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Jason Calacanis: You gotta love this guy

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“Web 1.0 was the first stage of the World Wide Web linking webpages with hyperlinks,” says Wikipedia. That’s when everyone was wondering what the web’s “killer app” would be.

“Web 2.0 was the Age of Interactivity…where people who may not have had a voice before could publish whatever they want…Add the ability to comment on stories and then share them through social media” and that was Web 2.0. This is from Read Write Web, a tech blog that offers interesting daily analysis of the industry.

And now, here’s Web 3.0. It’s “the age of Expertise,” in which people who don’t know what they’re talking about will be winnowed out of the hyper-democratized blogosphere, which will be reshaped as “an interactive discussion engine of experts.” That’s from Jason Calacanis, an L.A. blogger, web startup guy, and entrepreneur, whose Facebook page lists Gary Vaynerchuk–a kindred soul–as one of his friends. More to the point is Jason’s take on how “Blogging is largely dead…There are a lot of stupid people out there .. and stupid people shouldn’t write.”

Far be it from me to resurrect the blog wars of 2008-2009, so I’ll leave it to Jason to fight that fight for me. “There needs to be a better system for tuning down the stupid people and tuning up the smart people,” he told writer Dan Rowinski in the Read Write Web Q&A. “You have to have a deep understanding to be a blogger…It is not enough to be a writer. You need to be a writer and an expert.”

I said the same thing 3-1/2 years ago and everyone jumped on me for being an elitist who was trying to prevent a new generation from horning in on the monopoly I, and other aging Baby Boomers, had imposed on the genteel field of wine writing. When I suggested that the ability to say anything you wanted, no matter how vapid, and then self-publish on the Internet was not a great step forward for the concept of expertise, I was lacerated for being a paranoid dinosaur, protecting his turf like a mother weasel snarling in her lair. (Apologies for the mixed speciological metaphors.) “People and their blogs will continue,” Calacanis predicts. “Yet, that doesn’t mean that anybody will be paying attention.”

Indeed, when I mull over the current state of the wine blogosphere, it seems to be just on the line between Web 2.0 and Web 3.0. There are still 1,000 wine blogs, and while there’s nothing prohibiting people from blogging for as long as they like, we are seeing an illustration of the old saying, Many are called but few are chosen. More and more blogs are going defunct, or publish only intermittently, because they fail to attract readership, which makes their authors dejected. The top wine blogs have peaked in readership [mine included], to judge by various metrics. I don’t know how Web 3.0 will affect wine blog traffic–if it will stimulate it in one direction or another. But I do welcome it, if for no other reason than that it will sharpen the research and writing abilities of the bloggers who remain, making the wine blogosphere a more professional platform. If wine blogs are to have a future in Web 3.0, it will be because the best ones take it to the next level: accurate reporting and intelligent analysis, and above all good writing, with more color and personality than traditional journalism has allowed.

  1. Steve, this maybe pertinent to those who make a living from their blogs, it may weed out the sycophants, maybe even discourage bright young folks from experimenting, but it’ll have no effect on those who do wine blogging for fun or as a hobby, and that keeps it more honest, if not perfectly honed, in my opinion.
    Calacanis can predict this: “Yet, that doesn’t mean that anybody will be paying attention.”, but what it means is a hyperbolic overstatement.
    As for me, I don’t frequent WS, WE, W&S RP, ST, JS, as much as I do these very small, personal-opinion blogs. I do visit yours, because at times you do write heads and shoulders above the rest, but not for your wine reviews (There are just too few of those wines available in NH). I do visit http://blog.classof1855.com/ because he’s about information and the cultivation of new wine enthusiasts.
    Cheers from anecdotal me,
    Dennis

  2. Cabfrancophile says:

    Before you strain your elbow patting yourself on the back for “winning” the blog battle, I’ll make an analogy to Napa. You are like Napa Valley–you got to a new frontier first and utilized preexisting expertise to take the lead. But now that you are established, you don’t want to lose shelf space to all these upstart Paso Robles, Amador and Santa Barbara folks. A Napa Valley vintner will gloat about his $100 bottle being great. But for $100, shouldn’t it come with a virtual guarantee it will be awesome?

    You’re a professional wine writer. Given your experience and the natural way that a blog dovetails into your day job, frankly I’d be more surprised if your blog sucked rather than it being excellent. But your perspective that somehow wine can’t be grasped by hobbyists is kind of silly. All it take is a nose, a palate, and the intellectual curiosity to learn. We’re not talking about a doctorate in neurobiology, we’re talking about drinking alcohol. I’m pretty sure experts and hobbyists can both co-exist when it comes to drinking. It also doesn’t take an expert to determine that Wine Slut blog and its ilk aren’t particularly useful.

    By your logic, you shouldn’t post political commentary on your blog because you are not an expert on the subject. Yet you do it anyway on occasion. I’d say its up to you what content you post, but no one comes to your blog for politics. Why intentionally alienate a subset of your readers who are interested in wine commentary?

  3. Cabfrancophile, I don’t post political commentary on this blog. But if I did, so what? Politics is the birthright of an American citizen. One doesn’t need a pHd in political science to be an avid follower of news, and I would argue that it’s the duty of patriotic Americans to be political. On the other hand, making pronouncements about wine, when you don’t have the knowledge or experience to do so, can mislead people.

  4. Dennis, at Wine Enthusiast we often debate the merits of reviewing wines nobody can get. We decided to do so, in order to not pick and choose winners and losers. We review all wines that come our way, regardless of scarcity or price.

  5. At least Web 3.0 has the facade of democracy (not that I’ve swallowed the Kool Aid) – unlike print wine publications where people who don’t know what they’re talking about fell into a the gig.

  6. Couldn’t agree more expect for the reason some sites are shutting down. Our numbers at Catavino were some of the highest for wine blogging, as far as we’ve been told. But we closed it for other reasons, that have to do with future projects. I think we are not alone. I know others with large numbers who are looking at quitting, not out of frustration or low numbers, but the need to again change or adapt to new ideas.

    I still say cream rises. And the noisiest bloggers will, without good content, fail eventually. Or continue to drone on to a small audience. More power to them.

    I think the new models for blogging are what I find most interesting. With the wine web so slow to catch up to the rest of the online world, it might be awhile before we see any major changes here. But there will be some very interesting things I believe in 2012 and 2013, which will push the idea of online wine publishing.

  7. Judging from lack of content and few comments on Calcanis’s blog, it looks like he too is in the process of being winnowed out. He probably thinks blogging is dead because his own attempt at it is in death throes.

    The concept that in a world of 8 billion people and unlimited diversity of people,levels of intellegence, education, diversity of ideas and interests that the future is a web that is less fragmented is silly. The idea that there will be fewer and more universally read blogs is counter to what we see happening everywhere. We used to have three TV networks each with a mass audience, then came cable with hundreds of channels each serving a niche audience, now we see Internet video bringing channels by the tens of thousands… serving tens of thousands of niches. (Over the next year you will see some dramatic things coming out of Google’s YouTube which may end broadcast television network and cable as we know it.) And it is the same with blogs.

    In what seems to be a world of self appointed web gurus, I guess I can do that myself. We’re already passed web 3.0, and 4.0 and smack dab in the middle of Web 5.0 You can quote me on that.

  8. Morton says, “We’re already passed web 3.0, and 4.0 and smack dab in the middle of Web 5.0 You can quote me on that.”

    We could, if we knew who you were.

  9. Charlie – your comment on the importance of Morton’s identity is pertinent to this discussion, but perhaps not in the way it you intended it.

    In the past you went to a book or a journal to get information from experts. You expected that the author or expert had the education, had done all the research, considered alternative viewpoints, and would give you all of this distilled. The name was important. You read through all the background, documentation, and concepts. It was how it worked, a function of the physical medium of information transfer. It was the “long form.”

    As the wealth of searchable and instant bits of information increases at a mind numbing rate on the internet we have a completely different medium for acquiring information. It is not in a long format. It is fragmented.

    In the previous world, you might go buy an excellent book on Russian River Pinot written by an expert who has studied and linked together all aspects of the region, viticulture, winemaking and tasting notes of wines in the bottle. You might do this in order to find some good suggestions for what to buy and learn info that might increase your enjoyment.

    But today’s internet user is not the reader of old. Many today would find a book to be a long read, they don’t have the time (don’t want to spend the time),it is a difficult to use format, are only interested in only one part of the story, and a looking for someone who speaks their language.

    So they find a blogger that has rated a bunch of RRV Pinots and who speaks their language. Maybe it is the honest language of a humble, non-expert, who is just relaying honest preferences. Maybe it is self deprecating humor. Who knows?

    So they take a piece of info from the blogger and go to WE and check their ratings, if they are a subscriber they also check to see how the wines measured up at the WS. And of course they go to Cellar Tracker to get the opinion of many who have bought and tasted the wine. they listen to their peers more than the expert.

    They buy a bottle, but before they drink it they go online, maybe to the winery website and see what might be interesting about the wine. They may also pull up some other bloggers with differing opinions, maybe they find something on wikipedia. This can be done very quickly and deliberately and doesn’t rely on the classic model where you invest hours learning from the one expert. The web user can not only handle fragmentation, the web user thrives on it. The web user quickly makes themselves an expert.

    It doesn’t tend to matter to many internet users whether the person they read is Morton Leslie or Steve Heimoff because they are looking at the ideas, not the credentials, and they are measuring one view against another. They are deciding for themselves which viewpoint makes the most sense.

    In this particular case if Morton says that we are in Web 5.0 where we no longer need to rely on experts -that we can quickly make ourselves an expert you look at the idea’s merits. You can balance Morton’s with the viewpoint of Steve who says the opposite. Which rings true?

    Of course, in this case, the smart reader will quickly ascertain that this business of labeling internet era’s Web 1.0, Web 2.0 is silly and will recognize that Morton is being facetious with his Web 5.0.

  10. steve christian says:

    Steve, you do post political blogs as is your right.

  11. Steve Christian, I don’t see what’s political about this post.

  12. Morton 3:48 PM, Pablo Picasso (way ahead of his time) might agree with your introducing fragmentation; your post should NOT go without applause! Nice word-smithery: ” It doesn’t tend to matter to many internet users whether the person they read is Morton Leslie or Steve Heimoff because they are looking at the ideas, not the credentials, and they are measuring one view against another. They are deciding for themselves which viewpoint makes the most sense.” , Your comments were very well written, fascinating, and nearly as provocative as Steve’s. And, thanks for taking the time to make Steve’s blog better.

  13. I agree with Ryan…the cream rises. There might be a thousand wine blogs out there, but I don’t choose who to read based on their expertise or qualifications. I read the stuff that is interesting. I skip the stuff that isn’t. That simple.
    Anyone who thinks this is a bad idea must be a writer, and not a reader.

  14. The greatest bloggers are those who provide the greatest content for their subscribers.

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