Tag Archive - twitter

For blogging success, phone a friend

A couple of years ago Hardy Wallace and I got into a debate about editing blog posts. His take was that a blog should be raw, from the heart, without the refining that happens when an editor gets hold of a bloated piece of wine writing. I, on the other hand, suggested that you can still show passion, but that an editor helps to make sure your “raw passion” is intelligible. I was speaking from experience. I am not, as I’m sure many of you readers know (and my laughing wife Gabriella is thinking right now as she edits this piece), the best writer.

Words for me are confusing. The rules of language are confounding. While I know some of the common errors, I do not always spot them when I re-read my own writing. I know there, their, and they’re all have different meanings, but when I read them quickly in an article, I understand what the author is saying so I don’t worry about which one is used. I really don’t care. Maybe I should. I know I should care enough to make sure my dear reader does not have to suffer my errors, so I try to get better every day.

What I want to say to all you bloggers, wineries thinking of starting a blog, or journalists who are leaving the edited newsroom and moving to the wild west of blogging: get an editor. Someone to read your piece before you publish it. Someone to look for the silly mistakes that you gloss over because of your emotional attachment to it. If it were not for an editor, this piece your reading write [sic] now would be unintelligible. You’re [sic] understanding of it impossible. Not to mention 3 times the length, with half the logic. :)

I remember getting an email a few years ago from a wine journalist whose books I have enjoyed over the years. That person has written books, news columns, and has spoken at wine events for longer than I have been legally able to drink wine. They were telling me they finally took my advice and started a blog. So I rushed over and quickly checked it out. What I found was proof positive that this person had benefited greatly from years of editors trimming down their ramblings. Editors help.

I’m not saying you need to hire a team of proof readers and have each article polished to perfection. A few minor slips are not going to hurt you, but you can ask a friend to read a piece first before you hit publish to avoid the bigger ones. Or, if you lack a friend with time on their hands to help you out, try simply reading it out loud to yourself as the act of pronouncing the words one by one can often show strange logic and awkward phrasing. Also, don’t be afraid to play with language. Some of us are better than others, but there is something to be said for freedom of expression, but if your writing style leaves the reader confused, you are doing something wrong. What we need in the end is legibility, and more communication.

If bloggers, journalists, tweeters and others hope to have their content published and taken seriously, then the first step is to make sure we know what you’re saying. I would also make a prediction and say that the future of wine writing online will be teams, and not just the ‘lone voice’ online we think of today.

I look forward to seeing how this plays out as time goes on.

Ryan

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A gift for the best of 2011

It is the time of year for giving gifts. If you think of Christmas gifts, you might imagine a box, lovingly wrapped in paper, with a bow on the top. You might, if you are like me, imagine a well crafted (but last minute) email with a voucher attached, but gifts come in many forms.

“Dear Blogger, Thanks!”

English: Danboard holding a Christmas gift.

Image via Wikipedia

One under-appreciated gift is a simple “thank you” to a person, friend or stranger, who has done something for you that you have gained from.

You’ve probably guessed that, since I am writing on this site, I mean the wine writers and wine enthusiasts that spend hours each week writing articles, blog posts, tweets, status updates and more, to spread a knowledge, appreciation and access to wine.

Most of those who benefit from this activity, especially online, do not have to pay anything for this benefit.

Unfortunately, because it is free, its actual value is not appreciated by everyone. We are used to there being experts available at the end of a Google Search or on Twitter and Facebook who can answer our questions or suggest what wines to bring to our friends’ dinner parties.

“You are the best!”

So this year there is an extra thing you can do for your favourite wine content creator. A simple “thank you” will do wonders, but what greater compliment to a writer, videographer or photographer could there be than their fans nominating their content as “possibly the best in the world”?

The second edition of the Born Digital Wine Awards (BDWA) is now taking submissions for entries, and we would love to share YOUR favourites along with great content from all over the wine world. What’s more, your favourite could win the originator €1000 in the process.

Please, revisit your favourite content and encourage the author to submit their content to the BDWA.

The BDWA only accepts submissions from the originators of that content, but your comments on your favourite sites, blogs & networks, or send tweets, emails or private messages will let them know what you think of their content and encourage them to participate in the awards.

We all benefit in the end from better content and a greater sense of community.

Thank you!

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@BVWines protecting minors from the existence of wine, since Nov 18th 2012

1 picture might not be enough in today’s fast paced world

A picture is worth a 1000 words, or so the saying goes. Personally, I’m starting to think this idea is outdated in today’s world and even more so in relation to the photos you post online. Today, with every gadget and gizmo in your pocket having the capability to snap a photo, upload it and share it in real time, we the online surfers of this world, are constantly being assaulted with images that are at times brilliant and often quite forgettable.

I was considering this the other day when staring at a rooftop as I walked to my metro stop. The rooftop was nothing very special, but it created a nice negative space when presented against the deep blue sky. By itself, on a wall in a frame with a nice touch of sepia or black and white, the image might have been perfect to complement a room or become a talking point in a conversation. It was then that I realized that the same image when presented online, might at its best get a retweet or two, or maybe a stray comment on flickr, but would more likely stream past in a flurry like one unique snowflake tumbling to earth lost in the blizzard of others content.

Marketing your brand can be quite similar, and I think that to better understand what it takes to make your snowflake stand out you need to understand how to make that rooftop photo more relevant. What the photo of the rooftop was missing is a story. Something that links one idea to another. 1 photo in a post on a blog is nothing. Most likely you can give me any photo you take and I’ll find 300 just like it. But if you give that 1 photo context, and a relation to an idea you could keep me interested for a longer length of time.

Taking the rooftop photo example, imagine if I created an album of rooftops from around my town of Terrassa? Or images of the building who’s roof caught my attention? Weaving these images with small bursts of focused text in a post begins to give me a reason to stick around and keep reading.

Same thing goes for branding. One mailing, one website(by itself), one Twitter account, these are not going to do anything to further your brand. They provide no value by themselves. It’s only when you link them or use them to create layers, of stories, ideas, or contexts, that the real magic begins. If you havea winery with 200years of history, that is one layer, and while in some cases that layer can have influence it does have a expiration date and it really is not that unique in the world of wine. What about the story of today, or yesterday. What other stories are you forgetting to tell?

Think about what your “slideshow” is in relation to your brand. If you do you’ll be giving the consumer something to talk about.

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Better Wine Blogging 101 – Using Photos Correctly

Night time Montjuic, BarcelonaRecently, a newbie wine blogger contacted me through Twitter to evaluate their post for general effectiveness. I promptly agreed, generally trying my best to help the community whenever possible, especially with someone new to the field. Quickly clicking on the link, I encountered 2 of the largest mistakes I typically see with new blogs, not to mention, 2 of the easiest things to fix. But when trying to explain how to remedy the situation, I also learned that they weren’t obvious to your everyday blogger. So for the sake of helping a larger audience, I thought I would post some best practices here.

Basically what I’m offering is some standard SEO, or Search Engine Optimization. Nothing advanced and nothing tricky, just some best practices to make sure you are optimizing your site to get the most traffic possible. With a few simple steps, your wine blog, or website, can be more effective. The irony is that these simple steps are DEAD simple and can give you big results. So let’s start! Today, I’ll focus on images and tomorrow I’ll focus on links.

Images: Images are great for explaining ideas and giving context. That said, if you don’t optimize your image, Google and the web in general, won’t see it. The robots Google uses to read content on your site are basically blind. They are great at reading content but not at looking at images. Therefore, we need to help them out. All modern web tools let you add images easily, and most will also let you add some key elements to those images that help your site.

For the sake of explanation, I’m going to use the WordPress blogging platforms tool as an example. See the image below? When you upload an image to wordpress, it allows you to add a Title,  Alternate Text, Caption, Description and URL. They key pieces you should be fill out and be descriptive are the Title, Alt Text and URL.

  1. Title: use a simple description. If you have a wine bottle photo, the title might be the name of the wine. If it’s a picture of a vineyard, name the vineyard and be descriptive. Just titling it “Vineyard” doesn’t help anyone. Better to go specific “Merlot Vines – Chateau Bleu”.
  2. Alt text: This is the text that will show up on a person’s computer screen if their computer can’t load the photo, allowing the reader to understand what the photo is supposed to be. So building on ”Merlot Vines – Chateau No-Se-Que”, you might add here a description of the time of year: Fall, Spring, or maybe even the activity if any in the photo: harvest, pruning, veraison under way. In short, be descriptive.
  3. URL: make sure to link to the photos source or to the photo itself. This way you can credit the photographer, or you can link to a larger version which might help the reader to see the image better. I’ll explain more about why links are so important soon, but the truth is that the web does not exist without links. Make sure you use them!

How to insert an image into facebook

All that said, pictures make your posts look pretty! Thus, use photos that illustrate and help guide the story. A picture of a bottle is one thing, but a picture of the place the wine was made can be even better. Also remember that people’s faces can be very helpful. If you are talking about a person try your best to get an image of them.

Finally where do you get photos? Well you don’t steal them. Make sure if you post a photo you have permission first. It’s illegal to use photos that are copyrighted without permission from the photographer. A great tool you can use to find fabulous photos is Creative Commons. It’s a legally enforceable copyright that allows the artist/photographer to have their photos used in certain situations. I, personally, license all my photos this way, allowing you to use my photos as long as you do so non-commercially, and you give me credit.

Where do you find these? Well you can browse my photos here: Ryan Opaz’s Wine Photos on Flickr and you can search for other photos that are licensed this way here: Flickr’s Creative Commons Galleries.

Mind you, this is the short version of how to use photos in your posts. I could go on and on, but would rather you ask some questions in the comments section below and I’ll do my best to answer them for you!

Cheers,
Ryan Opaz

Coming soon, linking for wine for wine bloggers…

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