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Tuesday, March 11, 2014

If you have any poo, fling it now....

Is it just me or has something started to stink in the #whiskyfabric lately? 


Are people beginning to go mad with winter cabin fever? Maybe a little Lord of the flies starting to happen? Or is the simple reality that there are a few monkeys in the barrel that will eventually fling their poo? 

For me, it started off quite innocently I think when a fellow blogger wrote a piece about a company coming out with a premium range. This blogger was branded a "ever ranting Barbarian" by another well known blogging site. Well, maybe it was a joke because the "Bavarian" didn't seem to mind being called that. Irked me a bit though.

Then it followed a few days later with a well-known American blogger telling another blogger he was uncomfortable with the other's recent whisky post. Conversation ensued, publicly for all to see and they both brought each other to task about several aspects of blogging. Everyone slowing down to watch the train wreck, blood and gore!? Ok, maybe I'm exaggerating A LOT. Honestly I don't know what came of it because I simply tuned out. But again I was a bit irked and thought why are you two airing dirty laundry on social media? 

As I sipped some coffee yesterday morning (Monday March 10th) and scrolled through twitter I found another blogger posted a piece entitled "Sometimes you are sold a story and get a free bottle of whiskey". IMO, the blogger was personally attacking and criticizing another fellow blogger and, again I will stress that my perception was that said blogger was accusing the piece was written for a free bottle of whiskey. Unfortunately, it was the furthest thing from the truth. Blogger #2 may have used/published a poor choice of words in a question from the interview but DID not receive any free whiskey. They were simply asking/performing a Q&A, telling a story, nothing more... Damn our lack of blogging editors!??

So, of course me, and my big mouth made a comment. I didn't name any names, just wrote a tweet that I was really getting disappointed with some bloggers lately. Result: Cries of SELF REGULATION, Calling bullshit when you see it and that bloggers should be held to the same standard as journalists. 

Ok, those could be considered valid points, sort of... Journalists usually get a degree so they follow a code of ethics and are held to standards. Calling bullshit when you see it, sure I do it often but shouldn't you check what exactly you are calling bullshit on first? Self regulation, ha... oxymoron. There is no whisky blogger hall monitor program that I know of? Beware of the whisky crusaders preaching the "one and only" gospel and out to save us all from whisky evils !??


So for me it's a matter of integrity. I will start with my definition: Integrity means doing what's right regardless of whether it's popular or not. Doing what's right even when nobody is watching. Doing what's right for the greater of all good. Yah, I know... roll your eyes. I have rose-colored glasses on, or do I? Who determines what's right vs wrong? 

Question: Do you ever see Whisky Ambassadors bad mouthing each other or tearing each other down on twitter or during their masterclass? No...  Their motto is: A rising tide raises all boats. It's about professionalism. Something that doesn't necessarily have to exist in the self-regulated world of bloggers.

Recently a fellow blogger posted something on twitter that, again IMO, wasn't necessarily correct (whisky chemistry).  I DID NOT write a blog about it, I didn't even mention it on twitter for all to see. I contacted the person in private, provided an explanation, we had a fantastic discussion and I never asked or expected that my comments be known or posted. What that person did with that information was now their business. However, the other person chose to say something along the lines of: "I stand corrected, thanks goes out to Johanne for helping me on that". I felt like I helped and hopefully in a manner that didn't make the person feel or look stupid.  


After many discussions about this whole poo throwing thing I said to Graham: This isn't what the #whiskyfabric is all about. To which his answer was: "Some people simply won't have the values of what most of us conceive the #whiskyfabric to be so you can't hold them to that..."   Ahhhhh, light bulb! Values...  Hmmmmm....

Grandparents are wise old birds... and although I don't remember my grampy too much, I know he often said: "What you are willing to say about others is more of a reflection of what type of character you are yourself".  In other words, if you can only state the negative or put others down to elevate your own "importance" what does that say about you, as a person?  

I tend to be mostly positive about life and people. I also prefer to talk to people directly, in private, if I have any issues or concerns. So for me the questions become: Is there really a need to tear each other down in front of all to see? What does that bring to the table? What does it exactly prove, other than: if one person is willing to attack or try to discount the words of another without first checking if it's warranted, what will he/she say about any of us when we are not looking?  Integrity...

Yes, hold others to "task", yes write anything you want as a blogger, but be aware that your own words reflect your thoughts, your values, your opinions and although you are certainly entitled to them... it doesn't mean anyone else will want to read them or respect you for it.  So eventually, you may be writing for just yourself or other like minded individuals who are just as hungry and willing to tear you down too. 

Again...  "Just" my opinion...


On a positive note, although the subject line of the blog piece has not been changed, the blogger that (again in my opinion) attacked a fellow blogger has retracted part of the piece that they originally wrote and stated why. I thank you for that... 

Maybe a little bit of faith has been restored in those I consider part of my #whiskyfabric.


Lassie



18 comments:

  1. There's a million and half whiskyblogs out there and they are as different as people. Some are run by outright arseholes, in fact one of the least sympathetic persons I have ever met has a whisky blog. So it IS true that the whiskyfabric is not one big happy family. Whatever the whiskyfabric is ?. I am sure each and everybody has their own personal whiskyfabric anyway!

    And the various blogs out there are very different!! Some seem to be just the extended marketing arm of the whisky providers, and some more than others. You can easily say that if you income depends on whisky, there's a slightly higher chance you blog is more diplomatic than mine, and there's a lot more consistent hardcore barbarians out there than me :-)

    But we all live in different part of the world and have different approaches to whisky and end of the day I think that almost all bloggers do what they do and do what they personally find the most intereting way to run their blog and if I don't like it (Which doesn't happen often) I just don't pay much attention to it.

    I don't know the example you mention of one american whiskey blogger telling his opinion of anothers post, but I reckon that if you you stick your head up, you must be ready for some critic. You do go public and must be ready for it. That said, no reason to go mudslinging, but hard to comment as I am not aware of much mudslinging really, and as said, I don't know your example.

    Should whiskybloggers keep up to the same standards as journalists? Hard to say. Whiskyblogging, to various extends, is a fan culture. Journalism is not. I also a few times grab my head in astonishment of what I call "Microphone holding", but that has happened watching news channels as well. One thing is sure. The background knowledge of the random whiskyblogger is way higher than the random journalist in my opinion

    Steffen

    Steffen

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    1. I love your description of fan culture... that's the sentiment I was going for but couldn't quite find the words for... Thanks for your input! You raise some very good points.

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  2. It would help a lot if you would provide links to the actual blog and conversations or twitter comments that you refer to in your post. Without it, it is hard to evaluate what you are claiming.

    I also agree with Steffen that journalists generally have much less understanding and worthwhile insights into whisky as most bloggers.

    As for journalists, there are no formal credentials to be one in terms of academic qualifications. You do not necessarily need to have a degree to write for well regarded publications. James Wollcott and others never finished university, but no one will question their credentials because their credentials boil down to their writing ability. All you have to do is write for a major publication. Yes, they have editors, who correct grammar and verify sources. In whisky reviews, the source is the bottle and your opinion, that can be clouded by the fact that you were given the bottle by a distillery or company.

    I think bloggers are sometimes critical and legitimately so. Some bloggers are little more than mouth pieces for the whisky companies. Everything is beautiful and all whiskies are glorious would be their treatment of the subject matter. Most of us know this is nonsense. So, bloggers inhabit a space where they can speak freely. Sometimes positive and sometimes negative. There can be great value in criticism. Personal attacks and accusations are not helpful. I do not wholly agree with your grandfather's view. There is value and worth in analysis that may not be complimentary.

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    1. Hi and thank you for weighing in... Criticism, in my opinion can be done without blindsiding someone and should be done when warranted. I love constructive criticism, I think it's important for individual growth. Accusations, lack of checking facts or personal attacks could be handled in a much more professional way...

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  3. To add some background to your very well articulated position, I will out myself as the American whiskey blogger who told another blogger I was uncomfortable with his post. To put it in context, this blogger had a meeting with a brand CEO in which the CEO shared some very rare and expensive whiskey with him. The blogger than put up a post about the brand in which he very directly took on a third blogger who had been very critical of the brand. It made me uncomfortable that after being wined and dined by a CEO, this blogger would take on one of the brand's major critics and praise the brands whiskeys. It looked too much like free PR.

    So what did I do that you think crossed the line? I tweeted that it made me "uncomfortable." In my defense, I don't think that Tweeting that the blog made me uncomfortable amounts to much in the way of "blood and gore," though I will acknowledge that our American standards for what's bloody and gory may be different than your Canadian standards.

    I appreciate you laying out your perspective of how you perceive whiskey blogging, but of course, there are different views of blogging. As Steffen noted above, when we blog, we are making our thoughts public and, in my view, there should be absolutely nothing wrong with anyone making valid criticisms of those thoughts (including your criticism of my own actions). That's one reason blogs have comments. I've received lots of criticism in my day, both public and private, and learned a lot from it.

    My version of integrity is seeking out and telling the truth about whiskey and the industry. That means saying what I honestly thing about the whiskey I taste, the companies that market it, and yes, occasionally the folks who write about it. It's something that my readers expect, and I feel a responsibility to stay true to that even if it occasionally ruffles some feathers. If in your view, that takes the whiskey fabric right off my back, I'm okay with that. The cold never bothered me anyway.

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    1. Thank you for your very well written input... You realize that thousands of people die every day for what some perceive is "truth" and responsibility to educate others... Again, I exaggerate and I by no means am saying you lead a whisky cult (tongue in cheek) however, the part that I'm having difficulty getting through to a few people is you as well as Josh could have easily taken your "private" discussion - off line... AND, I stated emphatically over and over in the piece these are simply my opinions... I respect many bloggers for good or bad or honest or whatever they choose to write, it would be nice to see other bloggers do the same.

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    2. I can only count on one hand the number of whisky blogs that tell it like it is, warts and all. And I love them for it!

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  4. Johanne
    I have heard a brand ambassador badmouth another brand during his masterclass. I have also heard and seen in print bloggers criticize a well known reviewer and established author. A far amount of discussion about sulfur was generated. In other cases people can determine for themselves whether they want to cup their hands around their copita to warm it up and release additional aromas. They can also determine if they want to stand with one foot on their chair and one foot on the table to create the appropriate ambiance. But if no one has shown them the proper way to do this then they're missing out. I admit i still don't know if I'm allowed to do the Kentucky chew with drinks that aren't bourbon.
    Point is people can decide for themselves what they like or don't like, and also whether someone is playing it straight or feeding them a line. But it's not always easy to tell. I expect bloggers to comment on the industry and each other. Please tell us which whiskys to consider and which "VIP" to avoid. It's just your opinion and over time we will learn how much weight to place on it.
    In the case of the "Sometimes you are sold a story and get a free bottle of whiskey", it was not my perception that a free bottle of whisky was received. I know that free samples/bottles are given out. One blogger that I have never met told me in an email that's the reason he got into blogging. My perception, different from yours, was that many companies create a story behind their product in order to sell the product. Sometimes good whisky. Sometimes good story. Sometimes both. I bought a bottle from a distillery whose roof collapsed and got a good story and a good whisky. Most companies are now naming their products instead of just referring to it as the 12 year old. Port Ruighe, Companta, Freya...Some of these new products might be good whisky. Some might be just a good story. And who wouldn't prefer to pull a bottle labeled "Scallywag" out of their cupboard than a bottle that's labeled "Fushia" or "13 year old".
    Rick

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    1. Thank you for your comments! Appreciated. Hence why I stated emphatically in my piece it was my personal opinion and perception that free whiskey was involved, otherwise why state it in the story line? I've since talked to the blogger and actually apologized to them.

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  5. Dear sweet Johanne! I'll voluntarily out myself as the whisky blogger whose post made Sku uncomfortable. I've been in a very public flame war with the blogger of BourbonTruth on Twitter and I know that's what you're partially talking about. First of all - I'm sorry if my actions have spread some discomfort into your #WhiskyFabric. I should explain that:

    1) @BourbonTruth, @skusrecenteats, and I (@cooperedtot) are all Americans. Brawling like this comes naturally to us Americans and makes us as happy as cat does purring.
    2) @BourbonTruth is a curmudgeon who likes to spew invective. That's his style and, frankly the appeal of reading him. I love him for this.
    3) Michter's has taken a lot of flak for playing fast and loose with the fact that they aren't old Michter's in their advertising. I wanted to point out that the Whisky is good. I knew I would invite controversy by doing so and I'm not afraid of it. In fact it has made me much more a part of the conversation that before. I'm loving that.

    People have different ways of interacting. I remember the parents of a friend of mine who seemed to yell at each other a lot. I told my friend I worried about that. He said "It's OK, that's how they interact". Interaction is the key here. My fabric needs some stretching and tearing every now and then. I'd rather take wear and tear to my fabric as part of vigorous use than just keep things polite and maybe a bit sleepy. I like me some action. I don't regret having it lately. I'm sorry, though, if it made you uncomfortable.

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  6. One more thing: I'm grateful for the depth of emotion it elicited and the degree of interaction. Whiskey brings out people's passions. That can lead to passionate exchanges. It's all good.

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    1. Uncomfortable, no... But it was enough to make me tune out... If I wanted to watch some lame reality show where yelling, backstabbing and negative trash talk is the highlight, I'd watch Big Brother or the Bachelor... I just think that tearing each other down, discounting other bloggers methods or values is not professional, but then again... that is "my opinion"... I'm also happy it leads to emotions and interactions. Here's to airing out the whiskyfabric, just no Febreeze please... :)

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  7. Folks who take freebies from the companies they're writing about need to at least acknowledge that fact, if not examine whether it compromises their objectivity. That which is presented in public is fair game for public criticism and, in fact, both the industry and its bloggers could stand greater critical scrutiny and, in many cases, a more critical approach to what they do - there is far too much of the constant exaggerated drumbeat of "whisky's great and just getting better, boy, I like whisky!" There is no defense for comment that is factually inaccurate, but the fact that criticism IS starting to focus on the bloggers shows that, for better, or worse, they are being taken as whisky's journalists (the professional writers largely being written off as general industry spokespeople and many bloggers certainly marginalize themselves through the same behaviour). As a result, some commentators do protest when certain blogs seem to be going in a marketing direction because those people see the need for honest, unvarnished, non-political comment on the whisky industry and its products. I hope that the above isn’t “flinging poo”, but if so, so be it; the industry and its mouthpieces are providing more than enough to spare, so no one will be running out of ammo any time soon.

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    1. Although I truly appreciate the value in your comment, the blog is about using tact, discretion and a bit of professionalism when deciding to confront or challenge a fellow blogger. Making "assumptions" as the antage goes, can lead to making ASSES of many... That's all really...

      Lassie

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  8. My own opinion vis-a-vis poo flinging is that its easier to build an audience by flinging poo than by being the grown-up in the room. The problem is, as all poo-flingers inevitably discover, is that flinging poo always alienates someone, making it a short term, dead end strategy. If you fling poo at the same target all the time, the audience gets bored and goes home. If you fling poo at a bunch of targets, you alienate everyone who isn't entertained simply by invective.

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    1. Thank you for weighing in... All I really hope to achieve with this post is to hopefully make people think before they start slinging. Hard to believe perhaps, but there are "people" attached to the hands who write the blogs and they have two feet and a heartbeat. Yes we have every right to speak up and criticize, but let's consider discretion and a bit of fact finding BEFORE you start slinging the crap... Just a thought... in MY opinion... :)

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  9. Johanne, sometime you should do a post about the most well written whisky blogs. A top ten.

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    1. Although I appreciate the suggestion, I think "well written" is even more subjective than our personal taste in whisky :)

      However if you have loads of spare time and want to investigate, Sku Recent Eats published a "complete" list of whisky bloggers:

      http://recenteats.blogspot.ca/p/the-complete-list-of-whiskey-blogs.html

      You may end up finding what you are looking for...

      Johanne

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