalists/editors like Robert Parker, but even there Steingarten noted that eminent wine journalists like Jancis Robinson have webpages on which there are discussion boards.

Garance Dore, fashion blogger, illustrator, and amour of The Sartorialist ;-), just posted about how Dolce and Gabbana held four front-row seats for fashion bloggers (including her and the Sartorialist).

My own experience is that I'm reading fewer and fewer comments on blogs-not-on-livejournal and giving up on discussion boards almost entirely, because of noise-to-signal ratio. But I would definitely believe my experience is not representative. ;-)
[User Picture]
Date:September 29th, 2009 07:58 pm (UTC)

Do I read 'official' critics? Yes, but casually. I will cast my eye over Nicolette Jones's children's book reviews in the Sunday Times, or theatre, music, or (less often because of spoilers) film reviews in papers or magazines, but I don't usually make much effort to seek them out.

Do I read internet critics? Yes, often, as part of my job. I read them because I am usually checking out reviews of children's books I might want to buy for the library - so I look at 'Booktrusted', 'Achuka', the ALA website, Cool Reads, supplier reviews, 'Write Away', or any of a host of others. I will consider blogger's reviews/opinions as well, if they seem to be well written and reasoned. I also look at online versions of 'official' print reviews from journals such as the 'Horn Book' magazine. And I will admit that (especially for my own reading), I can be influenced by Amazon's reviews (again, if they seem well written and reasoned!).

Sometimes, especially if it's a book/film/album I've really been looking forward to I will avoid reviews/spoilers altogether, as I don't want to be influenced. Even though it's just one person's opinion, it's hard to get it out of your head when you're reading/listening/watching.

Do I write criticism myself? Yes. And it's not easy! But it's nice sometimes, as today, when I recieved a lovely email from a writer whose book I gave a very good review - she said she'd passed my review onto her publisher, Hodder, and they'd be daft not to use it. So that was pleasing. My favourite thing about reviewing is that it puts me in a position to support a deserving book.
[User Picture]
Date:September 29th, 2009 09:19 pm (UTC)
You are absolutely an OFFICIAL critic, A! [applause for you]

It's interesting to hear what you avoid, too...

Hugs and thanks and good cheer for you and yours!
[User Picture]
Date:September 30th, 2009 05:44 am (UTC)
Yes, I read both "official" and internet critics in the fields of restaurants, clothes, film, stage, music and fiction.

I read bloggers sometimes and sometimes I read online ratings -- no set pattern.

[User Picture]
Date:September 30th, 2009 10:25 am (UTC)
That's a great answer -- 'no set pattern' describes a lot of people's behavior, I'm guessing!

[hugs and thanks]
[User Picture]
Date:September 30th, 2009 07:50 pm (UTC)
I have a sub to the New Yorker and I read from the back to the front...film, tv, theater, art reviews, whatever else catches my eye, then work my way forward. Not that I necessarily agree with them, but they seem to me always to be thoughtful. I spend too much time already online to spend more of it browsing critical blogs without a hearty rec from someone whose opinion I already value.

We have autumn again after half a week of high summer! Whew!

::Wipes brow and shrugs into sleeveless wool cardigan with blissful gratitude::
[User Picture]
Date:September 30th, 2009 11:01 pm (UTC)
The New Yorker is a great example. [nods] I used to read the magazine, but now I tend only to check in with it now and again. Online I do get film criticism (of the films I like) from blogger the Self-Styled Siren, and I get arts coverage from Arts Journal. (I recommend. ;-))

Hugs and YAY for your autumn! I am enjoying our brief respite here on the other side of the country, too. :-)

Happy almost-Thursday!

Edited at 2009-09-30 11:01 pm (UTC)

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