Monday, August 1, 2011

Wine Bloggers' Conference 2011

First, let me apologize for falling short of my commitment to write every day while attending the Wine Bloggers’ Conference. With a jammed packed schedule, hundreds of people to meet, rich Virginia history to learn and copious amounts of wine tasting, there just wasn’t enough time!

The side effects of continually wine tasting for three days is slowly starting to wear off as I find myself still aerating both water and coffee in my mouth. It was a true delight to have attended such a magnificent event in Charlottesville, Virginia. Thank you again to the Sponsors for making it possible. I feel re-energized and inspired to not only keep writing but to be challenged by the content I produce.

Being a bloggers’ conference, it is no surprise that social media tools such as Twitter played a significant roll in documenting all the fun. With Twitter feeds running throughout the main conference room driven by the largest amount of Blackberries, iPhones, and laptops, I have even seen in one room at a time. At first, I felt at a disadvantage due to the recent theft of my laptop and not to mention my anti-smart phone which, however, does glow pink when flipped shut. (Jealous?!) Then I realized, perhaps I am not at a disadvantage but witnessing a social media backfire.

Don’t get me wrong, social media and technology makes anything and everything more accessible any time we want access to information. According to the conference committee, 10,000,000 impressions were made by conference attendees and viewed by 1.2 million people via Twitter alone. That is a huge audience of wine consumers leaving an undoubtedly large impact on purchasing decisions, not to mention the shout-outs regarding Virginia’s wine industry (Yum! More on that to come). Additional, I am convinced this conference and others like it, would not exist if it wasn’t for such online communities. But my issue lies within here, if face-to-face interactions are being constantly interrupted by retweets, DMs and status updates, blog posts, etc., where is the balance with actually engaging with the person next to you verses crafting 140 character opinions addressed to the person across the room with whom you Tweet daily? Wasn't that the point of the conference, to meet each other?

This was increasingly evident during my idol’s keynote speech. When Jancis Robinson, a mentor from afar, took to the podium she must have seen a room full of hunchbacks dialed into an online community talking quietly amongst themselves. A presenters worst nightmare if you ask me! Understandably, everyone wanted to share their experience immediately and were excited to be there to hear her wise words. But why can’t we just be present and listen instead of turning and burning information so quickly?

One of Janicis’ main points can be summed up by saying: the written word is not dead, just the forum with which we share it has changed. So why is there a sentiment to regurgitate all information we are being told right away, why don’t we write it down, think about it and question information more often? Bloggers, are but self published authors so why as wine writers don’t we question our sources of information more often? Why aren’t we investigating our stories instead of just spouting opinions and tasting notes off immediately into various forums?

When it comes down to it, asking more of the right questions and being investigative journalists will makes us all better writers. Perhaps there wasn't a social media backfire but instead we need to practice and establish some social media etiquette.

With all of my questioning and theories of backfires aside, I must congratulate my fellow bloggers on attending this conference from a place of passion. I was very impressed with the lack of competition. I never once felt there was a sentiment of “my blog is better than your blog.” Even the wine blogger’s awards were not the center of the conference but rather received as a pat on the back for a job well done.

Now, I’m sure you are asking, “but what about the wine?!” It was an outstanding showcase. Ultimately, I hope that as an active writing community we were able to highlight the excellence of the Virginia Wine Industry and bring attention to the fact that they are the 5th largest wine producing state in the United States, making some damn fine wines if I do say so myself! With that being said, there were a number of producers that really stood out for me and I want to give them the attention they deserve by following up with more individualized posts.

So as a wine tasting Millennial moving through this information age I am happy to take on a new challenges as a writer and hope that my fellow writers continue to take responsibility for all content produced and ask questions before feeding it through various platforms.

I hope to attend the conference again next year in Portland, Oregon, perhaps with smart phone in hand, but then again, that could distract me from some quality people watching. ;)

Now if I could only stop swirling this beer in my glass...


  1. While your pink phone actually served as a great conversation starter, your comments about how social media such as twitter could have interrupted or interfered with personal interactions are well justified. However, I think it is also important to note how those same technologies also served as a way to strengthen personal connections or to serve as point of conversation. After all, how many people talked and tweeted about the mysterious @WBC11DogGoWoof?

  2. Great point Charlotte. While I disagree about the role of social media at the WBC, you are correct in that there should not have been side chatter during any keynotes; that's just rude.

    However, as bloggers - we are the social media fuel that many people rely on. There were hundreds of people that were in virtual attendance of the conference via Social Media. I myself "listened" to Asimov's speech from my sick bed via twitter. I wouldn't have been able to engage otherwise.

    I think part of what you are seeing is simply people's excitement about the subject matter, and wanting to share it. I rely on twitter and snippets that I post to my blog as the frame work for future articles. Having all of that content jamming around the air without key to keyboard (or pen to paper) would be a huge waste of thought.

    The Gestalt of the conference sit hat it DOES get people humming, thinking and blogging. And that's a good thing in my book.

  3. Thank you both for the thoughtful comments! I think we are all in agreeance that social media plays a vital role is communication, especially as writers and wine consumers. The success of a social media "case studies" such as @wbc11winedogowoof goes to show just how layered socail media really can be. And as a "virtual" attendee of the #wbc10 it is amazing how social media allows us to be somewhere without physically being present. However, when in presence, it would be great to see experience more face-to-face dialogue without a blackberry becoming the third wheel. Thanks again for sharing your thoughts, cheers!

  4. Great points C. :)

    The world is changing fast in the social media world and I believe it all has its place, there is time to tweet, blog, text and also time to "CHAT" to the people in the room with you. We are humans not machines, :) T.