Archive - May, 2011

A toast to wine freedom

In this 50th anniversary year of Amnesty International*, I propose a letter-writing campaign that might liberate wine stories from their digital prisons.

“Yet if these feelings of disgust all over the world could be united into common action, something effective could be done.” Peter Benenson

Please feel free to employ this whenever you come across egregious examples of “digital wine imprisonment” then give a “Toast to Freedom“.

Wine Class @ Diony Castle

[Template Letter - amend and complete as appropriate]

Dear [Winery]

It has come to my attention that the amazing, delicious and unique [wine], a wine celebrated by wine lovers across the world as an outstanding example of the craft and science of winemaking, has, by your actions and inactions, been digitally imprisoned and locked away from the gaze of millions of potential appreciative drinkers.

It was clearly established by international convention that the use of Flash-based web sites is cruel and unusual punishment, tantamount to torture. Wine lovers wishing to enjoy [wine] should not have to wait ages for screens to load, to sit through cringeingly self-congratulatory and irrelevant films, or install plug-ins just to watch bubbles burst on their screen or photographs drift in and out of focus.

Continue Reading…

An update on the ASUS Transformer in action

I’ve had the ASUS Eee Pad Transformer for a little longer now, and it was time for an update on what I’ve been enjoying as I have had lots of conversations in the wine business with people who have been interested in its potential. I also see that Simon Woods is doing the same.

Vrazon on stage at LIWF with ASUS Transformer

Overall, I’d say I am enjoying using the Eee Pad (calling it the Transformer seems wrong, my daughter is more into Ben 10 anyway). The Android device and apps act like gawky teenagers full of promise; new, fresh, attractive but a little ungainly, awkward, still feeling their way and lacking confidence.

On the other hand, Apple devices are like young geniuses, preciociously jumping straight from obscurity to stardom. They just work, … but I am beginning to feel like we’ve seen what they can do. Their promise is less exciting, especially if Apple continues to limit and control developments.

[Aside: How did Apple go from being the coolest kid on the block to the "establishment" that we all want to knock?]

First, the things that are not so great about the Eee Pad, Android and the Apps:

  • Text input it nowhere near as easy, on the screen, as it is on my iPhone (I have not tried an iPad for very long). Swipe is OK, but fails to recognise MANY words I use for the wine business. It certainly does not come pre-loaded with wine tasting vocabulary!
  • The auto-correct features are again not as intuitive or intelligent as on the Apple, and I’m realising how lazy I have become, with apostrophes, capitals and other input being done for me.
  • Apps do not load particularly quickly. I’m not sure if this is a result of the processing on the Eee Pad, the apps themselves, or that this is Android 3.0 (and 3.1 has not yet arrived, but is due I believe)
  • Many apps, particularly Facebook, are really not designed for the larger tablet interface and either look bad, lack features or simply do not work. This is not ASUS’ issue, but it is hard to make this my main tool if the apps are not keeping pace
  • On that note, I’ve had issues with lots of apps crashing. It looks like a memory issue, but probably related to how compatible these apps are with this version of Android. Hopefully this will improve soon
  • It is surprisingly difficult to manage multiple gmail accounts on this machine. To be fair it is difficult even on a laptop, but this IS GOOGLE. C’mon guys, wake up to the fact that we have multiple addresses and accounts (you force us to in many cases) so Android should be able to handle this. I have a personal gmail account, one each for my businesses using google apps and even some other ‘ancillary’ accounts. I can access them all on my iPhone …..
  • The video quality (as proven lasttime) is not that great to use as a single device. In particular, the audio pick up is awful. A last-resort tool for now. However, I gather that firmware updates are due that will improve these
  • I had a strange bug trying to update mt wordpress blog via the browser. I could see the dashboard, access posts and delete letters/words, but not add or insert any new ones. Makes it VERY difficult to blog, but I have not yet tried the wordpress apps
  • I tried updating the firmware on the keyboard unit (strange to do this separately). On one machine it worked fine, on another it failed and the keyboard died. It is having to be replaced. Shame. I gather I was not alone in this, but this stuff happens – however, I will worry every time I have to repeat the process in future

Now, despite that long list of issues, I had better remind you that I started out saying that I AM enjoying using it.

  • The large screen is very useful. At the recent London Wine Trade Fair I carried it around the fair and the ability to see my Google Calendars (all combined in one view) on the screen at once was wonderful. A bit like carrying around the world’s most useful clipboard.
  • I am enjoying having a full browser that allows me to watch the films on the sites I visit most, such as the BBC News site, and to watch YouTube videos in great detail
  • The combined list of updates that appear in the bottom of the screen, for facebook ,twitter, gmail, etc. is very useful for at-a-glance catch ups
  • the battery life seems pretty decent and have had no issues with it so far, though I have not really put that to the test
  • And when I suffered the issues with the firmware failure (mentioned above) it was great to have all my settings and apps backed up on the cloud on my Google account to quickly restore it.
  • From a work perspective, it is a tool that has been useful at wine tastings, particularly with the help of the Evernote app to capture and store images, tasting notes, recordings, web pages and more. I see this as a very powerful combination of capabilities (see this post on Tio Pepe En Rama for example)

Overall I am still enjoying using the Eee Pad transformer. Many of the issues I’ve listed above are niggles of a new operating system and apps that have yet to be fully adapted to it. I expect (or at least hope) they will be resolved very quickly. In retrospect, trying to test it during the madness of the London Wine Trade Fair was also a bit much. However, now that this is over, I look forward to finding more fun ways to use it (assuming my new keyboard arrives soon).

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Access Granted

Last week’s Access Zone activities at the 2011 London International Wine Fair (LIWF) were not only great fun and a way to spread the word about social media in wine, but they seemed to strike a chord with the wine trade present.

Gabriella, Ryan and I were very pleased with the buzz around the fair and online about the range of events, seminars, projects and announcements that Vrazon helped to make happen on the relatively small space of the Access Zone. After all, that was the idea. This wasn’t intended to be another “theatre” for presentations, but an interactive space where we could start discussions with a presentation, then have as much participation as possible. As Ryan Opaz observed:

“The only way this will work is if the audience interrupts a lot.”

Every major announcement was well attended, with participants filling the aisles and following on the livestream. We are extremely grateful to all those who took the time out to listen, ask questions, answer queries and generally make the experience of the LIWF as useful as possible.

The archive of the live access zone video and interviews can now be browsed; more polished videos will take a little longer, but BIG thanks to MadCatMedia for making the magic happen

Day 1 – Tuesday 17th May

The Access Zone really kicked off with two big events on Tuesday – the social media Q&A sessions with ourselves and other volunteers, and the launch of the Disrupt Wine (you will be able to learn a lot more about the Disrupt Wine on the dedicated site being built).

Where else would you get the combined talents and different perspectives of Wink Lorch, Louise Hurren, Andre Ribeirinho and Ryan O’Connell on a roundtable? It was a lot of fun for Ryan and me to moderate and be involved in. The overall message from these discussions could probably be summed up a:

“Be yourself, and good stuff will happen”

It was also amazing to be able to create a blend of three different varieties from three different winemakers in three different countries – and made on the stand! We are very grateful to Thierry’s who took the brave step of returning to exhibit at the LIWF by investing in a stand that would sit alongside the Access Zone. Most importantly, they also agreed to the concept of developing a pan-European wine blend on the stand in only three days. It was a privilege to work with Markus Huber (of Weingut Huber in Austria), Emmanuel Laurent (of Rodet in Burgundy) and Giorgio Flessati (of Viña Falernia in Italy) on this project. Evidence, if any was needed, of their own commitment to doing something different and offering creative, fresh thinking to the UK wine trade.

We ended the day with the visit by Naked Wines and their archangels, learning about their latest developments and watched them select a range of new wines. Naked Wines are now also listing the Disrupt Wine on their new marketplace – do check it out and get involved.

Day 2 – Wednesday 18th May

The Wednesday was time to showcase Vrazon‘s other main projects, the Born Digital Wine Awards (BDWA) and the European Wine Bloggers Conference (EWBC). Congratulations to all the winners and runners up in each of the 5 categories of the inaugural BDWA, many of whom, like Wink Lorch, Tim Atkin, Richard Ross and Mark Ryan were on the stand to hear the results. The response was wonderful, particularly as there were some very deserving finalists in the spotlight, including both new names as well as established writers. Congratulations to all of them!

For more details and a full list of finalists and winners, visit http://borndigitalwineawards.com

We also took the opportunity to announce the overall theme for the fourth edition of the European Wine Bloggers Conference, which will be “Storytelling“, and that George Taber will be our first keynote speaker. Of course, this was all accompanied with a delicious glass of Franciacorta from our host sponsors for 2011. Please visit the EWBC site for more information, and if you are thinking of coming, please do book your tickets soon as the number of tickets is fixed and we anticipate them selling out early again this year.

But it wasn’t all about us, it was also a chance for Ryan O’Connell’s to give hints and tips for wineries looking to take advantage of social media, and to hear more about what Palate Press is up to to help wine bloggers make money from their blogs – check them out!

Day 3 – Thursday 19th May: The final day

The final day was once again dedicated largely to Disrupt Wine - selecting the delicious winning blend (50% Gruner Veltliner, 40% Falanghina and 10% Macon Chardonnay) as well as unveiling the label design incorporating the audience’s own tasting note contributions.

We also had great discussions on blogging by David Lowe (@bigpinots) and another general Q&A with Ryan Opaz. Lots of great content there for reference.

On top of all this there were dozens of great interviews with bloggers, publishers, retailers and winemakers, open tasting sessions and PLENTY of networking, much of it brought to you live but also recorded to watch again.

We hope all those who made it to the stand got something out of it. Not everyone at the fair will have seen the value of Social Media in wine, and it certainly is not a tool to replace everything that is done to sell and promote wine, but it is a great complement for the best brands and people, and we hope to see more great stories being told after this event.

These were three intense days, but with the help of our many friends listed here, as well as the organisers of the LIWF, and Thierry’s, we feel it was all worthwhile for all those involved.

See you next year!

Robert McIntosh, Gabriella Opaz & Ryan Opaz

Visit us on the Access Zone

For the next three days we will be bringing you the Wine Conversation live from the London Wine Trade Fair and the Access Zone on stand F70

If you are coming to the event, do come and visit us for a good chat, coffee (courtesy of Thierry’s), free wifi and lots of content and networking opportunities.

If you cannot make it to the show for whatever reason (at least it is not for volcanic eruptions this year) then log on to the live stream on the LIVE ACCESS ZONE page

A communication tool for the wine trade

I’ve been given the chance to test a new tool that could be of interest to those in the wine business, the ASUS Eee Pad Transformer.

The idea is to road test it in my daily work and family life and see how I get on, and the timing is very good, because we will be doing all sorts of content creation and sharing on the Access Zone at the London Wine Trade Fair next week.

Here is a short video to show you what I’m talking about and hopefully there will be a few more in-depth posts on how useful I have found it.

If you want to check one out, come to the Access Zone, Stand F70 at the London Wine Trade Fair 17-19 May, 2011

(more reviews on techinstyle.tv)

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