Thats right. I said it. Although it may not be what you’re thinking.
Can you guess what’s wrong with tasting note web sites? Exactly, none (and I mean N-O-N-E) have reached anything close to critical mass of users to make their notes useful. Why is that? Well there are too many wines every year to have multiple reviews per wine. So every wine tasting note site tries to get their hands around an unbounded number of wines and create a tasting note site that is actually useful. NONE have succeeded and even the biggest are only useful for organization purposes (CellarTracker) not for looking up wines.
One approach with promise is Snooth, but they’re actually smarter about it. Its not about tasting notes, its more about personalizing wine selections for you and if there are tasting notes to help then great. I actually like that concept. They’ll bring in a gambit of ratings and notes and attempt to normalize them and match a wine to your liking. This is (obviously) not a tasting note record keeping site but it leverages that function.
So what’s this about “Freebasing”? Well, if you haven’t heard, there is another approach to gathering data out there and they’re gaining steam. Freebase is a massive database that is completely open so that a site can use as its database as a backend. Then anyone can query this DB and get at that information or submit information and contribute to the collective. Also, tags in that information make connection automatically regardless of the original source. The best explanation of this is here, at Tim O’Rielly’s blog (the guy who originally coined “web 2.0”). Its an instance of the semantic web (what some call “web 3.0”). The advantage? Since a tasting notes are not a business but a feature, if all the sites created real business plans with tasting note functions as a part then there wouldn’t be a need to hide the notes in an isolated database. Sure, protect your user DB but submit your notes to Freebase. Gary V can go on ranting and raving with the Vayniacs, Snooth can continue making educated selections for you, WineQ could add value to their custom wine clubs. These are all sites that don’t depend on notes as the core of the business. One thing I won’t get into is this aspect (and the power of Freebase) – if Winehiker were to create an application that was a database of trails in California and some wines he experienced there, then Freebase would automagically create a query result for any other application that connects wines related to the notes Winehiker made about his travels and the wines on each of those trails with other wine notes submitted from these sites. You would start to see a world evolving of things connected to wines and trips and tastes that you’ve never imagined before…but thats a whole different post!
Anyway, Freebase allows sites like these tasting note sites to be built and while they individually create communities for whatever purpose they are all adding to Borg collective known as Freebase.
There is one other approach – creating a micro-format that makes a standard format that allows any note written out there be crawled and scanned into a DB automatically…what-ever. Thats never going to happen unless Microsoft, Apple, and every other user interface company decides they want to support MicroFormat for wine tasting notes. Chances of that happening? Pretty much Zilch…
It would be far easier for other sites that have note functionality to migrate their DB to Freebase, effectively merging all note DBs, and write database calls to the Freebase API rather than their own MySQL “Silo” of information. You think CellarTracker is cool? Imagine every note ever entered into a site on the Internet, regardless of the site, being available to Snooth or WineQ or any other site that wants it!! I’m an Alpha member of Freebase and I can attest that its difficult to explain the potential impact of this site, which brings me to the practical, marketing side of my brain – I’ve seen too many technologies that were just too far ahead and couldn’t survive until the world caught up. I hope Freebase doesn’t go that route…
Every wine note site in the world should be Freebasing!
Enjoy the Wine Life!