I always chuckle when I read the description/mission statement of a witty blog I’ve followed throughout the years: So That No Thought of Mine, No Matter How Stupid, Should Ever Go Unpublished Again.
This statement–that provides a laugh at the expense of the author (who is actually quite bright)–sums up a problem with blogs, wikipedia, social networking, and the internet in general. (Note that I said “A” problem, not “THE” problem. I do not hope to go on record as having stated that these media are a blithe on humanity…I actually feel the opposite).
How would I describe this problem? Noise.
The unfortunate side effect of mediums that provide unlimited freedom of speech and opinion, is that anyone and everyone with a loud voice or flashy site can instantly be deemed an expert, yours truly included. Allow me to leave the beer world for a moment and delve in to the investment/finance world to prove my point. A recent ING survey showed that 49% of young investors rely on financial websites and blogs, rather than the pre-webvolution generation that relied on certified, licensed, and trained financial planners. If you peruse the blogosphere of investment professionals, most do not hold investment licenses (it is a compliance nightmare), and most are in constant disagreement with each other. I’ve browsed the best and the brightest financial bloggers and could hardly come to a unified portfolio model, and sensed often that the advice I was receiving was biased, being influenced by the various mutual funds advertising on a given site.
Back to the beer world.
I frequently will go to stumbleupon.com and just click “stumble” but isolate my search to homebrewing. My goodness. if you are newbie to homebrewing, please refrain from following my example. One guy says to sparge with 150 degree water, another guy is preaching 170 degrees, and yet another yahoo is trying to get me to use boiling water. Decide for yourself who is right…they can’t all be, especially when isolated to a single style.
The comparison I am drawing between the financial field and the beer field, is that too often individuals trust the unreliability of the internet over the experience of the expert. I recently talked to a gal who brewed up a batch of beer that she defined as “disgusting.” She hasn’t read a single book on the subject, but read plenty of blogs and watched plenty of youtube videos. A little “The Complete Joy of Homebrewing” would have done her homebrew a lot of good. Yes, I realize there are frauds and Madoffs in real world experience, but when they are found out they are stamped out…the eternal memory of the web lives on to deceive another day.
See what I mean about noise?
Twitter can be even worse.
Before you start hating on me, keep reading.
Were noise the ONLY sound of the internet, I would promptly abandon my Facebook account, my Twitter account, sell my droid, and dissolve this website. What is below the surface?
1. Truth. Yes, it’s there. A huge portion of learning how to brew came from internet research. While I relied on the real life expertise of Mike and authors like Charlie Papazian, I also watched plenty of videos on youtube. I fact checked these videos against my real life resources, discarded the ones that were simply adhering to the statement I opened this post with (published stupidity) and saved the ones that helped me be better brewer.
2. Community. Good Lord…the friends you and I have made via blogs, facebook, and twitter. I only have a few “beer friends” in real life, but man, I have a TON of legitimate, comrades who laugh with me, cry with me, pray with me, correct me where I’m wrong, congratulate me, and vice versa. I think of all the beer blogs I frequent, the clubs (like Peter’s blogger brewoff), and I realize the noise (that I contribute too!) is worth it.
3. Beer evangelism. I have seen drastically diametric opinions on certain craft beers spring up, especially on twitter. In fact, I’ve seen different profiles argue heatedly about whether a beer was great or terrible, a brewer was haughty or clever, or whether IPAs should rule the universe or not. Regardless, while this is representative of noise, it is just as representative of the subjectivity of taste that I cherish. The very passion that causes such dissension has also mobilized a vast army that not only seeks to better the beer world in converting the heathen beer drinker to better beer, but also seeks to topple the immoral monopolies that have set the macro, micro, and craft brewery at a disadvantage. That is righteous.
4. Marketing. Networking marketing has provided an avenue for breweries without a marketing budget do just that: Market their product. I will not go any further here, for this will be discussed at length as the thesis of the next post.